Little Sunlight Trail follows Little Sunlight Creek just over the boundary into the North Absaroka Wilderness. You can either make this a lollipop or out and back adventure. Views, wildlife and an incredibly scenic drive in make this a great trail.
The Little Sunlight Trail meanders within the shadow of several 10-11,000 foot peaks that form the divide between the North Fork of the Shoshone River and the Sunlight Basin area. At nearly eight miles, this moderate trail takes hikers through old forests, along ridgelines and through meadows so there’s something to interest everyone. There’s a good uphill for a short distance right at first, then some downhill with a final push up to a saddle followed by a descent back to the cars. This trail is best on the weekday as there’s a lot of weekend warrior traffic on the Sunlight Basin Road and ATVs everywhere.
What Makes It Great
This area makes a wonderful getaway for a couple of days. Hikers can camp at Little Sunlight Campground and while away the time with hiking, fishing and general enjoying the outdoors. The drive to the trailhead delights the eye with ever changing scenery - sagebrush flats leading to red buttes surrounding by emerald green grass, high alpine peaks, old forests, burned forests and wide open meadows overflowing with wildflowers. What’s not to love about just getting to the area?
The first mile of the trail is uphill then you hike along a ridge. At 1.1 miles you’ll drop off the ridge and start the loop portion of the trail. You’ll cross Little Sunlight Creek several times but will be able to stay dry. Hike uphill and make your way through another meadow, aiming for the saddle to the north. At 4.1 miles you’ll hit the saddle. There are other trails here so take your time and pick out the indistinct trail that is directly east or downhill from the top. Continue hiking east and the trail becomes more visible. For the next two miles the trail rolls up and down then drops back into the valley where you begin the loop section. The last section out is the same way you came in.
The Little Sunlight Trail is a good mix of hiking terrain with just enough of a workout to make you happy you left beer cooling in the creek back at the campground.
Who is Going to Love It
Folks looking to see more of the local countryside and experience a fairly remote hike will enjoy the Little Sunlight Trail. You have a good chance of seeing lots of wildlife including deer, elk, moose and bighorn sheep. This is grizzly bear habitat so take bear spray and watch for tracks and scat.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Cody, travel north on WY-120 to the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, 16.8 miles from town. Turn left, ascend Dead Indian Pass and then drop down the west side, being mindful of the very sharp hairpin turns. Turn left onto the Sunlight Basin Road at mile 33.8. Stay on this gravel road for another 50.1 miles to the Little Sunlight Campground. There is a huge parking area near the horse corrals with the actual trailhead in the northwest point. Be aware the drive to the trailhead will take you nearly 2 hours. Plan accordingly.