Best Hikes in Bighorn National Forest

Best Hikes in Bighorn National Forest

Bighorn National Forest Sign

You will definitely find the best hikes in Bighorn National Forest in northern Wyoming, that offer a wide range of stunning hikes. Diverse landscapes, high plateaus, deep canyons and vast wilderness areas will take your breath away. There are a variety of day hikes in Bighorn that are perfect for beginners, those looking for a leisurely stroll through nature, or even if you are looking for a bit more of a challenge. Exploring on foot is one of the best things I love to do!

If you are new to hiking, then check out the post on hiking for beginners. You can also download a free hiking checklist there.

Disclaimer: This post may include affiliate links. If you click one of them, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Some of the best Bighorn mountain hiking trails that we experienced were part of our northern Wyoming road trip. We do not hike to get to the top as fast as possible. We do not do anything that would be considered difficult. We take our time, take in the scenery, connect with nature and the views along the way.

Below you will find a description of the best hikes Bighorn National Forest has to offer. We also included some hikes that we didn’t get a chance to conquer this time around but will plan to do on our next visit to northern Wyoming. Here are some of the best hikes in Bighorn.

Bighorn National Forest

If you are traveling across Wyoming, there is a good chance you will go through Bighorn National Forest. There are three routes that will take you through the forest, with spectacular views along the way. You can travel on the Bighorn Scenic Byway (US-14), Medicine Wheel Passage Scenic Byway (US-14A) or Cloud Peak Skyway (US16). If you are looking for a great place to stay that has easy access to lots of these trails, check out the post on Place to Stay in Wyoming.

Map of Bighorn National Forest for easy hikes in Wyoming

Shell Falls

| Location: Highway 14, Bighorn Scenic Byway; 1 hour from Lovell |
Distance: 0.5 kms (0.3 miles) | Difficulty: Easy | Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash |
| Loop Route | Elevation: minimal | Washrooms: Yes |

This easy walk is a great introduction to the area and experience of this area. Shell Falls is 120 feet (37 metres) in height and even though it is not very high, it is still an impressive site to see, as is the whole area around you. Just sit and take it in!

Shell Falls, Bighorn National Forest

Bucking Mule Trail

| Location: Highway 14A, Medicine Wheel Passage; 1 hour from Lovell |
Distance: 7.9 kms (4.9 miles) | Difficulty: Easy – Moderate | Out & Back |
| Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash | Elevation: 138 metres (450 feet) | Washrooms: Yes |

The trail starts out with a nice easy trek through the forest.

Entering forest on Bucking Mule Trail

You will see wildflowers, high mountain prairies, and possibly some wildlife.

Eventually you leave the forested area and walk alongside the rocky edge, but don’t worry, you are not close to the edge. You will see the beautiful rocks across the canyon. There were minimal ups and downs while on the trail, enough to get your heart pumping just a little bit. It’s quite open as you work your way up, so ensure you have lots of water.

Once you get to the top, the view is absolutely amazing. You feel on top of the world as you peer down into Devils Canyon from the Bucking Mule Falls Overlook.

Devils Canyon Wyoming

If you look to the right, you will see Bucking Mule Falls. Though you are not close to the waterfall, it is still a powerful site as it runs 600 feet into the canyon below. Hands down, one of the best hikes in Bighorn with the outstanding views.

Tongue River Canyon Trail

| Location: 2 hours from Lovell, or 40 minutes from Sheridan |
Distance: 7.7 kms (4.7 miles) | Difficulty: Easy – Moderate | Out & Back |
| Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash | Elevation: 253 metres (830 feet) | Washrooms: Yes |

The trail starts out by the river (where you can wade in afterwards) and slowly rises up the canyon walls and you go deeper in. The river slowly disappears, but the views of the mesmerizing limestone walls, and the canyon are excellent.

As you go along the side of the canyon, you traverse through some open fields with mountains on the side. Look for turkey vultures soaring in the sky above you and listen for the birds calling to feel the connection to nature.

If you follow a map like Alltrails, the trail ends when you get to a little river crossing. It’s a great place to take your hiking boots off and wade in the water, relax and have a bite to eat and take in your surroundings.

Make sure you are aware of your surroundings as one person we met after we finished the hike, encountered a snake on the trail. Be aware of the wildlife as there can be bears in the area as well.

Tongue River, Bighorn Mountains; start of an easy hike in Wyoming

Definitely another one of the best day hikes in Bighorn that you have to do!

Tip: If you are doing this hike in the summer, plan on an early start because it is an open area with minimal shade, so it gets very hot. It would be a great spring or fall hike.

