Note: This was our first trip to the Snowy Range, we are not locals. Please comment below to add to our information or point out other interesting insights.
After what seemed to be endless anticipation, filled with YouTube videos and hawk-like Facebook/Instagram watching, it was finally our turn to chase the snow.
In RMP’s maiden voyage, we were able to discover a back-country jewel in the Medicine Bow National Forest of Wyoming.
What a trip and an even cooler location…but I’ll save my personal review for the “Final Review” section at the end of this post.
Here is what we learned from our trip…enjoy!
Location: Snowy Range Mountains near Centennial, Albany, and Laramie, Wyoming.
Trail-head: We decided to trailer to the Green Rock parking lot which is just up the road from Centennial, beyond the turnoff to the Snowy Range Ski Area, and also where highway 130 is closed for the winter. Parking is free of charge.
After doing some of our own research, we decided on Green Rock because it was the closest and seemed the easiest to find. RMP will definitely be visiting the Albany side of the mountain in the near future as we have heard great things about it as well.
Directions to the Trail-head: From Laramie, you want to to get on Snowy Range Road (more on Snowy Range Road later) and head west for a few blocks away from I-80.
You will need to turn right immediately before the Shell station. Here is what the turn looks like (we may or may not have missed it our first time through:)).
Continue to travel on Snowy Range Road through Centennial, past Snowy Range Ski Area, and arrive at the Green Rock parking lot.
Here are the distances between some notable locations in the area.
Laramie to Centennial: 30.2 mi
Albany to Centennial: 17 mi
Laramie to Albany: 35.2 mi
Centennial to Green Rock parking lot: ~6 mi
Terrain/Ride Details: On the first day of our ride, we really didn’t know what to expect. The low visibility from fog and blowing snow didn’t help much. We had settled on 50/50 probability that we would be able to “really ride.” We were pleasantly surprised.
As we headed up the trail out of the parking lot we found a sign with some basic trail information. This was on the north side of the road where the road goes from plowed to groomed.
Click here and scroll to page 2 to see a detailed trail map of the area. The main trail through the area is a groomed highway 130, marked as U and colored purple. Pay close attention to the note that the area just south of the parking lot and beginning of the trail is closed to snowmobiling (please be a responsible rider so we and our children can continue to enjoy awesome areas like this).
From our experience and advice of locals, you’ll generally need to ride on the U trail over the summit and near Lake Marie before you can get off the trail. To the north of the U trail are some large cliffs, climbs, and bowls…most seemed to be inaccessible until large amounts of snow have fallen. The danger of an avalanche looks to be high in those areas.
When we crossed the county line between Albany and Carbon counties, we began to explore the trees south of the road as the snow looked to be deep enough. Not excited about the prospect of losing an A-arm or even worse, smashing an entire front end, we rode tentatively through the pockets and drifts of snow. Our passive approach resulted in two things: getting stuck and discovering that there was a lot of snow in certain areas.
The snow had some interesting features with several distinct layers. It took us some time to adjust to these conditions. After digging out multiple times, we were able to get our riding legs beneath us. We found a great tree riding area just south of the U trail. The snow was excellent with very few “bombs” lurking beneath. There was also a huge meadow and a few enticing creek beds to play around in. We thoroughly enjoyed an afternoon of ripping through the pillows after a long summer of dreaming of anticipation. We were on the right side of our projected 50/50 probability!
Day 2 was even better. After taking a day off to rest up and wait for more snow to pile up, we were eager to roll off the trailer. It was a brisk, windy morning that about froze our faces off at the summit. The unfavorable conditions didn’t last long and the rest of the day was off and on sunny/partly cloudy. After discovering that our tracks from the previous ride were buried, we started with our old faithful. We enjoyed the same area once more until we noticed a group of locals take off over the mountain and disappear. We followed.
After winding up, over, and through the beautiful snow covered Medicine Bow back-country to the south, we found the group of locals (3 others were stuck up in the trees).
They were super friendly and more than willing to show us around. What a great bunch of guys! They guided us around the backside of the peaks we had previously ventured through and connected us to the V trail which eventually led us to Silver Lake. After weaving through a few more meadows and ridges, the sun began to set.
While we were far from experts on the area, I felt that we had seen a broad representation of the riding in the Snowy Range Mountains. We will be back to see much more in the future.
