Wyoming offers a diverse array of terrains that beckon to be experienced. Summer is the time to explore this state, because the winters can be brutally cold. In the southern and central parts of the state, the flat high plains and farms seem to stretch out forever. The southest portion of Wyoming looks like Utah high desert terrain, while the Bighorn Mountains in north Wyoming are so high up that the summers usually only last a couple of months. Grand Teton has its own alpine climate too and the strange geological oddities of Yellowstone National Park are as surreal as can be.
Shoshone Canyon is the east gateway to Yellowstone, but surprisingly few tourists remember much about the trip through this canyon because the Yellowstone experience is so overwhelming. Most of the tourists coming from Cody, Wyoming are usually so busy speeding on the long paved road through Shoshone Canyon to the Yellowstone East Gate, that they do not take the time to notice what this wilderness area has to offer. For this reason, on any given day a bystander will see thousands of cars driving on Highway 14, but only a handful actually are parked at the roadside Shoshone Canyon recreation areas. This canyon definitely is a fly by traffic zone, which is like music to the ears of those who want to escape from the big crowds!
The picturesque Shoshone Canyon was carved by the Shoshone River over eons of time. The Shoshone River connects with the Bighorn River east near Bighorn Lake about 100 miles away, so as can be imagined, this long body of water is an angler's paradise! The Shoshone River offers world class trout fishing and there are plenty of fishing guide businesses along this stretch of U.S. Highway 14. Everything from fishing permits, tackle, camping supplies and guided tours can be found at the little shops in Shoshone Canyon.
Wildlife viewing in Shoshone Canyon is another way to spend a refreshingly cool summer day in Wyoming. Because of the high elevation, the spring season wildflower bloom usually arrives in mid summer, so this is music to the ears of those who were too busy to see the early spring wildflower blooms in the Desert Southwest. A colorful wildflower bloom always seems to have a way of drawing wild animals out from hidden cover. A visitor can expect to see buffalo, pronghorn, moose, mule deer and elk grazing on the green growth this time of year in the Shoshone National Forest. Mountain Sheep can be seen on the high rocky cliffs in Shoshone Canyon, so be sure to pack a high power lens when hiking in these parts. This region also harbors bears, wolves, mountain lions and coyotes, so keeping the pets on a leash and stowing food in a secure place is necessary during the summer season.
There is something about the unique geological features of Shoshone Canyon that causes an ominous feeling of awe. It is as if the boulders and rocks on the canyon walls were hand carved by an unseen spiritual entity long ago. Upon the first glance, Shoshone Canyon looks like it is much older than the other famous canyons in the west and this initial impression does hold true. The volcanic rock strata that this canyon runs through is well over 50 million years old.
The old age of Shoshone Canyon is clearly defined, especially when looking at the archaeological finds that have been discovered in this place. Mummy Cave is an archaeological site that has evidence of ancient cultures thriving in this area well over 9,000 years ago. This canyon not only supported human life in ancient times, it was also a spiritual place. The mystique of the ancient civilized history of Shoshone Canyon adds to the ominous feeling that one experiences when there.
When touring Shoshone Canyon, the main landmark to look for is the Holy City rock formation. One look is all it takes to see why a spiritual name was given to this place. Some say that The Holy City rock outcrop looks like ancient Jerusalem and this is how it got its name. Others who are more familiar with the ancient great house pueblos of the west will see similarities in the shape of this majestic rock formation too. This eroded rock outcrop actually does look like an ancient city with rectangular building shapes, smooth walls and tall towers. When looking a little closer, many of the eroded hoodoos start to look like people or deities from another world. One of the hoodoos that stands on top of the Holy City actually looks like Kokopelli, which is the well known native flute player symbol. The Holy City certainly is an inspirational sight to see, so be sure to bring a good camera when hiking around this part of Shoshone Canyon.
A little further west in the canyon is where the green lush landscape of Yellowstone enters the picture. The Wapiti Wayside is a nice place to relax in the shade in this section. Wapiti has picnic areas and the view of Shoshone Canyon from this vantage point is interesting beyond belief! The word Wapiti translates to "Elk" and plenty of these wild animals can be seen nearby just about any time of day. After gazing at the Holy City and reading the information on the placards describing the rock formation, pretty soon nearly every rock outcrop on top of the canyon starts looking like buildings and towers. Honestly, it is easy to get a kink in the neck, because so much time will be spent staring at the features high up on top of the towering canyon walls!
When approaching the east gate of Yellowstone National Park, the old historic Buffalo Bill's Pahaska Teepee comes into view. The Pahaska Teepee is Buffalo Bill's original hunting lodge that he built for guests and visitors of Yellowstone National Park back in the early days. In modern times, Pahaska Teepee still offers rustic old west style cabin lodging in the Shoshone National Forest. The Hunting lodge has a lounge, restaurant, general store, gas pumps and trail horse rentals. Information for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds is easy to come by in this historic place and a visit is like stepping back in time to the days of the old wild west!
Traveling on U.S. Highway 14 through Shoshone Canyon is one of the best scenic drives that there is. Because the Yellowstone National Park is next door, this wilderness area rarely is explored by the majority of those who pass through. For those who do stop to smell the roses, it will be easy to see that Shoshone Canyon truly is an outdoorsman's paradise. Visiting Shoshone Canyon during the summer season offers a chance to enjoy some peace and quiet in a picturesque wilderness setting that is like no other place in the west!
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