Some may say hiking a shadeless trail in prime rattlesnake habitat in 90 degree heat wasn’t the wisest choice. I say we hacked the system — we were treated to stunning views, and didn’t have to share the State Line or Ranger’s Delight trails with anyone.
I’d never been to the Bighorn Canyon. I’d seen photos, and most of my life I assumed it was more for boating and fishing than hiking, but this trail made for a perfect day hike.
It’s a bit of a drive from Billings, about two hours, and you cross the state line with Wyoming twice before you get to the trailhead. To get there, head to Lovell, Wyoming and head through downtown. Head north on Highway 37 toward the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. The trailhead is about 15 miles from that turnoff.
If you take two cars, you could park one at the State Line trailhead and another at the Ranger’s Delight trailhead and have a short hike on your hands — about two miles if you don’t do much exploring. But the out-and-back four-mile hike was just enough of a workout to be satisfying, and was easy to complete before the day got too hot. We parked at the Ranger’s Delight trailhead.
The trail is pretty difficult to spot while hiking; we kept our eyes peeled for metal trail markers and still ended up bushwhacking for much of the hike. But you shouldn’t get lost, since it’s easy to discern what direction the road and the river are.
It’s important to watch for rattlesnakes in this part of the world. We stumbled close to one and it warned us off with a rattle, and from that moment on we were careful around every large rock that could provide a cool hideaway for a snake. For that reason I’d be cautious bringing a dog, but they are allowed while on a leash.
There’s no water access, so make sure to bring enough for a hot day, and sunscreen up since you’ll get very little relief from the heat on your hike.
If you’re up for the added 300-foot-elevation scramble down to the edge of the cliffs, you can get a great photo of the bend in the river and wave to any boaters that may cruise by.
This was a nice and easy introductory hike to the canyon, and I loved every minute of it.
When you’re all done with your hike, you can always head just a few more miles down the road and see the Devil’s Canyon Overlook. There’s no hiking involved and you’re more likely to meet some folks with the same idea as you.
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