Alpine Backpacking in the Snowy Range

Destination: Snowy Range, Wyoming

| Activities: Backpacking and Hiking

The wild west is full of granite spires, crystalline lakes, and cowboy sunsets. Wyoming is home to one such well kept secret, Medicine Bow National Forest. Here you can walk among fields of brilliant wildflowers with everything you need on your back, warm your feet by an open fire, and relax at the end of an invigorating hiking day with a mug of hot chocolate. Backpacking done right! After a few nights in the wilderness, unwind at the legendary Vee Bar Ranch. This is a backpacking trip where you carry everything you need on your back, staying at designated campsites first and then in a dispersed camping wilderness setting. This trip is a perfect opportunity to hone your skills and experience the joys of camping in a supportive group environment. We’ll practice Leave No Trace principles, how to pack a backcountry backpack, outdoor cooking techniques, and much more! While previous backpacking experience isn’t required, it is preferable. The mileage will be low, but we will be hiking and camping at altitude in subalpine terrain. If you’ve never backpacked, we also recommend looking at our Introduction to Lightweight Backpacking trip with is offered each year by AGC in June. Max group size: 12 pax.

Highlights

  • Backpacking in a spectacular alpine environment
  • Gaining confidence in your outdoors knowledge and skills
  • Sitting under the stars with new friends
  • Experiencing a night at a world class dude ranch

Inclusions

  • 1 - 2 experienced AGC guides based on group size
  • Three nights double occupancy lodging (or single occupancy if you opt for a single supplement) and four nights camping in a single or double tent
  • Meals starting on breakfast Day 2 through breakfast breakfast on the last day with some exclusions (see below)
  • Transportation from Denver to Wyoming and back
  • Backpacking tents and group cooking gear
Not included: Airfare to Denver, lunches while backpacking (participants will buy and pack their own lunches with recommendations from AGC guides), alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities, personal backpacking equipment including backpacks, sleeping bags and pads (these can be rented from Arrive Outdoors)

Trip Documents

Trip Intro

This trip is rated a 4 and is appropriate for women in strong hiking condition who want to refine backpacking skills in a spectacular alpine setting. While you will be carrying a 30-pound pack on a trail where there are some sustained ascents and descents, the mileage is quite moderate to allow time to acclimatize to the high elevation and practice skills. Rating: 1 2 3 [4] 5.

This is a backpacking trip where you carry everything you need on your back, staying at designated campsites first and then in a dispersed camping wilderness setting. This trip is a perfect opportunity to hone your skills and experience the joys of camping in a supportive group environment. We'll practice Leave No Trace principles, how to pack a backcountry backpack, outdoor cooking techniques, and much more! While previous backpacking experience isn't required, it is preferable. The mileage will be low, but we will be hiking and camping at altitude in subalpine terrain. If you've never backpacked, we also recommend looking at our Introduction to Lightweight Backpacking trip with is offered each year by AGC in June.

We'll spend our first night in a convenient Marriott hotel near the Denver airport, in double occupancy (or single occupancy if you opted for the single supplement), the second night in a hotel in Laramie to continue acclimatizing. Then four nights in tents (two women per tent or you can bring your own solo tent as long as it's approved by AGC staff). Our last night will be at the charming western Vee Bar Ranch, a picturesque and relaxing reward after our nights spent outside.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

