Spring Wildflowers

Spring in the Snowy Range: A Season Like No Other

Spring in the Snowy Range

Springtime in the Snowy Range mountains of Wyoming is special. Truly, every season in the mountains is unique and wondrous in its own way, but there is something about spring. Perhaps it is the way this season is so often overlooked without the more obvious attractions of skiing, fishing, mountain biking, and hunting. Maybe it is because it sneaks up on you, bits of green and life bursting out of long-dormant forests shrouded in white. Or, possibly, it is the fact that it is so elusive, tucked clandestinely into the brief space between winter and summer.

Whatever the reason, there is no denying that springtime in the Snowy Range possesses an understated beauty and particular opportunities for those who dare to venture onto its wild slopes. Just as springtime blossoms slowly unfurl their petals in the warmth of the sun, the mountains are slowly coming to life.

Snowy Range Scenic Byway Spring
Clearing the Highway Photo Credit Fred Benson

The pass, Highway 130, is not fully open until Memorial Day, typically, and the weather can be unpredictable. However, spring in the Snowy Mountains draws an exclusive set of adventurers, explorers, and outdoorsmen and women.

Wyoming Mountain Spring
The Summit in June Photo Credit Leah Veinbergs

The Mountain View Hotel and Cafe

As always, The Mountain View Hotel and Cafe in Centennial, Wyoming is an ideal place to stay (or stop in a for breakfast or lunch) when visiting the mountains in the Spring. The busy season has yet to reach full swing and the peaceful mountain community is just starting to awaken to the spring weather.

With the remnants of the winter chill still clinging to the air, a cup of house-roasted coffee is the perfect way to start (or end) a day of adventuring in the mountains. What could be better than sipping a tasty brew in front of the cafe’s wood stove and soaking in the snow-capped mountains in the distance? The views of the mountain peaks are particularly stunning in the spring, as the stark white snow against slate gray rocks and green pines create a beautiful contrast.

Spring Hiking in the Snowy Range

Spring in the Snowy Range
Corner Mountain Trailhead Photo Credit Leah Veinbergs

Spring hiking is a memorable experience. The snowshoe season is starting to pass, although there are still plenty of trails that afford snowshoeing into May. The newly melted trails are often muddy and deadfalls have yet to be cleared, making for additional adventure.

It was into this uncertain terrain that my husband and I–our kids in tow–ventured one warm spring Saturday. We chose a short hike for our first hiking foray of the season and parked at the Corner Mountain Trailhead. As we began to trek into the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, I was thankful for wool socks and waterproof hiking boots. The trails were still mostly blanketed under a layer of snow, particularly further into the shade of the forest. (Click here for an interactive U.S. Forest Service map).

Notwithstanding the snow, the temperature was comparatively balmy. The sheer joy of being outdoors after the long winter is yet another reason to visit the mountains in spring, and not wait until summer. I find spring hiking to be an exhilarating antidote to winter’s inevitable cabin fever! 

Spring in the Snowy Range
Spring Family Hike Photo Credit Leah Veinbergs

Springtime hiking trails are decidedly less populated than in the summer and fall. For those who appreciate more serenity and solitude when wandering the woods, a spring hike is a great opportunity to experience the peace of nature without having to roam too far into the wilderness.

Spring Greenery in the Mountains

What surprised me, as we made our ½ mile loop through the mountains, was the unexpected amount of green. In many ways, there was more green to behold on the mountain slopes than there was in town (at several thousand feet lower elevation). The deep green of lodgepole and ponderosa pines stood out against the sparkling blue sky. Besides the evergreens, aspen, mountain ash, and other small trees and shrubs were budding and beginning to hint at the coming of summer.

Spring Wildflowers
Dwarf Mountain Fleabane Photo Credit K. McShane

By mid-May, a few hardy wildflowers are beginning to make their spring debut. The brown and green landscape is punctuated by bright bursts of color from Indian paintbrush, dwarf mountain fleabane, ball cactus, American pasqueflower (aka prairie crocus), and others. The mountain meadows will be overflowing with rainbows of wildflowers by summer, but the first spring blooms possess peculiar magic and allure.

Wyoming Spring Wildflowers
Indian Paintbrush Photo Credit K. McShane

Spring Birdwatching

In addition to the plant life renaissance taking place, the mountain birds are highly active in the spring. Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and the Snowy Range Scenic Byway are ideal places to observe Wyoming birds, according to the Audubon Society. The forest is alive with the calls of red-winged blackbirds, robins, and tree swallows–which all arrive by the end of April–as they search for mates and choose ideal nesting places.

