Hiking Trails in the Northern Bighorn Mountains

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  The Bighorn National Forest of northern Wyoming has a much lower population of summer visitors than more famous areas such as Yellowstone National Park. The trails into the Cloud Peak Wilderness tend to be fairly crowded due to the short summer season in the high altitude areas around Cloud Peak. However, many of the trails in the forest offer uncrowded trips to beautiful country.
The following hikes are divided into Day Hikes, which don’t require an overnight stop, and Extended Hikes which require camping out for one or more nights. Some of the hikes can be either day or extended.
  Please take note of the elevations mentioned in the description of the hike. The hikes on top of the Bighorns take place at elevations of about 8, 000 feet (2,450 meters) . If you have been living at or near sea level you may experience shortness of breath and headaches if you set out on a hike right away without taking time to get accustomed to the height. It would be better to take one of the lower elevation hikes first and then move up to the higher elevations.

What's in the Area
Indian Wars Battlefields
The Bighorn Mountains
Mountain Biking Trails

Day Hikes

Lower Elevation Hikes

Tongue River Canyon

Hiking time: Depends on how far up the canyon you hike. Allow about two and one-half hours round trip to Sheep Creek at a steady pace. Stopping to enjoy the views of the canyon walls will require extra time, but is well worth it.
   The entrance to the canyon is just outside Dayton. Sheridan County Road 92 turns off of US 14 just before crossing the bridge over the Tongue River as you travel toward the mountains on US 14.
Take CR 92 for about 4 miles. After 2 miles CR 92 turns left and heads downhill into the canyon. The road is gravel and dirt, but is accessible for conventional vehicles all the way to the trailhead. Park at the trailhead and pick up the trail on the north side of the parking area.
   The trail is a gradual climb with some short descents up into the canyon. The trail is rocks and dirt and sometimes is cut into the edge of the canyon with steep drops to the Tongue River below.
Hikers will enjoy the breathtaking views of the canyon walls and rock spires that dot the upper rim of the canyon. A natural formation, the Eye of the Needle, is visible early on in the hike and directly behind hikers heading up the trail.
The trail winds up the north side of the canyon and eventually opens out into Ponderosa pine groves and meadows.
Sheep Creek is the first waterway that enters the Tongue River from the right. It is about two miles from the trailhead.
   A more adventurous and seasoned hiker can turn this into an extended hike. The trail continues all up to the to of the mountain. The climb involves 5,000 feet (1,540 meters) of elevation change, making it an arduous hike.

Little Horn River (Bull Elk Park Topo Map).

  The trail head for the Little Horn River begins 16 miles off Wyoming State Highway 343, on county road 144. From Dayton, take State Highway 343 for six miles to where it meets State Highway 345 at a “T”. Turn left and watch for the turnoff on CR 144. At the Fuller Ranch, the road turns southwest and enters the Little Horn Canyon. The narrow road passes several private cabins and ends at a Wyoming Game & Fish cabin. Use the stile to cross the fence and follow the road 1/2 mile to a fork. The Dry Fork Ridge Trail branches south (crosses the Little Horn River) while the Little Horn Trail stays on the right and follows the north bank of the river. Follow the trail for as long as you wish to make the hike. It is possible to reach Hwy 14A on top of the Big Horns, however this is an extended overnight trip.
  When day hiking, keep in mind you are probably not prepared to spend the night, so go only as far as you are certain you can make it back. Most of these areas are remote, so please help keep them clean by packing out not only your trash, but any litter you find along the way.

Higher Elevation Hikes

Steamboat Point

Hiking time: About two hours round trip at a steady pace.
  Take Hwy. 14 about 13 miles west of Dayton, and Steamboat Point will loom on the right side of the road. There is a parking area on the left side of the highway directly across from Steamboat.
  Cross the road and follow old tire ruts up toward the face of the point. The hike from the road to the summit is about a mile, and the trail is steep and rocky for most of the way.
  The trail will veer off the right side of Steamboat Point and follow along the base of the south wall. There is a steep ascent to reach the back of the rock, but no ropes or equipment are needed.
Once on the top of Steamboat, hike west toward the top edge of the rock face. Use caution as you approach the top as there is only one make-shift railing at the summit and the face is a sheer drop to rocks below.
  The 360-degree view from, Steamboat takes in the Sheridan area to the east, the top of Tongue River Canyon to the north, the road and rising terrain of the mountains to the west and mountains in the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area to the south.
Be prepared for sudden weather changes on this hike and avoid the trip if lightning or storms are nearby. The summit is very flat and exposed with little protection.

