Bighorn National Forest


Cloud Peak in Bighorn National Forest
Cloud Peak in Bighorn National Forest
Shell Falls
Shell Falls

Bighorn National Forest sits atop the Bighorn Mountains, a sister range of the Rocky Mountains. The forest preserves lush alpine meadows and grasslands, rolling hills and sheer vertical granite walls, glacier-carved valleys and crystal clear lakes. Midway between Yellowstone National Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Bighorn Mountains are a complete vacation destination in themselves.

With three scenic byways, fourteen picnic areas, thirty-two campgrounds, more than a thousand miles of trails, thousands of miles of fishing streams, hundreds of mountain lakes and more than 189,000 acres of wilderness, Bighorn National Forest is quite the place.

The majority of Forest Service campgrounds are operated and maintained by a private concessionaire. Most campgrounds have drinking water, toilets, trash bins, picnic tables, and fire grates, just pay your fees at the campground entrance. If you need firewood to burn during your stay, just make sure it's already dead and down. During hunting season, any campground that isn't gated is available for use for no, but there are no services available - including dump stations. You'll need to bring your own water and live by "Pack it in, pack it out" rules. Some campgrounds have extended stay sites but most stays are limited to fourteen days in any 30-day period. Most campgrounds are "first come, first served." The developed campgrounds start to open in mid-May and start to close shortly after Labor Day. Camping in undeveloped sites is no and allowed in most of the Forest, just watch for signs about restricted areas.

Three scenic byways travel in the forest: the Cloud Peak Skyway, the Bighorn Scenic Byway and the Medicine Wheel Passage.

A view in Bighorn National Forest
A view in Bighorn National Forest along the Bighorn Scenic Byway
Map of Bighorn National Forest
Bighorn National Forest map
Medicine Wheel National Historic Site, Bighorn National Forest
The Medicine Wheel in Bighorn National Forest
Campgrounds on Bighorn National Forest
Medicine Wheel Ranger District
Campground Elevation # of Sites Unit Length Reserve Fees Season Drinking water Accessible Notes
Bald Mountain 9,200 15 55' yes yes 6/15-9/5 yes yes  
Cabin Creek 7,400' 4 35' no yes 5/15-9/20 yes no  
Cabin Creek Meadows 7,400' 26 60' yes yes 5/25-9/20 yes no  
Lower Paint Rock Lake 9,300' 4 45' no yes 6/20-9/5 yes no  
Medicine Lodge Lake 9,300' 8 45' no yes 6/20-9/5 yes no  
Porcupine 8,900' 16 70' no yes 6/15-9/5 yes yes  
Ranger Creek 7,600' 10 35' yes yes 5/15-9/20 yes no reservations for group site only
Shell Creek 7,500' 15 60' yes yes 5/15-9/20 yes yes  
Upper Paint Rock Lake 9,300' 4 40' no yes 6/20-9/5 yes no  
 
Powder River Ranger District
Campground Elevation # of Sites Unit Length Reserve Fees Season Drinking water Accessible Notes
Boulder Park 8,000' 39 50' yes yes 5/25-9/20 yes no  
Bull Creek 8,400' 10 25' yes yes 6/10-9/5 no no  
Circle Park 8,100' 10 25' no yes 5/25-9/20 yes no  
Crazy Woman 7,600' 6 25' no yes 5/25-9/20 yes no  
Deer Park 8,900' 7 35' no yes 6/10-9/5 yes no  
Doyle 8,100' 19 40' no yes 6/10-9/5 yes no  
Hettinger Group 7,600' Group   yes yes 5/15-9/20 yes no 150 people max
Hunter TH/CG 7,200' 9 30' yes yes 5/15-10/31 yes no  
Island Park 8,600' 10 40' no yes 6/15-9/5 yes no  
Lake View Recreation Area 8,300' 24 30' yes yes 6/10-9/5 yes no  
Leigh Creek 5,400' 11 40' no yes 5/15-9/20 yes no  
Lost Cabin 8,200' 19 45' yes yes 6/10-9/5 yes no  
Middle Fork 7,400' 9 60' yes yes 5/15-9/20 yes yes  
Sitting Bull 8,600' 42 70' yes yes 6/5-9/20 yes yes  
South Fork 7,800' 15 35' yes yes 5/15-9/20 yes no  
Tensleep Creek 5,400' 5 35' no yes 5/15-9/5 yes no  
Tie Hack 7,500' 20 70' yes yes 5/15-9/20 yes yes non-motorized boating
West Tensleep Lake 9,100' 10 35' yes yes 6/10-9/20 yes no  
Willow Park Group 8,600' Group   yes yes 6/5-9/20 yes no by reservation only
 
