Pieces of cloth tied to the ropes at the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark

The Medicine Wheel Passage follows US Highway 14A for about 27 miles between the Big Horn Basin and the junction with US Highway 14 (the Bighorn Scenic Byway) at Burgess Junction high in the Big Horn Mountains. This is a journey from the wide open high altitude desert of the Big Horn Basin up into the pines and then spruces and aspen of the Bighorn National Forest in the northern Big Horn Mountains.

Along the way you'll pass the turnout and trail to the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark: this is a preColumbian rock structure near the summit of Medicine Mountain. The circular rim is about 25 yeards in diameter and has 28 spokes running to it from the center rock cairn. There are six more rock cairns of varying smaller sizes built near or on the circular stone rim. A 1972 investigation of the site by Astronomer John Eddy determined that various pairs of the cairns were used to determine/predict certain astronomical events, like the summer solstice. And the layout was very accurate for the time period between 1200 CE and 1700 CE.

The Medicine Wheel still retains religious significance for many tribes in the area. The National Forest Service has erected a series of pillars that ring the site and tied the pillars together with rope in an effort to cut down on people trampling the area. Many visitors leave small strips of cloth tied to the ropes, kinda like Tibetan prayer flags waving in the breeze...

At the west end of the Medicine Wheel Passage
At the western end of the Medicine Wheel Passage
Medicine Wheel Scenic Passage area mapBighorn National ForestBighorn Scenic BywayBighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
Area map of the Medicine Wheel Passage Scenic Byway