Places To Visit, Campgrounds And Boondocking In Bighorn National Forest

A couple of entries ago we visited Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark in Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains. In this installment, we will look at many more points of interest an adventurous RVer will want to visit while in the vicinity of the Medicine Wheel.

First off are two nearby waterfalls of considerable size. The first you will encounter is Porcupine Falls. The falls features a 200-foot thundering vertical drop into a pool at the base. The falls can only be viewed from the base requiring a short but relatively steep hike.

Bighorn National Forest
Porcupine Falls. All photos by author (Dave Helgeson)

The small opening in the cliff-face, about a third of the way up to the right of the falls, is the remnant of a tunnel that used to power a mining operation.

Once you have explored Porcupine Falls, continue north down the road to Bucking Mule Falls.

Many consider Bucking Mule Falls the most impressive waterfall in Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains. The listed height of the falls varies depending on the source—some claim 300 feet, others say it’s up to a 600-foot drop.

Realistically, the falls are comparable in height to Porcupine Falls. The hike to the falls viewpoint is considerably longer than Porcupine Falls, but not as steep as the falls can be viewed from the top rather than the base.

Bighorn National Forest
The author at Bald Mountain City Site

While the Bighorn Mountains were never a major source of precious metals, some mining did take place in the Bighorns providing some historic places to explore.

Mixed among the beautiful places to boondock in the mountains you will find the remains of Bald Mountain City, the Fortunatus Mill, and a gold sluicing operation.

Bighorn National Forest
The site of the old Fortunatus Mill

Here is a short description of the mining activity that occurred:

“Discoveries of fine-grained gold north of Bald Mountain were made in 1890. ‘Gold Fever’ brought many prospectors to the area over the next 10 years. In 1892, the Fortunatus Mining and Milling Company purchased a group of claims on the head of the Little Big Horn River and Porcupine Creek.

The excitement led to the establishment of Bald Mountain City, the most extensive attempt at a settlement in the Big Horn Mountains. Near Bald Mountain City are the remains of the old Fortunatus Mill. The gold rush ended by 1900 because yields were not enough to pay for the effort of panning.”

In addition to the waterfall and historical stops, be sure to keep a lookout for wildlife as you explore, as the area is a mecca for moose, deer, and other animals.

Bighorn National Forest
A moose we spotted
How to get there
  • The trailhead for Porcupine Falls is just off Forest Service Road 14 at N44° 51.465 W107° 54.770  — Click here for trail details.
  • The trailhead for Bucking Mule Falls is just off Forest Service Road 14 at N44° 53.049 W107° 54.345 — Click here for trail details.
  • A sign marking the remains of the Fortunatus Mill can be found along Forest Service Road 13 at N44° 49.394 W107° 49.917
  • A sign marking the remains of Bald Mountain City can be found along Forest Service Road 123 at N44° 48.393 W107° 47.537

Those wishing to explore the remains of the sluicing operation will find them a short hike off of Forest Service Road 15 at N44° 49.811 W107°44.301

Bighorn National Forest
Boondocking in the area

Developed campgrounds in the area include Porcupine Campground and Bald Mountain Campground. You can also choose one of the many boondocking sites along the roads mentioned above.

Lots of exploring options from one camp, just another great adventure in RVing!

See also: Don’t Miss This Historic Site In The Bighorn Mountains



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4 Unique Places To Visit Near Austin In Spicewood, Texas

1. Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Cut N Putt

Country music singer Willie Nelson croons about being “on the road again’ and goin’ places that I’ve never been.” When your travels take you on the road to Austin, Texas, be sure to visit Willie’s nine-hole Pedernales Golf Course in nearby Spicewood. The official course name is Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Cut N Putt. The par 36 course measures 3,330 yards.

Austin
Willie Nelson Cut ‘N Putt Golf Course 

There is no pretense of a country club feel to this popular course, just an overwhelming country feel! The course opened in 1968, and Willie purchased it in 1979, along with the adjoining recording studio, hence the Cut in Cut N Putt. Over the years, the singer has given the course its down-home feel.

How can you not like a course that allows you to bring your own cooler or wear flip-flops? Another local rule says that a foursome can have as many as a dozen golfers! Hmmm.

2. Pace Bend Park

While experiencing this unique golf course and the surrounding Spicewood area, park your RV at Pace Bend Park, formerly known as Pace Bend State Park. Offering great views of the Texas Hill Country, Pace Bend Park has nine miles of shoreline along Lake Travis.

Texas
Lake Travis at Pace Bend Park. Photo by Marcus Calderon/Flickr

Though the park features more than 400 primitive campsites, Pace Bend offers 20 improved campsites for RVs. These sites offer water, 30/50 electrical hook-ups, showers, and restrooms. These improved sites, as they are called, are all located on the east side of the park just above Levi Cove.

