4 Don’t Miss Sites in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming

In this post, I outline some great day hikes in the northern portion of the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming!


The Bighorn Mountains in northeastern Wyoming are a great place to hike and camp.  There you can find great campgrounds, historical sites, picturesque waterfalls, and even dinosaur footprints! 

Porcupine Campground, Bighorn Mountains

The Porcupine Campground is located off of Route 14A, in the northern portion of the national forest. (It is not far from the ancient Medicine Wheel that we visited several years ago.)  We drove in from the east, from the Sheridan and the Ranchester area.

This is a MUCH easier drive than coming in from the west, near Lovell.  That way is far steeper with much sharper turns.  When we drove the road from that direction several years ago we both agreed we wouldn’t want to have to do it pulling a 5th wheel.  We talked to someone in the campground who had accomplished this feat, and he confirmed it was quite difficult. 

Climbing the mountains from the west you do get some nice views of the Bighorn Basin, but it was a lovely drive through a canyon coming in from the east, as well.

Porcupine Campground is very nice for a national forest campground. (Far nicer than one we visited in South Dakota in the Black Hills National Forest.)  The sites were large and flat, and also well-spaced apart, some even appeared to be wheelchair-accessible.  They also gave you lantern hooks! (I’m easily impressed, what can I say? 😉) 

There was a goodly amount of shade at the campground and some of the sites offered fantastic views from the hillside.  The mosquitoes weren’t quite as bad as what we’ve experienced elsewhere, though they still gave us a few good bites.   

A stone fire pit in the foreground with pine trees and a colorful sunset in the background
Sunset from the campsite!

Waterfalls in the Bighorns!

Read on for two AMAZING waterfalls that are easy to reach in the Bighorns!

Porcupine Falls in the Bighorn Mountains

For our first hike, we visited Porcupine Falls.  It isn’t on all of the maps but it is easy to find.  It’s located off of Route 14, the same road as Bucking Mule Falls (which IS on most maps) and there is a sign at the turnoff.  The road to the trailhead is short but it does get rather rough. (We saw people in RVs and regular sedans who made it through though.)  In good conditions, most vehicles shouldn’t have too much trouble as long as you are watchful and take it slow.

The trail is short, less than a mile in each direction, but it is STEEP!  We were prepared for this but I strongly recommend GOOD walking shoes with strong tread if you’re attempting this hike.  In dry conditions, it was a little slippy heading down.  If it was muddy or snowy/icy this trail could be downright treacherous!  It’s a downhill hike the whole way to the falls, so you know what that means for your return trip! 😮  Another thing that makes the trek back so difficult is the altitude as you’ll find yourself above 5000 feet in elevation when attempting this hike.

It becomes extra fun when you meet an unleashed, less-than-friendly dog along the trail with no owner in sight, who insists on getting in your pup’s face and growling.  PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:  Please be responsible for your pets and respectful of everyone else on the trail.  No one else knows your dog, or if the growls he emits are casual, or a prelude to something more aggressive–this is especially concerning when you have a pup who thinks EVERYBODY just wants to play with her! 🙄

Narrow waterfall amongst rock walls
Porcupine Falls!
Narrow waterfall between rock walls falling into a green, pool of water
Doesn’t that pool look inviting?
A rocky creek travels between a rock wall and a tree-covered mountain
A view down the canyon, past the waterfall and pool!

The view is definitely worth the challenge of getting to the site.  The roaring cascade plummets into a pool at your feet from over 200 feet above you. On hot days, this makes for a perfect place to take a cool dip, but be warned, the water is COLD!

Bucking Mule Falls in the Bighorns

After that adventure, we continued down the road to Bucking Mule Falls.  There were numerous horses and campers at this location and before you ask, yes, there was also a mule!  Poor Puppers didn’t know what to make of the ungodly noise that emanated from him in response to some nickers from other horses. 😂

You get extra points if you know what a mule actually is (hint, it’s a hybrid).  You get EXTRA, extra points if you know a unique characteristic that this hybridization causes…🤔 **(answers at the end)

I was in absolute heaven!  I LOVE the smell of horse (yes, really 😝).  I blame my childhood, growing up on a hobby farm, with horses, in Indiana.  But seriously, there is something cool about those animals.  They’re REALLY intelligent, for one thing, and their smell is divine!  It isn’t anything like other barnyard animals, it’s sweeter. (The only time I’ve ever known a horse to stink is when they’re super sweaty after a hard ride.)  Even their manure smells better than other animals.  That’s right, you heard me!  I like the smell of horse poop! 🤣

Related posts: Lake Helen, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming; West Tensleep Trail, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming; Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming; Camping in the Bighorns

This was a great trail!  It was about four miles round-trip, but there wasn’t much elevation gain.  The route mostly rolled over the lower-lying hills in the local area.  It traversed a beautiful, wooded forest with the pine needles cushioning your footfalls, as well as some more craggy outcrops.  The trek was fairly well-shaded, on a graded path, without a lot of roots or boulders to trip you up.

At the end, you come to a lookout point over Devil Canyon, where you look DOWN on the falls from high above (it emerges from the opposite canyon wall).  It was really cool!  The canyon was HUGE and beautiful, not what I was expecting at all.  It reminded me of the canyon that Green River formed at Dinosaur National Monument, in Colorado.  It leads to the west and opens onto the expansive, hazy plains of Bighorn Basin.

Tree-covered and rocky canyon walls. Taller mountains loom through the haze in the distance
Devil Canyon, isn’t it GORGEOUS?!
Viewed from above, a large, thin waterfall cascades down a rock wall
Bucking Mule Falls!
Shadows of two people on the rocky ground with a waterfall cascading down a rock wall in the background
Shadow Trekkers at the falls!

There is also a Paradise Falls in this area.  I didn’t see it on the map and we didn’t know it existed until someone told us about it.  Apparently it’s a bit of a secret. 🤫  It does show up on Google Maps though and looks rather easy to reach if you want to research this location on your own… 

Later, we drove a loop from 14A to Route 15, to Burgess Overlook.  Then we returned back to our campsite via 14A. This allowed us to FINALLY see a moose (she ended up being the only one we saw the entire trip! 😕)

It’s highly unusual that we see so few moose in the Bighorns.  Usually, we are there in early September so I’m not sure if our lack of moose sightings was a result of the hotter weather over the summer, keeping them at higher elevations, or the crowds encouraging them to stay more isolated.  The babies would still be smaller and younger at that time of year which may explain why the mommas may want to keep them further from people. 

Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite

On the third day of the trip, we took Shell Canyon to the west on Route 14.  We’ve traveled this road before but never in this direction, so we got a different perspective on it.  Later we got to view the rain shafts hammering the canyon as we looked up at it from the west.  It was a very cool sight! 

Dry, dusty prairie with dark rain clouds hovering over the landscape in the background

Then we took Red Gulch Road to the Dinosaur Tracksite.  This was very cool and something I had just happened to stumble upon on the map.  They think this location was a beach on the edge of an inland sea during dinosaur times.  The “terrible lizards” would walk in the mud next to the water and leave tracks.  These eventually hardened and were fossilized!

