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Wyoming may be one of the least populated states, but that doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in spectacular places to visit. In fact, that just means you have a better chance of enjoying iconic attractions like some of the country’s most breathtaking national parks, soaring mountains, ski resorts, world-class fly-fishing rivers and abundant wildlife practically all to yourself. You’ll even find charming towns and larger cities that offer lively entertainment too.
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When you first lay eyes on the Teton Range, with its dramatic, jagged peaks, your jaw will literally drop. It’s one of the most breathtaking sights on the planet, dominated by the nearly 14,000-foot-high Grand Teton for which the park was named. It’s a hiker’s and mountain biker’s paradise, with more than 240 miles of trails meandering throughout. Wildlife lovers will be in their own personal heaven, with the chance to spot elk, moose, wolves, black and grizzly bears as well as majestic birds like bald eagles and even pelicans. While scenic drives are lovely, for an in-depth look, you really need to get out and explore. If hiking or biking aren’t your thing, you can always enjoy a gentle float on the Snake River or paddling a canoe on serene Jenny Lake.
Yellowstone is famous for its wildlife, home to everything from bison, which can be seen in droves throughout the park, elk, wolves, bears, moose and more, and it’s one of the world’s most active areas of hydrothermal activity. The park hosts bubbling hot springs in a myriad of brilliant shades, mudpots, travertine terraces and lots of geysers, including the most famous on Earth, Old Faithful. On top of that, it’s a great place for fly-fishing with world-class trout rivers that wind through lush open space backed by dramatic mountains, as well as viewing magnificent waterfalls, like thundering falls like Yellowstone Falls which sits in the colorful “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone,” enjoying picnics on the banks of glistening lakes and even visiting interesting museums. Just be patient as traffic jams are common here, though they usually involve the park’s animals who often get close to or right on the roads, creating backups.
This historic town nestled in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains in northern Wyoming is not only surrounded by impressive scenery, but its downtown district is lined with historic buildings like the nearly 140-year-old Occidental Hotel. Some of its most famous guests over the years have included the likes of Butch Cassidy and President Teddy Roosevelt. You can also visit the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum which has been open to the public since 1900 and features more than 15,000 artifacts from the American Old West. There are a number of historic sites within a short driving distance too, like the Fetterman’s Massacre Site and Fort Phil Kearney, and as well as lots of opportunities for outdoor activities nearby, including hiking, fishing, camping, boating, skiing and more.
Located in northeastern Wyoming, just west of the Black Hills, Devils Tower is an iconic American landmark that was sacred to Native Americans for centuries, and it became internationally famous after starring in Steven Spielberg’s popular sci-fi movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” serving as the UFO landing site in the film. Wyoming’s most prominent feature, the flat-topped volcanic formation rises more than 1,200 feet above the surrounding plains, so it’s impossible to miss. You can walk around it by following the 1.3-mile oval path, but if you’re hoping to climb it you’ll need some good technical skills. While you’re there, check out the visitor center which hosts interactive exhibits focused on how the “tower” was formed as well as displays on the area’s history and culture.
The frontier town of Cody, located about an hour east of Yellowstone National Park, was named after William Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, who played a key role in the planning of the town, which takes great pride in its namesake with his image plastered throughout, in statue form, a number of museums, and the famous Buffalo Bill Historical Center, dubbed the “Smithsonian of the West,” which encompasses five themed museums that cumulatively present the most informative introduction to the American West you’re likely to find. It’s all about rodeo, history and wildlife here. Cody is considered the Rodeo Capital of the World, hosting a number of prestigious rodeos throughout the year, there is awe-inspiring scenery around nearly every turn, and on its outskirts, the Old Trail Town gives visitors a rare glimpse of what a Western town actually looked and felt like as a living museum that includes 26 historic frontier buildings from the late 1800s that were salvaged and moved here from towns across Wyoming and Montana.
Dubois used to be referred to as “Never Sweat” because of its often warm weather and dry winds. Today, this charming authentic cowboy town that sits alongside the Wind River near the Absaroka and Wind River Mountains, offers spectacular natural beauty along with nature trails and ranch activities to allow visitors to immerse themselves within it. History buffs will appreciate it too, with the chance to retrace the footsteps of Butch Cassidy down the streets, into the general store and the old red stone bank. Native Americans have left their mark with petroglyphs, teepee rings and more. Dubois is also unique in that it’s home to one of the country’s largest herds of wild Bighorn sheep, and elk, deer and antelope are commonly seen in the area too.
Thermopolis is Wyoming’s hot spring town as the home of the largest mineral hot spring in the world. And, thanks to a treaty signed with Native American tribes, visitors have been able to enjoy the soothing springs in Hot Springs State Park where the water is a constant 104 degrees, for free. There are also fee-based adjacent water parks, Star Plunge and Hellie’s TePee Pools which offer indoor and outdoor pools with water slides, hot tubs, steam rooms and gift shops. Before or after a soak, you can enjoy a leisurely stroll on the park’s interpretive trail, where bison are occasionally spotted, and away from the springs, the town is neighbored by the Bighorn Canyon and Wind River Canyon which offer an array of outdoor adventures.
