The Bighorn National Forest is located in northcentral Wyoming
and is comprised of 1.1 million acres. There are thirty-one
developed campgrounds of which twenty-two meet the selection
With it's diverse landscape of towering mountains, spectacular canyons, and vast mountain meadows, the Bighorn National Forest is probably the most photogenic of the national forests in America. Three Scenic Byways, the Bighorn, Cloud Peak, and Medicine Wheel, traverse the National Forest providing memorable views and access to wide variety of wonderful recreational opportunities and camping locations.
The Medicine Wheel Scenic Byway, US Highway 14A (also known as Medicine Wheel Passage), reaches across high mountain meadows from Burgress Junction to Lovell, Wyoming across the Medicine and Bald mountains. Wide open expanses along the Byway appear lonely places but look carefully. Moose, elk, and deer share these alpine meadows with free ranging domestic sheep. Medicine Wheel Scenic Byway is a seasonal road, open May through November, with grades of more than ten percent along some stretches and is the primary route to the Medicine Wheel Historic Landmark. Designated a Historic Landmark in 1970, Medicine Wheel is an important and holy place for Native Americans. Used by Crow, Cheyenne, Sioux and other Native American people, the Forest Service requests visitors to not disturb or remove anything in or around the Medicine Wheel.
Near the Medicine Wheel Scenic Byway are Porcupine and Bald
Mountain campgrounds. Well suited for car, tent, and motorhome/recreational vehicle camping, these campgrounds offer panoramic views of alpine meadows and mountains from sites nestled among wind-swept conifers. (A note of caution - there is no gasoline station or grocery store within twenty-five miles of these campgrounds. Be sure to bring enough supplies and fuel for your stay.)
At the southern end of the Bighorn National Forest is Cloud Peak Scenic Byway (US Highway 16) which links Buffalo and Ten Sleep, Wyoming. Several places along the Byway provide views of the Cloud Peak Wilderness. Each peak in the Wilderness has a different appearance and further illustrates the topographic variety found in the Bighorn National Forest.
Just east of Tensleep is Leigh Creek campground. This small campground stretches along the banks of Tensleep Creek in the glacier and water carved Tensleep canyon. Leigh Creek offers good trout fishing as well as a close up view of the dramatic transition of the terrain. The steep red and white limestone canyon walls contrast with the green juniper and shimmering aspen to provide an attractive campground experience.
Further to the east, and 3,000 feet higher, is Meadowlark Lake and its surrounding campgrounds. Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930's, this Lake has long been a popular recreation spot. Lakeview campground overlooks the Lake and provides easy access to boating and fishing
opportunities. Boulder Park, Island Park, and Sitting Bull campgrounds are not as convenient to Meadowlark Lake but are close enough for consideration. While the sites are tucked in among the conifers, most have a view of the meadow and the wildlife that come for an evening drink from Tensleep Creek and snack on the lush grass.
If the campgrounds around Meadowlark Lake are delightful, campground must be the area's jewel. Located at the end of a long and rather rough, dirt road, West Tensleep Lake campground overlooks this pristine lake at the edge of the Cloud Peak Wilderness. A nearby trailhead provides access to a extensive network of trails for the Wilderness. However, this campground is also great for just sitting, reading, or quiet contemplation of the area's beauty.
Bighorn Scenic Byway (US Highway 14) offers not only spectacular geological sights, such as Sand Turn and Fall City, but delightful campgrounds and insight to the area's history. Evidence of the earlier logging and tie hack industry can be found in preserved flumes and dams along Forest Route 26. The efforts and workmanship of the CCC are also found in the many Ranger and Guard Stations scattered throughout the Forest.
Sibley Lake, originally constructed by the CCC in 1937, was named for the leader of an Army scouting party which was attacked in the area in 1876. Sibley Lake campground offers a delightful forest setting and electric hook-ups – ideal for RV and motorhome camping. A slightly more rustic, better suited to car and tent camping, but equally attractive campground, Prune Creek, stretches along the pretty stream of the same name.
Near the junction of US Highways 14A and 14, Bighorn National Forest has constructed the Burgess Junction Visitor Center. The center is a focal point for interpretive programs given in this portion of the Forest. Something is always going on. Stop by and ask about the schedule.
Two unique Bighorn National Forest campgrounds are Cabin Meadows (formerly Cabin Creek Trailer Park) and Boulder Park. Constructed by a local mining company for it's employees, the campgrounds were turned over to the Forest Service years ago. These campgrounds feature 30-day limits and site-specific grey water disposal facilities. Otherwise, these campgrounds are relatively rustic. Boulder Park does boast good fishing in nearby Meadowlark Lake and an active community of regular campers. On the other hand, Cabin Creek Trailer Park has little to offer except vistas of Shell Canyon.
Shell Canyon provides visitors a wondrous look at the Bighorn Mountains. Carved by water over millions of years, colorful layers of sedimentary rock are easily seen. Shell Falls, located about midway down Shell Canyon, with a 3600 gallons per second flow, follows the course of fractures in the pink and grey granite. A short interpretative trail and small visitor center at Shell Falls provide information and insight to the battle between rock and water.
Formed eons ago and shaped by glaciers, wind and water over the years, the Bighorn National Forest rises up from the surrounding grassland. It takes only one visit to understand why this area was highly valued by the Crow, Sioux, Cheyenne, Eastern Cheyenne, and Arapaho people. The beauty and grandeur found in the Bighorn National Forest calls visitors back time and time again.
2013 Eastside 2nd St.
Sheridan, Wyoming 82801
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
604 East Main
Lovell, Wyoming 82431
1415 Fort St.
Buffalo, Wyoming 82834
2013 Eastside 2nd St.
Sheridan, Wyoming 82801