Narrow holes left in rock
Fossilized shrimp holes at the Dinosaur Tracksite!
Three-toed, fossilized footprint left in rock
Dino footprint!

This attraction is small and free.  It was a nice place to visit for lunch and to let the pup run a bit.  I can imagine it being quite hot on a warmer, sunnier day.  They had nice picnic facilities, though.

We then finished this backcountry byway that we had completed the other leg of on another trip.  Ya’ll know how I LOVE finishing things that I start! 😁  This portion of the road was quite rutted and rough too, so it’s not really fit for a typical sedan (though a higher clearance SUV could handle it in dry conditions–we saw some CRV’s do it!)

If you’re looking for some great day hikes in the northern Bighorn mountains, check out some of these cool options! 

Have you visited any of these sites?  Tell me about your experiences in the comments!


**Mules are a hybrid of a male donkey and a female horse.  You can usually spot them because they’re the size of a horse, but with GIGANTIC ears.  And the other characteristic that makes them unique?  Because they are a hybrid, rarely can they reproduce…The More You Know 🌈 😉 !


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Camping in the Bighorns

We try to camp in the Bighorns, in northeastern Wyoming, at least once a year!


The Trekkers have a tradition of camping in the Bighorns each Labor Day Weekend!  Puppers has been a trooper on our camping trips.  She enjoys riding in the truck (she doesn’t even mind the BUMPY, jarring journeys we’ve taken her down a few 4×4 roads…too much! 😉)  She can keep up with us on the hiking trails and she even handles the tents like a champ (though she needs a little assistance getting in and out of the rooftop tent).

You do have to wonder about people who drive 3+ hours to the wilderness, where they proceed to pee in a bucket and not shower for three days…and call that fun! 🤔😉😎

A rooftop tent is open on top of a trailer, a separate small tent and truck are behind. All in a woodland scene.
One of our camp setups

We finally caved and bought a privacy shelter for this trip, and we were SO glad we did.  It made life SO MUCH easier.  In the past we’ve used the vestibule that came with the rooftop tent, this worked ok, but even I couldn’t stand up straight in it (not to mention Mr. Trekker’s 6’4 frame).  This could be because we have the tent on the trailer rather than on top of the truck, the vestibule likely works better in that situation.  But the shelter worked great for changing, for a bathroom along with our Luggable Loo†, and for a shower using the solar shower.  It was so cool to look up at night and see the Milky Way shining over you while you were changing or “taking care of business”. 😇

The Bighorn Mountains

I know I’ve said this before, and I hate to sound like a broken record, 😇 but I LOVE the Bighorns.  I always forget we aren’t in the depths of the Colorado High Country when we visit there.  I love their stony summits, some still sporting spots of white leftovers from last winter’s snowpack, just above the treeline far below.

I always think of them as their own tiny island of mountains that rises out of the high prairie of northeastern Wyoming, but according to Wikipedia, they’re actually a spur of the Rockies separated from the main mountain chain by the Bighorn Basin.

A creek runs through a wetland area with trees and stony mountains towering in the background.Though this area is just as beautiful as the Rockies, it is FAR less crowded, which makes it so much more pleasant to visit. 😋  There are no lines of people hiking in the Bighorns like we’ve experienced in various places around Colorado.  Also, oftentimes, the lower-elevation plains may be baking in 90-degree weather, while it’s in the 60s-70s, and breezy, in the mountains!

It doesn’t hurt that, depending on which area you are heading to, the Bighorns are a shorter, 3 – 4-hour drive from the Black Hills, rather than the 6 – 8+ hours required to reach the mountains in Colorado ( and that’s just the Front Range, in the east-central portion of the state).  You will still have to drive through rural Wyoming whether you’re going to Colorado or the Bighorns.  However, to reach the mountains in Wyoming, you drive on I-90 the whole way.  It’s a little easier if weather is bad, and you don’t have as much trouble with the Wyoming drivers who like to pass on two-lane roads leaving little room for oncoming cars…(ahem!🤬🤯) ( Of course, all that being said, no one should visit here, ever, it’s just a terrible place to be. 😮😇🙃)

The Bighorns aren’t to be trifled with though.  These mountains are rugged, with little accommodations by way of gas, food, and supplies.  Small towns, such as Buffalo, Ten Sleep, Greybull, and Sheridan dot the area.  But these are few and far between (not to mention pretty tiny, by the standards of “normal” people who aren’t used to the small settlements that are common in the West). 😉  This is a national forest area, not a national park, so even camping accommodations are rustic, rarely offering more than potable water and a pit toilet (and those are the fancy ones)! 😮  So, if you’re looking to visit this area, be prepared to be self-sufficient.  The views will make it worth the trial, though!

The night sky in the Bighorns

There isn’t a lot of light pollution in the Bighorns, so on clear nights, you are treated to an INCREDIBLE light show!  Once the sun sets, the stars and planets come out in abundance.  My whole life, I’ve never seen a night sky that is comparable to what you find in the crisp coolness of the high mountains.  The sky actually looks like it has the measles, as there is almost a rash of stars that covers it.  The cloudy ribbon of the Milky Way is often clearly visible as it stretches across the expanse of darkness.  You can almost sense it glowing from within.  It is truly an incredible sight.

Silent Night in the high mountains

An instrument shows an altitude reading of 7500 feetOur campsite was at about 7500 feet on this visit (oftentimes we stay much higher, closer to 9000-10,000 feet).  We’ve noticed something odd at these high altitudes that we have also experienced in Colorado’s High Country.  There is a distinct lack of “night sounds”.  You don’t hear the chirping of crickets or croaking of frogs in that thinner air, even on warmer nights, and I don’t know why.  Nights tend to be pretty cool in those places, so it may be due to this, or just that there is a very short season where the night air would even be warm enough for the creatures to survive.  But whatever the reason, when we’re up so high I do miss the “chirping” sounds of a summer night.

Dispersed camping in the Bighorn National Forest

Morning on a meadow ringed by trees. The sun is just coming up and is shinning on the mountains in the background.Sometimes when we head out we Disperse Camp.  This is also known as “dry camping”, where you just set up your camp somewhere in the national forest, outside of an established campground.  We tried this for the first time in Colorado, at both State Forest State Park and near Crested Butte.  On both occasions, we did stay at an actual, numbered campsite, it was just away from any campground and we weren’t able to see our neighbors.

On this trip, there were no numbered sites, but they did request that you stay at an already established campsite (designated by fire rings).  I have never experienced such a busy weekend in the Bighorns!  We stayed near Circle Park (there are a lot of “parks” in this region, they are basically just large, meadowy areas amongst the forests).  It was a lovely site with views of the surrounding mountains, but we could see three other campsites from ours (one had a large group in it).  We could hear even more campers, just on the other side of the copse of trees we were camped near.  Next time, we’ll have to try going even farther out if we hope to have more privacy! 😉

Moose in the Bighorns!

