These days, Hole in the Wall, Wyoming is as rural as this country gets; long dirt roads lead on forever, with few signs to guide the way. Back in Wyoming’s Wild West days this place was even wilder: around the turn of the century, the steep and rugged Powder River canyons served as an outlaw hideout for the likes of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and the Wild Bunch.
The geography of the Hole in the Wall region, just west of Kaycee, Wyoming, is ideal for a hideout: impenetrable red cliffs leave only a few passages in from the east and the west is guarded by the deep and narrow Powder River canyons. Outlaws could graze stolen cattle and horses in the valley and retreat into the canyons if lawmen appeared on the treeless horizon.
Outlaw Cave, one of the more infamous hideouts still standing – most of the cabins and corrals are long gone – remains as hard to find and hard to get to as you might imagine an outlaw hideout would be. I set out to find the cave with only a red dot on my Adventure Atlas to guide my way. Somewhat vague directions are available online, but I was in the mood for an adventure.
My quest took me down miles of back dirt roads, alongside one of which I found an abandoned newborn foal. Eventually, after reuniting the foal with her mother, I found a road sign for Outlaw Cave Road, but the road quickly deteriorated and I had to leave the Teardrop behind and then my Subaru and continue on foot.
At the end of the road I found a faint trail leading down into the Powder River canyon. The trail was extremely steep and rocky, at times, disappearing all together. With every step down, I couldn’t help but think about all the steps up I’d have to take to get out of this canyon. On a high after finding that foal, I kept on. This was a day for treasure.
At the bottom of the canyon, on the banks of the fast and cold river, the trail stopped. It was a hot day and I didn’t mind getting wet, so I followed the river downstream, getting soaked until I spotted a faint trail running above the river.
The trail was narrow and crumbly, above a long drop into the water. Right when the going was getting super sketchy and I was contemplating giving up and turning back, I looked up and saw the cave, in the cliffs above the river. A bit of scrambling and I was inside, hanging out by fire pits once frequented by some of the West’s most infamous outlaws.
Bowie and I hung out in the back of the cave, enjoying the cool cave air on a hot day, but Dio stayed by the entrance, on guard and uneasy. At one point, I swore I heard voices and thought somebody might be invading my hideout, but when I joined Dio at the entrance, the canyon was as quiet as they come. Shiver; in Wyoming, the Wild Bunch ghosts live on…