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Wyoming is known for its wide-open spaces, rugged landscapes, and free-spirited attitudes. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that there are some amazing natural areas to explore here, especially if you enjoy camping and hiking. Here are some of the best state and national parks in Wyoming to let your spirit wander and roam free.
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One of the most impressive places to visit for nature lovers is Grand Teton National Park. A popular weekend getaway in Wyoming, you’ll find stunning mountains, over 200 miles of trails, the Snake River, and a refreshing dose of serenity. Fun things to do here are hiking, attending a ranger-led program, going rock climbing, exploring the backcountry, fishing, boating, biking, and viewing wildlife. There are many different parts of the park to explore, including the Moose Area, Colter Bay Area, Jenny Lake Area, and Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. Pick up a permit for rock climbing and mountaineering at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. For overnight stays, there are over 1,000 campsites at seven campgrounds in the park.
Buffalo Bill State Park is a great state park to visit to learn about the old west history and get your outdoor recreation fix. It is named after Colonel William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, who was a showman, developer, and promoter in the wild west. This park has two campgrounds and nine developed day-use areas. It also has 9,000 acres for water recreation and spans about 3,000 acres of land in the park. You’ll enjoy accessing the water via the boat ramp and doing some fishing. Other activities to do here include playing volleyball, wildlife viewing, picnic areas, and playgrounds. The North Fork area of the park is usually a little less busy and ideal for relaxation.
A portion of Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming, and this is America’s very first national park. This is a unique park because of its hydrothermal and geological activity and other diverse landscapes. In this epic park, you’ll have access to an array of outdoor adventures and can see hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles, and geysers along maintained trails and boardwalks. There are over 1,000 miles of trails to hike here with great wildlife viewing opportunities, so make sure to bring binoculars and your best camera. Biking and horseback riding offer even more adventure in Yellowstone. For camping, there are 12 campgrounds and over 300 campsites in the backcountry for a little more solitude.
In the southern Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, you’ll find Sinks Canyon. This site features a unique geological formation where the river goes underground near the mouth of the canyon. The landscape here has juniper covered foothills, alpine habitats, conifer forests, and aspen meadows. The top things to do here are hike, fish, climb, and go for scenic drives. There’s a visitor center at the park that has exhibits and a kids’ corner with activities for children. Kids can sign up for the junior ranger program to get even more out of their visit to Sinks Canyon State Park.
Drive 24 miles west of Cheyenne or 24 miles east of Laramie and you’ll arrive at Curt Gowdy State Park. There are seven sections of the park, with the foothills of the Laramie Mountains and three reservoirs that are perfect for fishing. People also come here for boating, camping, the Hynds Lodge, and events at the amphitheater. It’s fun to try archery at the range here, go hunting, and explore the park on horseback too. There’s a two-mile archery trail set in a natural wooded environment that is open all year.
Devils Tower National Monument is part of the national park system and features an iconic geological feature that stands out from the surrounding hills. It is sacred to the indigenous people here and also a bucket-list rock climbing destination. You can learn about history, culture, and nature when you come to this fascinating place. Around 500,000 people visit this monument each year, and the largest crowds come between Memorial Day and Labor Day. During that time, parking is especially limited. For hiking, there are five trails in the park that vary in difficulty and length. The Belle Fourche River Campground is a 46-site campground spread across two loops that can accommodate RVs. It is a first-come, first-served campground with no reservations taken.
Part of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is in Wyoming as well and features wild landscapes across over 120,000 acres. You can learn about more than 10,000 years of human history here in addition to the diverse ecosystems and memorable wildlife encounters. There are about 17 miles of designated trails in the park for hiking, and the park is split into the Fort Smith North District and the Lovell South District. The bulk of the hiking is in the South District. Boating, canoeing, and kayaking are also popular activities here. You can bring your own boat or rent one at the marina, or even take a guided tour if you prefer. There are five campgrounds, as well as dispersed backcountry camping in undeveloped areas.
The healing geothermal waters of Hot Springs State Park is what draws visitors to this natural area, but there’s a lot more to see and do here too. Enjoy the free bathhouse with 104-degree waters to soothe your aches and pains, and then see the bison herd in the park without having to go all the way to Yellowstone. There is no daily charge to visit this park, and visitors can also use the boat docks and picnic shelters here. Take a walk along the paved path beside the Rainbow Terraces and then along the suspension bridge to get an awesome view.
Visit Bear River State Park for day use recreation and to see bison and elk roaming the land. The park has a visitor center where you can learn more about wildlife and Wyoming tourism. Spanning 324 acres, this park has 1.2 miles of paved trails, a footbridge that crosses the river, over three miles of packed gravel trails, and a herd of bison to check out. There is no camping at this park.
In the southwestern part of Wyoming, you’ll find Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area with its red canyon walls, green forest, and scenic wilderness. The reservoir is the most popular destination here and 91 miles long. People come here to fish, go boating from the Buckboard Marina, hike and tour the dam that’s south of the border in the neighboring part of Utah. There is also great camping here with views of the river, lake, and canyon walls. Buckboard Marina has 66 campsites.
You’ll also enjoy visiting the Fossil Butte National Monument that has some of the best-preserved fossils in the world. It’s in southwestern Wyoming and is the site of fossils from fish, birds, reptiles, insects, and mammals. At this park, you can hike on the four miles of maintained trails or explore the unmaintained trails on the unpaved stretch of the scenic drive. Although fossils are not visible from the trails, you can learn all about them in the visitor center.
Boysen State Park in Wyoming is at the south end of the Owl Creek Mountains and has a lake with lots of water recreation. It also has interesting geological formations to check out. There’s a lot of history to learn about at this park with the dam built in 1908 by Asmus Boysen and the CB&O Railroad that went through the canyon. Boating, fishing, swimming, and wildlife viewing are all popular activities here. Overnight camping is available at Boysen State Park for both tents and RVs.
Although there are many other natural areas worth spending time in Wyoming, Guernsey State Park is a must-see. This park has seven campgrounds, five of which are around the lake. There is an extensive network of trails, which includes several loops with scenic views. The Civilian Conservation Corps did a lot of work in this park on the trails, roadway, bridges, buildings, and overlooks. There are is a boat launch, playgrounds, picnic areas, swimming, horseshoe pits, and a museum at this park. It’s also fun to come here to go rock climbing and biking.