Morning in the meadow. A bull moose can be seen at a distance in the grass. The background is forest with the red, morning sun shining on the mountains in the far background.
Ladies and gentlemen, Martin the Moose!

I wasn’t sure if we’d see any moose on this trip since we were sticking mainly to the southern portion of the Bighorns and I wasn’t aware of any waterways running near our campsite (which moose favor).  We lucked out though.  It only happened one time, but at about 6:30 one morning, as the Pup and I were enjoying her “morning constitutional”, I spotted Martin the Bull Moose sauntering through the “park”, down the hill from our campsite!  SUCCESS!!!  Puppers wasn’t sure what to make of that LARGE, funny-looking thing!

Hiking Trails

Circle Park Trail:
A small lake, surrounded by forest
Sherd Lake

We did this same trail on our first trip to the Bighorns, several years ago, in October.  It’s a nice hike, fairly wide and graded, and not terribly steep (though it is quite rocky in several places).  We walked to Sherd Lake, which is absolutely GORGEOUS!  There are views of several nearby mountains, such as Bighorn and Darton Peaks, from here.  This trail is around four miles total, so it’s perfect for a day hike (especially with a not-quite-full-stamina, juvenile, canine friend). 🐶

The trail continues on to several other lakes from there.  It also connects with an 8-mile loop that snakes around the nearby mountain peaks, if you’re looking for a lengthy hike (or a good backpacking trip). 

Maybelle Lake Trail (off Forest Road 430):

A grassy meadow with large rocks sprinkled about, bordered by forestThis hike was deceptively tough.  It’s only about three miles in total length, but it’s overgrown in many spots, very rocky and there are lots of downed trees.  We actually lost the trail several times and had to root around to locate it again.  Other parts of it are PERFECT though.  They feature a flat, graded path through a moist, pine forest, that is surrounded on both sides by a green carpet of ferns, moss, and soft undergrowth.  It almost felt like hiking in the cool rainforests of the Pacific Northwest.  It was such an idyllic sight!

The other difficulty is in reaching this trail.  You have to drive about 45 minutes (one way) on a rugged, 4×4 road to get to the trailhead.  We had done this route several years ago, so we knew what to expect, but this would NOT be appropriate for a normal car, or even just a high clearance vehicle.  If you don’t have a 4×4, with gear intended for off-road purposes, you should NOT attempt this road. (As an example, after trying this route a few years ago, we decided skid plates would be an important addition to the truck.)  After completing the road on this adventure, there is some paint hanging from the skid plates in a few spots (we sure were glad they were there!) 😋

Small lake with rocky, tree-covered mountain peaks in the background
Maybelle Lake

Tensleep Canyon

I’ve mentioned this canyon before, but this is one of the most beautiful places in the Bighorns.  If you are anywhere near this national forest and you have the chance to drive the canyon, you absolutely MUST put it on your list.  It is NOT to be missed.  This is one of our favorite areas in this national forest, and we try to enjoy it whenever we’re nearby.

The canyon is surrounded by arid, rocky cliffs on both sides, and is located on the southwest side of the Bighorn mountains.  One great thing about it is that EVERYONE can experience it.  US 16 is the main road that runs through the middle of the canyon.  It’s an easy-to-drive, paved byway.

For the best views, I would travel down the canyon, from east to west, on Route 435.  This is actually a dirt road that runs parallel to US 16 on the canyon’s southern side.  It’s a very well-graded route though, so as long as you don’t mind your car getting a little dusty, any 2WD vehicle can handle it in good weather (beware, the road may be impassable during snowy or muddy conditions. The road is also closed to vehicles November – June).

It’s a two-way road, but it’s fairly narrow, so take your time and be cautious.  There is room to pass a vehicle coming the other way but both drivers need to be aware as the lane gets tight.

Related posts:  Lake Helen, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming; 4 Don’t Miss Sites in the Bighorn Mountains of WyomingWest Tensleep Trail, Bighorn Mountains, WyomingBighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming

This route provides better views down the length of the canyon into the dry expanse of Bighorn Basin, that opens up between the western slopes of the Bighorns and the eastern slopes of the Absarokas (near Yellowstone National Park).  While the Bighorns provide cooler conditions, even on the hottest days of the summer, the Basin sits on a high prairie that lies in the rain shadow of the larger mountains, to the west, and bakes under the heat waves of the summer sun.

On your return trip up the canyon, take the paved, US 16 for incredible views of the dun-colored rock and sparse, short, green trees and bushes that comprise the canyon walls.  They stand out in contrast to the deep blue of the sky above.  These views are SO beautiful!

You aren’t very likely to see moose in this area, it’s too dry and hot for the vittles they enjoy dining on.  The northern side of the Bighorns, near routes like US 14 and 14A, are prime spots for spotting these ungulates.

For the best light, it’s best to drive up the canyon, west to east, in the afternoon when the sun is at your back!  Here is a link to a video I made of our drive up the canyon.

We were glad to enjoy another successful, Labor Day, camping trip to the Bighorns.  We really enjoy returning to this area year after year.  There are so many things to see here, it can’t all be done in one weekend!

Have you hiked to Sherd or Maybelle Lakes?  What did you think of the trails?  Tell me about your experiences in the comments!


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Opening Weekend on Beartooth Pass

In this post, I review a Memorial Day road trip on Opening Weekend of the Beartooth Highway in Montana.


One item you should definitely have on your Road Trip Bucket List is to drive the Beartooth Highway on Opening Weekend.  This route connects Red Lodge, Montana, on the north side; Yellowstone National Park, to the west;  and Cody, Wyoming, to the south.  The route usually opens by the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, though this is always weather-dependent.  Also, temporary closures may occur after the opening date, also due to weather.

Click here to watch videos of snowplows clearing the route on YouTube (be warned, they are addictive! 😉)  The Montana DOT often has to clear snowdrifts that are over 20 feet deep in some areas! 

Washoe Ghost Town near Red Lodge, Montana

You can travel the road from either direction.  We started in Red Lodge, Montana.  We noted on the map that there was a ghost town not far from our hotel.  The Washoe Ghost Town and mine site is located on Route 308, between Red Lodge and the tiny town of Bearcreek, on the way to Belfry.  The actual site is situated on private land, so you can’t tour it, but it is easily visible from the side of the road. 

This location’s (unfortunate) claim to fame is that it was the site of the worst mining disaster in Montana history in the 1940s. 😐

Scrubbrush prairie dotted with dilapidated buildings
Washoe Ghost Town

Lodging along the Beartooth Highway

We’ve been learning the joy of simple motels on recent trips.  Air B&B’s have become our “lodging of choice”, though we’ve been finding, if we MUST stay in a hotel, the simpler, local options appeal to us the most. 

They have to be clean, and well-maintained, of course, but they often have so much more character than the stale, chain hotels people usually think of.  We also, frequently, stay in smaller towns, where the larger chains don’t often have a large presence.  So, being willing to expand our horizons a bit makes lodging much easier to locate.

