The Town of Laramie lies in the southeastern corner of Wyoming and, like many parts of the state, it is home to wide open spaces and truly breathtaking mountain scenery. While during your stay in the Laramie area you’re sure to happen upon some amazing views without even trying, doing a little more research ensures that you’ll get to experience some especially stunning vistas. In this post, we review our top five favorite scenic overlooks around Laramie.
1. Libby Flats Observation Point
The Libby Flats Observation Point is located in the heart of the Snowy Range Mountains, which are part of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. The impressive quartzite peaks, boulders, and pristine alpine lakes that make up this range are remnants of a rich glacial history.
The Libby Flats Observation Point is about 40 miles west of Laramie. To get there from Laramie, take exit 311 for Snowy Range Road / Highway 130. This highway, which includes the Snowy Range Scenic Byway, lifts you from the sagebrush and lodgepole pine forests below into a spectacular high alpine ecosystem. Libby Flats lies at the center of this ecosystem and is the highest point along the scenic byway.
The parking area takes you down a gravel path and up a small staircase onto a raised stone platform whose structure is reminiscent of a castle or fortress. The panoramic views are incredible and span across nearby meadows and a lake; the Snowy Range to the north; Rocky Mountain National Park to the south; Medicine Bow Peak, the Sierra Madre Mountains, and the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area to the west; and the Laramie Mountains to the east.
2. Medicine Bow Peak
It’s true that accessing this scenic overlook requires some effort on your part (scaling a mountain, to be exact), but the views are well worth it. Like the Libby Flats Observation Point, Medicine Bow Peak is located in the Snowy Range Mountains and proudly stands as its highest point at just above 12,000 feet.
Varying in distances from a little over a mile and a half to over seven miles, 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. If you’re looking for the most direct route to the top and the view, take Lewis Lake, which is a short but steep 1.6 mile route.
Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with a stunning, unobstructed view of the entire Medicine Bow Range and surrounding valleys. It’s a great spot to enjoy your lunch.
3. The Summit & Headquarters Trail
Hiking along the Headquarters Trail is another great way to access some amazing panoramic views in the Laramie area. To get there you’ll need to depart from the Summit Trailhead near the Sherman Summit Rest Area and Visitors Center, which sits about 10 miles east of Laramie off I-80. This stop is of interest for being the highest point on I-80 and on the historic Lincoln Highway.
After hiking 1.5 miles down the Summit trail you reach Headquarters. The trail follows the spine of the Sherman mountains and cuts across open meadows, treating hikers and mountain bikers to wide-reaching views of the Happy Jack and Vedauwoo areas and several mountain ranges. The trail is especially scenic in the fall when the aspens are changing colors.
4. Jelm Mountain / Wyoming Infrared Observatory
While definitely somewhat off the beaten path, the summit of Jelm Mountain is located about 25 miles southwest of Laramie and is worth a trip if you’re in the area. Built in 1977 and operated by the University of Wyoming, the Wyoming Infrared Observatory sits atop the summit at 9,656 feet above sea level. Although you have to get special permission to use the observatory, which houses a 2.3-meter telescope, the road to the summit is open to the public.
To get there from Laramie, take highway 230 toward Woods Landing and then take 10 south toward the Colorado border. You’ll travel the last several miles on a gravel road before reaching the top. Definitely don’t make this trip outside the summer months given that weather on Jelm can be extreme, and the road is covered in snow during most of the year.
Because Jelm Mountain rises steeply out of the surrounding terrain, you have a 360-degree view that spans out approximately 100 miles once you get to the top, including great panoramas of the Laramie River Valley and Medicine Bow Range.
5. Pilot Hill Recreation Area
With trails leaving directly from town, the Pilot Hill Recreation Area may be the most convenient scenic overlook on our list. In addition to ease of access, this area shines for its unique prairie landscapes that include large expanses of limestone and sprawling views of the city of Laramie and the Laramie Valley. Jelm Mountain and the Snowy Range also expand before your eyes.
To access the Pilot Hill Recreation area, head to the eastern end of Willett Drive. From the trailhead take the Jacoby Ridge Trail to the north toward the Pilot Hill Trail and keep following the trail uphill. The further up you go, the better the views.
If you're coming from Cheyenne or have been spending the day up at the Happy Jack Recreation Area, you can also enter Pilot hill from Forest Service Road 703, across from the Tie City Trailhead.