Tongue Ranger District
Campground Elevation # of Sites Unit Length Reserve Fees Season Drinking water Accessible Notes
Coffeen Park 8,500 6 20' no no 6/15-10/31 no no  
Cross Creek 8,400' 3 40' no no 6/15-10/31 no no  
Dead Swede 8,400' 22 40' yes yes 6/5-9/20 yes no  
East Fork 7,600' 12 45' no yes 6/15-9/5 yes no  
Little Goose 7,000 3 40' no no 6/1-10/31 no no  
North Tongue 7,900' 12 60' yes yes 5/25-9/20 yes yes  
Owen Creek 8,400' 8 45' no yes 5/25-9/20 yes no  
Pine Island Group 7,700' Group   yes yes 6/5-9/20 yes no by reservation only; camping only when host present
Prune Creek 7,700' 21 60' yes yes 5/25-9/20 yes yes  
Ranger Creek 7,800' 11 40' no yes 6/15-9/5 yes no accessible toilet
Sibley Lake 7,900' 25 65' yes yes 5/25-9/20 yes yes Electric service available in units 11-25; No gas motor boats
Tie Flume 8,400' 27 60' yes yes 6/5-9/20 yes yes  
Photo of the Medicine Wheel National Historic Site courtesy of the USDA Forest Service
Lake Angeline in Cloud Peak Wilderness
Lake Angeline, near Cloud Peak on Bighorn National Forest
Hiking Trails on Bighorn National Forest
Trail # Trail Name Trail Head Location Destination Difficulty Usage Length (1) Season
053 Bucking Mule Falls FR 14 or FR 137 (6) Devil Canyon Moderate - Difficult Light 12.0 L
053 Bucking Mule Falls (4) End of FR 14 Bucking Mule Falls Easy - Moderate Light 3.0 L
004 Dry Fork Ridge FR 113 (6) or FR 149 (6) Dry Fork Canyon Moderate - Difficult Light 10.5 L
076 Bull Elk Park FR145/147 (6) or Trail 004 Bull Elk Park Natural Area Moderate - Difficult Light 9.5 M
050 Little Horn (4) FR 11 or FR 113 (6) Little Bighorn River Canyon Moderate - Difficult Light 18.0 L
011 Black Mtn. Lookout FR 16/222 (6) Black Mtn. Fire Lookout Moderate Light 2.0 E
013 Sibley Lake Nordic US 14 (Sibley Lake) Sibley Lake Rec. Area Easy - Moderate Medium 1.6 W
015 Soldier Creek End of County Rd 52 or Trail 14 Walker Prairie Difficult Light 5.1 M
430 South Tongue End of FR 193 (6) or FR 16 South Tongue River Easy - Moderate Light 4.5 M
002 Tongue River Canyon End of County Rd 133 (Dayton) or FR 166 (Burgess RS)(6) Tongue River Canyon Easy - Moderate Medium 11.5 E
057 Shell Creek FR 17 (Ranger Creek CG) Adelaide Lake - Shell Reservoir Easy - Moderate Medium 5.3 M
056 Beef US 14 or FR 264 (6) Cedar Creek Easy - Moderate Light 10.0 E
184 Shell Bench US 14 (Post Creek PA or FR 17) (Ranger Creek CG) Shell Canyon Moderate Light 10.0 E
025 Edelman (2) (4) FR 17 or Trail 038 (Solitude) Edelman Pass - Solitude Moderate Light 10.7 L
059 North High Park FR 17 (Lower Paintrock Lake) Teepee Pole Flats - Solitude Moderate Medium 4.0 L
116 Kinky White - Paintrock Loop FR 17 (Lower Paintrock Lake) Loop with Trails 062, 038, & 059 Difficult Light 14.0 L
116 Paintrock - Battle Park Loop FR 17 (Lower Paintrock Lake) Loop with Trails 173, 164, 038, & 059 Difficult Light 21.6 L
