SHERIDAN — Fall is a wonderful time to enjoy the Bighorn National Forest. Whether you’re hiking, camping, hunting or enjoying the fall scenery, these reminders will help make your visit to the forest a safe and enjoyable one.
Black bears roam throughout the Bighorns, so be prepared to share the forest with black bears. Keep a clean camp, separate your sleeping area from your cooking area, don’t sleep in the same clothes you wore while cooking food, keep bear spray handy and know how to use it. Bears are actively seeking food this time of year and while camping in the forest remains largely safe, it’s still smart to be careful. Ensure attractants such as pet food, drinks and coolers are kept out of reach of wildlife. Motorized travel in the Bighorn National Forest is limited to routes designated and posted as open to motor vehicles. To make sure your route is legal, contact any Bighorn National Forest office before you go. Free motor vehicle use maps are available at all ranger district offices and on the web at https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/bighorn/maps-pubs.
Every year, the Forest Service spends hundreds of thousands of dollars repairing damage to roads and signs. Complying with travel regulations and avoiding driving on wet roads and trails will reduce ruts and other damage, so please be kind to the roads and trails.
Several campgrounds are open for fall camping. Fees are not charged where services like drinking water and garbage collection are not provided, so campers should bring their own water and pack out their trash. Open campgrounds are listed on the web at https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/bighorn/recreation.
Some prefer to set up camps away from developed campgrounds in areas without picnic tables or outhouses. Dispersed camping is allowed in most areas of the BNF. Unless otherwise posted, motorized travel for camping is allowed within 300 feet of motorized routes, provided the activity does not cause resource damage. Motorized routes that allow dispersed camping within the 300-feet centerline are shown on the motor vehicle use map. To help protect the land and water and ensure these areas can be enjoyed for many years, camp at least 200 feet from trails, lakes or wet meadows and 100 feet from streams or creeks. Pack out all garbage, and don’t tie stock to trees.
Special regulations apply in the West Tensleep Corridor and the Cloud Peak Wilderness, so it’s best to check with the Powder River Ranger District office in Buffalo before camping or hiking in those areas. Registration is required to enter the Cloud Peak Wilderness. Forms and information about wilderness regulations are on the web at http://1.usa.gov/1v0aG0j. Pay attention to weather forecasts to be prepared for variances in mountain weather, which can drop temperatures below freezing and send heavy snow with little notice. Fall is a great time to gather firewood. Firewood permits cost $6 per cord, with a 4-cord minimum and 12-cord maximum per year. Contact any Bighorn National Forest office for information about firewood permits or visit the forest products page on the Bighorn’s website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/bighorn/recarea/?recid=80618.
It’s hunting season, so be sure to wear clothing that distinguishes you from wildlife. While cattle and sheep should be out of the forest in early October, a few strays may linger. If you see cows or sheep on the mountain, please call the Forest Service and report the location and, if possible, describe the brand or any distinguishing marks so the livestock owner can be notified.
Fire danger in the Bighorns is moderate, so please remember Smokey Bear by never leaving a campfire unattended and ensuring your campfire is dead out before you break camp.
When in the Cloud Peak Wilderness, campfires are not allowed above 9,200 feet in elevation. Below 9,200 feet, campfires must be built on a fire blanket or fire pan.
Contact any ranger district office for more information about fall recreation. In Buffalo, call the Powder River Ranger District at 307-684-7806. In Sheridan, call the Tongue Ranger District at 307-674-2600. In Greybull, call the Medicine Wheel Ranger District at 307-765-4435.
Bighorn National Forest employees wish everyone a safe and enjoyable experience throughout the year.