The largest town in Teton County serves as a major gateway to the Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone, the National Elk Refuge, as well as an interesting mountain formation known as the “Sleeping Indian.” Cowboys and all sorts of other characters have been strolling Jackson’s wooden sidewalks for over a century, and the streets were once a place where arguments would be resolved by gunfight. Today, it’s not only a popular place to enjoy the area’s magnificent scenery, abundance of wildlife and outdoor activities, but all sorts of shops, entertainment and hopping nightlife. You’ll be faced with almost an overwhelming amount of options, from hiking in the national park and Snake River Valley, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, mountain biking and even paragliding. Take the aerial tram that leads from Teton Village to the top of Rendezvous and enjoy the incredible vistas and a flight from the tram’s peak, the largest vertical drop in the nation.
The capital and largest city in Wyoming is located in the state’s southeast corner. It hosts the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, which has been held annually for nearly a century, attracting thousands of visitors to the city. Known as the “Daddy of ’em All” for its size and quality, the rodeo held in late July each year takes place over 10 days and not only offers rodeo each day, but major concerts with big-name musicians, a carnival, parades, a Western Art Show, Indian Village and more. If you arrive at another time of year, Cheyenne’s many historic buildings and museums are its main attractions. The Renaissance revival-style Capitol was built in 1887 and boasts a gold leaf dome that can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. Inside, it features a stained glass interior with a grand staircase and checkerboard marble floors.
Fossil Lake National Monument is protected by the National Park Service and can be found in the southwest corner of the state. It contains over 8,000 acres that includes the largest deposit of freshwater fish fossils on Earth, as millions of years ago, there were three massive lakes that covered much of what is now high desert. The richest fossil deposits can be found in multiple limestone layers that lie roughly 100 feet below the top of the butte, which rises 1,000 feet above the ancient lake bed. There are several variety of perch, multiple freshwater species and herring that are similar to what is found in the world’s oceans today. The visitor center displays over 300 fossils that have been found in the region, and in the summer, visitors can join paleontologists to dig for prehistoric remains.
The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is located in northeastern Utah and Wyoming. The region’s colorful canyons and 91-mile reservoir are popular with outdoor lovers of all types. The reservoir, which was formed by a dam built on the Green River in the 1950’s, is the main attraction. There are numerous opportunities to get out on the water, including boating, fishing, swimming, and kayaking all popular, while on land, there are more than 100 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, as well as roads and trails for off-road adventures and snowmobiling. Be sure to check out the gorge at sunset or sunrise when its at its most scenic with the canyon truly glowing with brilliant hues.
The Old Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins was in use for 80 years, from 1901 to 1981, and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was constructed to send a strong message to desperadoes that the state would no longer be a haven for the lawless. And, The Old Pen, as its sometimes called, is haunted by history. By taking a tour, available daily during the summer, you’ll hear all sorts of sordid tales, of everything from train robbers and women driven to crimes of passion and everything in between. The old prison also hosts a museum which includes an exhibit of the movie “Prison,” which was filmed here in 1987 as well as displays on its history.
If you’re a fan of the classic Robert Redford and Paul Newman movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” or if you’re fascinated by the history of the American West, you won’t want to miss embarking on an adventure to find the infamous Hole-in-the-Wall, the remote, real-life outlaw hideout of Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Set in Northern Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains, these were the outlaws that inspired books and a number of movies as the notorious stop on the outlaw trail from about the 1860’s through 1910, during the romanticized lawlessness of the times.
The “hole” is located on Willow Creek Ranch. By staying at the working cattle, horse and guest ranch, you can take the rugged road that leads to it – be sure to climb the loose rocks to the top, where you can take in the striking landscape below, with sweeping 360 views and the opportunity to clearly understand just why the outlaws chose this secluded spot.
Ten Sleep is tucked at the base of the Big Horn Mountains and is home to just a few hundred people. The spirit of small town American is alive here, with sheep and cattle ranching still its major economic contributor, forming the base of the community. While it has a rich, and volatile, history, with the town site and surrounding area seeing many battles between the new settlers and Native American tribes, today, it has a pleasant laid-back atmosphere. The main street hosts a number of historic buildings that have been transformed into local businesses, like the general store, which is listed on the National Register. Visitors can also enjoy an abundance of recreational opportunities throughout the area, including hiking, fishing and camping as well as wildlife viewing. If you happen to visit on the 4th of July, you can watch the old fashioned rodeo.
Lander, located in northwest Wyoming, offers dramatic views and a myriad of outdoor activities. Rock climbing enthusiasts often visit this pristine town en route to scaling the surrounding sandstone and limestone cliffs, and off-road adventurers head here to climb a two-track through a red dirt mud bog, while would-be cowboys and cowgirls can round up cattle from the seat of a mustang. Hike the summit of any one of Lander’s wealth of hiking trails, and you’ll find more gorgeous vistas that await. Other opportunities include world-class fishing, mountain biking and more. Just six miles from town, at Sinks Canyon State Park, you can check out an underground river that runs through a limestone cavern.