The outlaw period in Western History lasted only about 30 years (1875-1905), but the cattle rustlers, horse thieves and train robbers of this era still capture our imagination. Between escapades, the Wild West outlaws fled to hideouts to plan their next move. The Hole-in-the-Wall in Johnson County, Wyoming, was one of the major hideaways.The Hole-In-The-Wall refers to both the fertile valley where gang members pastured stolen livestock, and to the narrow trail up over the red wall – the only way into the valley from the east.
Historians claim as many as 30 or 40 bandits hung out in six log cabins here, although the cabin foundations have slowly been covered as the years passed. The Willow Creek Ranch dates to 1882 when it was founded by Kenneth MacDonald, an immigrant sheep rancher. The area’s small ranchers, such as MacDonald, aided the outlaws because they didn’t want any trouble, and besides, the bad guys rustled from large cattle barons and robbed trains with well-filled strong boxes. There’s no record that Cassidy ever killed anyone, and many tales about his cunning and kindness persist.Today, a rugged dirt road leads from ranch headquarters to the former hideout. Only a few chunks of foundation remain. Guests can picnic beneath the old cottonwoods and soak their feet in Buffalo Creek, where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid undoubtedly cooled their heels after out-running the posse.
Nearby, a 1/2-mile trail winds upward to the top of the red wall. A slab of white rock, shaped like an arrow, marks the narrow trail over which the outlaws drove their rustled livestock. It’s a steep hike over loose rocks but worth it. Looking down across the grassy green valley, visitors see firsthand why the outlaws chose this fertile, protected place.