About Porcupine Falls
Porcupine Falls could very well be the most popular waterfall in the Bighorn Mountains of Northern Wyoming.
While most of the other waterfalls that I’ve seen in this rugged mountain range were for viewing only, this waterfall had a very large plunge pool, which made for an accessible swimming hole.
In addition, as you can see in the photo above, this 70-100ft plunging waterfall was surrounded by tall, vertical cliffs so it possessed that rare combination of scenic beauty and fun place to hang out.
The only catch was that I had to be willing to drive a little out-of-the-way into the Bighorn Mountains as well as endure a 440ft descent (and climb back out) on a steep 0.4-mile (0.8-mile round-trip) trail.
I also had to double the length of my hike because I didn’t want to risk damage to the rental car on the narrow, rutted spur road leading to the official Porcupine Falls Trailhead.
Nevertheless, of all the waterfalls that I encountered outside of Yellowstone National Park, this could very well be my favorite one.
Porcupine Falls Trail Description
My hike to Porcupine Falls actually began from a pullout or parking space adjacent to the signed turnoff for Porcupine Falls (see directions below).
I could have driven the nearly 0.4-mile road to the actual Porcupine Falls Trailhead, but the road was too rutted and rocky for my liking.
So after doing this flat walk, it then gently descended past a dilapidated cabin or shack and approached the parking area for the Porcupine Falls Trailhead.
From there, I then went on a foot trail as it went past a sign prohibiting stock and then descended towards the bottom of the canyon in earnest.
For roughly the first 0.2 miles, the trail skirted along the canyon as it made a somewhat gentle descent, but then it turned to the left and made an even steeper descent on a combination of slope and steps.
This steep descent would persist for almost the next 0.2-mile before I started to catch my first glimpse of Porcupine Falls.
The trail made its final descent as it skirted the base of a cliff while going around a protrusion that had prevented the entire waterfall from being seen until I got around this obstruction.
Once at the end of the roughly 0.4-mile trail, I was right at the inviting edge of the plunge pool, where I shared this place with at least a dozen or other people during my visit.
That’s saying something considering how out-of-the-way this spot in the Bighorn National Forest was.
Anyways, the view from the edge of the plunge pool was somewhat angled and partial so I scrambled onto the adjacent outcrop to improve the view.
When I got above the obstruction, I managed to get an unobstructed frontal view of Porcupine Falls and its large plunge pool towered over by rugged cliffs.
Indeed, this was the kind of place that was hard to leave, but after having my fill, I then had to get back all that elevation loss on the way back up to the trailhead.
Overall, this visit took me a little over an hour, where my extended 1.6-mile round-trip hike (as opposed to 0.8-mile round-trip) involved spending 25 minutes to get to the bottom and 35 minutes to get back to the start.
Porcupine Falls resides in the Bighorn National Forest near Lovell in Big Horn County, Wyoming. It is administered by USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
For driving directions to the Porcupine Falls Trailhead, I’ll just describe the routes that we managed to take.
Driving from Sheridan to Porcupine Falls Trailhead
Starting from Sheridan, we drove on the westbound I-90 for over 14 miles before taking the exit 9 for the US14 West (towards Ranchester).
At the off-ramp, we then turned left and followed the US14 West for about 50 miles to the Burgess Junction (where the US14 intersected with the US14A).
We then turned right at this junction and followed the US14A West for another 20 miles before turning right onto the unpaved Forest Service Road 14 (Sheep Mountain Road).
Finally, we took this road for a little over 7 miles (eventually taking us onto Devil’s Canyon Road en route) before reaching a signed turnoff for Porcupine Falls Trail #135.
Just beyond this turnoff was some parking space, which was where we stopped the car as I decided to walk the remaining 0.4 miles to the actual Porcupine Falls Trailhead.
Overall, this 75-mile drive would take between 90-120 minutes.
Driving from Cody to Porcupine Falls Trailhead
From Cody, I took the US14A east in the direction of Lovell for about 78 miles.
This long stretch included driving past Lovell and up the steep curves ascending into the Buck Horn Mountains.
Then, I turned left onto the unpaved Forest Service Road 14 (Sheep Mountain Road) and followed it for about 7 miles (going onto Devil’s Canyon Road along the way) before reaching the signed turnoff for Porcupine Falls Trail #135.
Overall, this 84-mile drive would take about 2 hours.
For context, Cody was 147 miles (under 3 hours drive) west of Sheridan, 163 miles (over 2.5 hours drive) north of Lander, 214 miles (about 3.5 hours drive) northwest of Casper, 167 miles (over 3.5 hours drive) northeast of Jackson Hole, 76 miles (over 90 minutes drive) southeast of Cooke City-Silver Gate, Montana, 107 miles (under 2 hours drive) south of Billings, Montana, 132 miles (over 3 hours drive) southwest of Gardiner, Montana, and 146 miles (about 3.5 hours drive) east of West Yellowstone, Montana.
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