South Piney Creek Trail

| Location: 30 minutes from Sheridan |
Distance: 4.0 kms (2.5 miles) | Difficulty: Easy | Out & Back |
| Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash | Elevation: 137 metres (449 feet) | Washrooms: No |

  • Location: 30 minutes from Sheridan
  • Dog Friendly: Yes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 2.5 miles (4.0kms)
  • Elevation: 449 feet (137 metres)  

This was a nice easy walk, with a few hills along the way, but mostly by the river. There were lots of opportunities to have a quick cool down in the river. We even shared the path with some horseback riders.

Tonge River Canyon, Big Horn Mountains
South Piney Creek Trail
South Piney Creek

More of the Best Easy Hikes To Explore in Bighorn:

Porcupine Falls Trail

| Location: Highway 14A, Medicine Wheel Passage; 1 hour from Lovell (Close to Bucking Mule Trail) |
Distance: 1.3 kms (0.8 miles) | Difficulty: Moderate | Out & Back |
| Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash | Elevation: 110 metres (360 feet) | Washrooms: No |

Even though this is not a long hike, it’s considered a bit challenging because the trail down is rocky and steep. It is definitely doable because the end result is an up close and personal view of a waterfall from a pool.

This is a hidden gem that I will definitely be doing the next time I am in Wyoming.

Porcupine Falls, Bighorn National Forest
Source:  Johnny T. Cheng world-of-waterfalls.com

Medicine Wheel Trail

| Location: Highway 14A, Medicine Wheel Passage; 40 minutes from Lovell |
Distance: 4.5 kms (2.8 miles) | Difficulty: Easy | Out & Back |
| Dog Friendly: Yes on the trail to it but not on the circular walking path surrounding the Medicine Wheel |
| Elevation: 84 metres (275 feet) |

This trail follows a dirt service road, with no shade, so be prepared for the heat during the summer months. You end up at a stone structure that is considered sacred to the Native Americans and there are often ceremonies occurring there.

It may not be your typical hike but there are amazing views with a historical ending that will be worth the hike.

Medicine Wheel, Bighorn National Forest Wyoming
Source:  Billings Gazette
Devil's Canyon Overlook, Bighorn Canyon

Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area

Even though this area is slightly outside of the Bighorn National Forest, it is definitely worth exploring and you will find the best easy hikes in Wyoming.  Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area is 120,000 acres, which border the Bighorn Mountains.

You will find a diverse landscape of mountains, upland prairies, canyons with 1000-foot cliffs, valleys and deserts to explore on foot or by car. The area crosses the border between Wyoming and Montana. In the South district, accessed from Lovell, you will find 12 hiking trails that vary in difficulty and length. You can find the list of hikes here

Rangers Delight Trail

| Location: Highway 37N, 1.5 miles after crossing into Montana (20 minutes from Lovell) | Out & Back |
| Distance: 1.1 kms (0.8 miles) | Difficulty: Easy |
| Dog Friendly: Yes | Elevation: 40 metres (131 feet) |

You start this trail right off of the road, and you venture slowly up the trail through what seems like a desert, towards the canyon. Eventually you venture to the rim where the trail ends.

Here you will get unique and amazing views of the Canyon. There are a few other trails that venture off of this one that are worth exploring if you have time. 

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Wyoming

NOTE: During the summer this area gets very hot, so plan accordingly. Due to the hot weather we didn’t do alot of hiking, but we explored the Canyon area for the day. You can find more details on the area here.


Tips for Hiking in Wyoming

  • Drink lots of of water especially during the summer
  • Wear hiking boots or good, sturdy shoes
  • Be aware of your surroundings. There may be rattlesnakes anywhere in Bighorn National Forest or Bighorn Canyon. Although they generally shy away from people, you need to watch where you put your hands and feet
  • Wear sunscreen, a broad brimmed hat, and sunglasses to keep protected from the sun
  • Check yourself and your dog for ticks
  • Respect the wildlife. We are in their home

If you are looking for tips and what you need, then you can download our free hiking checklist,to make sure you have everything you need for your hikes.

As you can see, these are some of the best hikes in Bighorn National Forest. We only had a few days so we couldn’t explore as much as we would like, but we loved this area so much that we plan to come back soon.

For great travel ideas in Wyoming, read about my Northern Wyoming road trip and the best Places to Stay in Wyoming.

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5 Comments

  1. Bighorn National Forest looks like a great place to hike and enjoy some time outdoors. As a pup lover, I love that it’s dog-friendly! Your pictures are fabulous!

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