Wood River Valley 6-26-11

Bighorn Basin Loop

Estimated trip time – all day

Follow Wyoming Highway 120 south through 30 miles of broken range and badlands to Meeteetse, a town that has maintained its early day character and charm. Turn southwest on Wyoming 290 for a side trip up the lovely Wood River Valley. Look for moose in the river bottom and elk on the hillsides. The Wood River Ski Touring Park lies at the head of the valley at an elevation of 7,000 feet. Over 25 kilometers of groomed ski trails and a long season with ample snow make this area a cross-country ski haven in winter. The touring park is open for use seven days a week during the ski season.

You may also continue up the Greybull River to the Jack Creek trailhead. This is one of the many access points to the millions of acres of wilderness in the Shoshone National Forest. To the northeast is the Palette Ranch, home of the first superintendent of Yellowstone Timberland Reserve, A.A. Anderson. Anderson was an artist as well as a leading conservationist of the time. In the forest, not too far from here, Anderson built an elaborate lodge as a retreat and mountain studio. The lodge is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

To continue the main loop, travel south on Wyoming 120 to Thermopolis, home of the world’s largest free-flowing hot springs. Hot Springs State Park offers mineral hot pools and a bath house. A large bison herd roams the prairie in the State Park. The Wyoming Dinosaur Center and Dig Sites is also in Thermopolis.

US 20 north from Thermopolis passes through rich farm and ranch land of the Bighorn River Valley to the town of Worland, agricultural hub of the area. From Worland, travel US 16 east to the small town of Ten Sleep nestled at the base of the spectacular Bighorn Mountains. Some claim that Ten Sleep was named after the Indian method of measuring distance by the number of nights spent traveling from one point to another.

At Ten Sleep turn north on the Nowood Road. This road skirts the base of the Bighorn Mountains and joins Wyoming 31. If you have time, visit the quaint, historic, ranching town of Hyattville. Turn west on Wyoming 31 to Manderson. From Manderson, US 16-20 follows the Bighorn River north to the small agricultural town of Basin. At Basin, take Wyoming 30 west through the fertile ranch and farm lands of the Greybull River Valley. At the junction with State Highway 120, turn north to Cody.