The Bighorn Mountains have been continuously rated in Snowest Magazine’s “Top 15 Places to Snowmobile” and were featured in a Boondock Nation episode in 2019. With over 318 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in the Bighorn National Forest and 250” of snowfall annually, it’s easy to see why. But deciding which trails to explore first can be overwhelming; each trail has its own unique features with plenty of opportunities to dive off-trail to fully experience the Bighorn backcountry. We’ve chosen a few of our favorite and most scenic trails in the Bighorns; each trail listed below is accessible from either Bear Lodge Resort, Elk View Inn, or Arrowhead Lodge.
To view and download a current Bighorn National Forest snowmobile map, click here.
Sawmill Pass (Trail A)
Trail A is 30 miles out-and-back that weaves its way through dense pine forest on the eastern slope of the Bighorns. Sawmill Pass offers views of the jagged peaks of the Cloud Peak Wilderness, interpretive sites of American West history, and epic vistas of the Bighorn National Forest. To go along with views of some of the Bighorns highest peaks, including the 13,005ft Black Tooth, you’ll find pieces of iconic American West history like a historic tie-flume splash dam constructed in 1905.
Shell Creek (Trail P)
Meandering its way along the Western Slope of the Bighorn Mountains and starting at Granite Pass, Shell Creek is a 28.5 mile groomed trail until it reaches Paintrock where it continues on another 30 miles as an ungroomed marked trail. Shell Creek trail works its way around the backside of the 9,900ft Antelope Butte before winding down the deep Shell Canyon. Within the canyon, you’ll drop nearly 2,100ft, giving way to views of the Bighorn’s most dramatic canyons before climbing up the opposite side. Once you’ve made the climb, you’ll pass by Snowshoe Lodge recently purchased by pop-culture sensation, Kanye West.
Bear Lodge Swirl (Trail H)
One of the more popular trails, the Trail H loop follows Dayton Gulch Road and eventually connects to the Medicine Wheel Scenic Byway (which is a groomed trail from December-April) looping back to Bear Lodge. The Bear Lodge Swirl offers scenic vistas of the Bighorn National Forest and the Bighorn Basin with plenty of majestic sites along the way, including the famed granite cliffs known as the Twin Buttes. The buttes, named for their mirror-like images of each other, rise hundreds of feet above the Tongue River, making them one of the most picturesque sites in the Bighorns. If you time your ride just right, you can catch a sunset at Observation Point as the sun falls behind the Absaroka Range and Yellowstone National Park 100 miles across the desert basin below.
Black Mountain from Arrowhead Lodge (Trail C & S )
On the eastern slope of the Bighorns, this twisting trail works its way through the heart of the Bighorn National Forest and is most scenic after a fresh snowfall, when the pines are blanketed in white. Catch views of the famed South Fork Tongue River and work your way up the valley on Trail C. At the top of the valley, you’ll catch Trail A for a quarter mile before connecting to the Black Mountain Trail. Trail S continues on through the heart of the forest but offers plenty of opportunities to stop and soak in the views of the 9,400ft Black Mountain.
Jeff Shanor | Sheridan Travel & Tourism