All The Pretty Horses

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Pryor Mountain Mustangs, 2016

In a remote region of Northern Wyoming and Southern Montana, the Pyror Mountain feral horse herd roams free over vast high mountain meadows.  The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range is one of those very special places where it feels like your soul has found home.  I first visited this area in 2003, then again in 2004.  A return visit had been on my mind for a while and I finally had the opportunity to visit my old friends again last week.
At the top of the mountain, the views of the Big Horn Canyon and surrounding public lands are stunning, but the horses are the main attraction.  The Pryor mustangs tend to be small in stature and many have primitive markings such as dorsal stripes and zebra striping on their legs.  They are accustomed to gawking humans and their inquisitive nature often leads to close encounters.
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The foals are especially curious about humans.  2004

Several local groups (along with the BLM that manages the herd) keep close track of the herd, including naming each newborn foal and keeping track of lineages and deaths.  The most famous of the horses is White Cloud, a pale palomino stallion that stands out for his unique coloration.
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White Cloud and his harem, 2003

On my first visit to the range, in 2003, I had the mountain top and horses to myself.  It has since become a more popular destination, but there are still plenty of opportunities for alone time with the horses.  The bulk of the human visitors only come up for the day, so if you camp out overnight, you’ll find more solitude.  There are several good locations for dispersed camping on top of the mountain.  If you’re lucky, a few of the horses will come over to check out your tent.
There are three roads that access the mountain range, Pryor Mountain Road (aka Sage Creek Road), Burnt Timber Ridge Road and Sykes Ridge Road.  I have driven all three on different trips to the area.  The Pryor Mountain Road is a (mostly) well-maintained gravel road that is passable by passenger cars, but it does get a bit bumpy over the last few miles.  Burnt Timber and Sykes Ridge are 4WD roads.  Burnt Timber is a bit easier on the suspension than Sykes.  Keep your eyes peeled on both roads for horses grazing at lower elevations.
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An old tractor lies at rest on Burnt Timber Ridge Road.

Sykes Ridge Road was the first real 4WD road I ever drove and it can take a toll on your vehicle.  On my first trip up Sykes in my old pick-up truck, I managed to blow out a sidewall on one of my tires, destroyed my power steering gear box and seriously damaged my alignment.  It’s not a road to travel unprepared.  It is 16 miles of very rough road and a high clearance 4WD vehicle is required.  While it doesn’t have any particularly dangerous sections, there are stair-step and rock garden obstacles along with steep, rocky ascents that will require use of 4-low and your skid plates will likely takes some hits.  This trip, my trusty Jeep made it just fine.  Whichever road you chose, take a good map.
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They aren’t kidding about the 4×4 recommendation!

This is a place that is better described in photos than words, so on with the show!
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Scratching an itch, 2003

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A stallion and his mare, 2003

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Hey friend! 2003

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A foal in a meadow of lupine, 2003

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Damage acquired on Sykes, 2003

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Overlooking Montana on the Pryor Mountain Road, 2004

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Mares and foals, 2004

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Just 3 little buddies, 2004

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Nap Time, 2004

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Mustangs at a salt lick.

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Evening is settling over the range, 2004

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Foal friends, 2004

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Must be love, 2004

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Sunset in the lower reaches of Sykes Ridge Road, 2016

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Relaxing with Fluffy Dog on top of the Mountain, 2016

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Even the “good” parts of the road are rocky, 2016

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Views of the Big Horn National Recreation Area on the way up Sykes Ridge Road, 2016

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Typical coloration of these mustangs, 2016

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Hello there! 2016

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Views of Wyoming from the top of the range, 2016

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Resting among friends, 2016

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Curiousity, 2016

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A very angry marmot.  He didn’t like Fluffy Dog coming near his den. 2016

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A foal in evening light. 2016

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Grazing in the last light of the day, 2016

For more information about the Pryor Mountain Mustangs check out:

KBRHorse.net has directions for getting there, but still take a good map, the directions are a little off.
Wild In The Pryors Nice blog from a gal that takes people on tours of the mountain.
BLM Website but, don’t rely on their maps to get there!
Happy trails!
Katie

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