A Photo Guide to the Bighorn Mountains

by David Sawyers

Updated August 7, 2003

The Bighorn Mountains are an isolated mountain range located in north-central Wyoming, approximately halfway between the Black Hills of South Dakota and Yellowstone National Park. Bighorn National Forest stretches from the Montana border southward for 80 miles, offering diverse scenery and more than one million acres to explore (Bighorn National Forest Official Website). The regions beyond the National Forest boundaries have much to offer as well, including a number of locations of historical (and pre-historical) significance.

View from I-90 approaching the
Bighorn Mountains from the east.

This part of Wyoming offers an impressive range of scenery. To the east are the long rolling grasslands of the Powder River Basin, stretching to the Black Hills. To the west are the colorful badlands of the Bighorn Basin which lead to the Absoroka Mountains and Yellowstone National Park. Between these two basins is a continually changing panorama of pine-covered mountainsides, forested lakes, high grassland, willow thickets, waterfalls, precipitous canyons, and snow-covered peaks; in other words, just about every climate to be found in the Rocky Mountain states - and all within a 1-2 hour drive.

Map of the principle routes through Bighorn National Forest.
(Click to enlarge.)

Cloud Peak (13,175 ft) is the highest summit in the Bighorn range and is only about 600 feet lower than the highest point in Wyoming. At the bottom of the eastern slope of the Bighorns, the town of Sheridan lies at an elevation of 3964 feet. This means that the Bighorns offer an elevation change (9200ft) greater than that between Colorado Springs and Pike's Peak (8100ft), or Jackson and Grand Teton (7500ft). The central ridge of high peaks is protected within the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area, where wheeled vehicles of any kind (even pushcarts or bicycles) are not allowed. But much of the remaining National Forest land is easily accessible, even by passenger car. This brief guide will describe the main thoroughfares, some of the more accessible points of interest, and a few of the most popular roads for high-clearance vehicles.

Click Here for the Forest Service Overview Map
Click Here for the detailed Forest Service Travel Map

There are three paved highways which cross the Bighorn range from east to west. US Highway 14 exits I-90 at Ranchester and crosses the northern Bighorn Plateau, descending Shell Canyon to reach Greybull in the Bighorn Basin. US14A branches off from US14 at Burgess Junction to continue due west past the Medicine Wheel, descending some impressive switchbacks to reach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area and the town of Lovell. US16 ascends from the intersection of I-90 and I-25 at Buffalo to skirt the southern edge of the Cloud Peak Wilderness before descending Ten Sleep Canyon to reach Worland in the Bighorn Basin. All three of these well-paved, well-maintained roads have been designated as Scenic Byways by the AAA.

Continue on to Part 1: US14 from Dayton to Burgess Junction

Skip to:
Part 2: US14 from Burgess Junction to Greybull
Part 3: US14A from Burgess Junction to Lovell
Part 4: US16 from Buffalo to Worland
Part 5: 4WD Roads - Red Grade Road and Crazy Woman Canyon