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Oh, Wyoming! What comes to mind when you think of the Cowboy State? For most travelers, Yellowstone National Park tops the list, followed closely by Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. Throughout America’s least populated state, there are endless treasures to uncover: wildlife, hot springs, museums, towering mountains, wide open plains, winding rivers, and many remarkable sites.
- Best Things to Do in Wyoming
- Explore Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park
- Experience The Wild Wind River Range
- Discover The Magic Of Devils Tower
- Travel Back To The Wild West In The Big Horn Mountains
- Make Friends In Wyoming’s Unique Small Towns
- Where to stay in Wyoming
- How to Get Around in Wyoming
- Travel Tips for Visiting Wyoming
- Choose Your Season Carefully
- Find Lodging In Advance
- Be Prepared To Encounter Wildlife
- Tap Into Your Adventurous Side
Best Things to Do in Wyoming
Explore Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park
Northwest Wyoming is home to both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, as well as the Jackson Hole Valley and the town of Cody.
The National Parks are plenty of reasons to visit Wyoming, and you could easily spend weeks in Park and Teton County without discovering everything there is to see.
Experience The Wild Wind River Range
The Wind River Range is Wyoming’s best-kept secret. Unlike the Tetons, the Winds are empty, even in the peak summer hiking season. Iconic landmarks like Green River Lakes and Squaretop Mountain, Fremont Lake, and Wyoming’s highest mountain, Gannett Peak, are just some sights you’ll see as you explore the Wind River Range.
Pinedale is the largest gateway community, and it’s a spectacular base camp for travelers who want to find delicious restaurants, experienced outfitters (be sure to stop by the Great Outdoor Shop!), and convenient places to stay. The Lakeside Lodge features cabins right on Fremont Lake, which is great for anyone who loves fishing, kayaking, or just wants a relaxing waterfront cabin.
Lander is a smaller town on the other side of the Winds, and it’s a great town to visit if you’re looking to expand your Wyoming adventure beyond the parks.
From Grand Teton National Park, the drive to Lander is just over two hours, and you’ll pass through the welcoming town of Dubois, too (be sure to stop for pie at the Cowboy Cafe!). Downtown Lander has all the small-town charm you’re looking for, and Cowfish is a great place to enjoy a delicious steak dinner.
Discover The Magic Of Devils Tower
If you’ve ever seen Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, you’re already familiar with Devils Tower National Monument. The monolith, also known as Bears Den, is a sacred site to indigenous tribes, and was America’s first National Monument.
Today, Devils Tower attracts climbers, hikers, astronomers, and paddlers who like to kayak the Belle Fouche River at the tower’s base – it’s quite a backdrop!
The monument is part of Wyoming’s badlands region, and you’ll find the towns of Hulett and Sundance nearby. While most people choose to camp by the river, there are dude ranches out in the grasslands by Sundance that make for a fun place to stay.
At most dude ranches, you can go horseback riding, head out on an ATV, book guided tours of the area, and experience Wyoming like a local.
Wherever you stay near Devils Tower, be sure to come back to the park after sunset. With some of the darkest skies in Wyoming, the badlands make for incredible stargazing. If you plan it right, you’ll be able to see the core of the Milk Way galaxy rising over the monolith – how fitting!
Travel Back To The Wild West In The Big Horn Mountains
The Big Horn Mountains in north-central Wyoming offer a quieter retreat for hikers, campers, bikers, and nature lovers – and these mountains are packed with history.
Bighorn National Forest protects over 1,000,000 acres of mountain, forest, and river, including nearly 200,000 acres of Cloud Peak Wilderness Area.
The tiny towns of Greybull, Lovell, and Ten Sleep are the gateways to the Big Horns if you’re coming from Yellowstone National Park and the west side, while the slightly larger towns of Buffalo and Sheridan sit on the east side of the range.
If you want to experience the days of the Old West, it’s hard to top a visit to Sheridan or Buffalo. Both towns showcase their Cowboy roots. In Sheridan, the Kings Saddlery Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of cowboys and the West.
Fans of the TV drama Longmire will recognize landmarks in Buffalo – the Busy Bee Cafe is in town. Wander into the Virginian Saloon, and you’ll see bullet holes from Wild West shootouts in the walls and ceiling.
The Bighorn Medicine Wheel is on the west side of the mountains and is a sacred site to many of the Native American tribes in the area. Archeologic findings indicate that tribes have visited Medicine Mountain for over 7,000 years. Today, the site is still an active ceremony site, so if you visit, be respectful and follow the posted guidelines.
Between the town of Greybull and the mountains themselves, the Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite is a must-see Wyoming landmark that offers visitors another unique glimpse into the past.
All sorts of fossils, tracks, and prehistoric artifacts have been found here and preserved by the Bureau of Land Management. There’s nothing cooler than walking in the footprints of dinosaurs!
Make Friends In Wyoming’s Unique Small Towns
One of my favorite ways to experience Wyoming is just to get out and drive. Nearly every small town in Wyoming is worth seeing, and you never know what you’ll find. Cody is one of the best small towns – the Buffalo Bill Museum of the West is a complex of five museums dedicated to preserving the history of the Rockies and plains.
