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 rises 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.

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 and 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.

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, breathtaking…well, all of the adjectives apply, in Tensleep Canyon.

Big Horn Mountains Resources

Ten Sleep Canyon – Bighorn Mountain Country
While Ten Sleep Canyon offers beautiful scenery and great opportunities for rock climbers worldwide, the drive through the canyon still offers a more enjoyable route for the driver than other ways over the Big Horn Mountains.

Bighorn Canyon – Geology of Wyoming
Spectacular canyon with cliffs of Madison carbonates dropping 900 feet to Bighorn Lake, colorful arid landscapes, views of Pryor Mountains to west and Bighorn Mountains to east, historic ranches, Native American tipi rings and cairns, wild horses, bighorn sheep, raptors, hikes, lightly visited and relatively isolated.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (U.S. National …
The vast, wild landscape of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area offers visitors unparalleled opportunities to immerse themselves in the natural world and experience the wonders of this extraordinary place. With over 120,000 acres, one can find an astounding diversity in ecosystems, wildlife, and more than 10,000 years of human history to …

Forest Information – Bighorn National Forest Campgrounds
Forest Information The Bighorn National Forest is located in northcentral Wyoming and is comprised of 1.1 million acres. There are thirty-one developed campgrounds of which twenty-two meet the selection criteria. With its diverse landscape of towering mountains, spectacular canyons, and vast mountain meadows, the Bighorn National Forest is probably the most photogenic of the national forests …

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