It’s an easy walk to the lake. They feature plenty of shade trees and flat, grassy areas. All sites are back-in only. Reservations are highly recommended.

3. The area wineries and vineyards

Worth exploring in the area is Spicewood Vineyards. They produce a variety of wines including reds, whites, and a few sweet wines as well.

Austin, Texas
Spicewood Vineyards. Photo via Facebook

Other area wineries include El Gaucho Winery, Flat Creek Estate Winery, and Stone House Vineyards.

4. Hamilton Pool Preserve

Also, many visit the area just to experience Hamilton Pool Preserve. This incredible natural pool with a waterfall is located in nearby Dripping Springs.

Austin
Hamilton Pool Preserve. Photo by david_mah/Flickr

Check out this link for more information about Spicewood. You can also read more about camping in Pace Bend Park on RV Park Reviews.

See also: Seven Reasons Why You Should Go RVing in Texas



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6 Best Places To Visit In Cripple Creek, Colorado And Victor, Colorado

Cripple Creek, Colorado and its sister city, Victor, are located about an hour southwest of Colorado Springs at an elevation of almost 9,500 feet. Although it is known as one of Colorado’s casino towns with plenty of modern casinos, the Cripple Creek area has a rich and vibrant history.

Cripple Creek
Cripple Creek, Colorado (Photo by David Shankbone via Wikipedia)

Ute tribes used the land as part of their trading and hunting routes until gold was discovered in 1890, starting the last of Colorado’s gold rushes.

By 1900, the Cripple Creek and Victor area had a population of over 50,000 people.  Over the next seven decades, more than 500 mines in the area produced more ounces of gold than either the California or Alaska gold rushes. As with many gold towns, the successful mining industry brought brothels, railroads, entertainers, outlaws, millionaires, and lawmen.

Cripple Creek
The CC&V open-pit mine (Photo via Wikipedia)

The gold rush continues in the Cripple Creek area, with several operating mines, including the Cripple Creek & Victor (CC&V) Gold Mine, currently operated by Newmont Mining.

Historically known as the Cresson Mine, CC&V is a large open-pit mine that sits between the towns of Cripple Creek and Victor and produces over 450,000 ounces of gold annually.

Cripple Creek
Modern-day downtown Cripple Creek (Photo by TC Wait)

In addition to the excitement of the casinos, there are many non-gambling activities visitors can enjoy.  Here are some local favorites.

1. The Butte Theater

The Butte Concert and Beer Hall first opened in Cripple Creek in 1896. The City refurbished the theater in 2000, and visitors can now enjoy some of the best professional theater from classic melodramas to Broadway hits in this historic venue.

The theater also hosts community theater troupes and free community movies through the year.

2. Outlaw and Lawmen Jail Museum

The Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum is a unique way to experience the wild west days of Cripple Creek.  Here you can learn about the notorious criminals, and the group of men sworn to uphold peace among the booming town.

Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum. Photo via TripAdvisor

The building was home to the Teller County Jail for over 90 years and the original jail cells are authentic to the day.  Authentic police logs from the 1890s and knowledgeable staff help visitors gain a one-of-a-kind glimpse into the more sketchy side of the past.

3. Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad

Restored narrow-gauge steam locomotives carry passengers through the Rocky Mountains, and back in time through the Cripple Creek mining district from mid-May through mid-October.

At the historic 1894 Cripple Creek Midland Depot, visitors can purchase tickets for the 45-minute trip powered by historic 15-ton Iron Horses built between 1902 and 1947.  The trip includes several stops at historic locations and photo opportunities.

4. Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine Tour

Gold mining is woven into every aspect of Cripple Creek.  One of the unique experiences you can have is to explore the gold mining history on a tour at the Mollie Kathleen.

The Mollie Kathleen mine was initially started by Mary “Mollie” Catherine Gortner in 1891.  The mine operated almost continuously until 1961 and has since continued as a tour mine.

Cripple Creek
The old mine. Photo by W.G. Dayton/Flickr

The hour-long tour includes a wealth of historic mining information, starting with a ride on a skip nearly 1000 feet (100 stories) below ground.

The descent into the vertical mine shaft is not for the claustrophobic but does give spectacular insight into how gold deposits form, and the processes used to extract gold ore for production.  The tour includes a ride on an underground tram locomotive.

5. Gold Camp Trail Hike

The Gold Camp Trail is nearly 2 miles from the Cripple Creek District Museum (9,520 ft elevation) to Hoosier Mine (10,342 ft elevation).  This trail offers interpretive signs for hikers to learn more about Cripple Creek’s mining history.

6. The Cripple Creek Donkey Herd

Cripple Creek has a herd of about 15 roaming wild donkeys that are free to move through the town as they see fit.  The herd is made up of descendants of the donkeys that were used to work the gold mines and were let loose as miners left the area.

