1:24,000 Scale USGS quadrangle maps of
the Bighorn Mountains / Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming, Including
Cloud Peak, sent to you on CD-ROM.
Click for a Super Size Image
The Bighorn Mountains are located mainly in Wyoming, with a small section overflowing into the State of Montana. The overall length of the Bighorn Range is about 120 miles and spans from 30 to 50 miles wide. For the most part, it is glacially sculpted alpine terrain. The fossils of primitive armored and jawless fish found in the Bighorns are the oldest known vertebrate fossils in the world. Cloud Peak, at the southern end of the range, rises to an elevation of 13,167 feet.
Cloud Peak Wilderness Area is the main attraction of hikers and explorers. Within the 189,000 acres of wilderness are excellent backpacking, hiking, and sight seeing opportunities. The peaks range in elevations from 8,500 to 13,167 feet (Cloud Peak). There are also about 19 maintained campgrounds scattered in and around the Bighorns, all with close proximity to excellent lakes and streams. The Cloud Peak Wilderness (CPW) extends along the backbone of the Bighorn Mountain range, and is located in the Bighorn National Forest of north-central Wyoming.
There are numerous trails in the Cloud Peak Wilderness and some trail combinations can result in hikes lasting as long as you want! A large extent of the wilderness is accessed from trailheads off US Highway 16. These trailheads are: West Tensleep, Battle Park, Hunter, & Circle Park. Guided fishing trips are available from local guide services located in Sheridan and Buffalo. Among the many varieties of fish here, youíll find rainbow, brown (German), brook trout (char), grayling, cutthroat and lake trout.
There is much confusion: is 'Bighorn' spelled as one word or two, 'Bighorn?' The mountain range, the national forest, and the animal (bighorn sheep), are all spelled as one word, 'Bighorn.' The town and the river are spelled as two words, 'Big Horn.'
The 28-spoke Medicine Wheel, at the northern end of the range, is one of Wyoming's most famous archaeological sites. It is said the Medicine Wheel was discovered by early white settlers sometime around 1880. The Medicine Wheel, made of a circular arrangement of stones, is approximately 80 feet across with 28 rows of stones that radiate from a central cairn to an encircling stone rim. There is general agreement that it was built 200 years ago by indigenous people, and that its 28 "spokes" may symbolize the days in a lunar month. It remains a sacred, ceremonial site.
Within the Bighorn National Forest, you may come across well-maintained trails with bridges, designated campsites and user-friendly facilities. Within the wilderness, there is less evidence of human impact and this always offers the highest degree of risk (and solitude). Some of the best times to visit this area is from July to September. Remember, in higher elevations, nights can be cold and storms can occur late in the day. April, May and June, are often wetter as snow continues to melt in higher elevations and spring rains occur. At times, severe lightning storms flash the Wyoming skies, especially during the drier months of July, August and September. Remember, snow and sleet can occur in any month of the year.
Click on the image to get a satellite view of the Bighorns in Wyoming.
Check out the Web Cam view of the Bighorns from Sheridan, WY
Two waterfalls are within walking distance of Forest Road 14. Porcupine, lies just 4 miles east of the intersection of Forest Road 11 and 14. Bucking Mule Falls is accessed via the Bucking Mule Falls National Recreation Trail. The hike down to the bottom of the beautiful, 200-foot Porcupine Falls, which roar down into a large pool. At the head of Devil Canyon, Porcupine Creek plunges nearly 200 feet. A one mile trail leads to the base of the falls. Gold mining operations occurred in the area during the turn of the century; evidence of this is the pool below the falls which was dredged. Visitor parking is available at the terminus of Forest Road 14 for access to Porcupine Falls. A view of the falls requires a 3 mile hike. Here Bucking Mule Creek drops nearly 500 feet on its journey to meet Porcupine Creek.
Contact the Wilderness Coordinator at the Forest Service for information on new, special or revised regulations and other information before planning a hike. Regulations are subject to change. Registration is obligatory for when entering the wilderness. Campfires within 300 feet of lakes, streams and designated trails are illegal and camping within 100 feet of any water is not allowed. No motorized vehicles are permissible in the wilderness area.
Highway 16 also provides close-up views of lodge pole pine forests and spectacular views of the jagged peaks of the Cloud Peak Wilderness. The Big Horn Scenic Byway / U.S. Highways 14, passes through Shell Canyon, a narrow rocky gorge, and offers panoramic views of 100 miles across the Sheridan Basin. Highway 14A traverses mountainous country with views of distant forested slopes, rocky alpine tundra, and wide vistas of grasslands grazed by domestic cattle and sheep, as well as deer, elk, and moose.
There are many hiking trails throughout the Bighorn Mountains and Bighorn National Forest, providing the hiker/backpacker with scenic views of mountain vistas, lakes, and wildlife. Hikers may see many species of wildlife including deer, moose and elk as well as numerous small species of animals and birds. Care should be exercised when viewing unpredictable animals such as moose.
Some hikers start with Penrose, the longest and most popular trail out of Story, Wyoming. (Story is a cute town 20 miles south of Sheridan). This trail can accommodate everyone from beginners to backpackers planning several days of camping in the Cloud Peak Wilderness. After the first switchback, around a quarter mile up, you will be in several miles of easily negotiable trail with panoramic views of the Powder River Basin below.
There are half dozen areas not as heavily used as the well-known Cloud Peak Wilderness. Most of these sites are within 30 miles from town. From the Bighorn National Forest sign along U. S. Highway 16 West park your vehicle and wander north of through pine forests and meadows. Along this trail a hiker may look down on the Old West town of Buffalo and the Clear Creek valley below.
The cost is $18.95.
Check out the Web Cam view of the Bighorns from Sheridan, WY