Shell Falls Trail In Wyoming

Here is everything you need to know about the Shell Falls Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Wyoming
  • Length: 0.2 miles.
  • Type: Hiking.
  • Surface: gravel
  • Managed By: Bighorn National Forest.
  • Permit Required?: Yes
  • Website:

The Shell Falls Trail, located in the Bighorn National Forest of Wyoming, holds a significant historical background. The trail is named after the stunning Shell Falls, a cascading waterfall that has attracted visitors for centuries. The history of the trail dates back to the early 1800s when Native American tribes, such as the Crow and Shoshone, inhabited the region. These tribes considered the area sacred and often used the trail as a route for hunting and gathering.

In the late 1800s, as European settlers began to explore the American West, the Shell Falls Trail gained prominence as a vital transportation route. It became part of the Bozeman Trail, a major pathway for pioneers traveling to the goldfields of Montana. The trail provided access to essential resources, such as water and game, making it a crucial lifeline for those venturing into the untamed wilderness.

During the late 19th century, the Shell Falls Trail witnessed increased activity due to the establishment of the Sheridan-Buffalo Wagon Road. This road connected the towns of Sheridan and Buffalo, facilitating trade and transportation in the region. The trail served as a key segment of this road, allowing wagons and stagecoaches to traverse the rugged terrain and reach their destinations safely.

In the early 20th century, the Shell Falls Trail gained recognition for its natural beauty, attracting tourists and nature enthusiasts. The construction of the Shell Falls Visitor Center in the 1930s further enhanced the trail’s appeal, providing visitors with educational exhibits and information about the area’s geological and ecological significance.

Today, the Shell Falls Trail continues to be a popular destination for hikers, offering breathtaking views of the waterfall and the surrounding Bighorn Mountains. Its rich historical background, from Native American use to its role in pioneer transportation, adds to the allure of this remarkable trail, making it a must-visit for those interested in exploring the region’s past.

While On The Trail

Access Points

The Shell Falls Trail is a short interpretive trail located in the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. It is a popular trail that provides access to the stunning Shell Falls, a 120-foot waterfall on Shell Creek. There are a few major access points or trailheads along the Shell Falls Trail, including:

1. Shell Falls Interpretive Site: This is the main access point for the trail. It is located right off US Highway 14, approximately 8 miles east of Shell, Wyoming. There is a parking area and a visitor center at this trailhead.

2. Shell Creek Campground: This campground is located about 1 mile east of the Shell Falls Interpretive Site. From the campground, you can access the Shell Falls Trail by walking along the road or through the forest.

3. Shell Creek Road: There are several pullouts along Shell Creek Road, which runs parallel to Shell Creek. These pullouts provide access to the Shell Falls Trail at various points along the way.

4. Shell Creek Picnic Area: This picnic area is located about 2 miles east of the Shell Falls Interpretive Site. It offers picnic tables and restrooms, and also serves as an access point for the Shell Falls Trail.

These are the major access points or trailheads along the Shell Falls Trail. Each of these locations provides different starting points for exploring the trail and experiencing the beauty of Shell Falls.

Transportation Available

1. Shell Falls Trailhead Parking Lot – Convenient parking lot located at the trailhead for Shell Falls Trail.
2. Greyhound Bus Station – Bus station offering transportation services to various destinations.
3. Yellowstone Regional Airport – Regional airport providing flights to and from multiple locations.
4. Cody Shuttle Service – Shuttle service offering transportation to and from various locations in Cody, Wyoming.
5. Uber – On-demand ride-hailing service available in the area.
6. Lyft – Ride-sharing service providing transportation options in the vicinity.
7. Local Taxi Services – Various local taxi companies offering transportation services in the area.
8. Rental Car Agencies – Multiple rental car agencies providing car rental services near Shell Falls Trail.
9. Cody Stagecoach – Stagecoach service offering transportation options in and around Cody, Wyoming.
10. Biking – Biking is a popular mode of transportation in the area, with bike rentals available.


The amenities available at the Shell Falls Trail may include:

1. Restrooms: There may be restroom facilities available for visitors to use.

2. Parking: There might be designated parking areas for visitors to park their vehicles.

3. Camping Sites: Depending on the trail, there may be camping sites available for overnight stays.

4. Picnic Areas: There could be designated picnic areas where visitors can enjoy meals or snacks.

5. Visitor Center: Some trails may have a visitor center where visitors can obtain information, maps, and learn about the trail’s history and significance.

6. Interpretive Signs: Along the trail, there may be interpretive signs providing information about the flora, fauna, geology, or history of the area.

7. Benches or Seating: There might be benches or seating areas along the trail for visitors to rest and enjoy the surroundings.

8. Trash Receptacles: To maintain cleanliness, there may be trash receptacles available for visitors to dispose of their waste.

9. Drinking Water: Some trails may have drinking water stations or fountains for visitors to stay hydrated.

10. Accessibility Features: Depending on the trail, there may be accessibility features such as ramps, handrails, or paved paths to accommodate individuals with disabilities.

It is important to note that the availability of these amenities can vary depending on the specific trail and its location. It is recommended to check with the local authorities or park management for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the amenities available at the Shell Falls Trail.

