Which means that this is the perfect day to debut our latest episode of The Backyard – and what a wild one it is!Our team braved absolutely insane temperatures, wind, and a massive snowstorm to bring you an epic winter backpacking experience in one of the most beautiful locations in the Bighorn Mountains. Why? Because we wanted to find out, once and for all, if a trip to Wyoming during the winter is “worth it.”
And also because we have fantastic partners at Black Mountain Nordic Club that groom and maintain our epic winter trail systems at Sibley Lake and Cutler Hill.
And because you can’t go winter backpacking without first chucking steel at
Bighorn Mountain Axe.
Shout out to our friends at the The Nelson Inn for hosting this episode’s co-host, Jim Wollenburg at the Wyoming Office of Tourism and to the crew at Welcome Market Hall for preparing a celebratory feast for our triumphant return to civilization.
We’re going to spoil the surprise; this was one of the most exciting, challenges, and rewarding experiences we’ve ever had in Wyoming. We can’t wait to share it with all of you.
The Forest Service calls Shell Falls the “Thundering Heartbeat of the Bighorn Mountains” for good reason; over the past million years Shell Creek has incised a deep chasm through the sedimentary stone and ancient granite. The water of Shell Falls, dropping at a rate of 3,600 gallons per second, follows fractures in the resistant granite to create a spectacular oasis in arid bighorn Mountain high country known as Shell Canyon. The canyon, named for the shell fossils found in the sedimentary canyon walls, has attracted thrill seekers for generations; there are dozens of hiking trails in the area, as well as campsites, Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area, and towering peaks like Copman’s Tomb.
Shell Falls draws thousands of visitors each year – the location features an interpretive site right off the Bighorn Scenic Byway, as well as a boardwalk to get closer to the falls – and serves as one of the most popular attractions in the entire region. But did you know that the Bighorns are home to many other waterfalls, some even more spectacular than Shell? It’s true! It’s science.
Our intrepid team set out to visit some of these marvels and to dip our toes into the water. From local favorites to unbelievable icons, we chased a half a dozen magnificent waterfalls on a journey that took us all over the northern Bighorn Mountains. Some were easy to get to, taking no more than a leisurely stroll to visit. Some could only be visited after an arduous hike. All were stunning, remarkable, and moving.
We have been waiting to release this episode for quite a while now. We had a long, long winter with rain and snow that found a way to cause havoc right through July. Conditions on many of our back roads were rather dicey (read: MUD) and we didn’t want to encourage anyone to visit places where they might get stuck or cause damage to the natural resources of the area. But the roads have dried out so we can explore once more. We never take for granted how fortunate we are to live in this spectacular place. It’s our honor to share it with you on this very special episode of The Backyard.
Remember: it is your responsibility to know of any US Forest Service road or trail restrictions in the national forest. Practice Leave No Trace principles and leave the mountains the way you found them for the next explorers to experience.
#ThatsWY #VisitSheridan #TheBackyard