DAY 1
Arrive Denver (DEN) anytime. We will be spending the first night at a hotel with an airport shuttle. We will not be formally gathering as a group this evening so it’s yours to spend as you choose. Altitude can affect everyone differently so we are building in acclimatization time to help us all feel more comfortable during our high altitude backpack! (*For the backpacking section, exact mileages and campsites for each night are contingent upon weather conditions, campsite availability, and group interests.)
DAY 2
The guides will meet you at the hotel at 8 a.m. for brief introductions and group orientation. The mountains are calling! We will head north three hours to a geological legend, Vedauwoo, Wyoming for a picnic and short hike. Pronounced "vee-da-voo,” this spectacular area is full of fascinating pink hued granite, dating back 1.43 billion years. After a filling picnic lunch we’ll continue on to our lodging in Laramie where we have the evening to review the essentials of backpacking, divvy up group gear, and weigh/fit our packs. Laramie (or “Laradise” as the locals call it!) is a charming western college town, full of cowboy relics with an outdoorsy vibe. Participants will have the opportunity to purchase or add to lunch and snack supplies for the backpacking section today. At 7,200 feet above sea level, it will give us a second night to get used to altitude before starting our backpack tomorrow. Tonight we’ll hit the town for our first group dinner together. (B, L, D)
DAY 3
After an early breakfast, we take a beautiful one hour drive west over the Snowy Mountain Scenic Byway. We'll drive through sagebrush prairie at the lower elevations to lodgepole pine and spruce-fir forests at higher elevations. The Snowy Range, at 9,000 feet to 12,000 feet above sea level, is aptly named for the heavy annual snowfall and striking white granite peaks. We begin our backpacking trip at the crystalline waters of Libby Lake (elevation 10,750), setting up camp a few miles in at a dispersed site near Lost Lake. Along the way, we’ll review backpacking basics such as Leave No Trace ethics, health and safety topics including altitude illness prevention, sanitation, water purification, foot care, cooking in the backcountry and more. (B, D) Distance: 2-3 miles. *Though the daily distances are shorter, we maintain that this is a Level 4 trip due to altitude, possible weather extremes (it’s not called the Snowy Range for nothing!) and carrying the weight of a full backpack.
DAY 4
After marveling at the sunrise and warming up with some tea or coffee and a filling breakfast, we’ll pack our things and backpack along the northeast side of Brown’s Peak. We'll hike past trees twisted by the harsh alpine environment, known as "Krummholz" or "bent trees" and a beautiful array of wildflowers - true highlights of the alpine scenery! A variety of birds frequent these meadows, such as the Brown headed Rosy Finch, Clark's Nutcracker, chickadee, and Northern Flicker. We will become familiar as well with the squeaks, whistles and scurrying of the small alpine marmots and pikas. We may see elk, deer, and short-tailed weasels along the trail pine. Dinner is simple and hearty, backpacking style. You will be surprised how tasty and diverse backpacking dinners can be! (B, D) Distance: 6-8 miles.
DAY 5
Today we may explore Sand Lake, where there is a ghost town feel (there was a rustic cabin resort there that operated from the 1930’s until the 1980’s) and then we’ll backpack toward Cutthroat Lake (named for Cutthroat Trout who have a splash of red near their throats.) We’ll get views of Medicine Bow Peak which at a majestic 12,013 feet is the highest point in the range and provides a great landmark during most of our journey. Glaciers gouged Medicine Bow National Forest thousands of years ago, creating lake after pristine lake. Today many snowfields remain all summer, gripping the mountain slopes and hanging over many of the lakes, white snow contrasting with blue water. The trail is rocky and loose in some places and soft mossy tundra in others. There are many small lakes nestled against high escarpments that are home to rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout. When the sun goes down, the stargazing is fantastic at this elevation! (B, D) Distance: Variable depending on your choice of the day, 3 - 10 miles
DAY 6
Today our mileage is shorter but the terrain is tougher. We will backpack across a boulder field (slowly and safely) to settle at the base of Medicine Bow Peak, next to Klondike Lake. This is the perfect position for an early morning summit tomorrow of the highest point in the Snowy Range and the 14th highest mountain in the state of Wyoming. (B, D) Distance: 4 miles.
DAY 7
After an early breakfast, those that want to join the summit party, will pack just some layers, water and snacks in their packs for the steep but rewarding one mile, 1,500 vertical feet hike up to the top of Medicine Bow Peak. (For those wanting to explore at lower elevations instead of the summit push, there is an out and back 4 mile hike to Lookout Lake.) Triumphant (and maybe a little sore) we’ll head back down to pack-up our campsite and hike out to our ending point. Together we’ll toast our week’s accomplishments and inside jokes an hour down the road at AGC’s favorite ranch, the Vee Bar, for a night spent in cozy cabins next to the Little Laramie river. Did I mention there is a hot tub and laundry machines? It’s the perfect place to celebrate our adventure! (B, D) Distance: 2-5 miles
DAY 8
We’ll wrap up with one last delicious breakfast together before saying goodbye to the incredible western landscape of the Snowy Range. From Vee Bar, it’s a 2.5 hour drive to the Denver International Airport. We’ll have you back to the airport by 12pm and you can plan your flight home for anytime after 1:30pm. (B)

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "What made this trip special for you?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.

4.5

(11 reviews)
4.2 Food
4.7 Lodging
4.8 Safety
5
(7)
4
(2)
3
(2)
2
(0)
1
(0)
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Marie R.
0 months ago

It was my first backpacking trip - learned quite a bit about what to do, not to do, what to bring, not to bring. I always am one to carry all weather needs in any pack I am using, this time, I needed even more. In the mountains you need a Plan D.

Eileen G.
0 months ago

Met some wonderful women but most of all, the care given by rhe leaders, especially Karen, who took me under her wing and taught me tons. (I was the only newbie to backpacking on the trip.) Also, Karen and Gina patched me up when I took a header on the trail. In addition, Karen and Brenda took special care of us all on the final, snowy morning on the trail, bringing us hot cocoa and breakfast in our tents and making the wise decision to skip the bouldering planned for that day due to the cold, icy conditions. My only complaints are I felt we stopped to rest too frequently, and the leader should alway position herself in the middle of the pack and wait till everyone catches up before interpreting, so that everyone can hear.

Ursula F.
0 months ago

Comradery among the participants. Lots of laughter and enjoying being outside. Guides were friendly, knowledgeable and capable. Biggest detraction was the guides working out their system of working together, and communicating to the group - something that should of happened before we got there.

Peggy R.
1 month ago

Carol H.
1 month ago

As usual, our guides were amazing. It was very helpful to have Gina along(as a trainee) as her extra set of hands really helped since we had a very diverse set of capabilities in our group. Hiking at altitude in Wyoming was a treat. We saw such beauty and learned a lot about the Wyoming wilderness. Our guides always made sure we were safe and came up with a satisfactory Plan B after we experienced some unexpected wintry weather.

Cynthia R.
1 month ago

I'm rating the trip as excellent because all of the things that were within the control of the leaders were done so well. The trip was special because of the beauty of the terrain, the fact that I had never seen anything like it, and the company of my fellow travellers.

Luann P.
1 year ago

Mary G.
1 year ago

Mary R.
1 year ago

Sure did! The Snowy Mountains are even more beautiful than I anticipated.

Judith L.
1 year ago

See first comments above!

Jane F.
1 year ago

Currently there are no common questions available

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