Continuing our Wyoming explorations, we had stayed three nights at Elephant Head Lodge and wanting to experience several of the guest ranches, moved down the Wapiti Valley to the Bill Cody Ranch for three nights. We really loved the amazing scenery in Wapiti Valley and everyone was so friendly. The owners, Ronnie and Tonia Stuard were super nice and helpful with all my questions about hiking and shopping. billcodyranch.com/
The common gathering area had a comfortable sitting area, tables, dining area and delightful outdoor deck off the bar area. Wi-fi is available in the common area, so you catch up on the world.
I loved the carved bar stools…
Resident blue heeler Maverick will entertain you and loves to play if you’ll give him the time. He especially loves you to throw the frisbee for him!
I went for a ride with their horse wrangler one morning, up the back of their valley, through the woods, over the stream and up to the top of the hill. Thank goodness I had taken gloves with me, as it was COLD!
While we were in Wapiti Valley we tried to get out and hike or explore every afternoon. You have to ask the locals or your ranch management where to hike, as you won’t have much luck finding anything online or signs along the valley road. When doing this blog, I finally discovered that the Shoshone National Forest website shows campgrounds, hiking and such on their site. Here’s the link so you’ll have better luck than we did in finding good trails. Use their map feature and look for the hiking figure symbol along the valley. www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/shoshone/recreation
Our favorite trail was the Elk Fork Campgrounds trail that went up a valley overlooking a stream. You drive all the way through the campground and park by the horse corrals. There is a definite horse trail that follows the edge of the valley and overlooks a stream. The views are amazing and this would be a great trail to pack a picnic for lunch and explore.
We also hiked a ways on the Blackwater Fireman’s Memorial Trail. The first time we attempted to find the trail, we made the mistake of not realizing you had to cross over the bridge past the memorial to get to the trail head. So we wandered past the little pond with cattails and then followed game trails.
So to actually get to the trail head, drive over the bridge and there is a trail entrance just over the creek, or you can keep driving a mile or so to a further entrance by a bridge over the creek.
At the time, we didn’t realize you could drive that extra mile, so we walked alllll the way down the road to the bridge… But it did have nice views.
We were a bit tired by the time we got to the bridge…
From there it was up into the hills and woods and then we walked out the trail along the creek instead of back down the road. There were lots of these huge crickets along the way…
And saw this track – mountain lion!
On another hike we went all the way through the Boy Scout campgrounds, past the river, than up a fork. On the way back out, this is what was hanging out in the picnic area… I heard Wally say, “Doe”, but it was actually a Homer Simpson “Douhhh” as it wasn’t a deer!
He seems to be telling us to keep moving…
Wally asks, “so what do the guide books say to do when you come upon a buffalo???” We moved as far away as possible at a steady walk – and he continued with his nap – Whew!
Rand Creek Ranch Ride
One day we went for a ride at Rand Creek Ranch, which is located just a little ways outside of the Wapiti Valley as it opens up on the way to Cody. This ride was described as a “high desert” ride and that should have given us a clue… randcreekranch.com/
The other couple on the ride was an Italian couple – she had never ridden before and I don’t think he had much. They had a great time, constantly taking pictures the whole way.
The ride was steep and rocky, going up, and up, and up… The view was amazing along the way and at the top you could see all the way to the Bill Cody Reservoir.
And it was all downhill from there… literally! Poor Wally’s knee had begun hurting on the way up, and the way down was awful for him. We hadn’t thought about that when we signed up for the ride. So for those of you with knee or ankle issues, I wouldn’t suggest rides in the valley, as most of them have steep climbing and descents that will put lots of pressure on your legs. (Maybe try riding in Yellowstone if they have rides through flat areas)
My closing shot for the day is a silhouette of the famed crazy log cabin mansion on the hill as you go through Wapiti above the gas station… I love that wacky gas station sign!
Next up.. a day in Cody, Wyoming!