Are the Big Horn Mountains and the Sweet 16the best way to enter Yellowstone? The route, known as the Sweet 16, is a secret of the US, and one that’s emerging fast. Here’s what you need to know, in the right order.
1. First stop: the Big Horn Mountains
Located in north-central Wyoming, the Big Horn range is home to two peaks over 13,000 feet, and dozens over 12,000 feet. There’s a rich dichotomy in the landscape. In the higher elevations, you’ll experience vast, unraveling views of the plains, foothills, and mountains below. Lower, you’ll find forests, creeks, and winding valley vistas.
I’ve driven a lot of mountain passes, and I often feel sick somewhere along the way. That didn’t happen with the Big Horn Range, because it isn’t viciously steep.
2. Cloud Peak Wilderness
As you descend the Big Horn Mountains along the Sweet 16, you’ll end up on the Cloud Peak Scenic Highway with beautiful vistas of the Cloud Peak Wilderness. As the name suggests, this is a high-altitude wilderness area, full of beauty. No vehicles are allowed within, so you get to experience nature in its truest form.
In addition, the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area has campsites along its trails. This coupled with its great fishing, hiking, and horse riding, make it a fantastic place to spend a weekend on your way to Yellowstone.
3. Ten Sleep Canyon: Wyoming’s next climbing mecca?
Six miles out of Ten Sleep could be Wyoming’s next climbing mecca: Ten Sleep Canyon. It’s seen a rapid popularity increase over the years, now boasting of more than 800 bolted climbing routes, spanning a range of difficulties.
It gets busy, but not so much that it’s impossible to maneuver the crowds. You’ll meet a lot of great people, and you’ll be sharing the walls in a motivating, friendly environment.
4. Best beers in Wyoming? Head to Ten Sleep’s Ten Sleep Brewing Company
The Ten Sleep Brewing Company has earned a lot of respect, not least because it started in a family barn. Indeed, it may be the only brewery in Wyoming to have started in such a prophetic, ‘meant-to-be’ sort of way. For that reason, you should visit – and because it’s en route to Yellowstone.
It’s just plain cool. Think wilderness bar meets the modern world while keeping its wild Wyoming vibe. That’s the Ten Sleep Brewing Company. It’s worth combining your visit to Ten Sleep Brewing Company with the Ten Sleep Festival, in July.
That time of year you’ll find a lot of climbing folk in the brewing company – the festival’s epicenter – making for great conversation and opportunity to mingle with a fun crowd.
5. Worland: Washakie Museum & Cultural Center
Leaving Ten Sleep, you’ll find your way to Worland. Head to the Washakie Museum and Cultural Center. At its doors stands a colossal bronze Mammoth, no doubt tribute to the history abundant in Washakie.
TripAdvisor’s users rated the center 4.5 stars out of 5 – no surprise. I came away with a broadened anthropological view of the area, comprised of fascinating information on early human settlers (thousands of years ago), early wildlife, and much more. The unique topography of Washakie County really lends itself to this world-class museum.
All in All
The Big Horn Mountain Range is the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts. You can camp, hike, fish, climb, ride your ATV, and so much more. All this, dotted along one of the most beautiful scenic highways in the US: The Sweet 16. True enough, a lifetime would barely scratch the surface of what the Big Horn Range and Sweet 16 have to offer – and then there’s Yellowstone, just around the corner. One thing’s for sure: the Sweet 16 is the best Yellowstone National Park entry-route we’ve found!
This story has been created in partnership with Washakie County Tourism Council, Wyoming.