We had incredible luck with finding places to stay on this trip.  In Red Lodge, we chose the Red Lodge Inn, which was absolutely ADORABLE. 

It was a simple motel, but it appeared that the rooms had been refurbished recently, and they were quite nice.  We were also impressed by how large they were!  The motel is owned by a young family, and the hosts were incredibly friendly and helpful when we needed information regarding local attractions.

In Cody, Wyoming, we stayed at the Cody Cowboy Village, and it was equally as cute.  This one had more of a “Western” theme, while the room in Red Lodge felt more like a mountain cabin, but both were equally enjoyable. 

At the motel in Cody, large wooden beams made up the small cabins and reminded me of the ADORABLE Grandma’s Cabin that we stayed in, with Mr. Trekker’s family, in Island Park, Idaho, during our Yellowstone trip in 2014!

Places to eat along the Beartooth Highway

We’re also learning that simplicity is our friend when it comes to finding meals out on the road.  We love little cafes and diners, and again, when you stay in small towns, it’s good to enjoy these. 😁 

When in Red Lodge we had dinner at one of our favorite places, Red Lodge Pizza.  The restaurant is housed in the old post office and features creations along that theme such as, the Cliff Claven!  We’ve never had a bad meal there! 

In Cody, we ate breakfast at Our Place, a charming little dive (to be clear, I use that term affectionately) just across the street from our hotel. 

Some of the best meals I’ve eaten at a restaurant were cooked in “dives”.  These places are usually locally-owned by regular, small-town folks.  The owners are often a joy to talk with, and any time the place is crowded with locals, you know you’re in for a treat!

We enjoyed dinner at the Occidental Saloon in Buffalo, Wyoming the final night.  We’ve visited there before and have always been happy with the meals.  This site is attached to a historic hotel in town, where the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, Butch Cassidy, and Calamity Jane once rested their weary feet.  As usual, we ate the final meal of our trip, breakfast on Memorial Day morning, at the Busy Bee Cafe, also in Buffalo.  I’ve waxed lyrical about how much we like this cute little restaurant before.

The drive on Beartooth Pass!

Although weather forecasts made it appear doubtful, we did get to drive the full extent of the road…on the Montana side.  We had to wait 1.5 hours for it to open up but got to enjoy views from one of the main lookout points while we waited.  When we heard whoops of delight from the skiers and snowboarders that were parked near us and saw the snowplows drive by, we knew we were headed to the summit!

Weather had been pretty wild in this part of the country that spring, and this area had received close to a foot of snow just a few days before the road opened. 

The Forest Service had gotten the Wyoming side of the route mostly open, save for the last few miles at the summit.  With the recent lousy weather though, this portion had drifted shut again. Fortunately, we have driven the entire route before (just not on Opening Weekend). 

The weather didn’t seem much different from when we were there in July of 2016, there was just–a little–less snow in the summer.  There were still plenty of gloomy gray clouds, and the temperature was, maybe, only 1o degrees warmer. 😛

We found it to be almost disorienting near the summit.  The way the white snowfields melded with the pale, gray sky, it was hard to tell where the land ended and the sky began!

To check current conditions on this incredible stretch of road, you can check out these sites:  Montana DOT; Beartooth Highway in Wyoming.

A view over a vista of snow-covered mountains and valleys under a cloudy sky

Because the road was closed, we had to embrace our motto from a previous road trip, and “Just Groove“, and boy, were we glad we did! 

The alternate route we chose was Route 72, south of Belfry, Montana, into Wyoming, and may I say it is absolutely GORGEOUS!  It offers incredible views of the Absaroka Mountains as you drive along their length.

Click here for a video I made of our drive. We definitely saw large piles of snow but didn’t quite get to experience the “snow tunnels” I was hoping for.  I guess we’ll just have to go back and do this route again on another Opening Weekend!

Cooke City, Montana

When we reached Route 296, in Wyoming, we took that road (the Chief Joseph Highway) back to US 212 (the Beartooth Highway) on the Wyoming side, as that portion was open.  This takes you all the way to Cooke City/Silver Gate back in Montana, and eventually on to Yellowstone National Park. 

These two, tiny towns had been on our “must visit” list since our Yellowstone TripThe towns were teensy but enjoyable.  They definitely felt like the type of places you’d visit in the high mountains.  For those who may be interested, I should note that there are several campgrounds in this vicinity.  HOWEVER, they only allow hard-sided campers (no tents) due to regular bear activity.  Just something to be aware of. 😳

Store sign on a building near an American flag reads, "Cook City General Store, Groceries, Gifts, Fishing, Camping, Fly Shop"

Storefront of an old, brick building on a city street, with some cars parked near it

View down the street of a small town with small shops and cars lining both sides, under a cloudy sky

Drive the Chief Joseph Highway in Wyoming

I can never get over how beautiful northeastern Wyoming is.  On our trip, everything was so uncharacteristically green!  This is an unusual sight for this normally dry area, but the early season and recent rain had the grass growing well! 

There were some gray clouds (though we enjoyed more sun than expected) and these, contrasted with the vibrant green of the new grass and the steely, dark gray mountains, with snow still capping their summits, made for quite the scenic view!  The somewhat dreary–yet picturesque–image made both of us think of Scotland (or what we imagine Scotland to look like, having never been there…YET!) 😮😉

View from above into a rocky canyon with pine trees and a river far at the bottom
There’s a story that goes with this picture. Mr. Trekker had to take it from the bridge because I was too chicken to stand near the edge!

See below for more pictures of our drive.  As you can see, there was still some snow on the upper peaks:

Brown grass and pine tree-spotted meadow leads to snow-covered mountains in the distance Brown grass and pine tree-spotted meadow leads to snow-covered mountains, with the sun shinning on parts of them, in the distance Brown grass and pine tree-spotted meadow leads to snow-covered mountains, with the sun shinning on parts of them, in the distance A paved road with rocks, grass and pine trees on both sides leads to snow-covered mountains in the distance View overlooking a vista of a flatter pine tree and rock-covered area leading to snow-covered mountains in the distance View over a mountain vista from above. Pine trees and snow cover the lower elevations, brown grass covers the higher elevations that leads to tree and snow covered mountains in the distance.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming

We eventually made our way back down the Beartooth Highway and stayed in Cody, Wyoming Saturday night.  We’ve stayed there several times as a stopover, and each time we thought we should take the time to visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West (but never got the chance).  Since this was a weekend of “checking things off the list”, we decided now was as good a time as any!

The museum is actually made up of five different areas.  We both enjoyed the Natural History portion the most.  This section comprises multiple levels, as though you were traversing down a mountain, from the tundra ecosystem near the summit to the prairie/grassland found far below. 

We also enjoyed the firearms museum, that showcased items from around the globe and from a wide range of battles throughout history.  There was also a section regarding the life of Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show that was quite interesting.

Ten Sleep Canyon, Bighorn Mountains

We took one of our favorite routes home through the Big Horns, US 16 through Ten Sleep Canyon, in Wyoming.  This is, absolutely, one of the most beautiful canyons I have ever seen!

