SHERIDAN — Snow atop the Bighorn Mountains has started to disappear as temperatures in the area continue to rise. Many trees have blossom and wildlife has gotten more active with summer just around the bend.
As a result, more and more people will frequent the Bighorn National Forest. From a quick summit hike to long backpacking trips, the mountains just to the west of Sheridan provide something for every trail enthusiast.
Sara Evans Kirol — the trials and forest coordinator with the Bighorn National Forest — spends a good portion of her time in the national forest. Whether she’s performing tasks for work or enjoying the outdoors off the clock, frequenting the myriad of trails is one of Kirol’s favorite things to do.
Kirol finds value in most every trail within the Bighorn National Forest, but here are some that stick out to her:
Bucking Mules falls
The trail is located in the northwest section of the Bighorn National Forest. It’s a loop trail spanning 11.5 miles. Hikers can access the trailhead taking U.S. Highway 14A to Forest System Road 14.
“Most people go to the overlook and come back, but if you keep going, you experience a whole different world,” Kirol said. “You’re in that high country timber environment when you go out to the overlook. Then the trail opens up into this huge canyon with a dramatic waterfall and it’s beautiful. As you keep going around the rim of it you hit some some switchbacks and you go through seem beetle kill, which opens it up. … It’s just really interesting and really spectacular.”
Little horn trail
The trail is located at the northern edge of the Bighorn National Forest. It’s an out-and-back hike traversing 6.3 miles with 1,693 feet of elevation gain. Hikers can access the trailhead via Past Creek Road just north of Parkman.
“It’s really pretty, and it’s a little isolated, so you can get away from people,” Kirol said. “You follow the river, so there’s a variety of vegetation and ecosystems that you travel through.”
Steamboat point trail
best quick hike
The trail is located in the northern sector of the Bighorn National Forest. It’s an out-and-back hike, stretching 1.7 miles and ascending 700 feet. Hikers can access the trailhead just north of U.S. Highway 14 close to the parking area.
Panoramic views at the summit reward hikers for a dramatic elevation gain.
walker prairie trail
best backpacking trail
The trail is located on the eastern side of the Bighorn National Forest. It’s an out-and-back hike that spans 11.1 miles with 2,155 feet of elevation gain. Hikers can access the trail in multiple ways, but the most accessible one lies just south of U.S. Highway 14 across from the Steamboat Point parking area.
“This is one of the more primitive areas in the forest,” Kirol said. “There’s really cool geology up there and you can look down the face of the mountains in some places. There are little springs all through here. It’s just a fun trail.”
The trail is located in the southeast sector of the Bighorn National Forest. It’s an out-and-back hike that starts at the campground, and is a popular starting point for hikers with Cloud Peak on their mind. The trail sits just outside the Cloud Peak Wilderness and is not heavily traveled, lending itself to great wildlife viewing. Hikers can access the trailhead via U.S. Highway 16 to Forest System Road 19.
West tensleep trailhead
The trail is located on the western edge of the Cloud Peak Wilderness. This hike stands as one of the more popular to access Cloud Peak summit routes. Hikers can access the trailhead just north of U.S. Highway 16 near Meadowlark Lake.