By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily
Outlaw Cave, Hole-in-the-Wall, the names conjure images of bandana-covered faces, men in black hats, and a posse hot on their heels. Twenty miles southwest of Kaycee, Wyoming, is a campground that offers a chance to walk in the footsteps of those lawless legends.
Outlaw Cave Campground is located on the rim of Outlaw Canyon, 1000 feet above the middle fork of the Powder River. This majestic 12-site campground offers few amenities, but a wealth of scenery and adventure. Great fishing and hiking abound, but the real draw is the history.
Between 1899 and 1901, Butch Cassidy (aka Robert Leroy Parker) and the Sundance Kid (aka Harry A. Longabaugh) were lawless members of Butch’s gang the Wild Bunch. The same Butch and Sundance immortalized by myth, legend and Hollywood films. The Wild Bunch was part of a loose organization of other gangs known collectively as The Hole-in-the Wall Gang. The Wild Bunch’s crimes were wide-ranging and included bank robbery, stagecoach and highway robbery and horse and cattle rustling.
The Hole-in-the-Wall gang got its name from their base of operations, out of Hole-in-the-Wall Pass. These desperadoes were outlaws on the run and one of their many hideouts was in hidden deep in a canyon on the Powder River.
The route to the campground takes you past row after row of red sandstone bluffs, lined up like rusting battleships in port. In the early morning light, some look like ghost ships, or would could be mistaken for the last resting place of Noah’s Ark.
The drive will take you through working ranches, and you’ll see scores of wildlife, endless and amazing geological features, but few other campers.
The no-fee campground is located on BLM land and has one vault toilet but no water and no trash collection. Camper are advised to pack out what you bring in.
Fifty yards from the campground is the rim of Outlaw Canyon and the trailhead to Outlaw Cave. The hike down to the cave is a 1,000 foot descent! This hike is more technical than the average walk in the woods, but for the experienced hiker, the trek will take you about 20 minutes. It’s not hard to see why gangs chose this location for their hideouts.
The reward for your effort will be a peaceful running river, and brown trout begging to take your bait. You did remember your pole?
Explore the caves along the other side of the riverbank, and take time to imagine yourself holed up there hiding from the law. Remember, you are standing in the shadows of the outlaws themselves. Butch, Sundance and the multitude could have plotted their next robbery right where you are standing!