The Sheep Mountain trail is perfect for a half or full day jaunt into the wilds. You’ll experience hiking through the sagebrush community, a narrow canyon and stunning wildflower meadows all within a fairly short distance. Although this is a popular trail, chances are you won’t see too many folks. The mid-portion of the trail is steep but with good switchbacks and you’ll soon be rewarded with some amazing wildflower viewing.
What Makes It Great
The views from the top of Sheep Mountain make the effort worthwhile. You can see north to Heart Mountain and the Pryor Mountain Range in Montana, 50 miles east to the Big Horn Mountains and 30 miles south past the Meeteetse Rim. This is wide, open country with Cody appearing as a pretty small dot below you. The trail starts on the sheltered north side of Sheep Mountain and you’ll traverse through some sagebrush and pinyon pines. Within the first mile you’ll enter a canyon of light colored limestone with cliffs rising several hundred feet above you. The trail becomes steep at this point for a short distance until you top out into a lush wildflower and grass meadow. The trail peters out through the meadow so continue south along the drainage, coming to an old cabin in another mile. This is the official end of the trail.
From here you can wander around checking out the view or hit the actual summit if you have a GPS unit handy. The coordinates for the summit are 044° 26’ 32.51’’ N, 109° 19’ 41.75’’ W. Sheep Mountain is one of those typical western hills that has several apparent summits.
Who is Going to Love It
Anyone who wants to understand the lay of the land and get a bird’s eye view of Wyoming’s tortured basin and range topography will enjoy Sheep Mountain. The summer months will see an ever changing display of local wildflowers. Three rare species of plant grow on Sheep Mountain - Absaroka beardtongue, Absaroka biscuit root, and Aromatic pussytoes. This trail is a great workout for somebody short on time. History buffs can envision themselves spending the winter on Sheep Mountain as did the original inhabitants of the area, the Shoshone Indians. Bighorn sheep were the staple of the Shoshone diet and at one time thousands of sheep inhabited the area.
One thing to ponder while wandering about is the fact that Sheep Mountain is actually a portion of Heart Mountain which looms on the horizon to the north. Geologists speculate that Heart Mountain detached from its parent rock some 30 miles to the west and slid out onto the Big Horn Basin. Sheep Mountain and the McCullough Peaks to the east are remnants of this catastrophic detachment.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Cody take the North Fork Highway or US Highway 14/16/20 west to the far end of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. Turn left towards the Buffalo Bill State Park campground. Drive south .5 miles then turn left (east) onto Stagecoach Trail. Continue on the gravel road for 1.0 miles then turn right (south) at the Sheep Mountain Gravel Pit sign. There is plenty of parking for several vehicles, including horse trailers. The information kiosk marks the trailhead.
This is BLM land so dogs are allowed if they’re leashed. Remember, this is grizzly bear country so take your bear spray and hike in groups of at least three people. You might also hear the buzz of a rattlesnake on this trail.