Snowy Range: 32 miles W of Laramie
You can very quickly leave behind the dry plains around Laramie and find yourself up among lakes, forest, and substantial peaks in the north end of the Medicine Bow Mountains, known as the Snowy Range. Just take Wyo. 130 west, through the foothill town of Centennial, past the Snowy Range Ski Area (tel. 307/745-5750; www.snowyrangeski.com; full-day lift tickets are $39 for adults, $24 for children 12 and under), and up into the mountains, where peaks rise well over 10,000 feet. Though Medicine Bow Peak is 12,013 feet tall, it's a relatively easy day-climb, starting at the parking lot by Lake Marie and covering about 5 miles. You can loop around the west side of the hollow in which the peak stands and return on the east side among the lakes. Trails are well marked and you'll meet people as you hike. Just keep an eye out for thunderheads, as you'll be above timberline, exposed to lightning. For detailed trail maps, contact the Medicine Bow National Forest, 2468 Jackson St. in Laramie (tel. 307/745-2300; www.fs.fed.us/r2/mbr).
If you drive on over the Snowies -- it takes only about an hour -- you'll drop down into the valley of the North Platte River, with its old mining and timber towns such as Encampment and Saratoga. Saratoga is the roost of several fishing outfits that guide on the North Platte, one of the finest trout fisheries in the state. If you spend the night, you'll probably enjoy the creaky, old-fashioned style of the historic Hotel Wolf, 101 E. Bridge St. (tel. 307/326-5525; www.wolfhotel.com), with double rates of $67 to $110, or the Saratoga Resort and Spa, 601 E. Pic Pike Rd. (tel. 800/594-0178; www.saratogainn.com), with its own hot-spring-fed pool, golf course, and double rates of $100 to $175 in summer and $85 to $160 in winter. At the foot of the mountains in Centennial, try the Old Corral Hotel (tel. 866/653-2677 or 307/745-5918; www.oldcorral.com), $89 to $109 for a double with Western decor ($79-$89 double in winter), or the rustic Brooklyn Lodge (tel. 307/742-6916; www.brooklynlodge.com), a log-laden B&B with rockers and wagon-wheel tables; double rates are $175. Another area attraction of note is Woods Landing in the dinky town of Jelm (tel. 307/745-9638; www.woodslanding.com), a historic Western dance hall built on 24 boxcar springs -- when the dance floor is full, the place literally bounces. A restaurant, a complex of rustic rental cabins ($55-$100 double), and a riverside guesthouse ($175-$190 a night) are on-site. North of the Snowies off of I-80, the Historic Elk Mountain Hotel, 102 E. Main St., Elk Mountain (tel. 307/348-7774; www.elkmountainhotel.com), is a first-rate restored hotel with double rates of $130 to $170 and a restaurant on-site.
Medicine Bow National Forest (tel. 307/745-2300; www.fs.fed.us/r2/mbr) maintains a number of semiprimitive campgrounds June through September, scattered throughout the range west of Laramie. Fees at most campgrounds range from $10 to $12 per night, although a few are free or $5 per night.
The Upper North Platte River cuts right through Saratoga, and those in the know consider it one of the state's top trout-fishing spots. Stoney Creek Outfitters, 216 E. Walnut, Saratoga (tel. 307/326-8750; www.fishstoneycreek.com), charges $450 for a full-day, two-person float-fishing expedition.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.