HPH Favorite Places to Run – West of Laramie
Medicine Bow Rail Trail
The Medicine Bow Rail Trail is a 21-mile-long trail system located approximately 30 miles west of Laramie. While many of the local trail systems challenge runners with difficult hills and tenuous footing, the Rail Trail is mostly flat and has a packed gravel surface ideal for running.
The Rail Trail follows the old Hahn’s Peak and Pacific Railroad, constructed in the early 1900’s. It was used to haul gold, timber, coal, and cattle between Laramie and Coalmont, CO. At 9,050+ feet, it was the highest elevation standard gauge railroad in the country. The railroad operation was abandoned in 1996, and the Rail Trail opened for recreational use in 2007.
Trailhead descriptions, a trail map, and directions can be found athttp://www.cyclewyoming.org/R2T.htm.
Lower Snowy Range Trails
Five main trailheads serve as access points for the Lower Snowy Range trails. Corner Mountain, Little Laramie, and Greenrock trailheads are day use fee areas. Upper and Lower North Fork Trailheads do not charge a day use fee and do not have amenities. Click here for a trail map.
From Laramie, take WY 130 West past Centennial. Approximately 2.5 miles past Centennial, the Corner Mountain Trailhead will be on the left. The Little Laramie Trailhead will be another mile or two ahead on the right off 130. The Greenrock Trailhead and Picnic Area is a few miles past the Little Laramie Trailhead off 130. To get to the Lower North Fork Trailhead, follow the directions to the Little Laramie trailhead, then take the first right after passing the Little Laramie trailhead, onto Sand Lake Road. The trailhead will be about 2 miles down Sand Creek Road on the left. To get to the Upper North Fork Trailhead, follow the directions to the Greenrock Trailhead and Picnic Area, then continue another mile to a right turn on Brooklyn Lake Road. The trailhead will be about a mile down Brooklyn Lake Road on the right.
Corner Mountain Trailhead: This interconnected set of trails offers rolling terrain with several steep sections and provides moderate to difficult 3- and 4-mile loops with good footing. It also serves as the lower, eastern end of the Barber Lake Trail, which connects the Corner Mountain Trailhead with the Greenrock Trailhead.
Little Laramie Trailhead: These rolling trails offer a variety of moderate and difficult route options with good footing. Runners can combine a variety of loops to create shorter or longer routes.
Greenrock Trailhead: From this trailhead, the Libby Creek Trail follows the ridgeline of Libby Creek Canyon on its northern leg and Libby Creek on its southern leg. Most of the trail is gradual up or down, but there are a few steeper sections. This trailhead also serves as the upper, western end of the Barber Lake Trail, which is mostly downhill when travelled from west to east. The total distance from the Greenrock Trailhead to the Corner Mountain Trailhead is 4.6 miles.
Lower North Fork Trailhead: The Lower North Fork Trailhead serves as the lower, eastern access point for the North Fork Trail, which follows the North Fork of the Little Laramie River for most of the route. There is an 1120-foot elevation change over the 4.6 miles between trailheads. This difficult trail has some sections of exposure and steep switchbacks.
Upper North Fork Trailhead: The Upper North Fork Trailhead serves as the upper, western access point for the North Fork Trail, which follows the North Fork of the Little Laramie River for most of the route. There is an 1120-foot elevation change over the 4.6 miles between trailheads. This difficult trail has some sections of exposure and steep switchbacks.
Upper Snowy Range Trails
The Upper Snowy Range trails offer numerous trailheads and route options, all above 10,000 feet in elevation. The elevation and rough terrain make these trails very challenging. Several trail options are highlighted below; pick up a free trail map at the Ranger’s office for additional routes and trailhead options.
From Laramie, take WY 130 West past Centennial and up into the mountains. Looks for signs off WY 130 directing you to the appropriate trailheads.
Tipple Trail #293: This trail is 2.4 miles with 400 feet of elevation change. The trail traverses subalpine terrain with spectacular views of the Snowies and South French Creek. Tipple Trail can be accessed from Miner’s Cabin trailhead (at the Medicine Bow Peak Overlook) or from the Lake Marie trailhead.