Mountain Spring Western Tanager
White Crowned Sparrow Photo Credit K. McShane

Many bird species–of special interest to bird-watchers, naturalists, ornithologists, and wildlife photographers–call the Snowy Range home. Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest is the only place in Wyoming where the Brown-capped Rosy-finch is found, for instance. Mountain bluebirds, mountain chickadees, Stellar’s jays, Townsend’s solitaires, American pipits, western tanagers, and ruby-crowned kinglets, among others, can be seen here as well.

Mountain Spring Hummingbird
Western Tanager Photo Credit K. McShane

Even hummingbirds can be found hovering around the new blossoms in the early spring. The hummingbirds often return to the mountains earlier than other areas. Visitors to The Mountain View Hotel Cafe often comment on how the tiny jewel-like birds have yet to return to the lower elevations of Laramie and Cheyenne, as they watch the birds flitter outside the cafe windows.

Wyoming’s position along the Central Flyway makes for wonderful viewing of migratory birds. Swainson’s hawks can be seen this time of year in the grasslands around the Snowy Range. Swainson’s hawks have one of the longest migrations of any raptor, as long as 7,100 miles, from southern Alaska to Brazil and Argentina. Wyoming is on their migration route and is home to many nesting hawks as well.

Mountain Spring Hummingbird
Broad Tailed Hummingbird Photo Credit K. McShane

For the avid birder, Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge is just under an hour away. In spring, mallards, ruddy ducks, eared grebes, American coots, red-winged blackbirds, marsh wrens, Swainson’s hawk, red-tailed hawks, and golden eagles are abundant–with many species known to nest at the refuge. On rare occasions, snow geese, American white pelicans, snowy egrets, green and black-crowned night herons, mountain bluebirds, western tanagers, and even bald eagles have been spotted in this prairie haven.

Spring Wildlife Viewing Opportunities

Besides the birds, the refuge is also a wonderful place to view the absolutely prolific pronghorn herds (aka antelope). Pronghorn, of course, are not limited to the refuge. They can be found all over the grasslands surrounding the Snowy Range. In late May, some pronghorn are giving birth to their fawns. Trust me, there are few things cuter than a baby pronghorn.

Wyoming Spring Antelope
Pronghorn (aka Antelope) Photo Credit Jupiterimages

Spring is also an important time for elk, white-tailed deer, and mule deer who are busy with their seasonal migrations from winter ranges to summer ranges. Every spring these beautiful animals leave grazing areas at lower elevations and make their way to their summer homes high in the mountains.

Elk, deer, and moose typically have their young in late May and early June. No matter how many times I have seen these beautiful animals, it is always an extraordinary privilege–especially when they are with their calves and fawns.

Wyoming Spring Moose
Moose Cow with Calf Photo Credit Martin Surynek

While there are no grizzly bears in the Snowy Range, black bears are very active in the spring. They are just emerging from winter hibernation and are extremely hungry. These impressive animals are wonderful to see, but it is important to remember that they can be dangerous. Never approach a bear–particularly a mother with cubs–or feed the bears. To learn more about staying safe around bears, be sure to read this National Parks Service Article on bear safety.

Don’t Wait Until Summer!

Whatever your reason for visiting the Snowy’s in spring, whether it be a cup of coffee with a view, a peaceful hike, or witnessing the miraculous awakening of nature, don’t let the opportunity pass. Spring is fleeting, and all-too-soon a new season will be upon us. Come now, spring is here!

Leah Veinbergs at Two Little Time

Book your stay at The Mountain View Historic Hotel by June 30th  (subject to availability) and get 10% off your room when you mention this blog post!!

Fishing is for Everyone in the Snowy Range

In the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, anyone can be a fisherman–or fisher-woman! With over 75 good fishing lakes in the Snowy Range, there is a fishing spot for everyone. From experienced anglers to novices, seasoned aficionados to young children, the fishing experience here is truly unique and accessible to all.

The Mountain View Historic Hotel

Where to Stay

The small, mountain community of Centennial, Wyoming makes an ideal home-base from which to explore all that the Snowy Range has to offer. Primely situated at the edge of Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, Centennial is only a 35-minute drive from the larger town of Laramie, and is an excellent choice for outdoors and fishing enthusiasts. Needless-to-say, The Mountain View Historic Hotel is the perfect place for a fisherman to relax after a day on the water. Enjoy the historical atmosphere, rustic charm, and all the comforts of home! The hotel also has a wonderful cafe with delicious breakfast and lunch options, as well as fantastic coffee roasted on-site!

