Red Gulch / Alkali National Backcountry Byway

Total Miles


2155 ft



Technical Rating



Best Time

Summer, Fall

Trail Overview

This designated National Backcountry Byway travels through the Bighorn Basin, a vast arid expanse west of the Bighorn Mountains. Aside from seeing colorful bluffs along the foothills of the mountain range, the trip also offers the opportunity to see dinosaur tracks and Indian petroglyphs. Much of the washboarded and rutted lane passes over a broad sagebrush-carpeted plateau while passing claystone badlands, and red walls known as the Chugwater Formation. Keep watch for animals that make the Bighorn Basin home, including antelope, grouse, porcupines, and cottontail rabbits. You may also spot stacked rock cairns that were built as route markers by American Indians and sheepherders. When in the area, be sure to also visit the Medicine Lodge Archaeological Site near the southern end of the byway. This historical site includes trails, a small visitor center, campground, and petroglyphs.


Easy, but bumpy driving can be expected in dry weather conditions. In wet weather, the clay-based driving surface becomes a slippery hazard that can be impassable. A high clearance vehicle is suggested to best handle the backway's rough, rutted, and rocky stretches. This road is not recommended in the off season.

Technical Rating


Access Description

To begin this drive from the north drive west of Shell on HWY 14 for 4 miles. To start the drive from the south, head east for 20 miles on HWY 31 from Manderson toward Hyattville.