Camping in the Snowy Range

July 31, 2011 at 8:22 pm

It was the last weekend in July, and Mark and I were trying to figure out what to do to get out of the front range heat and enjoy the mountains. Climbing? Meh, did that last weekend. Camping? Sure, but where? We have about a 2 hour radius of comfort for weekend trips right now, so we consulted our maps and came up with a great option – the Snowies in south-central Wyoming were calling us.

Mirror Lake

We didn’t have any campground reservations, but my maps said there were at least 5 national forest campgrounds on the eastern slope, and I thought we’d find a site easily. I checked the status of the campgrounds online, and the nat forest website said 4 of the 5 were still closed! Uh-oh. I called the national forest office in Laramie, and the woman on the phone assured me that all 5 campgrounds were open, but warned that it was Fronteir Days in Cheyenne, and most campgrounds would be full.

“Isn’t Cheyenne 2 hours away from this area?” I asked, confused.

“Yes, but people are out camping all over. You should consider dispersed camping in the Medicine Bow forest.” She was quite adamant.

“I don’t think driving around the mountains at night with a trailer and a baby looking for random dispersed campsites is such a great idea….” I said. She tended to agree. Maybe we should just stay home?

Mark and I discussed, and made the call to leave at 6p on Friday night. Whatever. With 5 campgrounds in the area, we’d find a campsite, for sure.

Liv Loves Snow

It turns out, the four campgrounds in question were closed. I have no idea why. We looked around for dispersed camping, and nearly toppled the trailer on a steep, dark, rocky mountain road. As a last resort, we checked the final campground late on Friday night, and found a plethora of available campsites! Moral of that story: don’t call the Laramie ranger office! My first instincts were correct, everybody was in Cheyenne for the weekend, emptying out the campgrounds west of Laramie, and leaving us beautiful mountains to hike and enjoy by ourselves.

On Saturday morning, we packed snacks and bottles and headed up Wy130 to hike around the beautiful, high peaks of the Snowy Range. And boy, were they snowy!

The road to Mirror Lake is still snowed in, at the end of July!

Mark and G

10ft of snow still cover the banks of Mirror lake this summer

Dramatic Marmot

A helpful warning sign

We hiked up to Lookout Lake, enjoying clear blue skies, huge drifts of summer snow, thin mountain air, and glimpses of marmots following us. There were still huge chunks of ice floating in some of the lakes, and a 40ft snow drift kept the Mirror Lake recreation area closed to car traffic. Mark’s footing wasn’t all that great on the slippery snow paths, so we headed back to the car after a short, but very beautiful hike.

Mark and G

Mountains and Sky

We picnic’ed at 11,000ft, and caught views of distant peaks from the lookout. We headed back to the trailer for afternoon naps, playing in the creek, and bratwurst on the campfire Saturday night.