Situated right outside of Story, WY, Story Penrose Trail is an intermediate trail that features stunning views and solitude.
The way I am about to describe this trail is going to make you wonder why anyone would ever want to hike it. I hear you. But hear me out! Because this trail does not feature anything super dramatic people generally stay away from it. You do not hike this trail for the scenery as much as for the peace and quiet.
To get to the trailhead, travel either direction on I90 and take the exit for Meade Creek Road. Travel towards Story (there is also a sign for the Brinton Museum, head that way) until you reach a “T” in the road. You’ll know you’ve reached the T when you see what is referred to as the “tank farm” right in front of you. This is a Phillips 66 storage yard. Turn left here onto Hwy 87.
Follow Hwy 87 until you see a sign for WY 193. Hwy 87 actually continues off towards the left but you would have to stop and actually take a dramatic turn in order to keep following it. Basically, just stay on Hwy 87 but be aware that it becomes WY 193.
Follow WY 193 into Story, WY. At the entrance to Story you’ll see a sign that says “Story Penrose Trailhead 3 Miles” with an arrow. You will turn onto Fish Hatchery Rd and basically follow this road through the quirky little mountain town of Story. There isn’t much in Story – a post office, a school and a little convenience store – and the houses are super unique. Be careful driving through here because the people who live in the area will ride their side by sides and ATVs around everywhere.
As you continue winding through Story on Fish Hatchery Rd you will reach a point where there is a dirt road that goes straight ahead while Fish Hatchery curves to the left and goes in front of a park. The dirt road is tricky to see because it goes downhill and is easy to miss. This dirt road is Penrose Ln and it is the road that leads to the trailhead. As you drive down Penrose Ln be on the lookout for a small sign that says “Trailhead Parking” on your left. Go down this little road and it’ll open up into a decent sized parking lot for the trailhead.
Side Note: If you continue driving down Fish Hatchery Rd you will end up at one of the state fish hatcheries which is a fun visit especially if you have kids. There are several ponds and places to feed fish.
Once you’ve parked at the trailhead, the trail is pretty straightforward. The first .10 miles or so are fenced in, you can’t really miss it. The trail is very well maintained but is very rocky. You should also be aware that it is open to ATVs and other off road vehicles during the summer. During hunting season, archery is allowed. I have never come across anyone doing these activities but if you want to avoid them completely your best bet is to visit in May.
On my most recent visit on 5/5/22 there was some snow left on the trail still. You will run into snow on all hikes which have an elevation of about 5,500 feet until mid-June. It is just a fact of life here in Wyoming that our snow takes forever to melt. It shouldn’t stop you from going, just be prepared and always carry ice spikes with you.
I only hiked about 1.6 miles and turned around due to snow. I had my small dog and I did not want to have to try to carry her if the snow kept getting deeper. During the whole 1.6 miles up the mountain I had decent cell service.
I started my GPS at the far end of the parking lot so distances may be off by .02 or so.
Approximately the first .75 miles of this trail is aggressively uphill. I labeled this trail intermediate because it would not be fun for a beginner unless you are already in okay shape and are trying to get into better shape. It might be okay for kids if you want them to pass out on the way home. My dog loved it. I’m fairly certain she wouldn’t care if the trail was even more steep.
I like this trail because it is a good conditioning trail. You will absolutely get your heartrate up and keep it up. I’m not kidding when I tell you that this trail is steep. It is as if someone wanted to make a switchback up a hill and got lazy so it is just one switchback for a gigantic hill.
Fortunately, at about .60 miles you are rewarded with a stunning panoramic view of the plains and hills. You can’t help but stop here because it is one of the few flat spots on the trail but also because it is totally worth it to just look out over Wyoming. You can see for absolute miles. This view will continue to play peek-a-boo with you as you go further along the trail.
At .75-.80 you will come across a little side trail with a sign that is labeled “Red Trail”. You can follow it, sure, but it features an even crazier switchback from hell and will come to a dead end in the middle of a neighborhood. It is a pretty little side trail because it leads you through some denser forest and some meadows but it is a little awkward to end up on a random street.
I asked about this little trail and my understanding is that there are a series of trails that the residents of Story created to allow them to either ride their horses along or walk from place to place. I have not found Red Trail on any hiking apps so I assume that this is a trail constructed by the citizens of Story for their own use.
If you keep walking past Red Trail you will continue going uphill. The trail does eventually level out a little bit but never enough for it to become easy going.
At 1.60 miles you will reach a fence with a gate. There are no signs stating this but I believe that this is where you cross over into Forest Service land. If I learn differently, I will update this guide.
This gate is at 6,335 feet and on May 5, 2022 the trail at this point was completely covered in soggy snow and snow melt was flooding the area so this is where I decided to turn around. I expect the snow will stick around until the end of May at the earliest, but more likely will last until the first part of June.
Still, 1.60 miles wasn’t too bad, especially since it was all uphill. Heading back down to the trailhead is of course all downhill which sounds amazing until you’ve gone half a mile downhill and you wonder why on earth you ever decided to do this.
Now that I’ve scared you off of ever hiking this trail, let me explain why I actually really like this trail.
First – it is very secluded. On the occasions I’ve hiked it I’ve only come across one other person.
Second – despite the uphill, the pine forest you walk through is very pretty. In the summer there are a ton of wildflowers and other plants to enjoy.
Third – Throughout the entire hike you can smell the delicious and, for me, comforting smell of pine trees. I don’t know if the sun hits them just right or what but the entire hike I could just smell pine trees and it took me right back to my childhood when I went camping with my family.
Fourth – The sound of silence and the birds. There is NOTHING man-made along this trail other than the trail itself. Once you get out of Story, it becomes just you and the forest. And the BIRDS! Hiking along this trail reminds me of listening to recordings of nature.
So imagine yourself in a pine forest with the warmth of the sun, the sound of the breeze in the trees, the smell of pine trees and birds chirping as you walk along, rocks crunching underfoot.
THAT is this trail. THAT is why I hike the Story Penrose trail and that is why you should give it a try.
Once you get back to your vehicle, just follow Fish Hatchery Rd back out to WY 193. You can hop back onto I90 but if you are looking for something delicious to eat, I suggest stopping at the Big Horn Merc for the best brick oven pizza in Sheridan County. They get busy on weekends so I’d suggest calling ahead to pick it up. Trust me – you won’t be disappointed.
So! Reasons to hike the Story Penrose Trail:
- Great conditioning trail
- Dog friendly
- Lots of solitude
- Good cell service for the first 1.5 miles at least
- Great parking at the trailhead
- Panoramic view
- Pine forest that will bring back childhood memories