They call this the most scenic route through the Big Horns and I believe it!  Route 14 and 14a are pretty in their own right (and you’re much more likely to see moose on one of these roads) but the southern route through the canyon is one that shouldn’t be missed! 

As you’re driving into the canyon from the west, you have the Absaroka Range in your rearview mirror while the Big Horns loom ever larger in front of you.  This area is quite dry and barren, as it’s in the rain shadow of the Absarokas, adding to its rugged beauty.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I can’t get enough of the ruggedness that makes up the Wyoming countryside.  The drab yellow of the badlands that contrasts–this time of year–against the almost florescent, green grass of Spring in the foreground, and the imposing, dark mountains in the background (with their bright white caps).  This area is pretty all the time, but especially so this time of year before the hot summer conditions have baked it dry.

This route is also called the Cloud Peak Skyway Scenic Byway, as it is the main road that runs nearest to Cloud Peak, the tallest summit in the Big Horns (though you can’t actually see the summit from the road as it’s in the middle of a Wilderness Area). 

Click here for a video I made of a Labor Day Weekend drive through the canyon.

View up a brown rock canyon dotted with trees, all under a clear, blue sky View across a blue lake that is surrounded with pine trees with rocky mountains in the background, all under a clear, blue sky

This route is also a beautiful drive down the east side of the Big Horns into Buffalo, WY.  If you’re there at the right time, you may see yaks grazing on the steep hillside near the side of the road! 😮

I recommend everyone check out these drives if they have a chance, as they are all quite beautiful.  There are LOTS of tiny lakes that make for great pictures (not to mention plenty of marmots posing for photos in the higher elevations!)  Be prepared though, winter conditions can occur at any time in that area (we had thunder and slushy snow falling on us in July!) 😮 

Go tour these highways, you’ll be glad you did! 

Longmire Store, Buffalo, Wyoming

Finally, we were able to cap off our weekend in the best way!  Each time we visit Buffalo, I have hoped to stop at the Longmire store, named after the well-known book and Netflix series.  As we learned, it used to ONLY be open during Longmire Days each year in July, as it was just a satellite store.  Well, it is now open all season and we FINALLY got to partake of its wares!  See, persistence pays off. 😁

Have you visited the Beartooth Highway on Opening Weekend?  Tell me about it in the comments! 


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3 pictures: 1) View from above into a rocky canyon with pine trees and a river far at the bottom; 2) View overlooking a vista of a flatter pine tree and rock-covered area leading to snow-covered mountains in the distance; 3) A view over a vista of snow-covered mountains under a cloudy sky. Pin reads, "Opening Weekend on Beartooth Pass"


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Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming

In this post, I discuss an ancient medicine wheel in the Bighorns!


There is a prehistoric Medicine Wheel hidden in the northern, Bighorn mountains of eastern Wyoming.  It was built by the ancient ancestors of today’s American Indian tribes.  More than 80 tribes claim the wheel in their oral traditions so it can’t be attributed to any one group or culture, though it’s, obviously, a very sacred site.  

What does the Bighorn Medicine Wheel look like?

This is one of the largest, stone medicine wheels in North America (there are at least 150 spread throughout the continent).  It’s constructed with a center cairn with spokes emanating from it to an outer circle that connects six, smaller cairns that appear to be strategically placed.  

Archeologists aren’t sure of the wheel’s exact age, most estimates date it back at least 800 years, but it could be far older.  Archaeological evidence shows human habitation as far back as 12,000 years in this area!  

The ranger we spoke with stated the six rock cairns that dot the outer portion of the circle are believed to have a celestial purpose, but the exact function remains a mystery–it is thought that they may have been used during vision quests.  The last time the six cairns matched up with celestial markers was at least as far back as the 1700s!

Medicine Wheels are Sacred Sites

Religious ceremonies are still held at the wheel on a regular basis as many tribal members make religious pilgrimages to the site.  Some of the ceremonies involve large groups, while others include only a few individuals–two, small, private ceremonies occurred while we were there.  Anyone with American Indian heritage can participate in a ceremony.  

It’s always enthralling for me to observe religious practices that I’m not familiar with.  I’m fascinated by the emotions you see play out on the faces of the participants, and how descriptive their movements can be.  I find their actions evoke emotions within me as well.  You can actually feel the peace and tranquility emanating from them as they dance, pray, or worship in their own way.  

A tour of the wheel may be delayed if a ceremony is occurring, though they usually don’t last longer than 30 minutes, so please be patient and respectful during this time of worship.  Numerous religious offerings are tied to the fence that rings the site (or are placed within the wheel itself).  Please do not touch or photograph these items directly as they are sacred.  It is also requested that people not take photos or videos of the ceremonies, as they are occurring, to respect the privacy of the participants.  

Where is the Bighorn Medicine Wheel?

The wheel is located on Forest Road 12, off of US 14A, in the northern part of the Bighorns.  It’s about 20 miles from Burgess Junction (where 14A branches off from US 14 to the east) and about 30 miles from Lovell, Wyoming, to the west.

Related posts: Lake Helen, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming; 4 Don’t Miss Sites in the Bighorn Mountains of WyomingWest Tensleep Trail, Bighorn Mountains, WyomingCamping in the Bighorns

The parking lot is a mile-and-a-half walk from the wheel on a graded, dirt road.  The hike isn’t bad, though it is uphill both ways (seriously 😝) and the altitude is over 9,000 feet, so take your time.  The site is also above tree line so bring a hat, water, and sunscreen, and be prepared for the ever-present, Wyoming wind.  It usually takes an hour or so to complete the entire route.  The site is free to visit, though donations are appreciated.  Because this is a sacred site, pets are not permitted and must be left in the parking area.

The only thing that marred the experience was the large, FAA radar placed on the adjoining peak (because none of the numerous, other peaks in the surrounding area, that were a little farther away, wouldn’t have worked?  REALLY?!)  Federal Government, do better! 😤      

Panoramic view of a rocky mountainside. Tree-covered mountains spread in the distance under a crystal clear, blue sky
The incredible view of the Bighorns from the Medicine Wheel site (to the right is the road you hike to reach the wheel)
Small stones on the ground form the center and outer portions of a wheel with stone spokes connecting them
The Medicine Wheel (you can see one of the rock cairns in the foreground to the left)

The Backroads of Wyoming

I’ve suggested before, to always take the scenic route, when time permits.  We enjoyed a good bit of that on this trip!  We started by taking Route 24, west, from where it branches off near the Island Park campground.  We then took Forest Road 408, to BLM Road 1117, on to Hyattville.  

This route is listed in the gazetteer as being Hyattville Road, but we saw NO signs reflecting this.  Similar to what we’ve found in Colorado, even though a road may be listed as a “major connector”, especially in the gazetteer, this could easily mean the road is actually dirt (sometimes wide and graded, other times little more than a narrow, two-track, high-clearance road that I wouldn’t be comfortable taking an Outback on). 😝 

We used three separate maps–the gazetteer, a Bighorns map we picked up at a local, outdoor store, and a road atlas–to gather a–somewhat accurate–estimate of the roads’ actual conditions.  Part of the difficulty was the roads traversed National Forest and BLM land in this area, and each department names and maintains their roads differently.  

