I love the name of this canyon. Ten Sleep is in Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin. Area Sioux moving from one important camp to another used to cross this basin regularly and it took exactly ten sleeps. The most famous historical event to occur here was the Ten Sleep Spring Creek Raid in a war between sheep ranchers and cattlemen a little more than 100 year ago. U.S. Highway 16 between Buffalo and Worland gets rave reviews from travelers, but not from me.
When Ruth & I were newly married, we drove through this area on our way to Yellowstone National Park. It was July. I had never been on a road this high before and it started snowing. I thought this was totally unique, but it wasn’t. Because Highway 16, also known as the Cloud Peak Scenic Byway, rises to 9,666 feet at the Powder River Pass, it can snow year round on this road. One man on TripAdvisor reported that he and his sons had a snowball fight up here on July 1.
In 2016 we drove, not all the way to Yellowstone, but from the colorful burg of Buffalo, home to the rip-roarin’ Occidental Hotel, to the town of Ten Sleep, about 64 miles. I remembered the road as being wild and dangerous. Today it’s updated and tamed. Some reviewers call it excellently maintained. That it is. Rand McNally designates it as scenic all the way. I would judge it less scenic than before, but memory is not always to be trusted. Today I’d still call it worthwhile.
The town of Ten Sleep, population 260, and the canyon east of it attract climbers. It has become one of America’s premier summer climbing magnets. One website devoted to the sport raves about its more than 800 bolted routes and says, “You’ll find pockets of all sizes, from quarter-pad monos to three and four finger sinkers, as well as the whole range of crimps.” Translation? Those who understand this would probably welcome snow in July.
Ruth and I stopped often to admire the views. The Loaf Mountain Overlook was the best. This Loaf rises to 11,722 feet and is clearly visible here as is 12,324-feet-high Bighorn Peak. The signs were a bit less interesting, mostly about White Pine Blister Rust.
The history of scenic Highway 16 and this area involves many interesting stories. My favorite is about partying Dudley Guilford, who was in the area to attend a Yale reunion. At 2 a.m. he stepped outside and realized he needed to pee. Seeing some bushes, he stepped toward them and discovered, too late, that they were the tops of trees. He sued Yale and collected damages.