What is an outdoorsy girl to do when its in the low 30’s, windy, and spitting snow? Hike, of course!
It has been many years since I’ve done the Turtle Rock Loop at Vedauwoo, a spectacular place in the eastern Medicine Bow National Forest between Laramie and Cheyenne. I arrived to the ever-present wind, and cloudy skies that couldn’t quite figure out if they wanted to unleash snow or not.
Being late season, the gate that goes down into the trailheads and picnic areas of Turtle Rock was closed, so I joined a handful of other cars at the winter parking lot at the entrance. This is a fee area, and I made sure to hang up my annual America the Beautiful federal lands pass (otherwise it is a $5 day use fee). If the entrance is open, the hike is probably about a mile or so shorter than the route from the winter parking lot.
Despite the handful of cars at the parking area, I only saw three people my entire hike! I quickly realized that despite the temperatures, I was a bit overdressed (which is still better than being underdressed). I am always probably a little too overprepared for day hikes, but it is one of my better flaws! When the strong Wyoming winds were to my back I was warm, but I was thankful for my clothes once I had the stiff, cold headwind. Occasionally the sun would break through, and then as quickly as that happened small snowflakes floating from the sky. I took deep breaths of the chilly air, thankful I was outdoors even though it was a day many would stay inside.
Overall, this is a very beginner and family friendly hike. It is never too steep, just a few small pitches. The scenery is magnificent, as you circle Turtle Rock, a very popular climbing and recreation area composed of Sherman granite. Beaver ponds spot the trail as you wind through pine trees, aspens, and willows. The trail is decently marked, with the most confusing part being once you rejoin the main road and parking areas, and the trail can get lost among social trails that have sprung up (this is how I ended up finishing my hike on the paved road back to where my car was parked). Otherwise, if you just keep circling in the direction you’re going, it is easy to avoid getting on any spur trails. For a full map of trails in the area, click here. If you are wanting a longer adventure, that is totally possible by linking up to other trails in the Vedauwoo, Blair-Wallis, and Happy Jack areas. Mountain bikes are also allowed on these trails, though I’d caution against mountain biking during a summer weekend at Turtle Rock when crowds are at their peak along this particular trail.
Date Hiked: November 20, 2021
Trailhead: Turtle Rock Winter Parking Lot
Total Mileage: 4.06 miles per Garmin Vivoactive 4s/Strava
Total Elevation Gain: 603 feet
Total Time Spent: 1 hour 28 minutes
Weather: Overcast, low 30’s temperature, occasional light snow, windy
Cell Service: Verizon service is spotty along the trail