Overlooking a rocky cliff with pine trees growing up from below
A view from our backroad trip

The drive was very manageable with Mr. Trekker’s Tacoma (any high-clearance, 4WD vehicle could handle it in good conditions).  There were no steep drop-offs and no, real, technical obstacles like what we’ve encountered on some of the roads in Colorado.  It was also beautiful, ranging from alpine, spruce forests and aspen groves, to dun-colored high prairies dotted with tan and red clay mounds, adorned with the varying greens of the diverse foliage.  Rock-rimmed canyons with their gaping mouths open onto prairie grasses far below, while rocky cliffs of various colors traverse throughout, all with the imposing Bighorns as a backdrop.  

Here is a video I made that showcases the beauty that is eastern Wyoming.

After leaving the Medicine Wheel, we decided we were game to try a few more back roads.  We took another scenic trip, east, on US 14A to Burgess Junction, where we picked up US 14 and took it west.  We took that road to Route 17, another “major connector”, that we then took to Alkali Road/BLM Road 1111/Route 228, back to Hyattville (this is a back way to reach the Medicine Wheel from the south).  

Again, these road numbers and names were listed on the gazetteer and one of the maps–some of these roads didn’t even appear on the Atlas–but were NOT shown on the actual road.  We just trusted the signs that directed us back to Hyattville.  You always need to be flexible when taking back roads, as you never know what kind of obstacles or conditions may cross your path.  I should also note, there was NO cell coverage in this remote location (and GPS can often be inaccurate), so maps are often times your only option–time to go “old school” folks!  

Another road we could have driven was labeled in the Gazetteer as the “Red Gulch, Alkali National Back Country Byway”.  We didn’t actually drive it this time–though we returned at a later date to check out the fossilized dinosaur footprints it leads to! 😯  

The Back Country Byway is more of a two-track, high-clearance path, at least in spots.  I certainly wouldn’t call it a “main road”.  Funnily enough, the roads we took back to Hyattville ended up being in better shape than the back road we brought out from the campground.  They were graded, gravel roads that one could expect to travel 30 – 40 mph on (if the rancher in front of us hadn’t decided a slower speed was better.  Unfortunately, on those roads, that are only about 1.5 lanes wide, passing really isn’t an option unless the person in front of you is feeling charitable and pulls over.  This man didn’t. 😜)  So, we enjoyed a leisurely, scenic stroll through the beautiful Wyoming countryside.  😁  

After reaching Hyattville we took Route R54 (another graded, well-maintained, gravel road) to Ten Sleep and then got to enjoy the, INCREDIBLY beautiful, US 16 east through Ten Sleep Canyon, back to our campground. (Did I mention, almost all of these roads, despite their varying conditions–with the exception of the highways–had the EXACT SAME indicators on the map? 😜)

Peering through the trees across tree-covered mountains out to the dry, high prairie far in the distance

The topography of Wyoming is very unique.  It’s characterized by the towering Bighorns in the northeast, to the Grand Tetons that criss-cross Yellowstone and the Rockies, in the west.  A drier, large, bluff-filled basin sits between Yellowstone and the Bighorns.  

Some parts of the state are prettier than others–while the dry, scrubland that surrounds the mountains can be pretty and green in spring, it usually turns rather drab in the later months.  The basin area is dotted with oil fields and sketchy-looking, government sites with warning signs plastered on the fences, which can be rather intimidating. 😳

Below are some more pics of our scenic drive:

Dry, green meadow with trees and rocky mountains far in the background, under a clear, blue skyWhite, rocky cliffs rise high aboveA dry, scrubland canyon with a dry, high plain in the far distanceDry, grassy meadow with dry, high plains and bluffs in the distanceDry, grassy meadow with dry, high plains and red-rock bluffs in the distanceDry, grassy meadow with tree-covered, white cliffs and dry, high plains and mountains in the backgroundDry, grassy high plains with pine-covered mountains in the background

MOOSE in the Bighorn Mountains!

Earlier that summer, we spent ten days in the Colorado high country during peak season and we didn’t see one moose.  Later that fall, we spent ten seconds in the Bighorn mountains of Wyoming (literally), and TWO moose were waiting to greet us when we arrived at our campsite!  Bighorns for the win!   

Two moose in a field as seen through the trees
Our ungulate friends (this year it was Maggie and Megan)

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m always surprised at how much this part of Wyoming reminds me of the Colorado mountains.  The scenery and critters are very similar, with the added benefit of being half as long a distance from the Black Hills and FAR less crowded than Colorado. 😉  

If you’re looking for an amazing, historical site to visit in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming, check out the Bighorn Medicine Wheel!

Have you ever visited the prehistoric Medicine Wheel in the Bighorns?  Tell me about it in the comments! 

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Small stones on the ground form the center and outer portions of a wheel with stone spokes connecting them. Pin reads, "A Prehistoric Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming"

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NOLS Wilderness First Aid

The Trekker’s learned some Wilderness First Aid skills on a trip to Bozeman, Montana!


Since the Trekkers spend so much time in the wilderness, we thought it would be wise to take a Wilderness First Aid class. 

The one we attended was in Bozeman, Montana, and was hosted by NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) and Crossing Latitudes. Together.  They offer events and trainings all over the US, and the world, that range from weekend-long First Aid classes to semester-long Wilderness EMT and Rescue courses.  They also offer leadership and wilderness skills training expeditions. 

Most of the First Aid classes are offered at YMCAs, church camps, or local parks, though your local REI may host one, as well.  For more information on what they have available, you can visit their websites here and here.

Visit Bozeman, Montana

Since there are no REIs in South Dakota and we wanted a more authentic experience, we opted for one of the park/camp locations.  We had several options to choose from in both Colorado and Montana (all similar distances from us).  

We had visited Bozeman briefly in 2014, on our way to Yellowstone, and had been wanting to return to explore it more in-depth so we thought this would be the perfect opportunity.  We were surprised at how much Bozeman had grown in just the few years since we had last been there.  We were also surprised at how crowded and busy the area felt, especially seeing as how our city is almost twice the size of this small hamlet.  The new construction, busy streets, and “mountain feel” reminded both of us of Colorado’s Front Range towns.  Bozeman has a fantastic downtown that is well-maintained with lots of dining and recreational opportunities throughout the year.  It has an “old West” feel to it, and with many of the small boutiques, it reminded me of our foray into Telluride, Colorado from several years ago

What are the NOLS Wilderness First Aid classes like?

The company was great to work with.  They were quickly responsive to questions and the training offered was fun, comprehensive, and professional. 

The course was a little pricey, but you get what you pay for!  It was INTENSE!  We completed 20 hours of First Aid training in two days (10 hours each day).  We’ll have to revisit our notes from time to time to keep what we learned fresh in our minds but it was incredibly useful!

