The Bighorn National Forest is a popular destination for many people visiting from midwestern states and is a special place for locals to get outdoors. While winter may seem to limit the diversity of recreation opportunities, there is still a wide variety of activities for everyone.
Many of us may think of snowmobiling or skiing and snowshoeing as the only options to get out this time of year. Contrary to that belief, the Bighorn National Forest offers that and more! While, most roads are snow covered and not open to wheeled motorized vehicles, driving mountain highways still provides ample opportunities to view scenery and wildlife. Moose, mule deer and smaller mammals are still active this time of year. With winter being an especially difficult time for wildlife, remember to observe them from a distance without following or approaching them.
“In the early morning I like to walk my dog on a quiet trail,” says Dave Mckee, Bighorn National Forest Recreation Program Manager. “It is especially amazing in the winter, with the snow gently falling as my dog tracks the trails of animals that walked here before us. I enjoy the silence and calm the mountain brings.”
Camping in the winter may not sound as inviting as in the summer, but if done right it can be rewarding and fun. Be sure to naturalize the area before you leave by dismantling snow caves or shelters and cleaning up your fire. Spread the cool ashes widely and smooth any holes that may have melted as a result of your fire. Sometimes it is best to just pack in a camp stove. They heat quickly and cook your food better.
If you are not interested in roughing it in the snow, check out the Bighorn’s cabin rental program. We have two quaint winter options on the southern end of the forest for you to base your adventures. Pole Creek Cabin is located right off the Pole Creek Nordic trail system, which is open to skiing and snowshoeing. The Muddy Guard Cabin, near Crazy Woman Canyon road, can connect snowmobilers to trails right out the back door. With the land blanketed in snow, you will find a durable surface almost everywhere. Check first that the snow depth is sufficient to protect plants before snowmobiling or skiing.
Fat-tire bicycling is becoming more popular with the variety of groomed trails on the mountain. Remember to only take your fat-tire bike when snow conditions support the tires and won’t leave large ruts in trails. Avoid riding on ski trails with tracks set for skiing and watch out for others on the downhill. The fun doesn’t end there. There are opportunities for photography, sledding, ice fishing and more on the Bighorns. The important thing is to get outside and enjoy your forest. To end the day right, you may choose to stop in for hot chocolate at one of the six lodges located on or near the Bighorn National Forest.
Winter is a great time to be outdoors. As long as you plan ahead and practice sound outdoor ethics, the Bighorn National Forest will continue to be a great place to get away year-round. Get more tips at lnt.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter U.S. Forest Service-Bighorn National Forest.
Sara Evans Kirol is a public affairs specialist for the Bighorn National Forest.