Dead Indian Trail - Hiking

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Despite the rather politically incorrect name, the Dead Indian Trail is an easy out and back that takes you into what’s often referred to as the Switzerland of Wyoming. You’ll be surrounded by high, snow-clad peaks with grassy slopes that make you forget you’re in windy, flat, sagebrush-covered Wyoming.

Written by

Leslie Tribble


5.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

23.9 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

2 hours


Spring, Summer, and Fall

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits


Land Website

Dead Indian Trail



The Dead Indian Trail is a rolling hike with a quick but fairly steep uphill the first half mile. You’ll head south to the North Absaroka Wilderness boundary which is the trail’s end. Halfway along the trail you’ll be able to slip into a little creek and cool off those hot toes. You’ll also be able to check out the slot canyon carved by the creek over time.

What Makes It Great

Sunlight Basin is popular with locals. There’s a cabin community further down the main highway and several small but well-used campgrounds. The Dead Indian Trail is a more quiet section of Sunlight Basin without a lot of horses or ATVs. The trailhead parking area is across the highway from the Dead Indian Campground. Locate the trail at the south end of the day use parking area. The trail splits right away. Stay left and power up the hill. After that initial effort the trail evens out and it’s a pleasant hoof to the wilderness boundary. There are big views all along the trail, and a chance to maybe tease a fish with a fly.

Who is Going to Love It

If you’re looking for a quick day hike that’ll give you a good workout and keep you occupied with amazing eye candy views, the Dead Indian Trail is it. It’s also a great trail for older kids as it isn’t so long that they’ll hate their hiking experience, plus you can bribe them along with the promise of fun while exploring the slot canyon. 

This area is rich with history. The Sunlight Basin area and the Clarks Fork Canyon to the north were part of the tragic flight of the Nez Perce Indians from their homeland in eastern Oregon to Canada. Despite the difficult terrain, the Nez Perce managed to elude the pursuing US Army by taking 2000 horses and over 700 elderly, women and children down the forbiddingly steep walls of the Clark Fork Canyon and out into the flats of the Big Horn Basin. Stop at the top of Dead Indian Pass to get a visual treat and overview of the Sunlight area and read the signs detailing the flight of the Nez Perce.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Cody, travel north on WY-120 16.8 miles to the intersection with the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. Turn left, travel over Dead Indian Pass and down the switchbacks on the west side. The trailhead is at mile 25.5. There’s ample parking at the trailhead and overnight camping is allowed. 

There are no fees (unless you’re camping in the designated campground) and leashed pets are permitted. Before you reach the trailhead turnout, stop at the Sunlight Bridge overlook and look down into the gorge. Take your time descending off Dead Indian Pass. The switchbacks are steep and you have seven miles of them. Be glad you get to experience the drive on hardtop. This road wasn't paved until the early 1990s.


Dead Indian Trail

Cody, WY, 82414
44.749631, -109.42125

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