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Bighorn Wild and Scenic Trail Run

Intermediate
  5.0 ( 1 ) Favorite

Trail

48.4 mile 77.9 kilometer point to point
89% Runnable
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 9,936' 3,028 m
Descent: -5,142' -1,567 m
High: 8,980' 2,737 m
Low: 4,087' 1,246 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 6% (3°)
Max Grade: 44% (24°)

Dogs

No Dogs
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Trail shared by Charles Danforth

One of the best trail ultras around, Bighorn offers four distances in a really wonderful, community-based race.

Charles Danforth

Features Geological Significance · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overview

Rolling through the uplands of the Bighorn Mountain, the trail covers everything from wide jeep roads to gnarly singletrack, flower-strewn meadows to deep pine forests, long climbs, screaming descents, and rolling terrain. Also mud. The race has a wonderful community feel with a lot of local support from organizations in Sheridan and Dayton and a wonderful after-race party.

Need to Know

Mid-course race access is possible in three places: Dry Fork (mile 13/83) and JAWS (mile 48) are both accessed via US 14 from Dayton. Sally's Footbridge (mile 30/66) is accessed via a bit of hiking from the Montana side and is much harder. For this reason, most crew come in and out via DF or JAWS.

Description

Paraphrased from the 100-mile runners' guide:

Runners begin their outbound journey in the Tongue River Canyon 3.5 miles from the Town of Dayton at 4,275-foot elevation with views of steep cliffs rising overhead, refreshing glimpses of the Tongue River, and spectacular views of the iconic limestone formation, locally known as "The Needle."

After 1.25 miles, runners transition from road to the Tongue River Canyon Trail and, a few miles later, a challenging ascent through a sea of Spring Lupine, Balsam Root, and the Wyoming state flower, the Paint Brush, as they climb Horse Creek Ridge (7,450 feet). This is Bighorn's first of many grueling climbs and rugged technical trails. The heat can be brutal in the canyon.

After cresting Horse Creek Ridge, runners get a short downhill into the Sheep Creek Drainage. A rustic footbridge crossing Sheep Creek guides runners along singletrack trail and two-track trail. Head west over the next 3 miles of rolling singletrack trail and 1.25 miles of two-track trail (road #201). Camp Creek Ridge rises to approximately 7,854 feet at 12.25 miles into the race.

Kick back a little while descending through Camp Creek drainage on narrow singletrack trail leading to a short section of gravel road where roads #168 and #149 greet one another and welcome runners to the saddle of the Dry Fork Ridge Aid Station on Freeze Out Road (Road #149, 7,480 feet, mile 13.5). This is one of three major aid stations along the course and is easily accessed from US14 west of Dayton.

Section two of the course: descend into the Dry Fork drainage on 6 miles of primitive, red dirt, two-track trail with views of elk meadows and small creek crossings. Short sections of steep uphill and downhill will work the legs as you move towards the next aid station: Kern's Cow Camp Aid Station at Miller Creek (mile 19.5, 6,600 feet).

Another 7 miles through rolling forest and meadows brings you to Bear Camp (6,800 feet, mile 26.5) and the top of the steep descent into Bighorn Canyon. Head north down a treacherous section of Bighorn's infamous shoe sucking mud and steep singletrack trail. The trail crosses the Little Bighorn River at Sally's Footbridge at 4,590 feet (mile 30) in a lovely grove of trees.

Section three of the course is a grinding, 15-mile, 5,000-foot climb to the high plateau. This is where you'll encounter mud, darkness, and the most remote terrain of the course. The JAWS trailhead is the turn-around in the 100-miler and starting point for the 52-mile race. Little Bighorn Canyon goes up arduous rocky trail past Cathedral Rock (5,080 feet, mile 33.5). This is one of the grandest parts of the course with views of the Little Bighorn River juxtaposed with mighty canyon walls.

Continuing up the Little Horn Canyon, pass Spring Marsh (6,920 feet, mile 40 outbound). Spring Marsh is situated next to a fresh mountain spring providing the Bighorn's finest (drinkable) water. Ascend singletrack trail through Wagon Box Creek and Duncum Creek. Here is where you'll find the worst of the famous Bighorn mud! Make sure your shoes are tied securely! After passing through an Aspen grove, a steep yet short ascent brings you to Elk Camp (74,30 feet, mile 43). Almost done with the climb!

Continue ascending the Willow Creek drainage crossing Devils Canyon Road on the Bighorn Mountain Divide (8,951 feet, mile 47 outbound). Follow singletrack trail and a short section of road at a slight descent through Porcupine Creek drainage to the JAWS Trailhead around the next bend in the trail (8,800 feet, mile 48).

If you're racing, get in and out of the aid station in prudent time and retrace your steps down the long descent to Sally's Footbridge, up the steep climb to Bear Camp, through the rolling terrain past Cow Camp to Dry Fork, then a final 13 miles back down into Tongue River Canyon to the starting line. From here, you've got 4 miles of hot, dusty, dirt road to run back to the 100 mile mark and finish line/party in Dayton.

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  5.0 from 1 vote

#1683

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  5.0 from 1 vote
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Featured Run Rankings

#36

in Wyoming

#1,683

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34 Since Jul 11, 2019
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Photos

Lupines galore on Freezeout Ridge.
Jul 11, 2019 near Sheridan, WY
Lovely evening forest around Footbridge.
Jul 11, 2019 near Lovell, WY
The "Wall" was lots of fun to run down yesterday afternoon. It's a lot less fun to come back up in the morning.
Jul 11, 2019 near Lovell, WY
Deep in the Little Bighorn River.
Jul 11, 2019 near Lovell, WY
Tongue River Canyon
Jul 11, 2019 near Sheridan, WY
A sturdy bridge aids your passage over the Tongue River to a cool cave!
Apr 17, 2017 near Sheridan, WY

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