Wyoming Adventure Guide
More than 50,000 square miles of public land leaves lots of room for adventure. Let's check out some favorite Wyoming ways to get your heart racing.
Photo By: Andy Austin - Photographer / Wyoming Office of Tourism
Photo By: Wyoming Office of Tourism
Photo By: Wyoming Office of Tourism
Photo By: Cheyenne Frontier Days
Photo By: Getmilitaryphotos / Shutterstock
Photo By: NPS / Lucas Barth
Photo By: NPS
Photo By: Dennis van de Water / Shutterstock
Photo By: Juliette Louvet / Shutterstock
Photo By: Andrey Ezhov / Shutterstock
Photo By: Andy Austin & The Wyoming Office of Tourism
Photo By: Buffalo, Wyoming Chamber of Commerce
Wyoming is the perfect place to park the car and go leg powered. With miles of trails over rocky terrain with technical turns and difficult climbs, there is no shortage of opportunity for adventurous cyclists to get a tighter grip on those lock-ons. Singletracks has a great list covering all the mountain-biking trails in Wyoming with length and difficulty ratings. Curt Gowdy State Park in Cheyenne and the Wilkins Peak Trail System outside Green River are a couple of favorite locations as is Flaming Gorge in southwest Wyoming. Check out the WYO Parks and Forestry Service websites for regional maps. And there's no reason to be seasonal about it: Wyoming's fat bike rental companies allow you to bike year-round. Check out the Drift in the Wind River Mountains if you fancy yourself at competition level. Of course, for those of us who would rather fall in a meadow than off the side of a mountain, there's lots of that too.
The 360-degree views from towering peaks, the elusive wildlife, the test of your strength and stamina, the rewarding descents: Whatever your reason to love it, Wyoming has it all to offer hikers and alpine mountaineers. Remember, half of Wyoming is national and state parks, forests and recreational areas. To test your endurance while enjoying exceptional views, try one of the Paintbrush Canyon trails in Grand Teton National Park. The 12,000-foot Lizard Head Peak in the Wind River Range is another multiday favorite. Cloud Peak Trail in the Bighorn Mountains takes you to 13,000 feet over a 24-mile hike. If you want to see it all (or close to it), the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail (CDT) spends 550 miles in Wyoming from Medicine Bow National Forest to Yellowstone National Park, passing through what seems like every possible ecosystem along the way.
Rumor has it that Wyoming airport gate agents won't let you back on the plane to go home unless you can provide photographic evidence that you rode a horse. Now, they don't rent horses at the airport—yet—but the cities, towns, ranches and tour operators of Wyoming have you well covered. How adventurous you want to be with your equine pal is up to you and, more importantly, the horse. Bitterroot Ranch near Dubois offers fast rides and cross-country jumping. Brush Creek Ranch near Saratoga gives lessons in rodeo sports like team penning, roping and trick riding. Double Rafter Cattle Drives will take you on a real, live, weeklong cattle drive into (or out of) the Bighorn Mountains.
On that note, since the rider on the bucking horse is the state logo (for Pete's sake), no adventurous exploration of Wyoming would be complete without mentioning the official state adventure sport: rodeo. Rodeo in Wyoming can be traced back to the ranch hands of the 1860s and 1870s. It is a purely spectator sport for the amateur, but it'll get your blood up just watching. The "Daddy of 'Em All" rodeo—the 10-day Cheyenne Frontier Days—has been roughing-up riders and bruising bottoms since 1897, with "ladies" competitions as early as 1899. Rodeo capital of the world, Cody, has been hosting the Cody Stampede Rodeo for the last century—as well as Cody Nite Rodeo, the only nightly rodeo in the world. Sheridan offers the Sheridan WYO Rodeo featuring the World Championship Indian Relay Races. Many towns in Wyoming have weekly rodeos during the summer. Suffice it to say, if you're visiting Wyoming in the summer, pack your Stetson. There's a rodeo happening nearby.
Whether you want to wear your fear face alone in a kayak or to be tossed about in company, Wyoming's plentiful raging-rapid opportunities await. Wind River Canyon outside Thermopolis is a popular rafting spot, with its 2,500-foot walls and a drop of 200 feet over the canyon's 12-mile length. This one has been known to offer Class V waves during high water. Class II and Class III Snake River near Jackson has an 8-mile stretch that surprises the uninitiated with a 6-foot wall of water known as the Big Kahuna. Shoshone River outside Cody has some Class II and III, and calm stretches allow the heart to resume its normal rhythm. For whitewater paddlers, check out Flaming Gorge and the North Platte River for a start. American Whitewater has a thorough list of Wyoming rivers with difficulty, length and flow rate.
