Mountain Biking in the Bighorns

Mountain biking is a growing sport. More and more, people are setting aside their drop handlebars for a good pair of knobby tires. They're leaving the pavement behind and hitting the trail.
This guide presents seven rides for intermediate to advanced cyclists in the Big Horn Mountains and surrounding area.

Penrose Trail - Kearny Lake

Type: Out and Back
Rating: Expert/Advanced
Length: 15 miles (one-way)
Riding time: 5 hours (one-way)
Notes: 1000 foot gain in first mile, heavy trail traffic, rocky sections.

Leaving Sheridan, travel south on US 87 to Banner, Wyo. (17 miles). At Banner take a right on State Highway 193 and travel two miles uphill to Story. Follow the signs to the State Fish Hatchery in Story - take a right turn (193) and continue west. At 2.5 miles into Story at the “S” curves, just before the hatchery take Penrose Lane (gravel). Go due West 1/4 mile to Penrose Trailhead. Park at the trail head. Lock your vehicle and stow valuables - this is a well-used area.

The first mile of trail climbs 1000 feet switchbacking up the face of the mountain. Some pushing may be required. The trail heads predominantly west. Once up the initial face of the mountain, the trail winds through trees, climbing more gently. Approximately 2.5 miles from the trailhead, riders will cross Gin Creek. From there, the trail heads in a more southerly direction.

Approximately 1/2 mile from Gin Creek the trail joins 4WD road (#320). Trail continues south four miles to Penrose Park, which is a large, open meadow. Continue southwest across Penrose Park for 2-3 miles.

Near timber, the trail will fork. Take the right fork (4WD road). Trail climbs gently through timber for four miles. Sections here are rocky. At the high point, Kearny Lake should be visible to the south. The road descends several switchbacks approximately one mile to Kearney Lake. Retrace route for return trip.
This trail is heavily travels by horses, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. Yield when encountering horses of hikers and make your presence known. Any horse can “spook” and throw its rider. Talk calmly and don't make sudden movements. Penrose Trail takes riders to the edge of the wilderness area through high elevations where extreme weather and mountain conditions may develop. Please respect wilderness boundaries - mountain bikes are not permitted in the wilderness area.

Tongue River Canyon via Cutler Hill

Type: Point to Point/Shuttle
Rating: Advanced
Length: 15 miles
Riding Time: 5-6 hours
Notes: Extreme terrain/river crossing should be done at low water only. Technical, narrow, rocky trail.

Take I-90 North to Ranchester/ U.S. 14 West (17 miles). Proceed on 14 West to Dayton (6 miles). From Dayton, take 14 W up into the Bighorn Mountains 13 mile to Forest Road #184, at the edge of the timber after “topping out” from climbing the mountain face. Begin your ride here.

Road 184 bears left and descends down through timber with no significant open areas for the first two miles. Riders will descend a rocky jeep road, crossing Cutler Creek several times. At 2 miles riders will reach the North Tongue River. Travel West approximately two miles on left or south side of the river, sometimes climbing above and a few hundred feet from Tongue River.

The trail will descend down to the confluence of South and North Tongue River. Cross river here - low water/late summer only! After the crossing, bear west or left and watch for a cow trail that heads up and northeast over ridge on north side of Tongue River. Trail here is in open, sagebrush covered area and travels northeast diagonally up Skull Ridge to Horse Creek.

Once over ridge, continue northeast through large, open grassy area working towards left edge of open area while gently descending trail breaks up in tall grass. Look for well-developed trail descending to the east parallel to Horse Creek. Trail will continue east and down into Tongue River Canyon and is steep at times.

Trail will cross Horse Creek several times and once in Tongue River Canyon will cross Sheep Creek as well. Both are small streams except at peak flood times. Continue descending east on excellent trail with steep, rocky section. Be cautious of heavy foot traffic on lower sections of trail.

Riders will come to bridge over Tongue River (to Tongue River Cave). Do not take the bridge - continue down and east to parking area and gravel (Tongue River Road).
Shuttle: Leave second car at Dayton or end of Tongue River Canyon Road 4 miles west of Dayton. Begin ride at 14 West/Forest Road 184.

Buffalo Run

Type: Open area
Rating: Intermediate
Length: Variable
Riding time: Variable
Notes: State land - numerous roads and trail, steep hills, surrounded by private property

Head South from Sheridan on US highway 14 East for 6.5 miles from where 14 East crosses under Interstate 90. At 6.5 miles, you will pass the Mead Creek Road junction. From junction, travel 2 miles, and park near gate and 4WD road on left, or east side of highway.

At the gate, travel east by bike up steep hill and then down to the stock pond. At the stock pond, roads and trails head off in several directions. Riders may go any direction for several miles with numerous cattle trails and 4WD roads. Heed the “No Trespassing” signs and watch for rattlesnakes in the summer months. Leave all gates as found.

Walker Prairie via Game Creek

Type: Point to Point
Rating: Advanced/Expert
Length: 25 miles
Riding time: 7-8 hours
Notes: Extreme grades, rocky sections, single-track, minimal trail markers

Take US 87 South 4 miles to junction with State Hwy. 335. Take a right on 335 to Big Horn. Continue past Big Horn (take no turns at junctions) on 335 west towards mountains.

The pavement changes to gravel as 335 turns into Red Grade Road, which climbs the mountain. Red Grade Road is rough and steep and requires a suitable vehicle. Travel about 11 miles past the pavement's end - two miles past the Big Goose Ranger Station. Look for trailhead #312 on the right. Park here, or better yet, have someone drop you off to be in the ride.

