Day Trip To This ‘Crazy’ Canyon Road That Is Hauntingly Beautiful [PHOTOS]
It was the first day of Spring with a slight overcast. We started in Buffalo driving up US 16 into Bighorn National Forest. The wildflowers were blooming. The air smelled like rain and pine trees, it was glorious. There was a turn-off onto a dirt road, Crazy Woman Canyon Road. That would be our path down the mountain.
The road follows the Crazy Woman Creek down the same canyon it carved. Along the first turn-off, you could explore the area. The creek flowed between lodgepole pines and small clusters of aspen trees. The sound of the cold mountain waters filled the valley. Behind the trees was the reddish-orange jagged cliffs of the canyon walls.
As we start the descent down the mountain, the dirt road meanders through its various switchbacks and patches of washboard roads that rattle every inch of our truck. When the tall pine trees open to the canyon walls, the rocks reveal a desert varnish - a black smear resembling dripping paint. Some oddly resemble hands reaching down the red surface. Who was this Crazy Woman, I wonder.
Large boulders have severed from the cliff face making cubist tunnels for the creek to flow under. The river, the rain, and wind are slowly ripping this canyon apart. Vegetation was growing through the rock face itself. On one rock, a flower burst to the surface displaying its purple bud.
The road continued to wind down the mountain, and at a certain point, the red cliff wall disappears into the wide sprawl of the mountain range. The peaks lay flat on the prairie like teeth of a mighty beast once defeated. Then within a few moments of being surrounded by the mountains, it is nothing but wide open Wyoming land as far as the eye could see.
Who was this Crazy Woman? No one knows for sure, and there are several different legends. One story says a trader and his wife were making a living with the local natives on the Bozeman Trail. Things were good at first, but eventually, the trader was tortured and killed in front of his wife. The wife was released. She then went off alone to live in the woods where she became insane.
This is one of the best drives in the state because you can see the diversity of the Wyoming landscape. From large granite peaks picketed with lodgepole pines, to rugged cliffs that are pulled from a wild west movie, to the vast emptiness (and beauty) of the open prairie, this trip has it all.
If you decide to take the trip, make sure to pay close attention to the weather. The road requires a vehicle with high clearance and ideally 4WD or AWD. It is best to avoid the road in the rain and snow. According to DangerousRoads.org, the road should be avoided during bad weather.