Big Spring Scenic Backway
In the foothills of the Tunp Mountains along the Big Spring Scenic Backway
Back in the early days of Anglo-American exploration and emigration, this area was crossed by the Lander, Sublette and Demsey Cutoffs of the Oregon Trail. Today, the 68 miles of the Big Spring Scenic Backway retraces some of those old routes and gives modern folks an idea as to what those wagon travellers went through as they made their ways west.
Big Spring Scenic Backway leaves Kemmerer headed north on Wyoming Route 233, almost paralleling the Hams River. Just above Lake Viva Naughton, the pavement will end. In this same area is where the road crosses the route of the Demsey Cutoff, then the Sublette Cutoff. If you get out and look around, you might still see some wagon wheel ruts and other evidence from those days.
The road rises from that point and heads into the higher reaches of the Tunp Mountains. You'll cross the boundary of Bridger-Teton National Forest and then come to that portion of the route that follows the old Lander Cutoff through the mountains. Shortly you'll pass the entrance to Pine Creek Ski Area, the road will turn north again and you'll go deeper into the mountains. Eventually, you'll round a sharp turn and head south again, out of the mountains and across the deck of the high plains to Cokeville. Just outside the forest boundary you'll find pavement again.
There are no services along the route but Kemmerer and Cokeville offer full services. Most vehicles should have no trouble navigating the road to Pine Creek Ski Area but beyond that, you might want higher clearance. Depending on the weather, you might also want 4WD. Beyond Pine Creek, the road is closed in winter by snowfall and doesn't usually open up again until sometime in May.
You'll see old fences, homesteads, cabins, barns and rock cairns all along this wild and woolly route. Cokeville used to be known as the Sheep Capital of the World and the countryside is filled with reminders from those days. In addition to the many sheep you may see along the road, there are also moose, deer, elk, coyote, bobcat, black bear and mountain lion. Most days, you might not see another vehicle the whole length of the road.
In the Tunp Mountains along the Big Spring Scenic Backway
Big Spring Scenic Backway area map