Crisp mornings and a few scattered golden leaves are beginning to hint that fall is just around the corner. One of the best ways to get in the mood for autumn is to take a fall drive. Leisurely fall drives are a great way to take in the stunning fall scenery. But don’t wait too long, as the fall in Wyoming is brief.
5 Fantastic Wyoming Fall Drives: Try one of these picturesque routes for your fall drive. Each is a beautiful drive on its own, but there are also many nearby opportunities for hiking, fishing, boating, and even dining to add to your experience (day use fees may apply). So, grab a pumpkin spice latte or a hot apple cider and c’mon!
Fall Drives in the Snowy Range Area
The Snowy Range Area of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest is just west of Laramie. This area is a splendor of towering pines, quaking aspen, and pristine waters set against the quartzite peaks of the Snowy Range mountains. Here the opportunities for taking in sweeping vistas, spotting wildlife, and enjoying nature are seemingly endless.
1. The Snowy Range Scenic Byway
Lake Marie on the Snowy Range Scenic Byway (photo credit U.S. Forest Service)
The Snowy Range Scenic Byway is one of the prettiest fall drives in the Laramie area. It is also a great place to start, as the road is well-marked and paved. To reach the 29-mile byway, take Highway 130 west from Laramie. The byway begins just outside of Centennial, about 30 miles west of Laramie. It is generally open May through October. Download a tour map here.
Start your journey off right with breakfast at Centennial’s beautiful Mountain View Historic Hotel and Cafe. Or, stop by for lunch or dinner at one of Centennial’s other delicious restaurants the Bear Bottom Bar and Grill, or the Old Corral Hotel and Steakhouse.
Following the winding path of Highway 130 through the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, the byway includes gorgeous views of Mirror Lake, Medicine Bow Peak, and the Libby Flats Observation Site. The eastern and western ends of the byway are particularly known for fall colors. You may also see some of the abundant wildlife in the area, such as deer, elk, or moose.
There are numerous U.S. Forest Service Roads branching off of the byway for those who prefer to explore a bit more. If you feel the need to get out and stretch your legs, there are many wonderful hiking trails and fishing spots just off the byway. You can find maps of the area on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest webpage.
To read more about this breathtaking drive, check out The Snowy Range Scenic Byway blog post.
2. Sand Lake Road
Sand Lake Road (photo credit U.S. Forest Service)
Another wonderful fall drive can be found on Sand Lake Road. Sand Lake Road is a mostly dirt road that branches off of the Snowy Range Scenic Byway/ Highway 130. This densely forested road is the perfect place to spy elk, deer, or moose.
Sand Lake Road provides access to several hiking trails, including the Little Laramie Trailhead, North Fork Trail, Rock Creek Trailhead, and Sheep Lake Trailhead. There are also the North Fork, Deep Creek, and Bow River campgrounds. Of course, Sand Lake is the main attraction in this area. Sand Lake is a beautiful mountain lake, perfect for fishing, kayaking, or canoeing. There are also the abandoned remains of several cabins that were once part of Sand Lake Lodge. To reach Sand Lake turn onto Sand Lake Lodge Road.
3. Albany, Rob Roy Reservoir, & Lake Owen
Lake Owen (photo credit Leah Veinbergs)
Another wonderful fall drive in the Snowy Range can be found on Highway 11. To find this gorgeous area, take Highway 130 west from Laramie. Before you reach Centennial turn onto Highway 11. Highway 11 is a paved road that takes snakes through the foothills between Sheep Mountain and Centennial Ridge and Spruce Mountain. This route provides wonderful opportunities to see pronghorn antelope, deer, and the wild horses of Deerwood Ranch Wildhorse Sanctuary.
Highway 11 will take you to the cozy mountain community of Albany and the Albany Lodge. Albany Lodge is a great place to enjoy a meal or rent a UTV. French Creek Road picks up at the end of Highway 11 and continues up the mountains toward Rob Roy Reservoir. French Creek Road is a dirt road.
A variety of U.S. Forest Service Roads branch off from French Creek and will take you to Rob Roy Reservoir, the Keystone Community, Spruce Mountain Fire Lookout, Lake Owen, and more. There are many more opportunities for wildlife viewing along this drive.
If you are interested in boating or fishing, Rob Roy Reservoir or Lake Owen are great places to try. Rob Roy Reservoir is a gorgeous, large, and heavily-wooded reservoir located deep in the mountains. There are a well-traveled campground, boat launch, pit toilet, and picnic areas here. Lake Owen is a considerably smaller mountain lake but boasts hiking trails, a campground, pit toilet, and a fishing bridge.
4. Fox Creek Road & Highway 230
View from Fox Creek Road (photo credit Leah Veinbergs)
Alternatively, Highway 11 also provides access to another beautiful area for a fall drive. Shortly before you arrive in Albany, there is an opportunity to take Fox Creek Road south. Fox Creek Road eventually connects with Highway 230 which can be taken all the way into Colorado (or back to Laramie). This route is especially known for breathtaking fall foliage and gorgeous views of Jelm Mountain.
A few miles south, just off of Highway 230 on State Route 10 is the Woods Landing Resort. They are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and offer lunch and dinner, and breakfast on Sundays. Please see their Facebook page for seasonal hours. Continue further south on Highway 30 for the Wycolo Lodge and another great place to enjoy a tasty meal.
Fall Drives in the Pole Mountain Area
5. Happy Jack, Vedauwoo, and Curt Gowdy State Park
Happy Jack and Vedauwoo Area (photo credit Leah Veinbergs)
Another popular fall drive in the Laramie area is Happy Jack Road (Highway 210). Happy Jack Road starts at the Summit Rest Area on Interstate 80 at Exit 323. The information center features the "Lincoln Head", or Abraham Lincoln Memorial Monument, commemorating the highest point on the Lincoln Highway, as well as other displays of interest.
Happy Jack Road is paved. It meanders through the Medicine Bow National Forest and provides access to a variety of non-paved U.S. Forest Service Roads, hiking trails, and picnic spots in the Happy Jack Recreation Area. Scenery includes unique rocky terrain and, in the fall, colorful aspen foliage. There is also abundant wildlife in this area.
Included in this area are Vedauwoo Recreation Area and Curt Gowdy State Park. These stunning can areas can be accessed further east on Interstate 80 or from Happy Jack Road (via connecting roads). Vedauwoo is known for its striking rock formations, beautiful hiking trails, and picnic areas. Curt Gowdy State Park is home to three beautiful reservoirs and trails.
Undoubtedly, the Laramie area provides many possibilities for gorgeous fall drives. Take in the stunning scenery, the amazing wildlife, and the last of the warm weather. If none of these itineraries inspired you, create your own using this interactive map or this map of the best fall color locations (both by the U.S. Forest Service).
You may also enjoy these blog posts: Best Places for Viewing Wildlife in the Laramie Area, Nature Activities for Families, and Top Tips for Safe Hiking During Hunting Season.