Snowy Range Waterways

Surrounded by the epic beauty of the Snowy Range wilderness, numerous streams, lakes, and reservoirs offer a variety of fishing experiences. Some, like Lake Owen and Rob Roy Reservoir, allow motorized watercraft and are equipped with boat ramps. Others permit only kayaks and canoes, enabling their patrons to absorb the quiet tranquility of a fishing experience “closer to nature.” For more on boating (and fishing) regulations visit the Wyoming Game and Fish website.

Fisherman Rod and ReelNo boat? No problem! Fishing from shore is a great option as well. There is great access along Mirror Lake, Lake Marie, or Lewis Lake—the dam area on Little Brooklyn Lake is a great place for kids to catch fish.

If you’re looking for a more secluded fishing experience, the Shelf Lakes might be just the ticket. A marked hiking trail (intermediate skill level) skirts the edges of these beautiful lakes.

The North Platte River, located just over the mountain, is the recommended river for Fly Fishing. Local experts also highly recommend French Creek and Douglas Creek. However, with the literally dozens of well-stocked lakes in the area, there is certainly no shortage of prime fly-fishing locales.

 So Many Fish, So Little Time

A wonderful array of fish swim in the waterways of the Snowies. Brook, golden, cutthroat, and rainbow trout, along with splake and grayling provide ample opportunities for fly or bait fisherman to try their luck. A variety of fish are stocked regularly by Wyoming Game and Fish.First Fish

The variety of waterways and fish afford no shortage of exceptional experiences, whatever your level of expertise may be. Seasoned fly fishers will find ample challenge to satisfy, and even children can enjoy enough success to instill a life-long love of fishing and the outdoors. After all, there is nothing quite like the thrill of reeling in a fish for the first time—or even the 101st time.

Gear and Supplies

Of course, there are supplies you will need. Fishing licenses can be purchased online from Wyoming Game and Fish or at many hardware stores and gas stations in the area. The West Laramie Fly Store, and their exceedingly helpful staff, are a great source for not only fishing licenses, but also bait, tackle, flies, and just about any other fishing paraphernalia or information you could want. Check out their regularly updated “Fishing Report.”

Fly fisherman can employ an array of gear and tackle to suit their fishing preferences. Nymphing is particularly popular in the alpine waterways—Prince Nymphs, Hare’s Ears, and Copper Johns (size 14-18) are highly recommended—but dry flies are more than adequate as well.

For those who want a truly extraordinary trip, consider hiring Two Dogs Guide Service. These experienced guides offer a terrific selection of guide packages for all abilities and preferences. They also offer full gear and equipment rentals.

The Experience

Elk Snowy RangeThe best times of day for fishing are in the early morning hours and the evening hours. There is a pristine magic in these bewitching hours. Far from the clamor and chaos of civilization, the lilting twitter of an American pipit or brown-capped rosy finch mingles with the rustle of lodge-pole pines and aspen to serenade the mountain explorer. On the glassy mountain lakes–disturbed only by leaping trout–the reflections of rocky peaks and emerald spires, backlit by the rising or setting sun, will literally take your breath away. You may even be fortunate enough to glimpse a moose or an elk emerging from the forest for a cool drink. You can download a map of the Snowy Range Area here.

Other Activities

Cooking TroutOnce the peak fishing hours have passed, there is still plenty of adventure to fill your day. Hike one of the many wonderful trails and have a picnic lunch. Fresh brook trout are renowned for their delectable texture and flavor! Or, head back into Centennial for a delicious lunch at the Mountain View Cafe!

You could also spend some time driving the Snowy Range Scenic Byway, bird-watching, photographing, reading, or exploring the Nici Self Historical Museum in Centennial—the possibilities are endless. For more information check out the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest: Snowy Range Area website!

Undoubtedly, fishing in the Snowy Range is an adventure everyone will enjoy! There are memories to be made, mountains to be climbed, and fish to be caught.  Come to the Snowies, the trout are biting!

Book your stay at The Mountain View Historic Hotel by May 31st (subject to availability) and get 10% off your room when you mention this blog post!!

 

Leah Veinbergs at Two Little Time

Snowshoeing with Kids!

If you have not tried snowshoeing, it is a fun activity to do with kids. Snowshoeing with kids might sound challenging, but it is similar to hiking with kids, except they will tire out a bit more quickly. The only main difference is practicing the “duck walk” as my family calls it. Your feet have to be spread wider apart than normal when walking so that you do not step on the front or back of your other snowshoe. I have a four and a six-year-old, so we can only go snowshoeing for about two hours or less before my kids get tired.

