Big Horn Mountains & Tensleep Canyon

Big Horn Mountains

They were called the Shining Mountains by early explorers and trappers, because of their snowcapped peaks. But it was the native Indians in the area that gave them their name. They called the mountains “ah-sah-tah”, which is actually the name given to the animal that was most abundant and native to the land. Bighorn sheep called the mountains home, and the Indians called the majestic mountains the Big Horn Mountains.

The Big Horn Mountains rise and run between the Bighorn Basin to the west and the Powder River Basin to the east. The range runs along a 120-mile plateau, resplendent with lodgepole pine, spruce, and subalpine fir. The peaks are spectacular, many rise above 9,000 feet, with Cloud Peak climbing to 13,000 feet. There are hundreds of lakes and more than 850 miles of hiking trails in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming.

Big Horn Mountains Wilderness
Big Horn Mountains Wilderness by mypubliclands

The Big Horn Mountains provide a natural habitat for an assortment of wildlife. And it’s not just the bighorn sheep that call these mountains home. There are large populations of black bears, mule deer white-tail deer, and elk. Moose are not native to these mountains but were introduced into the Big Horn Mountains from Jackson Hole in 1948.

Tensleep Canyon

Just east of Ten Sleep, Wyoming, there is a glacier-carved wonder of nature. And it’s one of those breathtaking natural sights that will bring out the “oohs” and “aahs”. It comes into view right there along Highway 16, where the road takes you through Tensleep Canyon.

Tensleep Canyon is just a small piece of the scenic, 45-mile-long, Cloud Peak Skyway, that traverses the Big Horn Mountains and connects Ten Sleep and Buffalo. But Tensleep Canyon could be the most stunning spot along the entire route.

Tensleep Canyon (southern Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming, USA) 1
Tensleep Canyon (southern Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming, USA) by James St. John

This geological marvel has walls that are made of dolomite stone, which is a very old stone formed over millions of years. This hardstone was thrust through layers of the earth when the Big Horns were formed hundreds of thousands of years ago. Then came the glaciers, and the mighty opening, Tensleep Canyon was on display. And the “oohs” and “aahs” began.

It’s easy to get distracted here in Tensleep Canyon. There are a few turnouts through the canyon, and the drive does make a drop, or rise, of 3,000 feet in about ten minutes. But it’s the sheer awesome beauty of the canyon, with its artistic hues of blue, tan, and black, that grabs your attention. It’s a wonderful place, that is truly spectacular, and breathtaking…well, all of the adjectives apply, in Tensleep Canyon.

Instagram-worthy spots in the Big Horn Mountains

From the moment you set foot in the Big Horn Mountains, you’ll be greeted by an enchanting scenery that seems straight out of a picture-perfect postcard. Imagine standing atop towering cliffs, overlooking vast valleys adorned with vibrant wildflowers and lush greenery. It’s a sight that will leave you in awe and eager to explore further.

Cloud Peak Wilderness Area

One of the most iconic spots in the Big Horn Mountains is the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area. This vast expanse of untouched wilderness is a paradise for hikers, offering a myriad of trails that lead to breathtaking vistas and hidden lakes. Imagine capturing the moment when the sun sets behind the jagged peaks, casting a golden glow on the landscape below. It’s a sight that will make your Instagram feed come alive with beauty and wanderlust.

Ken, Looking West from Bighorn Mountains
Looking West from Bighorn Mountains by Ken Lund

As the sun descends, the sky transforms into a masterpiece of vibrant oranges, pinks, and purples, reflecting off the majestic peaks and creating a truly breathtaking sight.

Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark

This sacred Native American site is a circular stone structure perched on a mountain plateau. As you hike up to the Medicine Wheel, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.  Surrounded by sweeping views of the mountains, capturing the spiritual energy and sacredness of this place is an experience like no other. Your Instagram followers will be captivated by the rich history and cultural significance this spot holds.

Bighorn Medicine Wheel
Bighorn Medicine Wheel by brewbooks

Hidden waterfalls

As you venture deeper into the Big Horn Mountains, you’ll come across hidden waterfalls cascading down moss-covered rocks, crystal-clear alpine lakes reflecting the surrounding peaks, and picturesque meadows blanketed with colorful wildflowers. Each turn and trail in this mountain range holds the promise of a new Instagram-worthy spot waiting to be discovered.

Sherd Lake

With its crystal-clear turquoise waters reflecting the towering peaks that surround it, this secluded spot offers a picture-perfect view. As you hike along the trail leading to the lake, you’ll be greeted by vibrant wildflowers and the soothing sound of rustling leaves. Once you arrive, find a quiet spot to soak in the beauty and capture a shot that will leave your followers in awe.

Devil’s Canyon Overlook

Perched high above the canyon, this vantage point offers a mesmerizing panorama of rugged cliffs and winding river below. As the sun sets, the golden hues illuminate the landscape, creating a truly enchanting sight. Don’t forget to bring your camera and capture a shot that showcases the vastness and grandeur of this hidden gem.

