Bighorn Mountain Loop
Estimated trip time – all day
US Alternate 14 wanders northeast through irrigated farmland, the product of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir irrigation project, to the town of Powell. Powell is the agricultural hub of northwestern Wyoming and home of Northwest College. Alternate 14 continues to the town of Lovell and across the head of Bighorn Lake.
Stop just outside of Lovell at the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Visitor Center. In this solar visitor center, the National Park Service provides information and interpretation of the area, its history and wildlife. Shortly beyond the visitor center, turn north on Wyoming 37 for a side trip to the Bighorn Canyon and the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, home to more than 120 free-roaming wild horses. Devils Canyon Overlook, 17 miles from the turnoff, gives you a spectacular view over the edge to the steep, colorful canyon walls and Bighorn Lake at the bottom. The Recreation Area offers fishing, boating, water-skiing, camping and hiking.
Follow US 14A to Burgess Junction. Half-way between Bighorn Lake and the junction, a three mile road accesses the Medicine Wheel, a mysterious 74 foot stone circle with 28 spokes. Some think that the wheel had religious or astronomical implications to an ancient Indian tribe. This wheel was present even before the Crow Indians arrived in the area in 1776.
At Burgess Junction, you will turn south onto US 14, and wind down the west slope of the Bighorn Mountains toward the town of Greybull. This drive offers views of lush meadowlands, sightings of wildlife, and the wonders of Shell Canyon. Be sure to stop at Shell Falls information area, where Shell Creek cascades down a steep pitch of granite.
The town of Greybull derives its name from a legendary albino bison bull said to be sacred to the Indians. The country surrounding the town may seem barren, but it shelters some of the world’s finest dinosaur fossil beds. US Highway 14-16-20 continues west to Cody through the badlands grazed by cattle and sheep since the days of early settlers. This approach to Cody offers a view of the Absaroka’s jagged ridges to the west, and of Heart Mountain, Cody Country’s sentinel, to the north.
The grade up to Burgess Junction is quite steep. You may wish to leave your trailer in Cody for this day trip.