Hike Vedauwoo

020813_BartzTo act on last week’s valiant basketball victory over the Cowboys, I am sending you all northbound to conquer some Wyoming trails.

This week you’ll travel across the state line to Vedauwoo Natural Area in between Laramie and Cheyenne.

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Yes, Colorado hiking is fantastic, even in winter, but I figured something completely different from our familiar steep and rocky trails would be quite appetizing.

Just west of Cheyenne, the wide open plain begins to warp like boiling water. The land bows upward until you reach a set of pine-blanketed bluffs. A little farther west, the crests of the hills start to crumble apart into sheer rock faces and formations. To the south, across the gigantic nothingness you’ll see the snowcaps of the Front Range, and to the west, Wyoming’s Snowy Range. If it’s sunny, the peaks will literally glow through the morning haze. This is where you’ll find Vedauwoo.

This space has a number of trails. To be honest, I didn’t know which I was going to take when I got there. I found that the easiest to follow was the Turtle Rock Trail. It is a giant loop that encircles — you guessed it — Turtle Rock. For the most part, this is a very level trail, though there are few steep spots. The trail is almost completely snow-covered right now, so level is nice.

Hiking Vedauwoo is a little like hiking through a sculpture museum. The rock structures are stunning. You’ll turn a corner and find slender monoliths of stone, abstract collections of cube-shaped boulders and towering cliffs. This is a rock climber’s paradise. Climbers, keep this place in mind for the summer. But since it is winter, you’ll only find hikers. Not many, though; it is pretty isolated.

This is a relatively short hike, but expect the snow cover to slow you down a bit. It took me a little over two hours to complete the loop.

Also, keep in mind the weather. Storms come off the Snowy Range and shoot straight to Vedauwoo. It is also very windy. But trust me, all of this is worth the new experience.

To get here, take I-25 north to I-80 west and get off on exit 329. You can also take 287 north to I-80 east and take the same exit. If you are coming from the east, turn right off the off ramp.  If west, go left. Go straight a few hundred yards and veer left past a sign for Vedauwoo. Keep going about a quarter of a mile and the entrance will be on the left. The area is closed to cars for the season, but you can park outside the gate and walk in. Once inside, continue down the main road about sixty yards and you’ll find the trail on the right. Overall, the drive is a little over an hour long.

No worries about a fee. It’s free in winter!