Black Mountain Lookout

Hiking time: About two hours round trip at a steady pace.
  Head west out of Dayton on Hwy. 14 and travel about 20 miles to Forest Service Road 16 (Black Mountain Road). Turn left on FSR 16 and travel about four miles on the gravel/dirt road. Look for FSR 222 on the left. If you plan to travel any distance up FSR 222, you will need a high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle, but you can drive a conventional vehicle far enough in on 222 to be clear of the traffic on FSR 16.
  If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, you may follow 222 for about one mile to the trailhead, but the route is deeply rutted and rocky. If you decide to walk, it only adds about 15 minutes to your overall hike.
Follow FSR 222 over two creek crossings and uphill to the trailhead. The walk is through conifer forest with a few open meadows. From the trailhead, the hike to the 9,480-foot Black Mountain summit is one mile.
  The trail is a steady uphill climb over a rocky dirt trail. The first three-quarters of the hike is in the trees, but closer to the summit, the trail winds over open rocky terrain to the top.
  Once you reach the summit, you will see the old Forest Service fire lookout building perched on the rocky crags. The building is closed, but there are plenty of places to enjoy the 360 degree view.
  On a clear day the mountains in the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area are visible to the south, Sheridan and the plains to the east, Steamboat Rock to the northeast and the rolling meadows and hills west toward Burgess Junction are visible.
  Be prepared for sudden weather changes for this hike, and avoid the trip if lightning or storms are nearby. A recent visit to Black Mountain on a clear day found the summit being blasted by 35 m.p.h. wind gusts. A visit to the summit in the fall provided visibility of only a few feet because of thick cloud cover.

Bucking Mule Falls

  Bucking Mule Falls National Recreational Trail can be reached by following U.S. Highway 14 from Dayton to Burgess Junction. Continue on US 14A to Forest Highway 14— then travel an additional 8 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road. It has been named for the spectacular 600 foot waterfall on Bucking Mule Creek.
  The trail is eleven miles in length from the parking area to its northern terminus at Porcupine Campground. Most travelers, however, only walk to the falls overlook and return— a round trip distance of 5 miles. In addition to the main trail, a short side trail off Forest Highway 14 provides access to Porcupine Falls.
  Spectacular scenic vistas of the Big Horn Basin, Devil's Canyon, and the Prior Mountains are common along this nationally designated trail. Elevation varies from 8,300 feet near the trailhead to 8,700 feet at Porcupine Campground. Several ecological zones are traversed by the trail. It passes from Engleman spruce, subalpine fir in the higher elevations to Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, and then to juniper, curleaf mahogany at its most arid points.

Porcupine Falls

  The trail down to Porcupine falls is steep and somewhat rough. The trail head can be reached by following U. S. Highway 14A from Burgess Junction to Forest Rd 13 past the Porcupine Campground until you meet Forest Rd. 133. Take Forest Rd. 133 until you turn left onto Forest Rd. 14 and follow it until you get to Forest Rd. 146. Follow 146 to the trail head. The trail down to the falls is steep and usually has ruts from spring runoff. However, once you reach the bottom there are falls tumbling into a lovely, deep, sheltered swimming hole at the bottom making the hike well worth it. Folks have been known to take their scuba diving equipment down with them. The remains of a gold dredge that was used to recover gold from the pool during the brief gold rush in the Big Horns sits alongside the pool at the base of the falls. Bring your lunch and a swimming suit for a fun afternoon!

South Tongue Trail (Skull Ridge and Woodrock topographic maps).

  This is a fairly easy day hike offering a variety of scenery. The trail traverses through meadows, across several streams, through timber stands, and past unique rock formations. The fishing is quite good in the many deep pools and riffles. The trailhead is at the end of Forest Road #193 off of Highway 14, 150 yards south of Arrowhead Lodge. The trail ends just off Forest Road #26 one-half mile from Tie Flume Campground.

Blue Creek Loop Trail: (Skull Ridge topographic map)

  A moderate hike, 2.4 miles in length. This trail is also used as a ski trail in the winter and the route is so marked. It begins off Highway 14 at the Sibley Recreation Turnout by the information board. After following Prune Creek a short distance, the trail proceeds through a small meadow, and then into lodgepole pine stands. The trail makes a loop and returns to the Sibley Lake Campground. There are also two other marked loop hiking trails accessible from the Blue Creek Trail and Sibley Lake. These are the Prune Creek loop which is 2.7 miles long and the Dead Horse Park loop which is 6 miles long and the least difficult. All these trails begin and end in the Sibley Lake area. The trails are primarily for winter skiing so the summer hiking paths are not well signed or maintained.

Barrs Hill Trail: (Skull Ridge topographic map)

  This trail starts on a steep slope called Barrs Hill and drops off into the Tongue River drainage. The North and South Tongue Rivers meet along this unique riparian zone. The trail parallels the Tongue River on the south side winding through aspen, pine and cottonwood until it ends at the Cutler Creek and Box Canyon area, where the historic sawmill town off Rockwood once existed. (It is possible at this point to meet Forest Road #184 and follow it up to Highway 14 as an option.)
  There are several old cabins still standing and other interesting sawmill remnants. It is a little over 3 miles to this point, making the total hike about 6.5 miles. Keep in mind however, that the last leg of the hike back out is steep. To get to the trailhead, take Highway 14 to Forest Road #196, which is about a mile north of Arrowhead Lodge, across from a large, bowl-shaped meadow. Follow this road past the stone cabin, then branch off to your right at the first fork. Continue following the main road until you come to the Barrs Hill sign. The trail begins here. A high clearance vehicle is recommended for the very last part of the drive.

Extended Hikes

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