Cripple Creek
The herd of wild donkeys hanging out at the Westward Ho Motel (Photo by Clyde Byers)

The herd is considered to be Cripple Creek mascots, and a group of volunteers from the Two Mile High Club supervises the herd and provides feed and veterinary services for them from funds raised through the year.

The donkeys are usually friendly, but if provoked or bothered, they may kick or bite, so treat them with the respect they deserve.

See also: 5 Fall Activities To Try In Steamboat Springs, Colorado



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Best Places To Visit In Astoria, Oregon For RV Campers

Astoria, Oregon has long been associated with the historical Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-06. After leaving Camp Dubois near St. Louis on May 14, 1804, the Corps of Discovery (as the mission was called) arrived at the Pacific Ocean in early November 1805, camping at Fort Clatsop in Astoria.

Astoria
The Astoria-Megler Bridge connects Astoria, Oregon to Washington State, spanning over the Columbia River. Photo via Ron Reiring/Wikipedia

Today, just a few miles from Fort Clatsop, visitors camp at Lewis & Clark Golf & RV Park. This is a convenient home base before embarking on your own discovery of the area. Offering 35 sites, Lewis & Clark Golf & RV Park also features full hookups, including 30/50 amp electrical, water, sewer, restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, and a pet area. Fully-furnished cottages are also available.

Oregon
Astoria Column

The nine-hole golf course is a great place to practice your short game. Opened in 2005, the par 36 Lewis & Clark Public Golf Course measures 2,738 yards from the longest tees. The course features two sets of tees for different skill levels. Though the fairways are decent, seven of the greens are artificial, so keep that in mind. Overall, it’s a great little course to get some practice on your irons while getting some exercise.

You can also get some exercise by exploring local attractions like the Astoria Column. Modeled after Trajan’s Column in Rome, the 125-foot tall concrete column overlooks the Columbia River, offering scenic panoramic views. While the city of Astoria is home to approximately 10,000 people, it’s estimated that 400,000 visit the Astoria Column each year.

For those interested in history, you can spend days exploring the numerous Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks scattered throughout Astoria and parts of southwest Washington State.

There are also several interesting museums in Astoria, including the Oregon Film Museum, Heritage Museum, Hanthorn Cannery Museum, and Flavel House Museum. The star of the show is the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which opened in 1962. This impressive museum contains the largest collection of Pacific Northwest maritime artifacts in the country.

There’s a lot more to see and do around Astoria, Oregon. Drive over the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Washington State for scenic views of the Columbia River and check out Fort Stevens State Park on the coast to see a century-old abandoned shipwreck.

For more information on the area, visit TravelAstoria.com. You can also read more about Lewis & Clark Golf & RV Park on RV Park Reviews.



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The Best Places To RV Camp And Visit In Juneau, Alaska

Though you can’t drive all the way to Juneau, Alaska from the lower 48 without taking a ferry somewhere along the way, once you’ve arrived in the remote Alaska state capital, there’s plenty to see and do.

Alaska
Mount Roberts Tramway

RVers will appreciate the incredible natural beauty of Mendenhall Campground. Set on the shores of Mendenhall Lake, this U.S. Forest Service campground presents Mendenhall Glacier in full view.

The glacier sits within the Tongass National Forest, which is the largest national forest in the United States, and visitors can watch icebergs calve off its frozen face into Mendenhall Lake. Mendenhall Glacier is just one of 38 major glaciers that extend from the 1,500-square-mile Juneau Icefield. Many visitors to the area enjoy flightseeing tours where helicopter tours land on the glaciers, offer glacier treks and even glacier dog sled rides.

Mendenhall Campground offers 69 sites, most with full hookups including 30/50 amp electrical, sewer, water, showers, a dump station, interpretive trails, and paved roads.

Golf is another activity you don’t normally expect to see in Alaska, but there are several courses around the state. Mendenhall Golf Course in Juneau offers a par 27, nine-hole course that measures 1,400 yards. It’s a great little course, especially if you need to improve your short game.

Speaking of short game, golfing in Alaska has a short season, usually May through September, weather permitting, of course.

Juneau
View from the Mendenhall Golf Course driving range

Another popular attraction in Juneau is the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway. Beginning at the cruise ship dock, cars travel 1,800 feet up to the Mountain House which offers spectacular views of Juneau and Gastineau Channel.

Just walking through the picturesque downtown area of Juneau is a great way to get acquainted with this compact city. Many of the main attractions can be found in this area including the Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, several museums, the state capitol building, and century-old buildings that today are gift shops, restaurants, pubs, and other specialty stores.

For more information about the Juneau area, visit the Juneau Convention & Visitors Bureau. You can also read more about Mendenhall Campground on RV Park Reviews.

See also: What You Need To Know About RVing In Alaska



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