 

My husband or I bring a backpack with water bottles, extra gloves (one of our kids always finds a way to get his or her gloves wet), an extra hat, etc. The backpack also comes in handy for storing extra clothes as your family sheds layers while snowshoeing. Everyone starts out cold, but by the end of the journey, hats and gloves are off and sometimes coats as well.DSCN2434

One of our favorite spots to go snowshoeing is in the Snowy Range Mountains. The Snowy Range is part of the Medicine Bow Mountains and is located within the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. This stretch of mountains is a part of the Rocky Mountains. I know that Colorado gets much acclaim for beautiful mountain scenery, but I can safely say that the Medicine Bow Mountains can certainly compare. If you drive west from Laramie on Highway 130 for about 40 minutes, at the base of the Snowy Range Mountains is Centennial. Entering this small town feels like stepping back in time. It seems like everyone waves and is friendly. As we drive through Centennial, my kids get excited as they know we will be entering the National Forest soon.

My family loves going snowshoeing on the Little Laramie Trailhead in the Snowy Range Mountains. This trailhead is not far from Centennial (about 10 minutes), so it is perfect for a short getaway to the mountains or a daytrip. The trailhead is marked from the highway and there is parking along the side of the highway as sometimes the parking lot is inaccessible in the winter.14111581183_01058c4913_k

This trail is fairly flat, so it is perfect for little kids or beginning snowshoers. We start at the trail closest to the information sign. There is a beautiful snow covered bridge overlooking the frozen Little Laramie River. My kids love crossing this bridge and seeing the frozen water covered in snow. There is a chance of seeing deer, moose, rabbits, etc. along the trail, so that also adds to the appeal.

 

 

In the winter, we look for animal tracks in the snow and try to spot the perfect future Christmas tree. The kids wear snow pants, as inevitably they will stop along the way to make snow angels, roll down small hills, and sit in the snow. We have mini snowball fights and the promise of warmth as we head back to the car.

 

If you need more incentive to encourage the kids to continue along the trail or walk a little faster back to the car, in Centennial, hot chocolate and coffee are waiting at Mountain View Hotel, Cafe, and Coffee Roaster. We love to stop for lunch at this beautiful hotel after a snowshoeing trip. While waiting for you food, you can walk around and look at the antique surfaces of the room and furnishings. My kids love looking at the coffee roaster in the corner of one of the dining rooms that gives the hotel a wonderful coffee smell. When lunch arrives, my family eats and talks about our snowshoeing trip, and my kids ask when we will go again.

As our kids get older, we look forward to bigger adventures: longer hikes to Medicine Bow Peak (12013 feet), downhill skiing, or camping.  As April approaches, we will not put the snowshoes too far away as spring snowstorms are guaranteed and we may want to explore some more.

Book 2 or more nights in May or June and receive 20% off base rates based on occupancy when you mention the Code: I read the March Blog!  Subject to availability. Call or Request Online and put the code in the Guest Notes

Written by: Mountain View Blogger Kim Gianakon

City Living in Solitude

On a recent trip through a city, I realized something about me and people that live in the city center’s. “City people want to live alone but are afraid of the solitude.” Let me explain, in the city we move about our day and when returning home rush to get inside. Is this to avoid more human contact with the neighbor’s? I think so! All of the movement and action in a city allows one to be alone in a crowd, in a crowd one is not noticed like in a rural setting. In rural settings every move is noticed because so few exist. So we are more exposed. In the city we can move about barely noticed and live alone in large groups.

I moved away from the city 7 years ago and I realized this fact only last week. Now that I have experienced what true solitude is, I can not say I would ever live in that loneliness of the city again. It is dark and without feeling. The solitude of the middle of nowhere is like music, it is loud with life and peace at the same time. Your soul speaks and the people you have contact with are or seem more genuine.

If you live in the city…travel to a remote place and spend more than one day in this setting, and if you live in rural area go to the city and also stay for more than a day and observe what you see and feel. Then you may agree with my new mantra “City people want to live alone but are afraid of the solitude.”Storms

Spring Snow Travel

It is here! Spring Snow and wet roads make for slow travel. However early risers get the fresh powder. And for those of us which use snow shoveling for therapy out early with the snow removal equipment “a shovel”12036669_1049792005066299_5454788957978697424_n.Spring Snow TravelStay with us! Visit SouthEastern Wyoming

Winter Wyoming Traveling

At times it can be very slow moving or stopped due to road closures. Wind in the Winter is even higher, it can gust up to 75mph, in the east this is called a hurricane. We that live in Wyoming learn to plan trips to town around the weather.

If you are a winter sports activist then driving in extreme Winter conditions is a task required to enjoy your activity. Although tough at times the roads, once you arrive to your destination in the mountains, the pain of Wyoming Winter Travel goes away quickly.

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