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The Lower Layout Creek trail is one of the longer trails in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area and is a great place to wander through the junipers and around the dramatic nearly-vertical rim of Bighorn Canyon – with some luck you could see wild horses. The journey is 1.5 to 2 miles one-way to get to the rim and it’s best to allot 2 or 3 hours for the hike. Other trails like the Sullivan’s Knob Trail are quicker with perhaps better views but don’t feel quite as remote, since they are only short jaunts from the highway. 

The Hike

The trail begins at an easy-to-miss sign along a fence line on the main road. There isn’t a designated parking lot, but there is room to park along the side of the highway. From there, you duck under the buck and rail fence, and follow the two-track road that parallels Layout Creek

Despite the name of the trail, the main trail does not actually meet up with the creek. There is a junction where the two-track splits – the right option is the main trail. The road to the left leads to a barbed wire fence after crossing the creek.

The trail pretty much disappears shortly after you get to the two trail markers. Finding the path that the park service had in mind might be difficult, but there isn’t a need for a beaten path since it’s easy enough to just wander toward the canyon. Once at the canyon rim the views are spectacular.

Flora and Fauna

One of the main draws of the Bighorn Canyon area is the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range which stretches across parts of Custer National Forest, Bighorn National Recreation Area, and BLM land. In the Pryors, feral horses that descended from the horses brought by the Spanish to the New World still roam free (read more).

The Bighorn Canyon area landscape is dominated by utah juniper and mountain mahogany and in addition to wild horses, bighorn sheep and cottontail rabbits are commonly seen in the area.

Additional Notes

• The area around the Pryor Mountains was heavily prospected for uranium, and there are several old prospecting pits near the trail. This is likely why the two-track was originally made.

• There is very little shade and the area can get very hot, so it’s a good idea to bring water and hike during a morning, evening, or a cool day.

• Watch out for rattlesnakes.

• Be very careful around the rim of the canyon – there are dangerous overhangs and cracks that go down hundreds of feet.

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