Hello! Thank you for coming by! Are you looking for a drive to see some elusive wildlife? Colorado State Hwy 96 between Wetmore and Westcliffe offers some of the best wildlife sightings in Custer County. Year round the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep can be seen on the rocks of Hardscrabble and in the small grassy areas between the road and the cliffs. Hardscrabble Pass cuts through the Wet Mountains and is part of the Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byways. The peak elevation of the pass is 9,085 ft. Hardscrabble can be dangerous during the winter so please check road conditions before you venture out. I prefer to go during the morning before 10:00 a.m. but sometimes they come out in the afternoon.
Bighorn’s are the state mammal of Colorado. Rightfully so because of our mountainous state and how these beautiful creatures easily maneuver the cliffs. The main defense of Bighorn sheep is to climb to safety where predators would not be able to get to them. On the bottom of their hoof is a pad which is the same as a domestic goat, sheep and llama. This pad aids them with surefootedness to climb steep rocks.
My side job is photography. Bighorns are my favorite wild animal to take pictures of. The sheep are not as skittish as other wildlife are and you can get pretty close to them, although I advise you to stay in your vehicle because wild animals are unpredictable. Often they are very close to the road so please be careful while driving up the pass. I was lucky enough to follow an old ram for two years. Unfortunately he was hit by a car and had to be put down. He is the ram with a huge notch out of the top of his horn.
Bighorn sheep viewing in Custer County is one of the hidden treasures that visitors can enjoy. While I cannot guarantee that you will see the infamous state mammal, you have an excellent chance on your trip to Westcliffe. Make a day trip out of it, look for sheep in the morning, head to town for some delicious lunch at one of the incredible restaurants, then in the afternoon take another trip down Hardscrabble Pass and see what you can find! Please share your Bighorn sightings with us below in the comments or on our Facebook page: Custer County Tourism Board Colorado.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy my collection of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep pictures! Happy hunting! ~ Brianna
For more information on the beautiful, majestic Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep please visit Colorado Parks and Wildlife at http://cpw.state.co.us/ or the Wild Sheep Foundation at http://www.wildsheepfoundation.org/