Although Kirwin Ghost Town is off the beaten track, it isn’t totally unknown. It gets a moderate amount of visitors, but it’s not overrun with people.
Kirwin Ghost Town ATV Trail
- Trail Miles: 15 – 18 miles depending on your campground
- Season: Late Spring – late Fall
- Difficulty: Moderate (due to water crossings, otherwise pretty easy)
- Fees: None
- Vehicles: Motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs, full sized 4×4
- Directions: From Meeteetse, take State Highway 290 7 miles to County Road 4DT (Wood River Road). Follow the Wood River Road to Forest Road 200, which begins at the national forest boundary. Campgrounds are 3 and 6 miles west of the boundary.
The road up to Kirwin is a good road that any 4×4 high clearance vehicle could make including full sized vehicles. It’s pretty easy going – lots of loose rocks and ruts, but nothing technical or crazy.
Be aware that there are a few water crossing – it varies by season and weather. Most of them are fairly shallow and easy to cross, but some are a bit deeper.
In one section the trail is actually in the water, but it’s shallow.
If it weren’t for the water crossings, this would rank as an overall Easy ride, but the water crossings do kick it up a notch.
Always be careful before taking on a water crossing, verify the depth before just plowing through. Snow, run off and rain cause ever changing conditions.
The Kirwin Ghost Town is located in the Absaroka Mountains near the headwaters of the north fork of the Wood River. Located at 9,200 feet, it’s nestled in the mountains surrounded by peaks over 12,000 feet high.
The road passes through a valley cut by water and time with mountains on both sides. Pine trees, sage and scrub brush add some color to this dramatic backdrop.
It’s a good idea to pack bear spray as plenty of bears call the Absaroka home.
Deer, antelope and moose are also common to this area.
History Of Kirwin Ghost Town
From the late 1800s – 1907, 200 miners and their families lived in Kirwin. Considering the time, it was a happening town with a hotel, boarding house, a sawmill, post office, cabins, stables and two general stores.
Stagecoaches traveled between Kirwin and Meeteese every other day.
During the winter, conditions were extremely harsh and avalanches frequent. An avalanche in 1907 was ultimately the towns undoing.
During a big storm, on February 5, 1907, a big avalanche crashed through town killing 3 people and destroying multiple buildings.
When the storm cleared, the towns people packed up what they could carry and cleared out. Most people left town and never returned.
Boom to bust in a few short years.
Several attempts were made to revitalize the town, but none of them proved successful.
In 1992, the Richard King Mellon Foundation and Conservation Fund bought the land and donated it to public.
The Shoshone National Forest took over management of the area and in 1999 started stabilizing and restoring the town to preserve it for future generations.
Amelia Earhart’s Cabin
In the early 1930’s Amelia Earhart and her husband visited the Double D Dude Ranch located just beyond Kirwin. They enjoyed the area and their visit so much that they requested a cabin be built for them so they enjoy future visits.
After her disappearance in 1937, the cabin was never finished.
The cabin was only built four logs high and is deteriorating quickly. It’s not much to write home about, but it’s an interesting piece of American history and an enjoyable short hike.
Amelia Earhart’s cabin is a one mile hike up the trail past the ghost town.
Camping At Kirwin Ghost Town
- Campgrounds: Wood River Campground or Brown Mountain Campground
- Open: May 14, 2021 – October 18, 2021
- Fees: Free
- Stay Limit: 16 days
- Reservations: No
- Notes: No trash service – pack it out. Bear country – proper food storage required.
You have two camping options: Wood River Campground or Brown Mountain Campground. These two campgrounds are only 3 miles from one another.
Both are pretty little campgrounds located along the Wood River with plenty of trees for shade.
Brown Mountain has better views, but both campgrounds are lovely and make a great jumping off point.
You can ride in/ride out from both campgrounds.
These are dry forest service campgrounds with no water or amenities except picnic tables, fire rings and vault toilets.
Wood River Campground has 5 campsites with a maximum spur of 30 feet.
Brown Mountain has 7 campsites with a maximum spur of 16 feet with the exception of one spur of 40 feet.
Forest Service: Wood River Campground
Forest Service: Brown Mountain Campground
The closest town to camping and the ATV trail is Meetesse. Located 30 miles outside of Cody and 52 miles to Thermopolis, it’s in the middle of nowhere on the way to nowhere.
With only 459 people, it’s a small town, but it has what you need – a small grocery, gas, a couple motels and a couple places to grab a burger and a beer. You can get the essentials, but do a big shop in Cody or Thermopolis before you drive out.
Meetesse has a colorful wild west history. Butch Cassidy and other equally notorious, but less well know ne’er do wells made there home in Meetesse.
Local outlaws with names like Bronco Nell, Poker Nell, Laughing Smith, Swede Pete, Airplane Jerry, Greasy Bill, Checkbook Charlie, and Shorty the Crock helped put the wild in Wild West.
In 1906, Meetesse had 7 saloons, so you know it was a lawless good time
If you plan on driving into town at dawn or dusk, prepare yourself for some white knuckle driving. There are deer and antelope everywhere! … Everywhere!
Featured Image by Matt Lehrer | Flickr