Our little town of Shell, Wyo., may be small in stature with a population of only 50 people, but our ideal location at the foot of the Big Horn Mountains provides endless opportunities to explore and adventure. Within town limits are several must-see locations including dinosaur footprints, raging rapids in Shell Canyon and ancient sedimentary formations. If you happen to drive in to The Hideout and find yourself wanting to take a half-day off from riding, there are some fantastic places to visit within a few minutes of our ranch!
Just west on U.S. Highway 14 is the turn off for the Red Gulch/Alkalai National Back Country Byway, home to the impressive Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite. These rare dinosaur footprints, publicly accessible at all times, were discovered in 1997. Viewers can get up-close and personal with ancient footprints and imagine what it was like to walk along the Middle Jurassic shoreline alongside other dinosaurs. These particular footprints are more than just cool – they have the potential to alter current scientific views on the Sundance formation and Middle Jurassic period, as many scientists originally believed the Shell area was entirely underwater at that time.
A few miles east of the Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite is Shell Canyon, an impressive landscape and home to the Shell Falls Interpretive Site. The falls stretch an impressive 120 vertical feet and pour 3,600 gallons of water per second over a bed of granite.
After learning about the ancient fossils that give the falls, canyon and town their name at the newly renovated visitor center, visitors can view the surrounding canyon. Copman’s Tomb, a massive limestone formation, can be viewed to the north of Shell Falls. Also visible from the interpretive site are outcrops of the Cambrian sandstone formations, which are 550 million years old; and you can view 2.9 billion year old Precambrian rocks, some of the oldest visible rocks on Earth.
Back in the Shell valley, Devil’s Kitchen is a site you shouldn’t pass by. Particularly impressive at sunrise and sunset, these sedimentary deposits from the Cloverly formation show 125 -11 million-year-old color sequences. Accessible by simply parking and walking down into the rocks, these sedimentary layers (which resemble “Badland” formations) are the result of water depositing dirt, animal remains, shells, etc. in the area. Devil’s Kitchen features rock ranging in color from ash gray and plum purple to pale red. The formation also contains the fossilized remains of Deinonychus, a velociraptor.
These three locations, along with several others in the Big Horn Mountains and Basin, are easy to visit and just a short drive from The Hideout. If you have a vehicle with you the next time you visit us and decide to take some time off from exploring the area on horseback, be sure to check out these incredible locations and the greater Shell area – there’s a lot going on here that shouldn’t be missed!