In Ten Sleep, there’s a fantastic brewery and campground. Saratoga has free public hot springs open 24/7, every day of the year! Thermopolis is home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs, and the tiny town of Meeteetste nearby has a chocolate shop that makes the best sweets I’ve ever tried.
The Farson Mercantile serves ice cream cones as big as your head, and the ghost towns of Atlantic City and South Pass City are crowded with thru-hikers in July.
The Bread Doctor, in Torrington, left his medical profession to follow his heart and open a bakery, and The Mad Dog and Pilgrim founded their dream bookstore in Sweetwater Station.
Where to stay in Wyoming
Choosing the best places to stay in Wyoming throughout your trip can be tough. As part of this Wyoming travel guide, I’ve narrowed my list of favorite hotels, rentals, and even a welcoming dude ranch.
- Historic Wort Hotel – Jackson
- Alpenhof – Teton Village
- Old Faithful Inn – Yellowstone National Park
- Irma Hotel – Cody
- Lakeside Lodge – Pinedale
- Mill House – Lander
- Sheridan Inn – Sheridan
- Kara Creek Ranch – Sundance
- Old Corral Hotel – Centennial
- Historic Plains Hotel – Cheyenne
How to Get Around in Wyoming
Getting to Wyoming can be tricky to coordinate, but there are several airports that can bring you close to your destination. If you want to spend time in the National Parks, Jackson Hole International Airport is the place to land.
However, Cody-Yellowstone Regional Airport may be an option if your home airport offers regional flights. Casper–Natrona County International Airport is a popular place to deplane if your destination is central Wyoming. If you’re traveling to southern Wyoming, you’ll find the best flight deals, surprisingly enough, in Denver or Salt Lake City, Utah.
Regardless of where you fly in, you’ll need a rental car to explore Wyoming. If you’re planning to drive into the mountains, be sure to get a high-clearance or 4WD vehicle.
Roads can be rough, and cell phone service is spotty, so you’ll also want to make sure your rental car is equipped with a spare and that you have access to roadside assistance should you need it.
Travel Tips for Visiting Wyoming
Wyoming is a state with many remote locations, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. Spread-out towns, rugged landscapes, and wide-open plains add an interesting dynamic to any Wyoming travel, and it’s worth paying attention to a few tips before planning your trip.
Choose Your Season Carefully
The weather in Wyoming is no joke. Winter lasts most of the year, and in many parts of the state, you can expect snow from September through May. It’s not unheard of for the mountains to get snowstorms in June or August, either! There’s a lot to say about choosing your season carefully based on what you want to do.
March through May tends to be muddy, wet, and cold. June typically has pleasant and warm days and very cold nights. July and August are the warmest months; afternoon thunderstorms are common in the mountains. July and August are also when the national parks are the most crowded.
Early September seems to be a sweet spot – with few crowds, mostly pleasant day temperatures with chilly nights – but you can also get caught in a snowstorm or smoked out by western wildfires.
If you’re coming to Wyoming to go skiing or snowboarding, you’ll want to book your trip for late January, February, or March to ensure the best chances of a good base of snow.
Find Lodging In Advance
Book your lodging well in advance if you plan to stay in the national parks. Yellowstone’s lodges fill up quickly, and in Grand Teton National Park, reservations are often filled the day they become available.
While the rest of Wyoming doesn’t face this sort of dilemma, and you’ll be able to find lodging in Sheridan or Laramie without a hassle nearly any time of year, it can be frustrating to look for hotels or vacation rentals when cell service is spotty.
Be Prepared To Encounter Wildlife
If you’re out exploring Wyoming, you’ll inevitably run into wildlife. Black bears are common throughout the state, and Grizzly bears dominate the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Carry bear spray, and know how and when to use it! You’ll also want to brush up on what to do if you come face to face with a moose (run) or wolf (don’t run) and the best ways to avoid any other unwanted wildlife encounters.
When driving at night, drive slowly and keep an eye out for pronghorns, elk, moose, foxes, wolves, and other animals that may wander into the road.
Tap Into Your Adventurous Side
Wyoming is the Wild West – and you’ll have to step out of your comfort zone. Whether you’re camping for the first time, driving for two hours without cell phone service, continuing a hike despite seeing fresh bear scat on the trail or driving the long and bumpy road out to Green River Lakes to catch sight of Squaretop, it’s a given that at some point on your Wyoming vacation, you’ll find yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
Don’t let it catch you off-guard if you must stay an extra night in Laramie because I-80 is closed for wind and snow or when you must stop for blister bandaids after your first attempt to reach Delta Lake.
The sooner you realize a trip to the Cowboy State is anything but ordinary and that the secret is to be flexible with your itinerary, the more fun you’ll have.
- About the Author
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Kim Magaraci is the Managing Editor of ViaTravelers, and she’s based in southern New Jersey. She’s a minimalist traveler, hiker, and landscape photographer who spends tons of time exploring the wonders of the American West. She’s been to 32 states, tracked down BBQ in 27 of them, and has skied in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Maine, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Quebec. Her favorite cities are Philadelphia, Montreal, and Portland, Maine – but really, she spends most of her travels in small towns, national parks, and national forests. When she’s not in the mountains, you’ll find her at the barn with her horse Lyla, or running agility with her dog Wilco.