The Hole-in-the-Wall: The Perfect Hideout For the Old West Gangs

By | July 2, 2017

The Old West, or the Wild West, is one of the most romanticized periods in American history. The period occurred when settlers and pioneers attempted to populate the territories west of the Mississippi River, and it continued after the Civil War, spanning two centuries.

The Old West produced iconic stories from that time and almost all of those stories revolve around the clashes between the law and the outlaw.

There are lots of famous lawmen from the Wild West period, like Pat Garrett, Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok, but still, the outlaws were, and still are by far, the more renowned. Among some of the most famous outlaws were Billy the Kid, the Dalton Brothers, Jesse James, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Belle Starr and many others.

Most of these outlaws had their own gangs with whom they committed all kinds of crimes. Although the gangs operated separately, they formed coalitions and often shared hiding places where they took refuge from the law. These hideouts were hard to find and provided the gangs with security. One of the most famous places of this kind was the Hole-in-the-Wall.

The Hole in the Wall is actually a pass.

Located in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, “The Hole-in-the-Wall”  refers to the valley and the canyon, bordered by the Red Wall and the Big Horn Mountains. It was the perfect hiding spot for the outlaws;  it was private and isolated due to the hardly accessible road leading to it. The place was named after a hole in an eroded rock wall that the outlaws used as a passage to the hideout.

Hole-in-the-Wall site, Wyoming.

The horse ride trip to the hideout from the closest town took at least one day. The top of the wall overlook the entire surrounding area and was thus used by the outlaw guards for lookouts. All the paths leading to the hideout were narrow and easy to defend. The lawmen had a hard time approaching the Hole-in-the-Wall, as it was impossible to reach it without alarming the gangs.

Monument for the Hole in the Wall

Several cabins were built on the site, used by the bandits to hide and pass the harsh Wyoming winters. The place had stables, pens for the livestock and supply chambers. All the gangs that used the hideout contributed to the upkeep of the hideout.

The Hole-in-the-Wall is a spectacularly scenic part of the Old West

The Hole-in-the-Wall was used by some of the most notorious Wild West outlaws, such as the Roberts Brothers, the Jesse James gang, the Butch Cassidy Wild Bunch, Kid Curry and many others. The gangs made plans for their future robberies here and operated with no interference from other gangs. They used the Hole-in-the-Wall as a base for planning and resting.

Each of the gangs had their separate cabin and space for the horses and livestock. The hideout had rules, which each visitor had to respect. There was no official leader of the camp, but each gang was lead by its own chieftain.

Stealing from another gang was prohibited, and disputes among gang members were solved in a well-established manner. The hideout functioned from the 1860s to 1910, and in those 50 years, no lawmen successfully entered Hole-in-the-Wall. The hideout faded into oblivion after 1910.

Access road to BLM Hole in the Wall Trail

Even today, the area is still hardly accessible, connected with the outer world by a dusty road. The place is now under the Willow Creek Ranch. One of the cabins used by the notorious Butch Cassidy is now on display at the Old Trail Town Museum, in Cody, Wyoming.

h/t abandonedspaces