This little gem of a mountain range just north of the Colorado border makes for an ideal summer long weekend getaway.
The Snowy Range Scenic Byway cuts across the Snowy Range Mountains of southeastern Wyoming in a spectacular feat of engineering. Originally a wagon road constructed in the 1870s, the byway creeps up from the sub-alpine town of Centennial to 10,847 feet at its highest point. Although the road is impressive, the scenery and opportunities for recreation steal the show.
Centennial, on the eastern end of the byway, is the type of place where you can’t help but saddle up at the bar. Do this at the Century Saloon (housed inside the Friendly Store, friendlystorewyo.com), open since 1940. If you’re hungry, slide over to the Beartree Tavern (beartreetavernandcafe.com), where hearty fare like lasagne, nachos and green chili comes piping hot and in big portions from the kitchen. In Saratoga, 15 Church (15churchrestaurant.com) offers ‘fancier’ fare in a beautifully restored historic building.
If you like to sleep outside, the Snowies are for you. There are over 20 USFS campgrounds (fs.usda.gov/main/mbr/home) between Centennial and Saratoga, offering starlit sites from primitive to full hook-up. If you need a roof over your head, the Old Corral (oldcorral.com) has rustic rooms for rent in the heart of Centennial. Accommodations are more plentiful in Saratoga: Try the homey CopperLine Lodge (copperlinelodge.com) for a quiet bed and breakfast experience, or the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort (saratogahotspringsresort.com), which boasts its own mineral pools, public golf course, and is the home of the Snowy Mountain Brewery (snowymountainbrewery.com).
When the plows clear the byway, the road becomes a cyclist’s paradise. For a classic 50-mile road ride, start in Centennial and ride to Saratoga—if you start in Laramie, you add another 25 miles. Mountain bikers, the 12-mile Rock Creek Trail is a rip-roaring descent down 3,000 feet of tight singletrack. Hikers should hit the four-mile hike to the 12,013-foot summit of Medicine Bow Peak. And everyone loves the 85-plus sub-alpine lakes that dot the range like diamonds. Some, like Lake Marie and Silver Lake, are right off the byway while others, like the Shelf Lakes, require a hike in.