The weekend was absolutely exhausting and incredibly educational.  Much of what we learned was common sense but was often things you may not think about unless specifically told.  

The courses encompassed both classroom as well as “real world”, outdoor, training scenarios.  We even got to practice the skills we were learning on “patients” covered in fake blood! 😳  For those who easily become queasy, this course may challenge you (though you’d have to face this issue in a real-world situation so this is good practice).  

A person sits on concrete. This hand is covered with fake blood with a simulated spike through the hand.
You take a First Aid class and they stick a spike through your hand!  😳 *Note, no bloggers were injured in the simulation of this injury, and yes, I volunteered for this part.*  😁

Ousel Falls near Big Sky, Montana

We chose to take the scenic route back home.  We had hoped to work our way back through the northern loop of Yellowstone, into Cook City, Montana, and down the Beartooth Highway to Cody, Wyoming.  Alas, there was still several feet of snow blocking some of the passes on that route.  

Instead, we traversed the southern Montana plains that border the mountains before winding through the Bighorns in northeastern Wyoming that evening.  

We also took a side trip to Big Sky, Montana, and hiked out to see Ousel Falls.  It was a beautiful hike, down and through a canyon formed by the “South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River”–yes, the sign actually says that! ☺️  It was a bit more “touristy” than Rocky Mountain National Park’s version of a similarly named falls, but it offered both a hiking and a separate mountain bike trail.  

The hike is incredibly scenic, paralleling the river much of the way.  At only about 1.5 miles round trip, the trek is not overly difficult as the trail is graded, but it is rather steep in places.  At that altitude (over 7000 feet), some may find it a challenge.  We almost had the place to ourselves on a Monday morning in mid-May, though I would expect more company during the summer season and on weekends.

A snow-covered mountain in the background with pine trees covering its lower sides, all under a blue sky with white clouds.
Montana Countryside
A white, frothing river runs between a pine tree-covered riverbank and tall, rock walls with pine trees on their rim.
The Gallatin River

A white, frothing river runs between pine tree-covered riverbanks and tall, rock walls with pine trees on their rim.

A white, frothing river runs between pine tree-covered riverbanks

A white, frothing waterfall cascades between pine tree-covered riverbanks
Ousel Falls, Big Sky, Montana

We made several new, large, ungulate friends (of the moose variety) in the Big Horns.   A word of advice, while evenings and mornings are a bad time for hiking in bear country, if you’re specifically interested in scouting for wildlife, this is an exceptional time to be out! We saw four moose over the course of several miles (and just a few hours) while traversing Route 14 through the northern half of the Bighorns.  

We were also able to enjoy the beautiful views and felt like we had the entire National Forest to ourselves (I’m sure it, again, helped that it was a Monday night during the shoulder season).  We ended our trip with a stay in one of our favorite towns, Buffalo, Wyoming, and breakfast at one of our favorite haunts, the Busy Bee Cafe.  I lauded its attributes in a previous post.

Rocky mountains shrowded in misty rain in the background with green hills in the foreground
Bighorns, Wyoming

A paved road meanders through rocky, canyon walls with green grass and trees interspersed throughout

A cow moose stands in the grass with a fence and trees behind her


Lessons Learned from the NOLS Wilderness First Aid class

To close, I’m gonna get a little pensive for a minute (you’ve been warned!) 😋  In some ways this First Aid class was a negative for me.  It made me acutely aware of all the various potential hazards that are present for us when we venture out into Nature.  This is difficult for someone who struggles with anxiety (especially, health anxiety). 

Risk is an inherent part of life though (especially for someone who is a self-described klutz).  Instead of trying to remove it from our presence completely, which is impossible, we should, instead, seek to minimize it as much as is reasonably possible  (a criterion which, in itself, is a personal choice for each person). 

For me, First Aid training was a step to minimize that risk.  It made me better aware of how to treat injuries/illnesses should they occur, and what signs to look for that indicate a situation has become severe. It also armed me with the knowledge that will help me remain calm if injuries/illnesses do occur (whether in the backcountry or in our daily lives).  Knowledge is power, so I would encourage anyone who regularly ventures into the wilderness to take a class like this.

This class did strengthen my resolve that recreating in the backcountry, alone, is never advisable (and your 4-legged friend doesn’t count as a partner. 😇) 

I know that’s a bit of a controversial position to take, and, to each his own, ultimately.  This is just my personal opinion, we all have to decide what is best for us.  

But, there are numerous situations where any of us could quickly become incapacitated in the wilderness to the point where we can’t escape without assistance from others.  This could be a traumatic injury, severe dehydration/hypothermia, heat or water-borne illness, animal attack, etc.  We always need to remember that cell phones are frequently without service in the wild, and devices like GPS can be rendered unreliable in certain terrains (such as canyons).  

So, I just ask that before you venture out alone, take an extra few seconds to consider if you’ll be able to save yourself if the situation requires?  If not, perhaps think twice before embarking solo.  Besides, partnering up with people is an opportunity to make new friends!

Have you taken any Wilderness First Aid Courses?  Tell me about your experience in the comments!


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A  person sits on concrete. This hand is covered with fake blood with a simulated spike through the hand. Pin reads, "NOLS Wilderness First Aid"


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West Tensleep Trail, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming

The Big Horn National Forest, in Wyoming, is a wonderful place to enjoy some secluded time in the woods.


The Trekkers LOVE to visit the Bighorn Mountains, in northeastern Wyoming.  Each time we go to this area I re-discover my love for them all over again!  I enjoy that mountain range almost as much as the Rockies.  This is probably because they are very similar with a few wonderful exceptions:  there are fewer people in the Bighorns and the Wyoming wilderness is only a few hours from the Black Hills–rather than the 6 to 8-hour drive to the Rockies.  Traffic is much better too!  😉

The weather in this area (during the warmer months, at least) is usually comprised of blue skies, warm temps, and clear, crisp evenings.  Conditions can change fast though!  The Trekkers have a tradition of camping in the Bighorns over Labor Day Weekend and it isn’t unusual for this area to receive its first significant snowstorm of the year a scant week or so later. 

On this particular visit, we came to hike the West Ten Sleep trail to Mirror Lake. The only downside for this trip was lingering smoke from wildfires in Montana.  When we arrived in Buffalo, Wyoming, on Friday evening, you could barely make out the mountains through the smoky haze. 

If you’ve never been there, Buffalo is basically nestled into the eastern base of the Bighorns, similar to how Rapid City is nestled into the eastern base of the Black Hills.  If you’ve never been to either locale, well, let’s just say you normally can’t miss the mountains, they’re like, right there!  😜  Also, you need to plan a visit!!!

Where is the West Tensleep Trailhead?

You will find the trailhead at the end of Route 27 North.  The road basically ends at West Tensleep Lake and the trail continues along the Tensleep Creek from there.  Route 27 branches off of US 16 just east of the B-E-A-Utiful Tensleep Canyon and just west of Meadowlark Lake and the Meadowlark Ski Lodge.

