At 12,013 feet, Medicine Bow Peak is far from being Wyoming's highest mountain, but this broad, beefy massif is unquestionably the monarch of southern Wyoming. Just reaching this compelling mountain on the northern end of the Medicine Bow Range makes for a wonderful drive. Climbing it turns the excursion into an adventure.
The Snowy Range Scenic Byway (Wyoming Hwy. 130) slices east-west through the mountains from the valley floor at about 8,000 feet to a high point of 10,847 feet, and from sagebrush prairie through lodgepole pine and then spruce-fir forests. Deep blue lakes, often at roadside, and views of alpine tundra above are eye candy even for the casual traveler.
The byway, Wyoming's highest paved road, is open from Memorial Day through October, weather permitting. This fortunately coincides with prime hiking season. From late spring, when the snow has mostly melted, until it starts falling again, trails are clear and temperatures are moderate. Mighty Medicine Peak harbors some year-round snowfields, and the quartzite dominating the upper mountain also resembles snow. No wonder these mountains are also known as the Snowy Range.
Three easy-access trailheads on the south and east sides are just off the byway, which parallels Medicine Bow Peak. Another trailhead accessing the opposite side of the mountain is reached via Forest Service Road 103, an unpaved road of just over 3 miles from the byway. No matter which route you choose, be mindful about summer weather. Even on days that start with sun, afternoon thunderstorms are common, making Medicine Bow Peak's enormous exposed upper reaches hazardous. Start hiking in the morning and plan to head back down early.