Wyoming February 08, 2018
This Massive Wyoming Cave Is So Expansive It Spans Two States
In this day and age when everybody has pretty much seen and heard it all, it’s impressive when something as basic and natural as the Wyoming wilderness can retain its secrets — especially when the things that it’s hiding are enormous. Take the case of Horsethief Cave in the Bighorn Mountains. You would never know that it’s there unless you’re looking for it and know where to find it. Yet, it’s a massive cave so immense that it extends into two states and is actually part of the largest cave system in Wyoming and Montana.
The Bighorn Mountain Range is a relatively small chunk of the Rocky Mountains.
Though small in comparison to the bigger range they're part of, the Bighorns are expansive, extending about 200 miles on their own, and even running across the Wyoming/Montana border.
It's there at the base of the Bighorn Mountains less than 70 miles from where the two states meet that you'll find Horsethief Cave, almost obscured by bushes and trees.
The mouth of the cave is actually located at the foot of Little Mountain. From the outside, it doesn't look like much, and you might even pass right by it if you weren't specifically looking for it.
How the cave got its name is no mystery — it was used in the late 1800s and early 1900s by horse rustlers. Its semi-hidden location offered a convenient place for thieves to hide huge animals, plus lookouts stationed near the cave could easily see when someone was approaching their hideout.
The first 700 feet were likely the part of the cave that was used the most during that time, but today cavers and spelunkers have gone much deeper than that.
The entire cave system has more than 20 miles of passages that have been explored, and countless more yet to discover.
There are no lights or handrails in Horsethief Cave, making it a "wild" cave, and an exciting one to explore.
In the early 1990s, this particular cave was actually designated as the first underground recreation trail in the country.
Even though it's wild, Horsethief Cave has seen a lot of traffic over the centuries. Some of the rock formations inside are obviously man-made. Bones found in the cave have been estimated to be more than 600 years old— some may even be from more than 3,000 years ago.
Shells and coral have even been found embedded in the rock walls of this cave, leftover from prehistoric times when the area was the location of an inland sea.
The cave twists and winds through the mountain, sometimes opening up into enormous chambers and at other times narrowing to little more than a crawl space.
Water flows through parts of Horsethief Cave, and the temperature can get as low as 37 degrees. Although it's cold and wet, you'll see many interesting and beautiful formations created by eons of mineral water seeping and dripping through crevices in the rock.
There are walls and chimneys to climb over and through, and it seems like every path leads to more and more cave.
It's definitely not the typical tourist attraction but, if you're up for an adventure (and if you don't mind getting a little dirty), Horsethief Cave has wonders still being discovered every day.
Just take a look:
Have you been to Horsethief Cave? What other Wyoming caves do you enjoy exploring?