Wyoming is a top destination for rock climbing and bouldering, both because of its plethora of worthy ascents, but also the unusual terrain and striking views to behold while ascending. Favorite spots include Devils Tower for the classic climb; Grand Tetons for multipitch and cragging; Vedauwoo for fat cracks; and Ten Sleep and Lander (host to the International Climbers' Festival every July) for sport climbing. Visit the Mountain Project website for a searchable list of poison from which to pick. Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch provides affordable digs for climbers visiting their area.
If rock climbing is simply not enough potential peril for you, for a third of the year Wyoming considerately converts its stunning waterfalls and covers its rocky cliffsides with a cold, crystalline film. While it may look pretty, it's slippery and breakable so you better know what the heck you're doing. The best places? South Fork Valley in Cody is a do-not-miss with one of the largest frozen waterfalls in the contiguous U.S., and the town of Cody hosts the annual Cody Ice Climbing Festival. The 500-foot, three-pitch route Golden Tears at Lake Louise near Dubois is another favorite. The icefalls at Fremont Lake near Pinedale are a secret hotspot—no, wait, cold spot. On the postcard home, just say you spent the day taking kissy-face selfies with bison from behind a fence.
Snowboarding and Skiing
With a long winter season, plentiful snow and sky-high terrain, Wyoming was made to be experienced on ski or board. Enjoy the deep powder at Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, which is the only place in the state to offer snowcat skiing and snowboarding. Get your downhill at Hogadon Ski Area outside Casper. Snowy Range Ski Area in southeast Wyoming is friendly and inexpensive compared to the western resorts. Of course, if speed isn't your game, nearly the entire state—including parkland—is at your disposal for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Access beauty spots that vehicles can't reach and lock eyes with wildlife that would have bolted at the motor noise. It's a silent adventure, but an adventure nonetheless.
If ever there were a unique way to tour a landscape, by dog seems it. Wyoming visitors can avail of this fun and exciting way to behold the beautiful snowy landscape of Bridger-Teton and Shoshone National Forests, the Grand Tetons, the Absaroka Mountains and more. Some ranches and lodges, like Brooks Lake Lodge & Spa near Dubois, offer dogsled outings to their guests. Also, Billy Snodgrass and his happy huskies offer overnight and multiday tours through Continental Divide Dog Sled Adventures in Dubois. He'll even teach you to drive. Book far in advance.
Whether ice fishing constitutes an adventure at all is down to how comfortable you are hanging out for extended periods on ice you've just drilled a hole in. Lest some ice fisherperson federation gets annoyed, we should state here that falling through the ice isn't that likely. And since the state is simply swimming in lakes, streams and reservoirs, there are some truly excellent spots to drop a line. A few cool spots: Boysen Reservoir in Shoshoni for walleye; Keyhole Reservoir in Moorcraft for bass; and Trout Lake in Yellowstone for, ahem, trout. Guides like Thunder Ridge Outfitters in Casper and Two Dogs Guide Service out of Laramie will suit you up and take you out. Want another perk? It's too cold for the bane of all fisherfolk: mosquitos.
Grab your helmet and fill up the tank—Wyoming has more than 640 miles of trails in its forests and recreation areas to explore by motorcycle, ATV or UTV. The season generally runs April through December, with particular areas off-limits at specific times for wildlife. Some lodges and ranches provide ATV tours or usage near their establishments, and many gateway cities have rental companies, like Albany Lodge in Laramie and Ultimate Outdoor Adventures in Buffalo. Visit the WYO Parks website for maps and permit requirements. A hands-down favorite is Killpecker Sand Dunes, north of Rock Springs in Sweetwater County. Affectionately called "The World's Largest Sandbox," the area encompasses 11,000 acres of dunes created by wind erosion of the Big and Little Sandy rivers. Some dunes are 100 feet high. Off-road ecstasy.
Let us not forget the winter cousin of the ATV, the snowmobile. With its long snowy season—December through April—and 2,500 miles of trails from mountain to meadow, Wyoming is a winter wonderland, yours in which to freeze your rear off. Popular areas include the Bighorn Mountains, the Black Hills System, Casper Mountain and Snowy Range. Yellowstone even offers its park up to snowmobile travel with an authorized guide. Again, WYO Parks has a dedicated page including trail maps, snow reports and permit requirements. Permits are offered for purchase in numerous places, including park offices, rental companies and other retailers. Remember when you hiked the CDT last summer? This winter the 270-mile Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail System beckons. It starts with the Wind River Range in Lander and traverses the Grand Tetons to the south gate at Yellowstone.