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Topic: Thunder Basin National Grassland suggestions?< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 22 2013, 8:52 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yes, I know that it's in Wyoming, but it's not exactly the Rocky Mountains so I hope denizens of this forum can help me out.

My boyfriend and I will be visiting the grassland next week and plan on driving to different points and taking short hikes (<5mi - we can only carry so much water with us) to overnight camping spots. Solitude is a big priority, i.e., away from the noise of ATV trails or the coal mine, and we'd also be interested in seeing some of the more interesting land features.  

Does anyone have any suggestions for hikes or destinations? We'll be approaching from Douglas, WY to the south of the grassland. This is our first trip to Wyoming, and we're excited to see some wide open spaces. Thanks!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 22 2013, 10:55 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

If TravisNWood doesn't see this topic here, go post it in the Rocky Mountains forum, or just sem him a PM.  He's in Wyoming, and hikes that area frequently.

Tom
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 23 2013, 12:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yeah, I can help you out depending upon what interests you. I grew up on the edge of the grassland and usually spend time there every week.

Do you have the Forest Service map? If not, I'll have to chase down some maps for you. So hang on. I may not get back to this until this afternoon. And one more question: You are driving up from Douglas, Wyoming, but were you planning to go back that way or to continue driving north or east from the grassland?

And yeah, it would be better to post this in the Rocky Mountain section. But that's no biggy. We can take it here.

Meanwhile see the photos in my signature line marked Wyoming Steppes. Those were mostly taken on the Thunder Basin National Grassland.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 23 2013, 3:13 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Oops, guess I should have posted this in the other forum. My bad.

As far as maps go, I found a pdf of a FS motor vehicle use map for the grassland online, but it looks way too big for me to print out at home on an 8.5"x11". I was hoping to pick one up from the Ranger District Office in Douglas when we get there, but we're arriving on Saturday so I'm not sure whether we'll be able to get one if the office is closed for the weekend.

Currently we're planning on exiting through Douglas, but our ultimate destination after the grassland is Grand Teton NP. If you know of a better or more scenic way to get there within a day's drive I'm open to suggestions.

Your photos of the grassland are beautiful. That's the kind of terrain we're looking to hike through, as well as the flat grassy areas where you can see forever (like this picture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki....as.jpg)

Thanks for your help, Travis. It's great to be able to get some local advice!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 23 2013, 6:07 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

First of all, it is very important that you have a Forest Service map. Thunder Basin National Grassland has a lot of private land scattered among the Federal land. The Federal land is broken up into a lot of pieces. You don't want to drive on, park on, or hike on private land. And the only way to really know where you are is to have a good map.

So if the Forest Service office in Douglas is closed, try convenience stores, visitors centers, chamber of commerce office and so on. It is very important to have that map. As a last resort, try the convenience store in Wright, Wyoming. But before you start the drive, you can try to print out portions of the maps I link and simply restrict your hikes to those areas.

By the time you leave Douglas, make sure of two things:
    1) Fill up your vehicle with gas. You can get gas in Wright, but either way, you want to have close to a full tank before you head out to the grassland. Remember: you have to have enough gas to drive about 170 miles north to Wright and then east to the grassland and then back to Douglas. Wright is the location of last resort to get gas for your vehicle.

    2) Stock up water to drink. There are no water sources where you are going. And the temperatures are likely to be hot. So keep at least a gallon of water or Gatorade for each person in your vehicle. More is better. And drink plenty before you start your hikes. Don't skimp on water.
I can give you two locations to hike. Both are in the hilly portions of the grassland. To get there from Douglas, drive north on highway 59 to about three miles south of Wright, Wyoming. Better yet, go to Wright, stop for gas, if you need it, get a map if they have one, and then drive south the three miles to the intersection with highway 450 going east. From Douglas to highway 450 is about 72 miles. The convenience store in Wright, WY is at the crosshairs of this link to Acme Mapper.

After you take the turn onto highway 450, going east, look near the reflective posts on the north side of the highway for the mile markers. They are small green rectangles located every mile. About a quarter mile east on highway 450, you can find milepost marker 66. Thereafter, every mile with be a smaller number: 66, 65, 64, 63, . . . etc. You're counting down.