Nearest Snotel: Med Bow, click here to view. Other sites that are helpful to monitor are Brooklyn Lake, Sand Lake, Cinnabar, and the French Creek. If you are new to Snotel, simply select Daily or Hourly in the “Time Series” box toward the bottom and then choose last 30 days, last 7 days, or last 24 hours in the yellow box. Now, click on the “View Current” button. Enjoy the joys of modern weather technology!
From one of our readers snowyrangerider, “The Dayweather site (http://dayweather.com/keystone/weathertext.html) provides links to some of these SNOTEL sites as well as several web cams that can provide a real time look at the mountain. The Snowy Range Ski area sends out daily tweets each morning with snowfall and temp info. Avalanche forecast for the Snowy Range is not as good as other riding areas in the west.http://www.jhavalanche.org/mbow/index.php can be used. Or use a combination of the Front Range and Steamboat/Flat tops from the CAIC site http://avalanche.state.co.us/.”
Snowmobile Registration: I won’t go into in-state registration, because if you are from Wyoming, you likely know more about that than I do. As a non-resident, you’ll need to purchase registration for your sled. The cost is $35 for an annual pass, with an optional $2 add-on to support the Wyoming Search and Rescue. This can be purchased at many different locations, but the West Laramie Fly Store/Conoco station is open at 5:30a so you can get going as early as you’d like. It is also located on Snowy Range Road on your way out of town.
Fuel: There are plenty of locations to get fuel in Laramie, but a few supply Ethanol Free-91 octane, which is rare where we are from. The previously mentioned Conoco station (see above) and the Exxon station (see below) both offer this fuel option.
As far as the last chance to fill up, Centennial has a gas station, called the Friendly Store. Albany Lodge also has ethanol-free fuel.
Hotel/Accommodations: We stayed with family while in the Laramie area, so I don’t have much firsthand information, but I will share with you what I found. There are obviously many hotels and other accommodations in Laramie. Depending on your budget and preference, you should be able to find something that suits your needs.
If you’d like to stay closer to the trail-head or simply prefer the more rural setting, Centennial has at least 3 possibilities. You can check out the Mountain View Hotel/Cafe, Friendly Store/Motel/Cafe/Bar, or the Old Corral Hotel/Steakhouse.
There is also a local mercantile for your forgotten essentials.
Albany has a few accommodations that people rave about. You may want to check them out…Albany Lodge/Bar/Restaurant and the Aspen Creek Cabin.
Nearby Snowmobile Shops: We only stopped in at one, TNT Motorsports, which is on Snowy Range Road on your way out of town toward Centennial. They are a Ski-Doo, Arctic Cat, and Yamaha dealer. It seemed to be a great shop…wide selection, nice people, good service. There is also a Polaris shop in town, Frontier Cycles.
TNT Motorsports, 2061 Snowy Range Rd., Hours: 8:30a-5:30p
Frontier Cycles, 2434 East Grand Ave., Hours: 8:30a-5:30p/closed Sunday
Local Snowmobile Club: For more information click here.
Final Review for the Snowy Range: As we discussed this location the first thing that came to mind is the solitude of the area. In our two days I can’t remember seeing more than 8-10 people on the trail. When we did run in to fellow riders, they were helpful and friendly. This could be because there are so many access points to the Snowy Range. Saratoga on the west side of the range and Albany to the south of Centennial are utilized by many riders to enter the Medicine Bow back-country.
The terrain in the Snowy Range was heavily treed for the most part. There are areas that are more open, but you’ve got to search for them. This is a welcome challenge to most back-country riders, as it was to us. The terrain was medium as far as steepness. There are steep areas but most areas had gradual ascent. I would love to hear from some of the locals on where some of the best hill climbs are. We didn’t find many, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Finally, one of the coolest things about this area is the snowmobile friendly culture. Snowy Range Road, the main approach to the Snowy Range, is a perfect illustration. Within less than a mile you have a full service snowmobile shop, multiple gas stations that offer Ethanol-Free 91 octane fuel, and multiple stores that sell snowmobile registration. In Centennial, at the end of a winter day, you’ll find bars and restaurants setup to cater to the riders who have given their best shot to the back-country of Wyoming.
What an amazing place to start our Rocky Mountain Pursuit! If you haven’t visited, you most definitely will not regret it. Just make sure to come back and tell us your story!
@rockymtnpursuit on Instagram
Rocky Mtn Pursuit on Facebook