Nearby Services

1. Shell Campground – A nearby campground offering lodging options for visitors to the Shell Falls Trail.
2. Shell Creek Inn – A cozy inn located close to the trail, providing comfortable accommodations.
3. Shell Falls Visitor Center – A facility offering information, restrooms, and emergency services for visitors to the Shell Falls Trail.
4. Shell Falls Picnic Area – A scenic spot near the trail where visitors can enjoy a meal or snack.
5. Shell Falls Rest Area – A rest area equipped with restrooms and basic amenities for trail visitors.
6. Shell Falls Café – A small café offering food and refreshments near the trail.
7. Shell Falls Lodge – A rustic lodge providing lodging options for those exploring the Shell Falls Trail.
8. Shell Falls Emergency Services – Emergency services available in case of any unforeseen incidents or emergencies during your visit to the trail.

Shell Falls Trail Difficulty Notes

The Shell Falls Trail presents a moderate level of difficulty, making it suitable for hikers of various skill levels. The trail spans approximately 1.6 miles and features a well-maintained path with a gradual incline. While there are some rocky sections and uneven terrain, the trail is generally accessible and does not require advanced hiking skills. However, hikers should be prepared for a moderate workout and be cautious of potential slippery areas, especially during wet weather. Overall, the Shell Falls Trail offers a rewarding and enjoyable hiking experience without being overly challenging.

Features And Attractions

The Shell Falls Trail is located in the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming, USA. Along this trail, you can find several scenic views, historical sites, natural landmarks, and more. Here are some notable points of interest along the Shell Falls Trail:

1. Shell Falls: The main highlight of the trail is Shell Falls, a stunning 120-foot waterfall. It is a natural landmark and a popular spot for photography and relaxation.

2. Bighorn National Forest: The entire trail is located within the Bighorn National Forest, offering breathtaking views of the forested landscape, including towering trees, wildflowers, and wildlife.

3. Shell Creek: The trail follows the beautiful Shell Creek, which adds to the scenic beauty of the surroundings. You can enjoy the soothing sound of the flowing water as you hike.

4. Shell Canyon: As you hike along the trail, you will pass through Shell Canyon, a deep and narrow gorge carved by Shell Creek. The canyon offers impressive geological formations and stunning views.

5. Historical Sites: The area around the Shell Falls Trail has a rich history. You may come across remnants of old homesteads, mining sites, or other historical artifacts that provide a glimpse into the past.

6. Wildlife: The Bighorn National Forest is home to a diverse range of wildlife. While hiking the trail, you may spot various animals such as deer, elk, moose, black bears, and a variety of bird species.

7. Wildflowers: During the spring and summer months, the trail is adorned with colorful wildflowers, creating a picturesque landscape. Lupines, Indian paintbrush, and various other wildflowers can be seen along the way.

8. Forested Scenery: The trail offers a serene and peaceful atmosphere with its dense forested areas. Towering pine and fir trees provide shade and create a tranquil environment for hikers.

9. Rock Formations: Throughout the trail, you may encounter interesting rock formations, including cliffs, outcrops, and boulders. These geological features add to the natural beauty of the area.

10. Overlooks: There are several designated overlooks along the Shell Falls Trail that provide panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and the Shell Creek below.

Remember to check with local authorities or visitor centers for any specific points of interest or landmarks that may be unique to the current conditions or time of year.

Usage Guidelines

– Dogs are allowed on the Shell Falls Trail but must be kept on a leash at all times.
– Horses and other pack animals are not permitted on the trail.
– Bicycles and motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trail.
– Camping and campfires are not permitted along the trail.
– Hunting and fishing are not allowed on the trail.
– The trail is open year-round, but during winter months, it may be subject to snow and ice conditions. Use caution and appropriate gear during these times.
– Visitors are encouraged to stay on the designated trail and not venture off into restricted areas.
– Littering is strictly prohibited. Please carry out all trash and dispose of it properly.
– Visitors are advised to bring their own water and snacks as there are no facilities or services available along the trail.
– Respect wildlife and do not disturb or feed any animals encountered on the trail.
– Visitors are responsible for their own safety and should be prepared with appropriate clothing, footwear, and equipment for hiking.

Seasonal Information

The Shell Falls Trail, located in the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming, offers visitors a breathtaking experience amidst the natural beauty of the area. While the trail is open year-round, there are certain times of the year that are considered the best for visiting. The summer months, from June to August, are the most popular due to the pleasant weather and the abundance of wildflowers that adorn the trail. During this time, visitors can enjoy the vibrant colors of the flora and the soothing sound of the Shell Falls, which is at its peak flow.

Another great time to visit the Shell Falls Trail is during the fall season, from September to October. The surrounding forest transforms into a stunning display of autumn colors, with vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold. The cooler temperatures make hiking more comfortable, and the trail is less crowded compared to the summer months. Fall also offers the opportunity to witness the migration of various bird species, adding to the allure of the trail.