Climb #312 north for 1.5 mile (4WD road) then descend 2.5 miles to the bridge at the west fork of Big Goose Creek. Cross bridge, climb small saddle and descend trail 1/2 mile confluence of Walker and Prairie Creeks. Continue north along Walker Creek approximately two miles from confluence on trail.

Look for a small creek with trail on the right. Take a right on the trail heading east through the saddle between She Bear Mountain and Walker Mountain. Trail will climb approximately one mile through saddle past on old cabin with elk antlers above the door. Continue northeast through rolling terrain, open areas and timber.

Riders should be able to see east off of the mountain at several points. Approximately 1.5 miles from the cabin the trail will descend the mountain face. Trail is extremely steep and rocky here, so use caution. Trail will switchback down the face, joining a gravel 4WD road at the foot of the mountain.

Gravel 4WD road heads down northeast 2.5 miles to Beckton Road, an improved county gravel road. Take a right on Beckton road headed east 2.5 miles to junction with State Highway 331, also known as Big Goose Road. Turn left on 331 (paved) continuing east nine miles to Sheridan.

Rapid Creek-Lamburger Rock Loop

Type: Loop
Rating: Intermediate/Advanced
Length: 13 miles
Riding time: 3-4 hours
Notes: Rocky section, singletrack, 4WD roads - good gravel, large elevation gain

Take US 87 South 4 miles to junction with State Hwy. 335. Take a right on 335 to Big Horn, Wyo. Continue past big Horn (take no turns at junctions) on 335 west toward mountains. The pavement changes to gravel as 335 turns into Red Grade Road, which climbs the mountain. Red Grade Road is rough and steep and requires a suitable vehicle.

Trail starts approximately 14 miles from Big Horn - eight to nine miles from the start of gravel. Look for trail head #298 on left hand side of road in meadow area near Rapid Creek. Route starts as single track trail climbing gently for the first 1/2 mile through forest and continuing southeast over rolling terrain.

The trail will cross several well-developed logging roads - ignore these and stay on the trail traveling in a southeast direction. Approximately two miles from the start point the trail will come to a junction with a main road traveling left to right and a 4WD road straight ahead, descending through timber to the south. Take the 4WD road approximately one mile to Willow Creek.

Lamburger Rock is the large pinnacle on the left. The road will wind along the creek past cabins. Trail then climbs sharply and winds through timber for approximately one mile.

The trail proceeds into a large, open area and descends south and east to junction (approximately one mile) with trail #290 on the right. This junction is an open area and may be hard to spot. Take a right on trail #290, traveling west up through open area and into timber on singletrack trail. Trail climbs two miles through trees - it's rocky here - to a fork in the trail. Take the right hand fork and travel one mile to junction with a 4WD road in the area of some small ponds.

At the road, take the left fork (#290), in a southerly direction to Big Horn Reservoir. At Big Horn Reservoir turn right onto 4WD road #289. Head north and descend approximately one mile to Park Reservoir.

At the reservoir, take a right turn on #290. Travel north past the Spear-O-Wigwam Dude Ranch on improved gravel road and around Park Reservoir. Continue north on #293 for approximately two miles to junction with Red Grade Road (#26). Take a right turn on Red Grade and travel one mile east of the original trail head and your vehicle.

Shell Bench Point to Point

Type: Point to Point
Rating: Intermediate
Length: 10 miles
Riding time: 2-3 hours
Notes: Total trail is singletrack, predominantly downhill, rocky and technical in the last 2 miles.

Take I-90 North 17 miles to Ranchester/US 14 exit. Take US 14 West to Dayton (6 miles). Proceed west on 14 up the Bighorn Mountains 25 miles to Burgess Junction. Veer left at Burgess Junction on 14 W to Greybull and drive 15 miles to Forest Road #17 - Shell and Ranger Creek Campgrounds. Go left , or East, on Forest Road 17 to Ranger Creek Campground. Trailhead starts at the south edge of campground - marked with sign.

Trail proceeds west on single track trail, parallel to Shell Creek (creek not visible from trail) on south side. Trail proceeds in rolling terrain with downhills predominating. Route goes through pine forest, aspen groves, old burn area and rock outcrops for ten miles. The last 1.5 miles is steep, rocky, technical downhill to Post Creek picnic ground

Shuttle: leave pickup vehicle at Post Creek picnic ground, 10 miles west of trailhead and 6 miles east of Shell, Wyoming.

Cross Creek Reservoir Out & Back

Type: Out and Back
Rating: Intermediate
Length: 10 miles
Riding time: 2-3 hours
Notes: Good gravel surface changing to 4WD road, some rock

Take Highway 335 south of Sheridan past Big Horn. Red Grade Road begins where pavement ends and it climbs steeply. Take Red Grade Road (26) to Junction with 293 near the Big Goose Ranger station. Travel south on road 293 to Park Reservoir. Park at the north end of Park Reservoir and begin ride.

Proceed on bike, continuing south in road 293. Road will leave Park Reservoir across large meadow and past Spear-O-Wigwam Dude Ranch to junction with road 298 (two miles from car). Turning left on Road 298, head southeast climbing 1.5 miles to Bighorn Reservoir and continue south 1.5 miles to Cross Creek Reservoir. Road is 4WD with rocky, steep section.

At Bighorn Reservoir, turn right at the gate and continue south on the right, or west edge of the reservoir. Ride approximately one mile around Bighorn Reservoir and continue south 1.5 miles to Cross Creek Reservoir. Turn around at CrossCreek Reservoir and follow the same route back.

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