Galloping across the prairie with manes and tails flying and hooves kicking up dust, there is nothing more iconic in the West than a wild horse. Whether you spot them racing like the wind, clustered around a waterhole or grazing contentedly, wild horses evoke a bit of the Old West, erasing the 21st and 20th centuries and shuttling you back to the 1800s.
One of the best spots to see wild horses is in southwestern Wyoming, just a tad north of Rock Springs on a landscape of sagebrush, native grasses and rock. Here, on the mesa-like summit of White Mountain, the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop Tour skitters roughly 23 miles along good, gravel-base roads. Travel this route and along the way you gain not only many chances to spy roans, blacks, paints, appaloosas and sorrels, but panoramic views of the Wyoming Range to the west, the Wind River Range to the northeast and the Uinta Range to the south.
Placed out along the route are a handful of kiosks that delve into the origin of the horses (most are descendants of horses long ago turned out by the region's ranchers) and reflect on the area's geography and history.
Though they say the best time to look for some of the 800–1,000 horses in the 392,000-acre White Mountain Management Area is from sunrise until about 9 a.m. or 10 a.m., no one gave that timetable to the horses, so you might get lucky any time of day.
Horses aren't the only animals on the landscape, of course, and pronghorn antelope, with their tawny-and-white coats, coal-black horns and skittish nature, appear from time to time. Sage grouse, coyotes and rabbits also live here, while overhead there's always a chance to spot hawks and eagles.
From start to finish, the loop covers roughly 50 miles and can easily take half a day, especially if you pack a lunch to enjoy along the way. Be sure, of course, to carry plenty of water, binoculars, a full tank of gas and a spare tire.
To begin the loop from Rock Springs, take exit 104 off Interstate 80 to U.S. 191 and continue north 14 miles to County Road 14. Turn left and head 2.5 miles to County Road 53, also on your left. From Green River, exit Interstate 80 at Flaming Gorge Way, turn left onto Trona Drive at the next intersection and follow it north as it turns into a dirt road and passes beneath the interstate.
When you go, check with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management at 307-352-0256 to see if they're conducting any wild horse roundups or auctions. At their Rock Springs Field Office along U.S. 191 just 1.5 miles north of Interstate 80, they've built a viewing area overlooking the corrals where the roundups conclude and the auctions are held.