Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, the Logan brothers, Jesse James… any of these sound familiar? All notorious outlaws during the wild west’s most “wild” time. All frequented Johnson County Wyoming’s Hole-in-the-Wall.
Even today this is a remote, secluded, and hard to reach spot. Named after a pass in an eroded rock wall mesa rising over the rolling plains and canyons, the name fits the location. It is a steep climb over loose rock to the top of the wall, but overlooking the country below it is no wonder outlaws chose this spot for a hideout. With sweeping 360 views the pass was well situated to spot approaching lawmen and the narrowness of the approach made it easy to defend.
At least a day’s journey by horseback from any semblance of civilization, the hole-in-the-wall’s remoteness further added to its appeal to outlaws. The grassy plateau at the top and irrigated creek bed of the canyon below made it a good spot to graze all that rustled cattle, too. At one time there were even a series of cabins built here which outlaws used to overwinter through the brutal Wyoming winters. Today the area is a part of the Willow Creek Ranch, a working ranch with hundreds of head of cattle.
With the taming of the American West the time of cattle rustlers and train robbers came to an end by the early decades of the 20th century and the hole-in-the-wall passed into history. Accessible today by a series of dusty two-track roads through the sage brush valleys and canyons a small foot trail pockmarked with mule deer tracks leads up to the pass. Huge red boulders tumbled from the nearby rock wall dot the valley below like a giant’s marble game and scrappy cottonwood trees offer a shady place to escape the sun along the creek bed. At the top are outstanding views of the big sky country for miles around.
Credit: Atlas Obscura