Snowy Range: Miner’s Cabin Trail & Libby Flats

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As you reach the highest point on Wyoming Route 130, at 10,847 feet, there are two more places worth stopping and exploring.  The first is Miner’s Cabin Trail.

At the parking area for Miner’s Cabin Trail, you’ve gained a little distance from the mountain range, immediately behind Lake Marie and Lookout Lake. That distance means you can fit many of the Snowy Range’s most prominent features, from The Diamond to Medicine Bow Peak, all in one picture.

At the parking area, there is a memorial plaque that honors 66 people who died on Medicine Bow Peak, in a plane crash in 1955.  At the time, it was the worst crash in the history of U.S. commercial aviation.

Miner’s Cabin Trail is a 7/10 mile loop.  It does go downhill to the cabin, then back up, but aside from the change in altitude (and the thin air), it’s a fairly easy hike.  It didn’t help that the wind was howling during my visit.

When you get to the fork in the trail, you’re supposed to go straight.  Eventually, you’ll end up at the fork again, leaving the old ruins of a mining operation as one of the last points of interest on the trail.  I decided to go against convention, and travel the trail clockwise, so I took a left at the fork.  Why wait to the end, I figured, to see something interesting?

The Red Mask Mine was constructed in the 1920’s.  It was mostly a failure — only trace amounts of gold and copper, and a small amout of silver, were ever produced here. Nowadays, all that remains are the collapsed hoisting tower, part of the shafthouse, and a rusty boiler tank.

Almost exactly at the halfway point, you come upon the trail’s namesake cabin.  Miners who worked at the Red Mask Mine lived here.  Surrounded by trees, the location of the cabin helped provide a little protection from the howling winds at this altitude.

The cabin is open for visitors.  Inside, there are tables and bunk beds  — a rustic life, for sure.

Libby Flats

Libby Flats officially marks the highest point on the byway, at 10,847 feet.  There’s an observation “tower” — even though it’s just a few feet high — a short walk away from the parking area.  Grab a jacket, and anything else you have to provide protection from the wind, because there’s a good chance it will be fierce.

Fom Libby Flats, you get a great view of all the mountains in the Snowy Range…

… and the high plains, nearly barren of trees, that stretch out from here.

I used the compass on the binoculars, mounted in the center of the observation tower, as a guide.  This is a view to the south…

… to the west (Medicine Bow Peak is on the right) …

… to the north (Sugarloaf Mountain is on the left, elevation 11,398 feet) …

… and to the east, where the land flattens out a bit, once again.

I told you it was windy up here!  But at least the sky is blue now…

,,, oh wait.  Where did the blue go?  The weather changes by the minute up here.

During the winter months, Snowy Range Road (Route 130) will close.  However, you’ll still be able to reach the Snowy Range Ski & Recreation Area, 32 miles west of Laramie on Route 130.  The ski area has 5 lifts and 27 trails, and it looks like it’s affordable.  Check conditions and prices here.

As you leave Libby Flats, the breathtaking mountains of the Snowy Range disappear in your rear-view just as quickly as they appeared, as you approached Lake Marie.  I turned around for one last shot…

… then dropped down into the small town of Centennial.

Centennial doesn’t have a lot of businesses, just a couple of restaurants, gift shops, and maybe a gas station or two.  It looks like other businesses have tried to make a go of it, and failed.  But one restaurant looked promising: the Old Corral Hotel and Steakhouse.  The gift shop was nice, the food smelled great, and the Buffalo Burger was on special, but I didn’t eat.  Instead, I stood at the “please wait here” spot, for at least ten minutes, while the staff walked by, never making eye contact.  I gave them much more time to pay attention to me than they deserved, and finally walked away.  Maybe it was for the best.  If it took that long for a seat, imagine waiting for the meal! or the check!  I had too much to do, and too many places to see, to wait around for food.  So I got back in the car, and headed to Laramie.

Route 130 takes you directly into Laramie.  From there, you can pick up Interstate 80 for the drive to Cheyenne.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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