014 Walker Prairie FR 26/296 (Big Goose RS)(6) Big Goose Falls Easy Light 3.0 M
592 Coffeen Park (2) FR 26/293 (6) Lake Geneva or Edleman Pass via Trails 025 or 038 Easy - Moderate Medium 4.0 to 5.0 L
021 Coney Lake (2) FR 26 Coney Lake Easy Heavy 3.3 L
033 Story Penrose (3) End of County Rd 194 Penrose Park or Trail 038 Moderate Heavy 13.2 M
014 Walker Prairie FR 26/296 (Big Goose RS)(6) Big Goose Falls Easy Light 3.0 M
592 Coffeen Park (2) FR 26/293 (6) Lake Geneva or Edleman Pass via Trails 025 or 038 Easy - Moderate Medium 4.0 to 5.0 L
021 Coney Lake (2) FR 26 Coney Lake Easy Heavy 3.3 L
033 Story Penrose (3) End of County Rd 194 Penrose Park or Trail 038 Moderate Heavy 13.2 M
098 Upper Tensleep - Baby Wagon (2) End of FR 419 (6) Maybelle Lake Moderate Light 3.4 M
173 Battle Park - Paintrock Loop (2) End of FR 24 (Battle Park) Loop with Trail 116, 059, 038, & 164 Difficult Light 21.6 L
065 Roy Loudon North (2) End of FR 27 (West Tensleep Lake Trailhead) Mirror & Lost Twin Lakes Moderate - Difficult Medium 5.5 L
065 Roy Loudon South End of FR 27 (West Tensleep Lake Trailhead) Middle Tensleep Creek Falls Easy Medium 2.0 L
067 Highline FR 24 (Deer Park CG) East Tensleep Lake Moderate Medium 4.0 L
063 Misty Moon (2) End of FR 27 (West Tensleep Lake) or Trail 038 Lake Helen, Marion and Misty Moon Easy - Moderate Heavy 7.0 L
409 Willow Park Nordic US 16 (Willow Park Group) Willow Park Area (Loops) Easy - Moderate Medium 27.0 W
555 Elgin Park (4) End of FR 372 (6) Elgin Area/Pines Lodge Easy Light 4.3 E
088 Lake Angeline (2) End of FR 391 (6) Lake Angeline Moderate - Difficult Medium 4.2 L
024 Soldier Park (2) (4) FR 19 (Hunter Corrals) (5) Solitude Loop Trail Moderate Heavy 5.0 L
045 Seven Brothers (2) FR 19 (Hunter Corrals), FR 395 (5)(6) Seven Brothers Lakes Moderate Heavy 5.8 L
182 Circle Park (2) FR 20 (Circle Park) Sherd Lake, South Fork Ponds. Loop with Trails 046, 095 Easy Heavy 1.0 to 8.9 L
038 Solitude Loop (2) Circumnavigates Cloud Peak Wilderness Cloud Peak Wilderness Moderate - Difficult Heavy 53.1 L

This table corresponds with the trails listed on the Bighorn National Forest map.

Season: (When trails usually become snow no) E = Early (May-June), M = Mid (June-July), L = Late (July-August), W = Winter

RS = Ranger Station; CG = Campground; PA = Picnic Area

Other Notes:

  1. Mileage is recorded as one-way except for loop trails.
  2. Trail enters the Cloud Peak Wilderness. Special regulations apply.
  3. Trail used by ATV's (motorized).
  4. Major use by horses (horse use is permitted on all trails).
  5. Camping available at trailhead.
  6. Access requires 4-wheel drive. Use of passenger cars may result in longer hiking distances.
 
Photo of Lake Angeline courtesy of the US Forest Service