You should note that Route 27 is often closed to regular vehicles during the snowy season, which is lengthy in this part of the country, as it becomes a snowmobile trail.  Other times of the year this dirt road can become rugged (in snowy or muddy conditions, even if it’s open) and a 4WD or high-clearance AWD vehicle may be able to handle it better.

Hiking the West Tensleep Trail to Mirror Lake

That Saturday dawned clear and beautiful–we were thankful for a reprieve from the smoke that day–so we hiked West Tensleep Trail (Trail #65) to Mirror Lake.  This trail can go as far as Twin Lakes, though that is a 12-mile hike in each direction.  We opted to stop at Mirror Lake (at about the halfway point), but the full trail would be ideal for an overnight backpacking trip.  This moderate trek is beautiful and accented with stream crossings, sprawling meadows, and a few waterfall views.  It is well-marked and wide in most places and not overly difficult.  What makes it strenuous at times is the altitude (it reaches close to 10,000 feet in places) though the views of the surrounding summits are worth it!

Related posts: Lake Helen, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming; Camping in the Bighorns; Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming; 4 Don’t Miss Sites in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming

The gurgling creek accompanies you most of the way creating an iconic, mountain experience.  The neighboring stream and the craggy peaks towering nearby especially reminded me of hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

A stream runs through a forest
West Tensleep Trail

A creek meanders through a narrow meadow with pine trees lining both sides

A trail meanders through a rocky meadow. A large, rocky mountain can be seen in the background.

Mirror Lake!

Mirror Lake is a beautiful, alpine lake that mirrors the sky and adjacent cliffs when calm (likely where it gets its name!) and makes a prime lunch spot before turning back or continuing on to Twin Lakes.  Usually, we enjoy peaceful solitude in this region, but this time it was quite “crowded” (we saw 5 – 10 other groups on the same trail–that’s crowded in the Bighorns!)  Apparently, we weren’t the only ones looking to escape the 90-degree heat of the lower elevations that weekend!

A woman sits looking out over the dark, smooth water of Mirror Lake surrounded by forest. A tree-covered mountainside is in the background.
Mirror Lake
Mr. Trekker stands on a cliff edge with his back to us, looking out over the mountain vista. Tree-covered mountain slopes are in the background.
Just a man and his mountains

Island Park Campground, Bighorn Mountains

We stayed at the Island Park campground and our campsite was located on the fringe of the national forest, overlooking a marshy, grassy valley.

Don’t be afraid of the lesser-developed national forest campgrounds.  They are spectacular, though you do need a tolerance for “roughing it” a bit if you’re tent camping (while potable water is often available in the “on” season, pit toilets are regularly all that is offered).  If you’ve got an RV this may not be an issue (and the “developed” campgrounds can often accommodate RVs).  These sites are usually more off the beaten path so they tend to be quieter, more enjoyable, and may provide more wildlife viewing opportunities.

Moose in the Bighorns!

An added bonus that made this weekend laudable was the “visitors” we received each evening (and most mornings).  If you’ll recall, in a previous post, I mentioned State Forest State Park in north-central Colorado had the best moose-viewing opportunities we’d ever seen…until this trip! 😁  A single cow and another momma and her baby visited us at least once a day the whole weekend.  One evening a large bull also graced us with his presence. 

This campground was the perfect place to view moose as they happily gorged on the willow branches that dotted the boundary.  We named them Maggie, Molly, Matilda, and Marvin (they’re moose, obviously all their names have to start with “m”! 😉)  Marvin kept his distance but the three ladies ventured right up near the campsites if people were quiet enough and gave them their space.  It was an incredibly beautiful, (dare I say tranquil?) site to behold.

A cow and baby moose walk through a meadow with a stream running through it. The forest creates a backdrop.
Maggie and Molly

I’ve always been fascinated by moose, perhaps because they’re one of the only critters that aren’t native to the various regions I’ve lived in.  They’re slightly odd-looking creatures (though cute too), and while they seem like they would be awkward clodhoppers 😂, with their large bodies –especially the males–they’re actually quite graceful when they run through wetlands or swim across streams.  They seem like big cows but be warned, they ARE wild animals that can be quite dangerous and aggressive if provoked (especially the mothers protecting their babies or the males during the rutting season).  Usually, if you leave them alone and give them the respect they deserve, they’ll offer you the same consideration.

Note: Moose are NOT afraid of dogs and they have been known to kill dogs. PLEASE, keep your dogs leashed and fully under control in Moose Country. (Also, the Forest Service can and will ticket you for “harassing wildlife” if they feel you’re allowing your dogs to bother the moose.  Always remember, this is at the ranger’s discretion, it doesn’t matter if you agree that harassment was occurring or not… 

A cow moose is seen eating willows just a few feet from a tent!
Oh, hello! (you can see how close she got to the campground!)

West Tensleep Lake

Sunday we canoed West Tensleep Lake surrounded by the imposing peaks of the Cloud Peak Wilderness (and only slightly marred by lingering smoke).  This is a small lake but it’s no-wake so it’s ideal for canoeing, kayaking, and wake-boarding (just give your fellow fishermen space to enjoy their activities, as well.) 

The dark, rippling waters of West Tensleep Lake with rocky mountains looming through the haze in the background
West Tensleep Lake, you can see the Cloud Peak Wilderness area looming through the smoky haze

We also attempted to reach East Tensleep Lake via Forest Road 430.  While Mr. Trekker had fun practicing his 4×4-ing skills we decided the road was a little more than we wanted to tackle that day so we only traveled about halfway.  We enjoyed beautiful views throughout, however. (Check out this post for info on our return trip to that lake!) 

A creek runs through a meadow scattered with trees. Mountains can be seen looming through the haze in the background.
Off Forest Road 430

The road parallels Tensleep Creek which offers countless fishing opportunities.  It also crosses several expansive meadows providing prime disperse-camping opportunities (this is national forestland so dispersed camping is allowed, just follow all local regulations pertaining to the use of fires).  There are also ample opportunities for on and off-trail hiking.

Busy Bee Cafe, Buffalo, Wyoming

Monday morning dawned smoky once again as we packed up to head for home.  We ended our trip by enjoying a well-earned breakfast at one of our favorite local haunts, the Busy Bee Cafe in Buffalo!  This small diner was thrust into the spotlight thanks to Craig Johnson’s Longmire series that is based in this general area (and its reputation is warranted).

Below are some more pictures from our wonderful weekend (as always thanks to Mr. Trekker for a few of these):

Smoky sunrise
Bridge over Tensleep Creek


Have you hiked the West Tensleep Trail, or visited Mirror or West Tensleep Lakes?  Tell me about your experiences in the comments!

Did you enjoy reading this post?  Pin it!

3 pictures: 1) A creek meanders through a narrow meadow with pine trees lining both sides; 2) The dark waters of West Tensleep Lake with rocky mountains speckled with pine trees in the background; 3) A trail meanders through a rocky meadow. A large, rocky mountain can be seen in the background. Pin reads, Take a Hike on the West Tensleep Trail, Bighorn Mountains"


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