Top Places to Visit in the Bighorn Mountains

From deep canyons to roaring waterfalls, you can experience it all in the Bighorn Mountains!
A roaring waterfall rushing down a canyon
Published on
August 21, 2023

Introduction

The Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming are a majestic range of mountains known for their rugged beauty and diverse landscapes. Stretching across 120 miles, these mountains are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy activities like hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife watching. With towering peaks, lush forests, and trickling streams, the Bighorn Mountains provide a captivating escape into nature's wonders.

#1 Sibley Lake:

Sibley Lake is a must-see, beautiful alpine lake located in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. The lake is situated at an elevation of 8,731 feet (2,661 meters) above sea level and is surrounded by stunning mountain views.

The lake is named after Captain E. G. Sibley, who was a member of the 1874 expedition to the Bighorn Mountains led by General George A. Custer. Sibley was the first member of the expedition to reach the lake and named it in his honor.

Sibley Lake is a popular destination for fishing, hiking, and camping. The lake is stocked with trout by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and fishing is allowed with a valid fishing license. We make it easy for you by selling fishing licenses right here at the lodge! The lake is also surrounded by several hiking trails, including the Sibley Lake Trail, which is a 2.5-mile (4 km) trail that circles the lake.

#2 Bucking Mule Falls:

Bucking Mule Falls is one of the many spectacular waterfalls located in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. The falls are situated in the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area and are part of the North Fork of the Powder River.

Bucking Mule Falls is a series of cascading waterfalls that drop over 100 feet (30 meters) in total. The falls are surrounded by a lush forest and offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

To reach Bucking Mule Falls, visitors must hike a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) trail that begins at the West Tensleep Trailhead. The trail is moderately difficult and includes a gradual ascent through a forested area, with several switchbacks that offer panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The trail then descends to the base of the falls, where visitors can enjoy the breathtaking view of the cascading water.

Bucking Mule Falls is a perfect place to hike and enjoy the outdoors. There are also several camping and fishing options close to the falls. The nearby West Tensleep Lake is a popular spot for fishing, with rainbow and brook trout commonly found in the lake.

Visitors should take precautions when hiking and exploring the area, including carrying bear spray and being aware of potential wildlife encounters.

#3 Dead Swede:

If you’re looking for a bit of history while in the Bighorn Mountains, the historic mining town of Dead Swede is a perfect spot to visit. Dead Swede was established in the late 1800s as a gold and silver mining camp and was named after a Swedish miner who was reportedly killed by Native Americans in the area.

The town of Dead Swede was home to several hundred residents at its peak, including miners, their families, and other support staff. The town had a school, a post office, a general store, and several saloons and boarding houses. The town also had a smelter, which was used to process the gold and silver ore extracted from the nearby mines.

The mining industry in Dead Swede began to decline in the early 1900s, and the town was eventually abandoned by the 1930s. Today, visitors to the area can still see the remains of the town, including the foundations of the buildings and the smelter.

The Dead Swede Trail is a hiking trail that leads visitors through the remains of the town and up to the nearby high peaks of the Bighorn Mountains. The trail is approximately 4.5 miles (7.2 km) round-trip and is considered moderately difficult.


#4 Twin Buttes:

Twin Buttes is a prominent rock formation located in the Bighorn Mountains. The formation comprises two distinct peaks that rise above the surrounding landscape and can be seen right out the front doors of Bear Lodge Resort.

The two peaks of Twin Buttes are approximately 2,400 feet (730 meters) high, and they are separated by a narrow saddle. The peaks are composed of granite and have a distinctive red color, making them a striking sight against the green forests of the Bighorn Mountains.

Hiking to the summit of Twin Buttes is a desired activity for visitors to the area. The trailhead for the hike is located near the Tie Flume historic site, and the trail is approximately 3.5 miles (5.6 km) round-trip. The trail is considered moderately difficult, with a steep ascent to the saddle between the two peaks, followed by a scramble up the granite rocks to the summit.