It is important to note that the Shell Falls Trail has seasonal closures during the winter months, typically from November to May. Heavy snowfall and icy conditions make the trail unsafe for hiking during this time. However, the closure does not mean that the area loses its charm. Winter enthusiasts can still enjoy the beauty of the frozen falls from a distance, and nearby areas offer opportunities for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and other winter activities.

In conclusion, the best times to visit the Shell Falls Trail are during the summer and fall seasons when the weather is pleasant, and the trail is adorned with vibrant colors. However, it is essential to check for any seasonal closures, as the trail is closed during the winter months due to hazardous conditions. Regardless of the time of year, the Shell Falls Trail promises a memorable experience surrounded by the awe-inspiring beauty of nature.


1. Wheelchair Accessibility: The Shell Falls Trail offers wheelchair accessibility with a paved path and ramps, ensuring a smooth and barrier-free experience for individuals with mobility challenges.
2. Accessible Parking: Designated accessible parking spaces are available near the trailhead, providing convenient access for visitors with disabilities.
3. Accessible Restrooms: Accessible restrooms equipped with grab bars and ample space for wheelchair maneuverability are located near the trailhead.
4. Braille Signage: Braille signage is installed along the trail, providing visually impaired individuals with information about the surroundings and trail features.
5. Handrails: Sturdy handrails are installed along sections of the trail, offering additional support and stability for individuals with mobility impairments.
6. Benches and Rest Areas: The trail features benches and rest areas at regular intervals, allowing visitors to take breaks and rest if needed.
7. Assistance Animals: Visitors with disabilities are welcome to bring their assistance animals along the trail to aid them in their mobility or other tasks.
8. Audio Guides: Audio guides are available for individuals with visual impairments, providing audio descriptions of the trail’s features and points of interest.
9. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas with accessible tables and seating options are located near the trail, allowing visitors to enjoy a meal or snack in a comfortable setting.
10. Accessible Interpretive Displays: Interpretive displays along the trail are designed to be accessible to individuals with disabilities, featuring large print, tactile elements, and audio descriptions.

Safety Information

1. Trail Difficulty: The Shell Falls Trail is a moderately difficult trail with some steep sections and uneven terrain, requiring proper hiking footwear and physical fitness.
2. Weather Awareness: Be prepared for changing weather conditions, as the trail is exposed and can experience sudden temperature drops, strong winds, and rain.
3. Trail Length: The trail is approximately 0.8 miles long, so plan accordingly for the time it takes to complete the hike.
4. Trail Markings: The trail is well-marked with signs and trail markers, making navigation relatively easy.
5. Wildlife Encounter: Be cautious of potential encounters with wildlife, including bears, moose, and smaller animals, and maintain a safe distance if encountered.
6. Water Safety: There are no water sources along the trail, so bring an adequate supply of water to stay hydrated.
7. Sun Protection: The trail offers limited shade, so wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.
8. Footing: Watch your footing on the trail, as there are rocky sections and exposed tree roots that can be slippery, especially after rain.
9. Trail Etiquette: Practice proper trail etiquette by staying on the designated path, not littering, and respecting other hikers’ space.
10. Emergency Preparedness: Carry a basic first aid kit, a whistle, and a fully charged cell phone in case of emergencies.
11. Hiking in Groups: It is recommended to hike with a partner or in a group for safety and assistance if needed.
12. Trail Closure: Check for any trail closures or restrictions before heading out, as maintenance or wildlife activity may temporarily close the trail.
13. Leave No Trace: Leave the trail as you found it by packing out all trash and minimizing your impact on the environment.
14. Cell Phone Reception: Keep in mind that cell phone reception may be limited or nonexistent along the trail, so inform someone of your plans and expected return time.
15. Physical Limitations: Consider your own physical limitations and abilities before attempting the trail, as it involves some elevation gain and uneven terrain.

Conservation Notes

The Shell Falls Trail is a conservation area that is currently designated as a protected site due to its unique ecological features and biodiversity. The conservation status of this trail is of utmost importance in preserving the delicate balance of its natural resources and ensuring the long-term sustainability of its ecosystems.

One key aspect of the conservation status of the Shell Falls Trail is the protection of its diverse plant and animal species. The trail is home to a wide range of flora and fauna, including rare and endangered species. Efforts are made to safeguard their habitats and prevent any disturbance or destruction that could lead to their decline or extinction. This includes implementing measures to control invasive species, managing human activities, and promoting responsible visitor behavior to minimize any negative impact on the ecosystem.

Another crucial element of the conservation status of the Shell Falls Trail is the preservation of its water resources. The trail encompasses a pristine river system that supports a variety of aquatic life. Conservation efforts focus on maintaining the water quality, preventing pollution, and ensuring sustainable water usage practices. This includes monitoring water levels, implementing erosion control measures, and promoting responsible recreational activities such as fishing and swimming to minimize any adverse effects on the aquatic ecosystem.

Overall, the conservation status of the Shell Falls Trail is aimed at protecting its unique biodiversity, preserving its delicate ecosystems, and promoting sustainable practices to ensure its long-term viability. Through ongoing conservation efforts, this trail can continue to serve as a valuable natural resource and a haven for both wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

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