Laramie, Wyoming is the epicenter of some of the most scenic and least-crowded hiking you can find in the Rocky Mountain West. Due to the sheer quantity and quality of hiking trails in the area, selecting a trail can be a challenge. Still, too many good options are never a bad thing. Your choice will inevitably be influenced by a number of factors, including difficulty level, distance, ease-of-access, and opportunities to fish, among other things. Regardless, we are confident that Laramie hiking will have something special to offer you.
This post features the top five most scenic hikes around Laramie, from the high alpine terrain of the Snowy Range Mountains to the west to the rich and varied landscapes of lower-elevation recreation areas to the east.
Medicine Bow Peak
Medicine Bow Peak lies in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest in the heart of the Snowy Range Mountains, about 45 miles west of Laramie. This hike makes our list not only for its stunning alpine scenery but also for its notoriety as the highest point in Southern Wyoming. The Peak looms just above 12,000 feet and gifts those who reach its top with stunning, unobstructed views of the entire range and surrounding valleys.
There are four trailheads that will lead you to Medicine Bow Peak: Lake Marie Trailhead, Mirror Lake Trailhead, Lewis Lake Trailhead, and Dipper Lake Trailhead. These trailheads vary in distance, and you can access a detailed map of the different routes here.
We recommend the longest and most gradual route: the Lake Marie loop, about 7 miles total, via the Lakes Trail. You can take it either clockwise or counterclockwise, but we suggest clockwise in order to enjoy the best views of the peaks with the lakes in the foreground as you hike back to the trailhead.
If you’re pressed for time, opt instead for the Lewis Lake Trailhead as this is the most direct route to the peak at 1.6 miles long. Regardless of which route you choose, be prepared to hike through some steep sections and do some bouldering as you near the summit. The solid exercise you’ll get is a reward all on its own, but you will also be compensated with gorgeous scenery along the way and a 360º view of unencumbered mountain beauty once you reach the top.
Gap Lakes & Shelf Lakes
While Medicine Bow Peak is the most popular hiking destination in the area and is well worth your while, the Gap Lakes and Shelf Lakes trails are my personal favorite hikes in the Snowy Range and are an especially good option for anglers who wouldn’t mind catching a trout or two along the way. You can access these trails via the Lewis Lake Trailhead, which is right next to the Sugarloaf Campground.
A rich glacial history has formed the rugged granite peaks and pristine lakes of the Snowy Range Mountains, and the Gap Lakes and Shelf Lakes hikes are a great way to appreciate this breathtaking legacy. The Gap Lakes Trail is 2.8 miles long and follows Lewis Lake, South Gap Lake, and North Gap Lake. If you have a full day, hike into the Shelf Lakes as well. The exit onto the Shelf Lakes Trail is located along the shore of North Gap Lake and is clearly marked.
The lakes on these trails are pristine, with crystal clear water that displays blue and turquoise hues on a sunny day, all with a backdrop of teeming granite peaks and a gorgeous array of wildflowers.
Turtle Rock is a three-mile loop that is just a 15-minute drive from Laramie, right off I-80. Despite its proximity to the Interstate, once you hit the trail, you’ll find yourself in another world, far away from traffic. The trail is located in the breathtaking and unique Vedauwoo Recreation Area and circumnavigates the base of its namesake, the “Turtle Rock,” a large outcrop of Sherman Granite that came into being an estimated 14 million years ago. This rock feature is impressive all on its own, and the creek, patches of forest, and fields of boulders make the hike all the more scenic.
Turtle Rock is great for beginners and families and is an especially beautiful location to catch a sunrise or sunset. Wildflowers are plentiful during the summer and wildlife abounds, including marmots, ground squirrels, deer, moose, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and birds.
The Headquarters Trail follows the spine of the Sherman Mountains and traverses open meadows, rugged rock formations, and conifer forests. It is part of the Happy Jack trail system and offers panoramic views of several mountain ranges located in both Colorado and Wyoming.
You can easily reach the Headquarters Trail via a 1.5-mile hike on the Summit Trailhead, just past the Summit Rest Area and Visitors Center off I-80. In the beginning, the route ascends gradually and then continues along the ridgeline, dividing before coming back together (take the right division for a grand overlook). You’ll then travel through beautiful ponderosa pine forests, aspen groves, and meadows before facing a fairly steep descent that takes you down to the Headquarters parking area.
Hidden Falls is an out-and-back trail (close to 4 miles total) located in Curt Gowdy State Park, about 24 miles east of Laramie. Rated moderate, Hidden Falls is one of the most popular trails in the park, and you can easily see why. Who doesn’t want to wander down a scenic trail that leads to a picturesque waterfall?
There are several different routes that you can take to reach the falls, but we recommend starting at the Aspen Grove Trailhead and then following the Crow Creek Trail. You’ll travel through beautiful meadows and forests, past remarkable rock formations and rich, green vegetation, and hear the rushing of Crow Creek before ascending a small stone staircase to reach the falls. The waterfall flows between a small canyon-like feature formed by looming boulders on either side. We recommend bringing your swimming suit to take a dip in the pool below the falls before your return hike.