Rides  

Big Horn Mountains

05/24/2005

Ride Report for the Big Horn Mountains 2005

The first question everyone asks is "Where are the Big Horns?" Well the answer is north central Wyoming right off Interstate 90 north west of Sheridan. Not far from Custer's last stand and the battle of the "Big Horn".

Big Horns looking from I-90

"Why did you pick this area to ride" is usually the next question. The answer is not as simple, but here are some of my reasons:

  1. Since I like to bring my own sleds, driving is my only choice. Therefore, distance is critical. Access from the eastern US is plain and simple since it's only 45 miles off a major interstate.
  2. From Michigan it is the second closest mountain riding right behind the Snowy Mountains which is also right off Interstate 80 near Laramie, Wyoming.
  3. More accommodations to choose from right on the mountain so you can sled from your door. We stayed at Bear Lodge which has full services which include: pump gas, snowmobile rentals, motel, cabins, full dining, guides, and even a hot tub. Their website is www.bearlodgeresort.com
  4. Countless miles of off trail fun and 250 miles of groomed trails to get you there. This is where personal opinions come in. I prefer wide- open spaces, some hill climbing (but not too extreme), meadows, beautiful scenery, and plenty of powder. The Big Horns shine in all those areas.

No matter what area you pick, if they have snow, then you can't go wrong. I've ridden the Snowies, the Big Horns twice now, and the West Yellowstone area twice. All of them are worth the long drive to me.

Antelope everywhere

Any way, back to the last trip in the Big Horns. I chose the 3rd week of March to begin our trip. I like that time of year for riding since the riding in Michigan is near the end, the roads are usually drier, and the days are getting longer. We left on Friday the 18th and made it to Sidney Nebraska for our first nights stay (right by the home and store of Cabelas). Saturday we stopped in Sheridan around noon to stock up on groceries, pick up our trail permits ($15) and fill our cans/sleds with gas. We had a duplex cabin which had a full kitchen to save on eating expenses. The gas cans we fill up in town just to save a few dollars at the pump. The fuel price on the mountaintop is usually 30-50 cents a gallon more than in town.

After we got all stocked up for the week's stay, we headed on up the winding switch back past a few mule deer which were grazing by the road. Still no measurable snow in sight and dry roads thank goodness because I don't much care for those switchbacks while pulling a trailer. As we near the top the snow deepens and things are looking good. We pull in the Bear Lodge lot to see plenty of riders coming back from their days ride. The temps went from the 50's down low to around 35 on top. We unloaded our sleds and did some tune up riding to check on clutching and jetting calibration before it got dark.

Bear Lodge Resort

During the weeks stay we saw temps from -3F in the morning to 35F during the day. Most of our riding was in the mid to upper 20's....perfect. We couldn't of asked for better weather. Only twice did it get snowing so hard that we couldn't ride and it never lasted too long. During the week we got around 12-18" of snow depending on the elevation you were riding at. The week before they had gotten 30" so there was a good base even for a "poor" snow year in this area.

Needless to say, since we were off trail looking for the deep stuff, we found it. Meadows of untouched powder waist deep kept us searching for our shovels and a buddy to help pull you out. One meadow was so deep that 7 of us went in and 6 of us were stuck. Quite the "stuck fest" to say the least.

Tired out from digging

It was snowing hard so staying in the lower meadows and woods were our only choice at this time. Good thing for us though was when we finally got everyone unstuck, the sun came out and showed us a small path through the woods into a huge open area that was begging to be ridden hard. It got so nice we took off our coats and just tore it up. Jumping drifts, carving, and playing till the sun went down. What a spectacular day of riding in the mountains.

Riding with no coat

Each and every day we tried to go off in a different direction and explore more and more untouched areas. We weren't disappointed to say the least.

We stopped by a couple of the nice warming huts (supplied with wood stoves, firewood, and solar powered lights) during the week and signed our names in the guest book even though we never got cold riding.

The beauty was all around us and we were in our glory. There is so much wilderness that we only saw a handful of riders every day and that was usually just on the trails going to and from the lodge. We ended up with around 500 miles of riding during the week without ever going more than 40 miles in any one direction. One day we went to town to get more supplies when it was snowing too hard to ride (which gave us a day of rest anyway).

Another great day

I recommend this trip to everyone who loves to snowmobile. If it's too far to drive, then fly into Billings Montana or Casper Wyoming and drive from there. Rent some sleds and have a time of your life. For those with small children, I would recommend West Yellowstone as your first taste of mountain riding since they offer more things than just sledding. West Yellowstone offers thousands of sled rentals and the opportunity to tour into Yellowstone, our first National Park. Outside the park you can ride many trails and explore such famous mountains as Two Top and Lions Head. West Yellowstone offers a Imax theater and a Grizzly/Timber wolf discover center where you can watch real animals.

The formula for a successful trip is:

Planning ahead + fresh snow + warm temps + beautiful scenery + your riding buddies = one unforgettable trip.

Some items to bring along:

  1. Camera for those awesome pictures.
  2. Shovel, backpack, survival gear, and rope or Snowbunjie.
  3. Long tracked sled with deep lug track. We had 136" up to 151" tracks and everyone got stuck.
  4. Avalanche beacon for everyone....just in case.
  5. Your riding buddy so you can share in the fun....never ride alone either.

 

 

 

Some pictures of our group doing what they love.

 

 

 

 

Keep the track side down, Rev Baron