Best of Wyoming Travel

No matter your access point, Wyoming has something to offer. One-horse towns to all-horse 'burbs, history havens to wilderness wellsprings, we explore the cool corners of Wyoming and the "hot spot" in the middle.

By: Carrie Hamblin
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Photo By: Jeff Johnson / Soul Images Gallery

Photo By: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Photo By: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Photo By: Andy Austin - Photographer / Wyoming Office of Tourism

Photo By: Andy Austin & The Wyoming Office of Tourism

Photo By: Michael Smith / Wyoming Office of Tourism

Photo By: Todd Williams / Albany County Tourism Board

Photo By: Albany County Tourism Board

Photo By: Flash Parker / Sheridan Travel & Tourism

Photo By: Flash Parker / Sheridan Travel & Tourism

Photo By: Flash Parker / Sheridan Travel & Tourism

Photo By: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Cody

Northwest Wyoming is largely taken up by Yellowstone National Park, and Cody—about an hour outside—is the perfect place to linger in civilization before beginning your nature explorations. The town takes its name from its celebrity founder, "Buffalo Bill" Cody, and more than just the welcome sign bears his name. There's the prominent Buffalo Bill's Irma Hotel and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West: a fantastic five-museums-in-one compound, with art, local history, natural history and cultural exhibits.

Cody Rodeo

Cody is known for its founder's legacy, but also as "Rodeo Capital of the World" for the annual Cody Stampede Rodeo and Cody Nite Rodeo every night during the summer. And it’s the gateway city to the wealth of outdoor adventure opportunity around the area. So, this relatively small town that is spread over a mere 10 miles features a bunch of restaurants, bars and lodging options for visiting guests. American history buffs shouldn't miss the Cody Dug Up Gun Museum for its collection of more than 1,000 firearms and weapons dating as far back as the War of Independence, and Old Trail Town, a frontier town re-created from original structures collected from around the West.

Meeteetse

Meeteetse—"meeting place" in Shoshone—is a tiny town of 400 folk south of Cody. Indigenous chiefs would powwow here and Hole-in-the-Wall Gang members enjoyed it as an off-the-map town to throw a few back with the fellers, but we suggest visiting here for a purely personal enjoyment: chocolate. The cowboy-hat-wearing Meeteetse Chocolatier, Tim Kellogg, started selling chocolate at the Cody Stampede to raise money for a saddle he wanted. His truffles and treats were originally based on family recipes that he then honed with training abroad in Paris and London. Even The New York Times has taken note of his delicious doin’s. Tim uses only fresh ingredients, organic if he can get them, so they are best eaten right there, sitting at one of the little tables on the porch. If you can propel yourself off the porch, let the local tour operator show you the Legend Rock Petroglyphs, the Double Dee Guest Ranch where Amelia Earhart stayed or a visit to the abandoned mining town of Kirwin in the Absaroka Mountains nearby.

Pinedale

You can get your west and your wild in the same trip in Pinedale, a mountain town on the western side of the Continental Divide that's a great hub for some serious wild enjoyment. The city is situated between three mountain ranges: Wind River, Gros Ventre and the Wyoming—meaning 3.25 million acres in which to recreate, no matter the date. The Wind River Mountain Range contains Wyoming's highest peak, Gannett Peak, popular with mountaineers. Additional favorite activities include the calf-busting Cirque of the Towers hikes (and climbs, if you're so inclined—har-de-har) and a 35-mile moderate hike from Summit Lake to Green River Lakes along the Highline Trail; ice fishing on Freemont Lake; and wildlife spotting pretty much everywhere, including the town itself. Award-winning craft brewery Wind River Brewing Company provides refreshment of the food and drink variety. The 163-mile Centennial Scenic Byway horseshoes you west through Jackson and then north to Dubois through two national forests and Yellowstone, passing kayak-worthy rivers, ski-worthy mountains and culminating near one of the ice-climbing favorites in the state: Golden Tears at Lake Louise.

Green River

Green River is a gateway city to all the recreation of southwest Wyoming—of particular interest to those who like their adventure via wheel or keel. An hour north is Killpecker Sand Dunes where your rented dirt bike or ATV can kick up sand on 11,000 acres of dune. Or head a similar distance south to Flaming Gorge Recreation Area with its dramatic red cliffs and abundant options for water play. For those who enjoy quiet leisure, the Killpecker Sand Dunes offer beautiful wildlife exploration opportunities. Don't forget to admire its resident guard, Boar's Tusk, the 400-foot-tall core of an ancient volcano. Also nearby is White Mountain Petroglyphs, carvings in the sandstone of White Mountain that were left hundreds of years ago by the Plains and Great Basin Indians. If you're out in the car, the 24-mile self-guided Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop tour promises wild horses, but also other southwestern Wyoming wildlife such as pronghorn antelope, coyotes and eagles.