From the summit of Twin Buttes, hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the Bighorn Mountains and the surrounding landscape. The hike is known to be the most picturesque in the Fall when the leaves of the aspen trees in the area turn vibrant shades of yellow and gold.

#5 Tongue River Canyon:

The Tongue River Canyon offers opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing. The canyon is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species, including deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and black bears.

Fishing is what the Tongue River Canyon is most known for, with the river offering opportunities to catch trout, grayling, and other species. The Tongue River is known for its clear waters and scenic beauty, making it a favorable spot for fly fishing.

The Tongue River Trail is a hike that follows the river through the canyon and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The trail is approximately 11 miles (17.7 km) round-trip and is considered moderately difficult.

Camping is also available in the Tongue River Canyon, with several campgrounds located in the area. The Tongue River Campground is located near the mouth of the canyon and offers tent and RV camping, as well as fishing access to the river.

#6 Shell Falls:

No trip to the Bighorn Mountains is complete without a trip to Shell Falls. Shell Falls is a beautiful and powerful waterfall offering a quick stop off the road. Travelers needn't fear a strenuous hike at these falls, the only worries are some stairs and perhaps the occasional critter crossing their path.

The falls are accessible by a short, paved trail that leads visitors from the parking area to a viewing platform overlooking the waterfall. The waterfall is part of the Shell Creek drainage, which flows through a series of canyons and gorges before dropping over the falls and continuing on to join the Bighorn River.

The waterfall itself is approximately 120 feet (36.6 meters) high and is particularly powerful in late spring.

#7 Porcupine Falls:

One of the most prominent waterfalls in the Bighorn Mountains is Porcupine Falls. The hike to access the falls is a short and moderate one that leads visitors from the parking area to a viewing platform overlooking the waterfall. Along with offering opportunities for hiking, Porcupine Falls also has opportunities for wildlife viewing and enjoying the beauty of the natural surroundings

The waterfall itself is approximately 200 feet (61 meters) high and drops over a series of cascades and pools before plunging into a deep pool at the base of the falls. The water that flows over the falls is crystal clear and comes from snowmelt and springs in the surrounding mountains.

In addition to the waterfall, Porcupine Falls is also known for its rich wildlife habitat. The area is home to bighorn sheep, black bears, and a variety of bird species.

Overall, The Bighorn Mountains are a beautiful and remote destination, offering visitors a chance to experience the beauty and diversity of the natural world. The area is rugged and unspoiled, providing a true wilderness experience for those who venture out to explore it.

#8 Shell Canyon:

Flowing through the rugged terrain of the Bighorn Mountains, Shell Creek carved out Shell Canyon. A deep and dramatic canyon, Shell Canyon is a perfect spot to witness The Bighorn's raw natural beauty. The canyon is home to deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and black bears.

The most popular trail in this area is the Shell Canyon Trail, which follows the creek through the canyon and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The trail is approximately 6 miles (9.6 km) round-trip and is considered moderately difficult.

Camping is also available in Shell Canyon, with several campgrounds located in the area. The Shell Creek Campground is located near the mouth of the canyon and offers tent and RV camping, as well as fishing access to the creek.

#9 Medicine Wheel:

Medicine Wheel is a sacred site located just 30 minutes away from Bear Lodge Resort. It is a stone structure that was created on the top of a mountain peak, at an elevation of 9,642 feet above sea level.

The Medicine Wheel has been used by various indigenous peoples for different purposes over the centuries. It is a sacred site that has been used for thousands of years by Native American tribes in the region, including the Crow, Cheyenne, and Sioux.

The trail to get there is a 2.8-mile out-and-back trail. It is generally considered an easy route and should take an average of 1-1.5 hours to complete.

Conclusion

This list barely scratches the surface of all of the incredible things to do here in the Bighorn Mountains. With hundreds of miles of isolated and rugged terrain, there are countless opportunities for adventure to be found here. Bear Lodge Resort has direct access to all of these activities which makes it the perfect launching point for your visit.

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