Devil's Canyon Overlook
Devil’s Canyon Overlook by alexlc13

So, grab your camera, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to embark on an adventure through the Big Horn Mountains.

Activities and Attractions

The Big Horn Mountains offer a plethora of exciting activities and attractions, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply seeking a serene getaway, the Big Horn Mountains have something for everyone.


One of the most popular activities in the area is hiking. With an extensive network of trails, ranging from leisurely strolls to challenging treks, hikers can explore the breathtaking beauty of the mountains at their own pace. The trails offer panoramic views of lush valleys, cascading waterfalls, and towering peaks, providing a truly immersive experience in nature.

Rock Climbing

For those who prefer a more adrenaline-pumping adventure, rock climbing and bouldering opportunities abound in the Big Horn Mountains. The rugged cliffs and challenging terrain attract climbers from all over the world, offering a thrilling and rewarding experience for both beginners and seasoned climbers.

Big Horn Mountains Hiking
Big Horn Mountains by DigitalPhotographyDepartment


Wildlife enthusiasts will be delighted by the diverse range of fauna that call the Big Horn Mountains home. From majestic elk and elusive mountain lions to playful otters and soaring eagles, the mountains are a haven for wildlife. Visitors can embark on guided wildlife tours or simply keep a keen eye out while exploring the scenic routes, capturing unforgettable moments in nature.

Scenic Drive

If you’re looking for a more relaxed experience, consider a scenic drive through the Big Horn Mountains. The winding roads offer breathtaking vistas at every turn, showcasing the natural beauty of the region in all its glory. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the awe-inspiring landscapes and perhaps even catch a glimpse of a grazing herd of deer or a black bear meandering through the wilderness.


Fishing enthusiasts will find themselves in paradise with the abundant lakes and streams teeming with various fish species. Cast your line and try your luck at catching trout, bass, or even the elusive golden trout, enjoying the serene surroundings and the thrill of reeling in a prized catch.

No visit to the Big Horn Mountains would be complete without exploring the charming small towns and historic sites that dot the region. From quaint shops and local eateries to museums and cultural landmarks, the area offers a glimpse into the rich history and vibrant local culture.

Hiking Trails and Scenic Drives

The Big Horn Mountains offer a number of hiking trails and scenic drives that will take you on a breathtaking journey through their majestic beauty.

Tips and tricks for capturing the best Instagram photos

Capturing the best Instagram photos in the Big Horn Mountains is a must for any avid photographer or nature enthusiast. These majestic mountains offer breathtaking landscapes and hidden gems that are just waiting to be discovered and shared with the world. To help you make the most of your Instagram-worthy adventure, here are some tips and tricks that will take your photography skills to the next level.

  • Timing is everything: The lighting conditions in the mountains can dramatically affect the mood and quality of your photos. The golden hour, which occurs during sunrise and sunset, provides soft, warm light that beautifully illuminates the mountains. Plan your photography outings during these times to capture the mountains in their most stunning form.
  • Explore different perspectives: Don’t be afraid to get creative with your composition. Experiment with different angles and viewpoints to capture unique and captivating shots. Whether it’s getting down low to capture a wildflower in the foreground or climbing to a higher vantage point for an aerial view, exploring different perspectives will add depth and interest to your photos.
  • Incorporate leading lines: The Big Horn Mountains are adorned with winding trails, flowing rivers, and majestic ridges. Utilize these natural leading lines to guide the viewer’s eye through your photo and create a sense of depth and dimension. Whether it’s a trail disappearing into the distance or a river winding through the valley, leading lines will add a dynamic element to your Instagram photos.
  • Pay attention to details: While the grand landscapes of the Big Horn Mountains are undeniably stunning, don’t forget to capture the small details that make this place so unique. Zoom in on wildflowers, capture the texture of tree bark, or focus on the intricate patterns of rock formations. These close-up shots will provide a different perspective and showcase the intricate beauty of the mountains.
  • Edit with care: Once you’ve captured the perfect shot, take the time to edit it carefully. Enhance colors, adjust brightness and contrast, and apply filters that complement the mood of your photo. However, be mindful not to over-edit and lose the natural beauty of the Big Horn Mountains. Aim for a balance between enhancing the photo and maintaining its authenticity.
  • Engage with the community: Instagram is not just a platform for sharing photos; it’s also a community of like-minded individuals who share a passion for photography and nature. Engage with other photographers, explore hashtags related to the Big Horn Mountains, and interact with the local Instagram community. Not only will this help you discover new spots and inspiration, but it will also allow you to connect with others who appreciate the beauty of this stunning destination.

Final Word

We hope you enjoyed our article on the Instagram-worthy spots in the Big Horn Mountains. These hidden gems offer breathtaking views and picture-perfect backdrops that are sure to make your Instagram feed shine. Whether you’re a nature lover, a photography enthusiast, or simply looking for a new adventure, the Big Horn Mountains have something for everyone. So grab your camera and get ready to explore these stunning locations. Don’t forget to tag us in your posts – we can’t wait to see the amazing shots you capture!

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