At milepost 57 you'll drive past the Black Thunder Mine entrance on the south side of the highway. Stay on 450. Between mileposts 55 and 54, you'll pass another entrance to the Black Thunder Mine (or Arch Coal company) on the north side of the highway. Stay on 450. At milepost 51 are two fairly sharp corners in the highway. About when you get to the second curve, you'll see a sign marked "School Creek Road." Turn off highway 450 onto "School Creek Road." The turn is marked at the crosshairs of this Acme Mapper link.

When you turn onto "School Creek Road," you'll see a brown sign with white letters marked "Thunder Basin National Grassland." From your vehicle, you will see some hills to your southeast. Below is a photo of those hills. The hills are part of the national grassland, and they are a good place to get a five-mile hike. But you'll be hiking cross country or on a rough dirt road. To find a place to park after you leave the highway, drive 0.6 to 0.7 miles to a small dirt road on the east side of School Creek Road and park along that dirt road. (See map.)



Stay on and among those hills and within a couple miles of your vehicle, and you probably will never cross private land. Green land is Forest Service. White land is private. (You can see the Forest Service Map online at the following links: North Portion, and South Portion.) Attached below is the corresponding area from the Forest Service map. It just happens to be split between the north and south portions of the FS map.

I need to get some work done around the house this afternoon, but I'll try to post the second hike later this evening.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 23 2013, 10:21 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

This is exactly the kind of information I've been scouring the internet for. Every guide book I can find for Wyoming only has info on Grand Teton and Yellowstone, when I know there is much more to see. Thank you so much!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 24 2013, 12:19 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yeah, I know what you mean.

By the way, if you want topo maps, the first hike was located on the Piney Canyon NW quadrangle. The second hike (below) is located on the Piney Canyon NE quadrangle.

The second hike is a bit more difficult to describe, and it would be best if you had the Forest Service map and the topo for this hike. A GPS unit could be helpful also, so that you can retrace your path back to your vehicle.

Second hike:

Back on highway 450, travel further east to the Keeline Road on the north side of the highway. The mile marker is #44. (see map.) Drive "north" on Keeline road about 2.5 miles and find a place to park along Keeline Road. (See map.) The view after leaving the highway will be similar to the photo below.



To the right edge of the photo is a ridge leading up to the shrub forests on the east end of that hill. You'd basically be hiking off trail and cross country along that ridge from where you park (as described above.) If you walk 1.5 miles west or 1.5 miles east from your parking location, you will still be on Federal land. To the east of where you park will be flatter grassland. To the west is the hill shown in the photo. It can get treacherous trying to find a way up that ridge. There's no trail or road.

Some things to watch out for:
    1) There is a lot of prickly pear cactus on the ground, so be careful not to step in any. The spines are sharp.
    2) This is all Prairie rattlesnake country. You are not likely to see one, but it's best to be aware.
    3) After rain, the soil can become a sticky mud that makes hiking very difficult. The mud will collect in huge globs on your boots. And the ground can be slippery.
The photos I've posted were taken around the first week of June. The country will be a lot drier at the end of July, so you won't see quite so much green grass. It will be more like beige or light yellow. But it can still be pretty country.

I'll be away from the computer tomorrow (Wednesday), so that may be about all I have time to post about this. I'll check Thursday morning to see if I need to add a few notes or answer questions. Feel free to ask. I wish we had more time to go over this.

Below is a map of the area of the second hike. Your parking location is marked with a red X.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 25 2013, 10:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks again, Travis. I have secured a way to get that map so that will be helpful. We leave tomorrow, and are looking forward to seeking out these spots.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 26 2013, 12:41 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE


(MetMet @ Jul. 25 2013, 8:23 pm)
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Thanks again, Travis. I have secured a way to get that map so that will be helpful. We leave tomorrow, and are looking forward to seeking out these spots.

Have fun. You are somewhat rare in seeking out the Thunder Basin for hiking. Given more time, I could suggest other areas, but this will give you a decent introduction.

Best of luck, and if possible, I'd like to hear how things went when you get back.


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Photos Bighorn Mountains Wyoming Steppes
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