When mentioning Wyoming as a place to visit, most think of Yellowstone National Park or the Grand Tetons. If you like the outdoors, one place worth mentioning is the Big Horn Mountains located in the northeastern part of the state. From the City of Sheridan, WY, you can get up top by taking I-90 West to the exit for Highway 14, Ranchester, WY. It will take you to the town of Dayton then the highway continues up the mountain. Another beautiful drive is Highway 16 from the town of Buffalo, WY.
The Big Horn Mountains have much to offer the outdoor enthusiast. With hiking, fishing, camping and many trails for riding ATV’s and dirtbikes, there is something to enjoy by all.
There are a multitude of places to enjoy camping on the Big Horns. Because it is U.S. National Forest land, you can primitive or boondock camp anywhere on the mountain for free. The requirement is that you are at least 1/4 mile from the highway and you can stay in the same spot for 14 days. After 14 days you must move at least 5 miles. If your prefer campgrounds there are many U.S. Forestry Service campgrounds. But keep in mind that these may not have any hook-ups or showers, but they do have vault toilets. Please be respectful and follow the “leave no trace” rule.
If roughing it isn’t your thing, there are lodges located on the mountain. If you are travelling on Highway 14 from Dayton, WY, you will first come to Arrowhead Lodge just a little ways after passing Sibley Lake. Taking HIghway 14A will bring you to Bear Lodge. If you were to stay on Highway 14, you will come to Elk View Lodge. These lodges have their own bar and restaurant on site. In the winter months, Bear Lodge offers snowmobile rentals, while Elk View Lodge offers ATV rentals during the summer.
If you visit the Big Horn Mountains duri Cng late June – early July you will be able to view the abundant blooms of the wild flowers. The Wyoming state flower, the Indian Paintbrush, is among these wild flowers along with vast amounts of lupines.
Continuing past Elk View Lodge down Highway 14 will take you to Shell Falls. While there you can enjoy a few species of hummingbirds that frequent this spot. There is a walking path with plaques that describe points of interest along the way. From there the scenic drive continues to the town of Greybull from where you could continue to the town of Cody and onto Yellowstone National Park about 50 miles from Cody.
Backtracking to Highway 14A is a piece of history called Medicine Wheel. This is a Native American artifact that to this day we do not know who built it. It rests on Crow Indian homeland, however, the Crow Indians state it was already there when they came to the area. It is one of 4 or 5 astronomical wheels located within the Rocky Mountain Region that are publically known to exist.
Continuing down 14A into the town of Lovell is another place to see. From Highway 14, take Rt. 37 and it will take you into the Big Horn National Recreation Area. While there, you can go to Horseshoe Bend and in the summer months they offer a boat tour on the Big Horn River that meanders through the Big Horn Canyon. If you continue to drive down 37, you will come to Devil’s Canyon Overlook. This offers a spectacular view of the Big Horn Canyon and the Big Horn River far below the sheer cliff walls. Big Horn sheep can be spotted here on occasion. Continue further up the road and you will be in the range where wild horses roam freely. There are pull-offs that offer information about these magnificent creatures.
If you reach Barry’s Landing, it’s a spot where anyone can launch their boats and enjoy fishing in the river or just take their own ride. If you head north on this river, you will arrive at Yellowtail Dam in Fort Smith, MT. If you take your camping gear on your boat, there are some spots along the river’s edge where you can camp overnight. There is also a primitive camp ground on the road leading to Barry’s Landing as well as a picnic area.
Head north from Barry’s Landing and you come to the Ewing Snell Historic Ranch Site. This was a homestead established between 1896 and 1898. Sadly, the main house caught fire and was destroyed in 2015. The small barn can still be visited.
Whether you are in Buffalo, WY or Sheridan, WY before taking the scenic drive up the Big Horn Mountains, both towns offer some neat pieces of history. Buffalo boasts the Occidental Hotel which is restored and does offer accommodations. Some of their notable guests have been Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and Calamity Jane. Also, check out the Gatchel Museum. Sheridan has the historic Sheridan Inn where Buffalo Bill Cody was known to frequent.
There is much to enjoy in this area and I hope you do!