Big Sky Trail


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[Not a valid template]The Big Sky Trail in the Hikers’ Haven Area has wide open views of the big sky, the slopes of Big Pryor Mountain, and much of Wyoming. A 4 mile round trip (630 ft. elevation gain) provides great views of several forks of Bear Canyon from the canyon rim. There are alternatives for extending the hike a little, or a lot, farther for more views. It is a 10 mile round trip (3,000 ft elevation gain) to the top of Red Pryor Mountain, but at Red Pryor Mtn the hike intersects a motorized (4WD) route. Hike as far as you want, then sit and enjoy the Pryors’ solitude and expansive views.

The trail begins from Horse Haven Road, 1.8 miles from Helt Road. (See Hikers’ Haven Driving Directions.) There is room to park in the flat area on the left just before the barrier. Behind the jackleg fence barrier a two track trail winds down into and crosses a draw. This is the beginning of the trail. No motor vehicles are allowed past the barrier.

0.0 miles: Start hike. Starting elevation: 5,500 ft. The track winds in a large “S” crossing the draw and around a low hill, then heads mostly north through a wide flat valley of juniper, sage and grasses. For the first mile it climbs very gently.

[Not a valid template]1.0 miles: Fence at BLM/USFS boundary. South of fence is BLM, north is Custer NF. A USFS sign reiterates, “No Motor Vehicles.” (Please report if the gate is not locked to prevent motorized access.) (Elevation: 5,700 ft., gain: 200 ft.) Scramble through or over the fence. The trail continues mostly north climbing out of the valley, not quite as gently as before. As you climb turn around to see growing views of the Wyoming prairie, and the Bighorn, Wind River and Beartooth Mountains.

1.8 miles: A “T” junction at rim of Bear Canyon (Elevation: 6,130 ft., total gain: 630 ft.) The “cross” on the “T” is along the rim of the main fork of Bear Canyon. (A few hundred feet before this “T” a track branches to the left. It just cuts across one corner of the “T”.)

Dramatic Bear Canyon which has been hidden until you arrive at the “T” is now practically under your feet. A little to your right (east) the main fork of intermittent Bear Creek flows south through the deep canyon, makes a sharp right turn to the west, and passes in front of, and below you. To your left (about half a mile west) the west fork drains south through another deep canyon and joins the main fork. The main fork makes another sharp left turn and flows south again.

Left (west) Branch of “T”: This branch of the track follows the canyon rim west a little more than half a mile to views overlooking the junction of the main and west forks. This makes leisurely and enjoyable day hike. Allow time to relax and enjoy the quiet and scenery.

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2.2 miles (0.4 mile west of “T”): The track turns a little south and gets farther from the canyon rim. An option is to leave the track at this point to follow the canyon rim for about 0.2 miles farther west to a viewpoint at the canyon junction. A small drainage to your left (south) gradually deepens between this rim route and the track you left. At the west end of this trackless ridge it is easy to cross the drainage back to the track and another viewpoint described below (2.4 miles).

2.4 miles (0.6 miles west of “T”): A “Y” in the two-track. Both branches disappear in a hundred feet or so. Continuing a short distance to the right (west) you will find a nice viewpoint overlooking the junction of the canyons. The left branch soon turns into a single track game trail heading south.

Return the way you came or consider two loop hike alternatives: About 300 yards south on the single track is THE Junction where the Big Sky, Rocky juniper and Bear Canyon Trails converge. You can return to your vehicle via either Rocky Juniper trail or the Bear Canyon Creek trail. See detailed guide for these loop options.

Right (east) Branch of “T”: This branch of the track follows the canyon rim east past the bend and then follows a narrow ridge between unnamed canyons climbing steeply (about 1,000 ft/mile) northeast toward the top of Red Pryor Mountain. Depending on your energy level, many viewpoints along this ridge would make good places to stop, and enjoy the Pryors’ scenery and solitude before retracing your route down the mountain.

If you continue to the top:

4.8 miles (3.0 miles from “T”): Intersect motorized route #2091. Shortly before the intersection the track fades as you gradually ascend through open grassland. Continue climbing in an east northeast direction until you reach motorized Route #2091 on the east ridge of Big Pryor Mountain (Elevation: 8,400 ft., total gain: 2,900 ft.)

5.2 miles (3.4 miles from “T”): The top of Red Pryor (Elevation 8,465 ft., total gain: 2,965 ft.) is a few tenths of a mile (depending on where you hit the road) south along the ridge (and #2091). It is only a “bump” a hundred feet above the rest of the ridge.

If you go to the top of Red Pryor Mtn carefully note where you left the trail so you can find it for the return hike down the mountain. Off trail routes could be much more challenging.

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