North-central Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest is one of the oldest national forests in the United States, but it was popular long before it was officially designated. This breathtaking land has been welcoming people to wander through its majestically crafted contours for hundreds of years. Everyone from Native Americans to homesteaders to today’s adventure-seekers have traveled its trails.
The best part about Bighorn’s national forest designation? Civilization can’t interfere with the more than 1 million acres molded by the Big Horn Mountains’ dominating presence. This means visitors are treated to undisturbed rolling hills, alpine lakes, craggy cliffs, thick pine forests and that bigger-than-life feeling that’s increasingly hard to find.
Most people enter the forest near the towns of Lovell, Sheridan, Dayton, Greybull, Ten Sleep and Buffalo. Here are some ideas to help you get started exploring Bighorn’s vast territory year-round:
Things to Do in Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest
Fifteen hundred miles of trail invite visitors to explore on horseback, two-wheels or your own two feet. Because of the sheer amount of land, it’s hard to know where to begin, so use the forest’s website to plan a day trip or overnighter starting from the trailheads located near towns surrounding the forest.
The no-cars-allowed Cloud Peak Wilderness Area sits right in the middle of the wilderness area and is ideal for hiking, backpacking and some quiet time with just you and your surroundings. Cloud Peak boasts the Bighorn Mountain range’s tallest peaks, along with some of Wyoming’s most gorgeous and high-altitude scenery. Hike the 13,167 Cloud Peak itself, the focal peak of the Cloud Peak Wilderness, during the summer climbing season and earn your thirteener (mountains higher than 13,000 feet) stripes.
Anglers reel in supper at one of the many crystalline lakes, streams, reservoirs and rivers that spot the area with rainbow, cutthroat, brook and Yellowstone trout at the ready.
Camping at one of the forest’s 32 sites is great way to really delve into the lesser-known hideaways that make this area special (read: you have a lot of land to explore and one day isn’t enough). Visit the forest’s official website for camping permit details. All this pristine wilderness creates the ideal habitat for an abundance of wildlife. Keep a sharp eye out for moose, elk, black bears and beavers.
Visitors during the winter months ski at the Meadowlark Ski Lodge; snowmobile on 387 miles of trails; or tromp lightly on snowshoes or cross-country skis along the forest’s eight designated trails. Warm up and build a fire in the Sibley Ski or Pole Creek warming huts.
Prefer putting the pedal to the metal? In addition to trails for off-roading, the forest has two scenic byways that venture into the forest’s massive domain: Bighorn Scenic Byway and Cloud Peak Skyway.
Bighorn National Forest has two visitors’ centers, where a welcoming hello and local insider tips are the perfect start to your trip. For more trip ideas, read Cowboy-Up in the Bighorns, a detailed guide about experiencing the area with the Wild West in mind.
Bighorn National Forest is must-stop destination during a broader Wyoming vacation. Use our road trip itineraries to connect the dots across the state.