Hiking Sheep Mountain: Hard Ascent, Beautiful View
As alarms started buzzing in the early hours of the morning, the five women in our hotel room blearily started rising and making final preparations for our day’s hike. As we drove through sleepy Star Valley towards Jackson, many of us probably wondered what we were getting ourselves into and if it was too late to turn back.
Sheep Mountain, locally known as Sleeping Indian (because of its resemblance to a sleeping Native American), lies about 13 miles southwest of Jackson, Wyoming, in the Gros Ventre mountain range opposite the grand Teton Mountains. It’s easily recognizable from the town of Jackson and the women I was with (four of whom were raised in Jackson) were so excited to be hiking it for the first time. Around 7:00 am, much later than planned, our group met at a church to combine cars and finish any final prep. Our group consisted of myself, my mother-in-law, her three sisters, and three sweet college-age nieces/cousins, all of us led by my husband’s intrepid aunt.
We arrived at the pre-trailhead and all piled into a truck to get to the actual trailhead. I was one of the lucky ones chosen to ride in the bed of the truck. It was a blast and everyone inside the cab was jealous. Potential hikers beware: the road to the trailhead is very rough and a high clearance vehicle is definitely required. At 7:30 am, bright-eyed and ready for adventure, our group set out.
Our planned hike was approximately 10 miles with 4,200 feet of elevation gain. If you want to break that down, it’s about 840 feet of elevation per mile. The trail was immediately beautiful. I’ll admit that I’m not overly familiar with the Wyoming landscape, but to me, it was surprisingly green for early August.
For the first few miles,the brush was fairly heavy and you definitely have to do a bit of self-navigating as the trail is a little difficult to follow. I wore pants and did not regret it. The early morning dew was pretty chilly and it was nice to have that layer. On the way back down, it was nice to not get scratched.
I’ve lived in Utah for the last eight years or so, and I’m of the opinion that all trails in here pretty much look the same. Not so with our trail. We went through so many different landscapes and terrains. We passed through forest, meadow, rocky mountain terrain, and what felt like everything in between. Though the path was steep and occasionally difficult, the views were incredibly breathtaking. From almost anywhere on the trail, you had spectacular views of Jackson Hole and the Teton range. On the day we hiked, the sky was so blue and clear. You could literally see for miles. If you squinted really hard, you could see Flat Creek Inn.
After about four hours, during which we literally saw one other person, we reached a beautiful plateau. We sat and ate lunch and rested and chatted. It felt great to just sit for a few minutes. Finally, we decided it was time to actually ascend Sleeping Indian. One of our group decided to stay behind so we left our bags in the hopes we would be faster (fingers crossed). The hike to the top is very rocky, kind of trailless, and has several false peaks. I have to take a minute to humble brag and say I was the first of our group to reach the top. And the views were absolutely incredible. Could I literally see forever? Maybe. Despite the wind, it was so peaceful. It was the perfect place for pondering or meditating and some in our group took advantage of the time we had at the top.
Soon enough our party was heading down again and the trail rang with the happy chatter of hikers heading downhill. Along the way, we stopped at a monument to a military plane crash which was a unique experience on its own. Soon enough, we reached the trailhead and after another bumpy ride (I was in the bed again—revenge for reaching the top first!) to the rest of the cars, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. I’ve been on countless hikes in my life, but this one was special. This one will stay with me for a long time. And the bonds of sisterhood and family we strengthened on this hike were worth every one of the 4,200 feet of elevation.
If you want to get a look at Sheep Mountain from the ground, check out our webcam. And If you’d like try hiking Sheep Mountain and get the full adventure, book a room at Flat Creek Inn. If you squint, you might be able to see your room from the top.