Thermopolis

Thermopolis—a central Wyoming town bordering the Wind River Reservation—is largely known for its geologic and archeological offerings and known for good reason. Head to Hot Springs State Park to marvel at the Big Spring and Rainbow Terraces, say hi to its resident bison herd and soak in the public pool at the State Bath House. Visit Legend Rock Petroglyph Site to consider more than 300 etchings, some thought to date back 10,000 years. That history a little too recent for you? Check out Wyoming Dinosaur Center to get a glimpse of life a mere 150 million years ago. The 16,000-square-foot center has 58 skeletons, including those of Jimbo the Supersaurus and Stan the Tyrannosaurus rex. Guided tours of the museum and dig site, the Something Interesting Quarry, are available. Sign up for "Dig for a Day" to get in on the action. It costs a chunk of change and anything you find, they keep; but they'll stick your name on the plaque and what a cool experience. Before you leave, see if you can locate the person in charge of naming at this joint. We need to meet that character.

Laramie

Laramie is the cool kid of Wyoming's family. A college town—the state university and city community college are here—it's filled with bars, restaurants and shops, but it's also positioned conveniently between the Medicine Bow Mountains on one side, the Laramie Plains to the North and Vedauwoo Recreation Area to the East, making it a popular spot for outdoors enthusiasts of all stripes. The collection of granite hoodoos and boulders that make up Vedauwoo is a close favorite for climbers and the Snowy Range Ski Area for skiers and snowboarders. Popular indoor sports include visits to the Wyoming Territorial Prison, which once held Butch Cassidy, and the University of Wyoming's Geological Museum and its Centennial Complex, which houses the Art Museum and the American Heritage Center. The town itself is looking mighty pretty. Since 2011, local artists have been beautifying buildings with Laramie-themed murals.

Centennial and the Snowy Range Scenic Byway

There are a few good reasons to head west out of Laramie on Highway 130 toward Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. The first is you're traveling on the Snowy Range Scenic Byway that crosses the mountains with great ceremony and splendor. It takes you up to 12,000 feet and, at Libby Flats Observation Point, offers a 360-degree view that includes the Colorado mountain ranges. Also, take the exit for WY-11 to visit Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse Ecosanctuary, a Bureau of Land Management-certified ranch that offers tours of 350 free-roaming wild mustangs in their care. Contact the ranch in advance for tours. Grab a bite at the Beartree Tavern and Cafe in the tiny gateway town of Centennial.

Sheridan

In the north-central part of the state is Sheridan, affectionately called "Wyoming's Jewel." This big city (by Wyoming standards) combines into one visitor-loving package a large historic Old West downtown where outlaws strolled, buzzling bars and rambunctious rodeos and festivals, all backdropped by the gorgeous Bighorn Mountain range. Spots to check out downtown include the Mint Bar in operation since 1907 for its extensive taxidermy, among other things. Nonalcoholic offerings include the historic vaudeville WYO Theater and King's Saddlery—selling ropes, saddles and the rest of your equine-related supplies—along with the Don King Museum (not the Don King with the hair, the Don King with the saddles), containing the family's collection of western and cowboy memorabilia. They say they're happy to sell western-themed gift items to city slickers.

Sheridan Breweries and Distilleries

Consider visiting Sheridan on a tipple tour before you head out to Bighorn. You can judge a town by its breweries and there are some good ones here: Black Tooth Brewing Company, Luminous Brewhouse and Smith Alley Brewing Company, not to mention Koltiska Distillery, maker of spirit liqueurs and vodka.

Bighorn and Buffalo

Bighorn National Forest with its Bighorn Mountains is 189,000 acres of explorable wilderness, including more than a thousand miles of trails, many originating from Sheridan or the town of Buffalo, 40 miles south. Buffalo is the place to hub for hikes in the southern part of the range including the Cloud Peak Wilderness area—awesome explored as a multiday excursion. Before you don the hiking shoes and mount the Bighorns, check out Buffalo's Occidental Hotel (and Saloon and Museum), and don't miss a visit to the Brinton Museum between Sheridan and Buffalo for its world-renowned collection of Western and American Indian art and artifacts from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

Sundance

A visit to the northeast corner of Wyoming means a visit to the state's first national monument, a sacred place to Northern Plains Indians and one of the most popular visitor attractions in the state: Devils Tower. Remember Close Encounters of the Third Kind? That's the one. There are five hiking trails around the imposing 1,267-foot-high otherworldly butte, and climbers come from all over the world to scale it. Additional area attractions include hiking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the Bearlodge Mountains. Stay near Sundance Mountain in the town bearing its name, which in turn became the namesake for its infamous son, Sundance Kid, who stole a local rancher's horse and did a couple years here in the clink.