French Creek Canyon Trail #298: This trail is 5.3 miles long with 1600 feet elevation change. The trail follows South French Creek through subalpine forest, meadows, rock canyons, and past Sunshine falls. Access to the trail is through Tipple Trail. Starting at the Miner’s Cabin trailhead at the Medicine Bow Peak Overlook, the French Creek Caynon Trail turns left off Tipple Trail at milepost 1.8, for a total of 7.1 miles. Starting at the Lake Marie Trailhead, the French Creek Canyon Trail turns right off Tipple Trail at milepost .6 for a total of 5.9 miles.
Lakes Trail #296: This trail goes through open alpine country past Lookout Lake with panoramic views of Medicine Bow Peak. The trail is 1.8 miles long with 900 feet elevation change. The trail starts at the Mirror Lake Picnic Area.
Lost Lake Trail #395: This trail traverses through subalpine terrain, passing through meadows and by high mountain streams and lakes. The trail is 3.5 miles long and has 180 feet elevation change. Access to the Lost Lake Trail is from the Lewis Lake Trailhead or Brooklyn Lake Campground.
Sheep Lake Trail #389: This trail passes through high, flat subapline country with many open areas, lakes and streams. The trail is 8.2 miles and has 1300 feet elevation change. Access points for the Sheep Lake Trail are at Sand Lake Trailhead or Sheep Lake Trailhead off forest road #317.
Quealy Lake Trail #102: This is a very scenic and peaceful trail, crossing subalpine terrain north of Medicine Bow ridge and passing three lakes. The trail is 4.1 miles with 500 feet elevation change. Access to the Quealy Lake Trail is at Quealy Lake off forest road #103.
The 19,000+ acres of Sheep Mountain were designated a National Game Refuge in 1924, primarily to preserve the elk population. The trail is approximately 15 miles from end to end, with four public access points.
From the Sheep Mountain Trailhead, the first mile climbs past a dry sagebrush hillside (runners should stay alert for posts marking the trail). After the first mile, the trail levels out for another mile before a steep climb where it enters a lodgepole pine forest. Before entering the forest, you’ll enjoy a lovely view of the Snowy Range and the Laramie Plains. The trail then joins Fence Creek and levels out for several miles through the trees, bogs, and streams. For a trail map, click here.
Northwest access: Take US HWY 130 West from Laramie. After about 24 miles, turn left on WY 11. The access point is marked by a sign on the fence off WY 11, 1.9 miles south of 130. The Northwest access is primitive with no improved trail.
Fence Creek Trailhead: Go southwest on WY 230 for 23 miles, turn right on Fox Creek Road (Forest Service 311). Fence Creek Trailhead is off Fox Creek Road, 1.4 miles north of 230.
Sheep Mountain Trailhead: Go southwest on WY 230 for 23 miles, turn right on Fox Creek Road (Forest Service 311). Sheep Mountain Trailhead is off Fox Creek Road, 2.3 miles north of 230. This trailhead has the largest parking area.
Forbes Game and Fish Trailhead: Go southwest on WY 230 for 23 miles, turn right on Fox Creek Road (Forest Service 311). Forbes Game and Fish Trailhead is off Fox Creek Road, 5.5 miles north of 230. The Forbes Game and Fish Access and Trail are is closed annually between December 31 and June 30 to protect elk calving.
When you look to your west from Laramie, Jelm Mountain is the one that stands alone to the South of the Snowy Range and Sheep Mountain. A rugged dirt road leads from the base of the mountain to the top, providing for a beautiful and challenging 10+ mile out-and-back run with a total elevation change of over 2000 feet (starting around 7600′ and reaching over 9600′ at the top). The Jelm Mountain Run, held every September, provides runners an opportunity to race up and down the mountain, but several runners use Jelm as a training spot for hilly, high-elevation races as well.
For an elevation profile of the run, click here.
From Laramie, take Highway 230 southwest to Woods Landing (about 25 miles). At Woods Landing, turn left (south) onto WY 10. Drive about three miles to a dirt road with a parking lot and a shed on the left side of the road. This is where the dirt road up Jelm Mountain begins.