5 hikes 30 minutes from downtown Sheridan
Spring has officially arrived to the Sheridan area.
Although the Bighorn Mountain peaks remain white, the prairie below is transforming its blanket of snow to a vast sea of green. A northern Wyoming spring hosts one of the most dramatic changes in nature; in just a few weeks, the prairie becomes a lively oasis for adventurers, wildflowers, and wildlife. Outdoor opportunities become limitless as both winter and summer activities are possible; you can go skiing in the morning and then paddle boarding on Lake De Smet a few hours later.
But if you’re short on time and want an after-work hike, don’t worry, there are plenty of extraordinary options within 30 minutes of Sheridan.
SOLDIER RIDGE: 9 MINUTES
A trail as legendary as the soldiers and outlaws who once roamed these prairies. In partnership with Sheridan Community Land Trust, land owners have graciously allowed a section of their land to be used for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. There isn’t a trail like Soldier Ridge that really paints a full perspective of Wyoming as much as this one. Everything that is Wyoming can be found on this trail; cowboys, history of the old west, scenic vistas of towering mountains, views of the never ending prairie, and more wildlife than people. For a trail that is only nine minutes from downtown Sheridan, you can find peace and quiet there, aside from the occasional coyote howling or meadowlark singing in the distance. 4.2 miles of trail winds its way westward over rolling hills and valleys towards the mountains. Soldier Ridge is spectacular all times of day, but sunrise or sunset adds even more awe to an already dramatic landscape. Sunrise transforms the Bighorns from a deep blue to a burnt orange as the rays of the sun hit the 13,000 foot peaks. In the evening, the rays of the sun shine behind those same peaks, turning the lowlands to gold.
HIDDEN HOOT: 10 MINUTES
This 4.5-mile round-trip lollipop trail traverses shaded draws, wetlands and sweeping views of the Bighorns. Another SCLT trail, it is perfect for running and hiking and has quickly become the area’s most popular bike ride. Hidden Hoot connects to the Sheridan Pathways system, which makes going from your front door to the outdoors easier than ever before!
RED GRADE TRAILS: 25 MINUTES
Red Grade Trails System is a looping, non-motorized, year-round hiking and biking trail located on State and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains. The trail system is funded entirely by grants and annual membership donations to SCLT. The trail starts at approximately 7,800 feet and is 5.7 miles in length. It is of easy to moderate difficulty. As you go, you will wind through mixed conifer and aspen forest along the drainage of a year-round flowing stream, switch-back across an open bluff with exposed rock outcropping, sweep down into a prairie grass meadow, and climb up a steep gully to fantastic vistas. The trail offers stretches of shade in the warmer months, and on clear nights it allows spectacular views out along the face of the Bighorns, the valley and the city below.
SOUTH PINEY CREEK: 28 MINUTES
South Piney Creek, located in the forested Story, Wyoming, works its way up a Bighorn Mountain canyon for approximately 1.3 miles. This short but naturally stunning hike offers crystal clear streams, thick ponderosa pine forest, and dolomitic limestone cliffs. Cross country skiers, hikers, fly fishers, and rock climbers convene here throughout the year. The trail begins at an elevation of 5,439 feet and is relatively flat as it follows the canyon floor. The limestone cliffs rise above the trail and reach elevations around 8,000 feet. Elk, deer, moose, and countless species of birds call this area their home.
TONGUE RIVER CANYON: 38 MINUTES
Yes, this is slightly longer than 30 minutes — but it's worth the extra time. Tongue River Canyon is one of the most iconic hikes in Wyoming. Its fabled rock formations, pristine waters, and luxuriant forest come together to paint an unforgettable scene. The distinguishable “Needle’s Eye” rock formation and mysterious Tongue River caves attract curious minds and bold explorers. The trout filled waters bring in fishermen from around the world while trail runners travel thousands of miles to conquer the 10 mile hike.
The canyon was once heavily used for transporting timber down the mountain via the Tongue River Tie Flume. The flume was a man-made waterway that brought logs to Ranchester, Wyoming where they were loaded on trains for railway transport. Logs going down the flume could travel at speeds of 75 mph making the flume a quicker alternative to horse-drawn wagons. Occasionally, the lumberjacks would even catch a ride down the flume in one of their homemade flume boats to get off the mountain quickly. Eventually, there was no longer a demand for timber from the Bighorn Mountains and The Tie-Flume was abandoned.
Visit the Sheridan County Travel & Tourism Interactive Map for more information on area trails.
This content was adapted from Sheridan County Travel & Tourism and The Sheridan Press.