Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests

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Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests Overview

Straddling the Wyoming-Colorado border, the Medicine Bow-Routt is an archipelago of Rocky Mountain forests stretching from Medicine Bow in Wyoming and Routt in Colorado. In the forest's rugged wilderness areas, you'll find magnificent cathedral-like cirques with natural acoustics that echo the cries of raptors in flight.

Birdwatchers should bring their binoculars as the alpine sections of the forest are home to the peregrine falcon, bald eagle, and osprey. Hikers can wander through vast stands of aspen and conifer as they ascend toward towering rock sentinels like the 12,180-foot Mt. Zirkel.

Fishermen will no doubt delight in the fact that the Platte River is a blue ribbon trout stream. Rock climbers have discovered awesome climbing opportunities on the sheer walls of the Vedauwoo Recreation Area and LaBonte Canyon.

Medicine Bow derives its name from the Native American ritual of bow-making which was often accompanied by a ceremonial powwow for curing disease. These fine bows were made of mountain mahogany found in a mountain valley in southeastern Wyoming. The Routt portion of the forest’s name comes from the last territorial and first state governor of Colorado, John Long Routt (1826-1907).

The Medicine Bow-Routt comprises over three million acres. Steamboat Springs is a great mountain town that can serve as a springboard for exploring the rest of the forest.

Mountain Bike Rabbit Ears Pass
You can ride your mountain bike on a number of trails near the Rabbit Ears—two volcanic plugs that have eroded into twin 100-foot pinnacles. High mountain meadows are surrounded by magnificent stands of aspen and spruce. Other trails in the Routt you may want to consider are the Morrison Divide Trail (17.5 miles), the Gore Pass Loop (27.5 miles), and Lynx Pass.

Explore Mt. Zirkel Wilderness
Mt. Zirkel, at 12,180 feet, is the highest point in this wilderness that consists of the jagged Sawtooth Range along the Continental Divide. Scrub oak and sagebrush give way to aspen, lodgepole, spruce, fir, and alpine tundra at higher elevations. Keep your eyes open for pine marten, wolverine, and black bear. Check the skies for bald eagles and peregrine falcons.

Camp at Cold Springs
Surrounded by the Flat Tops Wilderness, the Cold Spring Campgrounds offers access to 110 alpine lakes and ponds. Just above the campground, the Stillwater Reservoir cascades down into the Bear River through dense spruce-fir forests. Nearby trailheads will get you on the North Derby Trail, Bear River Trail, East Fork Trail, and the Devils Causeway. The campground is a 16-mile drive southwest of Yampa along CR 7.

Ski Steamboat Springs
Steamboat's 141 trails make it Colorado's second largest mountain with 2,939 acres of terrain and 3,668 vertical feet. The Silver Bullet, a high-speed eight-passenger gondola, can whisk you up the mountain in nine minutes. Trails like Pony, Colt, and Tumbleweed are great for beginners while Thunderhead Express and Storm Peak Express are strictly for experts.

Drive the Flat Tops
The Flat Tops Trail, an 82-mile scenic byway from Meeker to Yampa, traverses some drop-dead gorgeous terrain. You'll pass ancient lava flows, deep canyons, alpine peaks, Rattlesnake Butte, Devils Grave Mesa, and the site of the Meeker Massacre. In 1878, Nathaniel C. Meeker became the agent of the White River Indian Agency and instituted a series of oppressive measures meant to convert the nomadic Ute Indians into sedentary Christian agrarians. It didn't work—the Utes rebelled on September 29, 1879, killing Meeker and 11 of his men.

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