Libby Flats Loop
ElevationAscent: 2,748' 837 m
Descent: -2,760' -841 m
High: 10,648' 3,245 m
Low: 8,458' 2,578 m
GradeAvg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 17% (9°)
“A loop starting on Forest Service road up to a high alpine setting and then down rugged singletrack.”— John Marno
Follow Libby Creek Trail to Barber Lake Trail and then the 'Back Trail' to return to Visitor Center. There are a couple of options in the initial phase as riders ascend from the Viz to Libby Flats. FR 343 is one, or you can stay on FR 338 for another mile where there is a fun hill. Although losing the 300+ feet of elevation might seem counterintuitive - viewed through a lens of fun-fun-fun, try it one way and then the other!
This ride definitely uses a lot of USFS roads, and some riders might complain about that. But the country is pretty unique, and there is a reason that HWY 130 was the second National Forest Scenic Byway in the entire US of A. This ride starts at just under 8,500 feet above sea level and goes up to about 10,500. The season is short, and the window of when to ride it ranges from July through October, depending on the previous year's snowpack and the potential for early snow fall.
FR 338 is very steep right away, and 10,000 feet is reached in only a few miles. Then whether FR 343 or FR 336 is taken, the climb mellows out and the ride goes through both thick timber and some gorgeous meadows where elk and moose are sometimes seen. There can be some water and mud as the ride approaches 10,000 feet. The wind of Wyoming deposits huge drifts on the lee side of most clearings which can take all summer to completely melt; but they keep the wildflowers blooming late into the season.
Once the ride hits Libby Flats proper, the views are stunning. To the south, Rocky Mountain National Park looks closer than the 80 miles away that it is, and to the north the views focus on the Snowy Range itself, and Medicine Bow Peak which at just over 12,000 feet is the highest point in the region. Libby Flats is frequented by Krumholtz - which translates to Bent Wood.
These outcroppings are small stands of Subalpine Fir and Englemann Spruce that have adapted to the harsh climate. Winter up there can be one of the harshest areas in the lower 48. However, snow biking in late spring and early summer is truly special. The wind packs the snow to a high density, and the sunshine bakes it down so that one can ride literally anywhere on many days.
Once the ride begins down FR 396 toward Bear Lake, it is a super fun and fast cruise. Rounded water bars serve as launch ramps if air is desired. If the weather is right, consider taking the Bear Lake Spur and taking a dip or jumping off the cliffs. For a few weeks a year the water is refreshing - especially if you have been working up a sweat.
Next comes a bit of a bushwhack - the old trail is visible most of the way but with the goal of intersecting the Libby Creek Trail, there is a section of about a quarter of a mile or so that is getting some use and filling in but requires faith that there is a trail up ahead. Using the MTB Project mobile app, a map, or local knowledge is advised.
Once Libby Creek Trail is reached, some sweet singletrack awaits. From there the ride descends along Libby Creek - with a few climbs in and out of the canyon. Take Libby Creek Trail to Barber Lake Trail and then back to the Viz to finish out the loop.
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We need help with the following missing trail information:
Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Features, Electic Mountain Bikes Allowed, History & Background
Land Manager: USFS - Medicine Bow & Routt National Forest Office