Visiting the wild mustangs that live on the top of the East Pryor Mountains that straddle the Montana and Wyoming border is no easy feat. In 2018 I visited the Dryhead horses, an area at the foothills of the Pryor Mountains where we found and photographed several wild horses. After talking with some folks, I learned about the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Management Area (HMA), a 9,000 ft peak with about 120 wild mustangs. Instantly, my imagination ran wild with all the possibilities, and I organized a photo trip[ for July 2019. We reserved three days for the Pryors, another day for the McCullough Peaks HMA, and two days for central Wyoming HMA's.

After careful planning and deliberation, we decided to start our tourney in Billings, MO. We landed at 11 am,  picked up our vehicle, and we headed south towards Lowell to check into our Airbnb. After settling in, eating a quick lunch, we left for the Pryors. We intended to drive up to the top of the mountain that day, spend a couple of hours photographing horses, and then drive down at night.

This was our first mistake. One does not just "drive-up" East Pryors. We selected the Burnt Timber road to take us up there, but we were utterly unprepared what awaited us once we got there. Severely rutted and washed out sections of the road, mud, and razer sharp rocks. We drove up for about two hours until we realized it was 5 pm, and that we would not be able to make it up there and back during the day. And we realized that our vehicle (standard SUV) was not equipped to take us up there safely (medium clearance and poor tires). You really need a Jeep or an ATV with high clearance. Anything else, and you are asking to be left stranded on the mountain there with no way of getting down.

Wild Mustangs on Burnt Timber Road

We also saw the crew from the Pryor Moutain Wild Mustang Center, and they advised us to turn back as well since it was getting late in the day, and the road was not suitable for our vehicle. Another person we met up there suggested we take the Pryor road that connects to Bridger MO or Crooked Creek road that links back to Route 16 and 37, where Burnt Timber and Sykes Ridge Road start. On our way back, we found the Crooked Creek road, and we went back home to prepare for the next day.

It rained hard the next day! We left at 5 am to start early, but we quickly realized that we weren't going to climb the mountain on a muddy road. The mud there can be intense since it has a lot of bentonite (clay) in it, and when it gets wet, it's super slick. We almost slid off the road into a river after out AWD didn't engage for whatever reason (operator error?). We salvaged the day by exploring the Dryhead area (off rt. 37), where we found Hickok and his band of mares.

Hickok

Hickok and his mares

Sundance, wild red dun mustang exploring the Lower Sykes

We hit it off on the third day at 5 am again. The sun came out in the afternoon the day before, and partially dried up some of the roads. Regardless, we drove through large puddles that seemed bottomless, and our car was caked in mud in no time. Few times, my friend had gotten out of the car to guide me around the pits and to find the best path for our vehicle.

Going up on Pryor mt road

It took us about three to four hours to reach the pinnacle of East Pryors. I will never forget the first bands of mustangs we saw as we were entering the HMA. We slowly advanced down the road and parked near the intersection of Pryor and Burnt Timber Road (near Pen's cabin).

Top of the East Pryor mountains

Top of the East Pryor mountains

We spent the next couple of hours photographing the horses. I witnessed Irial, an 11-year-old blue roan stallion defending his band from the lone stallion. Irial won, and the defeated stallion retreated, contemplating his next move. I watched in disbelief as the scene unfolded, and two stallions danced across the ridge.

Irial (right) fighting one of bachelor mustangs

We packed up around 1 pm. The light was not good at that point for good photography, and we had to make it to Thermopolis Wy by sunset. I realized that I have to come back to the Pryor mountains again! The 2020 Pryor Mountain adventure is already in the works, so please come back for more photos and updates on accessing the Pryor Mountain HMA.

London and his offspring

Quahneah, 3-year-old dun female and her foal

Top of the East Pryor mountains

Nedim Slijepcevic, 3/30/2020