ecently, there have been a lot of reports on the benefits of spending time outdoors, especially for our mental health. It’s a great way to spend family time and teach kids about the benefits of exercise.
But if you’re like me, you may find it difficult to get outside this time of year. Between the ice and mud, it just doesn’t seem appealing. Some years on the mountain, there is just enough snow to prevent travel, but the snow quality is often not good enough to play on. However, this year is different. This year’s heavy snowpack in the Bighorns combined with longer daylight hours have prolonged winter recreation opportunities.
The Bighorn National Forest has five Nordic ski areas: Antelope Butte, Sibley and Cutler on the northern end and Willow Park and Pole Creek on the southern end. These trails are groomed and cared for by partner groups that dedicate a lot of time an energy to provide quality ski experiences. Currently, these areas are still great options for outdoor recreation. Most of the Bighorn’s 350 miles of over-snow vehicle trails are also still a great option to explore the forest.
Once the snow does start to clear, watch areas in canyons or at lower elevations for opportunities to visit. Tongue River Canyon outside of Dayton is usually a good place to check out early. Thanks to our partners, the new Red Grade Trails might also be good options, once Red Grade Road is open. The Grouse Mountain trail outside of Buffalo is another place to consider visiting in the early season.
Horn hunting will soon be an option. This activity of collecting the shed antlers of deer, elk and moose has increased in popularity over the years. It’s a great idea to check for any closures or new regulations on the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s webpage, wgfd.wyo.gov.
Remember, lot of wildlife species are giving birth and raising their young at the same time of year. Make sure you do not disturb mothers and their babies and follow all regulations.
Most caves on the Bighorn National Forest will be opening to visitors with a required registration. However, Tongue River Cave will be closing April 15 through Aug. 31 to protect a maternity bat colony. For more information on how to protect sensitive cave environments and to register for your visit, visit our caving website, fs.usda.gov/recmain/bighorn/recreation.
One of the most spectacular and colorful activities in the Bighorn National Forest is wildflower viewing. Most areas begin to bloom in June and can peak around the middle of the month. As the season progresses, the opportunities to see beautiful flowers continues as you climb in elevation. Visit Hospital Hill off of Highway 16 out of Buffalo or meadows along Highway 14 out of Dayton.
The Bighorns offer a lot of great recreational opportunities. Just make sure that whatever sport you choose to engage in, know the regulations and check out Leave No Trace or Tread Lightly on how to keep your experience a positive one.
Visit our website for more information, fs.usda.gov/bighorn.