The USA’s least populous state, Wyoming is also one of the richest in unspoiled nature. Two of the most famous U.S. national parks – Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park – are located here. These destinations beckon outdoors lovers and adventurers looking to unplug and tune into Mother Nature. It’s not uncommon to spot impressive wild animals like bear, bison, elk and coyotes roaming the plains of this vast and beautiful state.
Yellowstone is dotted with sputtering geothermal geysers and colourful hot springs, the most famous of which are Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring. The Grand Teton mountain range, in the northwestern portion of the state, has mountains great for hiking and winter skiing and snowboarding. The tallest of peaks here reaches 4,200 meters (13,770 feet). In the valley below sits the charming town of Jackson, a posh skiing and hiking respite with a historic “Wild, Wild West” feel. Grand Teton and Yellowstone are connected by the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Parkway; make it a back-to-back trip for the ultimate outdoor holiday.
Such vast landscapes mean ranching is a big part of local culture. No visit to Wyoming is complete without experiencing an authentic dude ranch to live out your cowboy and cowgirl dreams. Eatons’ Ranch is the country’s first and oldest dude ranch, while Vee Bar Guest Ranch, Gros Ventre River Ranch and The Hideout Lodge are also favourites. All offer more activities than you’ll have time to try out: horseback riding, cattle working, campfires under the stars, fly fishing, river tubing, camping, canoeing, hiking and more.
Wyoming’s big cities are quaint by some standards – even the largest city, the state capital of Cheyenne, has just 60,000 residents – but offer a blend of down-home, Western culture with city amenities. Cheyenne and Casper, the second-largest city, feature museums, special events, local shopping and a hearty culinary scene accompanied by a number of breweries and distilleries. In the popular gateway town of Jackson, look for fine dining and boutique shopping by day followed by spectacular stargazing at night.
Must See Places in Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park
The world’s first and oldest national park, Yellowstone is one of the most awe-inspiring wilderness areas on the planet. Huge herds of bison still roam free in the valleys, and the abundant wildlife includes grizzly and black bears, gray wolves, elk, antelope, trumpeter swans, and majestic bald eagles. Established in 1872, the park is a geothermal wonderland. Hissing geysers, bubbling mud pots, and steaming hot springs betray the forces that formed this staggering landscape millions of years ago. Waterfalls gush down steep ravines, and glittering lakes and rivers stretch for miles.
Grand Teton National Park
Crowned by the craggy peaks of the mighty Teton Mountain Range, Grand Teton National Park is one of the jewels of Wyoming. These mountains, in the state’s northwest, were formed millions of years ago when a fault in the earth’s crust buckled creating 12 peaks reaching heights of more than 12,000 feet. The highest of these, Grand Teton, soars 13,770 feet above sea level. Wildlife is abundant. More than 300 species of birds, 60 species of mammals, and many freshwater fish live within the park. Not surprisingly, the park is a paradise for wildlife lovers, photographers, climbers, kayakers, and hikers.
Tucked in a sprawling valley at the foot of the spectacular Teton Mountains, Jackson exudes the spirit of the Wild West. Rustic wooden buildings and boardwalks, quaint shops, galleries, and restaurants, and a town square framed by elk-horn arches add to the charm of this charismatic town. Jackson is also the gateway to beautiful Grand Teton National Park and a popular stop on the way to Yellowstone. Bordering town, the National Elk Refuge protects the largest herd of wintering elk in the world. In season, visitors can ride horse-drawn sleighs into the refuge to view these gentle creatures.
Hot Springs State Park, Thermopolis
Built around the world’s largest single mineral hot spring, Hot Springs State Park is a great place to stop for a relaxing soak. The steamy mineral water gushing from Big Spring is channeled into bathhouses and kept at a constant 104˚F. Visitors can soak in the warm waters indoors at the State Bath House or in the two outdoor pools. Also in the area are hiking trails, petroglyphs, summer flower gardens, and the Rainbow Terrace where water from another stream tumbles into the Bighorn River. Look for the herd of bison grazing in the hills.
Bridger Teton National Forest
In the beautiful Bridger Teton National Forest, outdoor enthusiasts can explore more than 3.4 million acres of western Wyoming’s rugged mountain wilderness. Within the forest’s boundaries lie three Wilderness Areas. The Bridger Wilderness in the Wind River Mountains is home to the headwaters of the Green River, some of the world’s largest glaciers, and Wyoming’s highest point, Gannett Peak. The Teton Wilderness provides critical habitat for wildlife such as grizzlies, wolves, and bison, and the Gros Ventre Wilderness encompasses fascinating geological features
Devils Tower National Monument
Rising more than 1,200 feet above Wyoming’s eastern plains and the Belle Fourche River, Devils Tower National Monument is a geological gem. The Devil’s Tower Visitor Center details the geology of this flat-topped volcanic marvel and depicts the history and culture of the area through photos and exhibits.
Buffalo Bill Centre of the West
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West retraces an important chapter of American history in a complex of five fascinating museums. In the Buffalo Bill Museum, visitors can view artifacts from the life of Buffalo Bill Cody, the legendary American soldier and showman. The Cody Firearms Museum contains a large collection of firearms from around the world.
Named after the Cheyenne Indians, the capital of Wyoming, in the state’s southeast, was once the largest outpost of the United States Cavalry. Today, the town’s museums and historic sites tell the story of Cheyenne’s beginnings in 1867 as a station on the Union Pacific Railroad. One of the town’s top attractions is the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. Held annually since 1919 the late-July rodeo, featuring ten days of fun-filled festivities, is one of the best in the country.
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
Red cliffs rise more than 1,000 feet above a twisting ribbon of water at the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area on the Wyoming/Montana border. Photographers love the panoramic views from Devil’s Canyon Overlook, and the area offers a busy line-up of outdoor activities. Cast a line in the Bighorn River’s world-class trout fishery, go boating or swimming at Bighorn Lake, camp in the wilderness, visit historic ranches, and hike more than 27 miles of scenic trails. Animal lovers can see some of the largest herds of wild horses in the United States as well as golden eagles, bears, and the namesake bighorn sheep.
Video Credit: Travel Wyoming