The Bighorn Mountains are an isolated range which uplifted some 60 million years ago. “Virtually every era of geologic time can be viewed in exposed rock strata as travelers venture from foothills to high alpine peaks.” Elevations range from 5,500 feet at the lower boundaries to 13,175 at the summit of Cloud Peak. The Forest encompasses more than a million acres of diverse landscapes and extends 30 miles across and 80 miles in length.
Large open meadows provide the opportunity to view native flora and fauna. More than three hundred species of wildlife inhabit the region, including mule deer and moose. Late June and early July are spectacular for viewing wildflowers. Goshawks and gray jays inhabit the timber year-round. Other birds in the area include red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, and great horned owls.
If you decide an afternoon drive on a highway is to your liking take U. S. Highway 14 to the Bighorns. As you travel up the mountain, several turnouts are available for viewing the breathtaking landscapes below. Once in the forest, be especially watchful at open meadows, for deer, moose and other wildlife. Stop at the Forest Service Visitor Center near Burgess Junction. See beautiful Shell Canyon and Shell Falls. This highway provides year-round access.
Big Horn to Dayton
This tour of the Big Horn mountains can be taken in the summer and fall but not recommended for use by cars. Once the snow flies this route, which has miles of primitive dirt roads, is closed and access is limited to snowmobiles. A four-wheel drive or a vehicle with high clearance is recommended. Start at Big Horn just 16 miles south of Sheridan and follow the Red Grade Road up the mountain to the pavement. Near Park Reservoir watch for moose grazing in the fast moving waters of Rapid Creek.
Follow U. S. 14 down the mountain on the north to I-90 and then on to Sheridan. Maps, to provide you with additional options on this route, are available from the Bighorn National Forest Service office. This tour is a full day and can be extended in to several if camping is your mode of overnight sleeping arrangements.
Kerns Wildlife Habitat Management Area
ElkThis area is located 12 miles northwest of Parkman in the Bighorns. Take Pass Creek Road, County Road 144, to the west and watch for the signs for the Kerns Wildlife Habitat Management Area. This area provides crucial winter range for approximately 800 elk. It consists of foothills and deep canyons and also provides habitat for wild turkeys, grouse, small mammals, black bear, and mountain lions.
The Little Bighorn River is located in this management area. Rainbow trout, brown trout and whitefish are the catch of the day in this river. Cutthroat and brook trout can be fished in the nearby creeks. Hiking opportunities are extensive but vehicular access is limited and not recommended for cars. Be advised Wyoming hunting and fishing licenses are not valid on the Crow Indian Reservation or in Montana.
East of Sheridan on US 14 are vast riparian areas which provide diverse habitat for a great variety of birds. Ospreys, great blue herons, yellow warblers and red-winged blackbirds nest in large stands of trees and bushes which follow the creeks east of town. Bald eagles train their young near Clearmont in the winter months. Watch for deer and small mammals who inhabit the hay fields adjacent to the roadways.