Spring is here and right around the corner, summer. It’s time to get vacation planning in gear.
As the great American continent spreads out before you, there are a thousand and one options from coast to coast. There’s one place, though, that offers all the excitement an adventure road trip requires — Wyoming. Hike through sprawling hills, mountains and lakes that lead into and through national parks, fresh, filling food and brew, and distinct events found in few other places in the United States.
So get those boots shined, your horses shoed and engines oiled. It’s time to head to the Cowboy State.
Where you stay in Wyoming depends on your desired level of luxury and what you’re looking for. Willing to rough it? Throw down anywhere you want in the sprawling Bridger-Teton National Forest, the mountainous Shoshone National Forest in the northwest of the state or visit the less traveled Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest just west of Laramie. Sticking to the city? There are plenty of great options in Wyoming’s larger towns like Cheyenne, Casper, Gillette, and Laramie.
What all your accommodations will likely have in common is access to an uncommon, larger-than-life outdoors space, either right outside your door or just a car ride away. Here are two highlights among many.
Fireside Resort, Jackson Hole
With sustainable built, LEED-certified cabins in the luxurious Jackson Hole, Fireside Resort provides a unique spin on resort lodging. Outside, you’ll find rustic, pine plank cabins and inside, pure alpine relaxation. Inside you’ll receive relaxation for days — leather couches, stainless steel kitchens, a fireplace, and flat-screen television all sit below high, wood-beamed ceilings.
Nestled in the Teton wilderness, Fireside Resort cabins sit in the midst of hundreds of miles of nature — hiking trails and cool mountain rivers offer myriad opportunities wot walk, climb, hunt, or off-road through wilderness. And after you’re finished with the day’s fun, come back to make your own personal campfire or grill fresh game.
- Nearest Airport: Jackson Hole Airport
- Time: 25 minutes
- Distance: 16 miles
The Mill House, Lander
Hidden in the mountains in the middle of the state lies Lander, a wild, sleepy, almost secret town. The pioneer town turned tourist locale sits along the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River, just south of the Wind River Indian Reservation. To roam free, and get your fill of wanderlust in a place that author Ernest Hemingway once called “extraordinary,” post up at The Mill House.
As its name implies, The Mill House is a former mill, the Lander flour mill to be specific, built in 1888. Lander grew around this industrial center, with excess electricity that produced during the day used by citizens in the evening, giving the town renown for being one of the first to have electricity in the U.S.
The mill remained operational until the late 1950’s and has now achieved new life as a boutique hotel built and fashioned by area artists and craftsmen. Inside you’ll find exposed brick walls with local artworks, comfy, plush couches, cozy, postered beds, rainforest showers, and even the option for your own personal courtyard.
- Nearest Airport: Central Wyoming Regional Airport
- Time: 36 minutes
- Distance: 30 miles
In the Cowboy State you can enjoy the best of cowboy cravings: Fresh game like buffalo and elk, range-raised beef and lamb, and freshly caught trout. For the more daring, give lush Rocky Mountain oysters a try.
With plenty of places to explore, here are just two of many highlights.
“$” = budget-friendly or cheap
Gruner Brothers Brewing
On the east side of central Wyoming, visitors will find Casper, aka “the Oil City,” named after its history as an oil boomtown via the nearby Salt Creek Oil Field.
Like most Wyoming towns, Casper is a dream for outdoorsy travelers sitting underneath Casper Mountain and surrounded by rolling hills. Urban adventurers will also find the cowboy-influenced, up-and-coming downtown reverberating with an electric vibe. Wyoming’s second-largest city after Cheyenne enjoys a revitalized art and culinary scene. And sitting between these two is one of Wyoming’s best breweries.
Overlooking the city of Casper, Gruner Brothers Brewing is open and inviting, with indoor and outdoor seating that provides stunning views of Casper Mountain. Its made-right-here beer is the perfect complement to wood-fired pizza. Though the Ludovico Farm to Wood Flame restaurant is now closed, Gruner anticipates a new eatery coming soon to offer several styles of pizza, as well as pasta and other provisions as you enjoy the scenery, and if you plan it right, local, live tunes.
- Best for lunch and dinner drinks.
Altitude Chophouse & Brewery
True to its name, you can find scrumptious suds at 7,200 feet at Altitude Chophouse & Brewery in Laramie, Wyoming.
Opened In 1999 by Greg Smith and Karen Robillard who sought to combine sophisticated food and drinks with a casual Rocky Mountain atmosphere. With favorites like smoked beef brisket, charred lime Salmon, and prime rib accompanying stellar craft cocktails, the pair seems to have succeeded over the past two decades. Altitude has enjoyed numerous recognitions for these offerings in that time, including over 25 regional brewing awards, recognition in Wyoming Homes and Living magazine and Better Homes & Gardens. The locally owned restaurant has also given back over $30,000 to local organizations over the years.
And Laramie is a heck of a locality. The eclectic home of the University of Wyoming vibrates with college-town energy and Western history and lore in addition to epic outdoor time. There are so many things to do in Laramie the tough thing is deciding on what to miss.
- Best for lunch and dinner
What to do?! Besides massive mountain ranges to explore, fresh lakes to swim, and rivers to fish, Wyomans enjoy some of the best food, fun, and recreation in the nation.
Below are just two highlights of a seemingly unlimited list.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone, America’s (and the world’s) first national park, turns 150 this year and looks just as good as it did when President Ulysses S. Grant signed it into law in 1872. Founded to preserve and protect stunning natural scenery, cultural heritage, wildlife, geologic and ecological systems, hundreds of thousands of people visit the grand land every year.
The park is rich in cultural and historical resources with 25 sites, landmarks, and districts on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s enough to fill weeks of outdoor enjoyment at Yellowstone. Highlights include active geysers, wildlife like elk, and a bison herd. Fish, hike and take a dip in mountain streams and freshwater lakes.
Being at a high elevation, things don’t really open until the end of April at the earliest. The park is also one of the most popular in the U.S., so make sure to plan ahead of time.
Cheyenne Frontier Days
One of Wyoming’s biggest events happens, appropriately, in its capital city each year.
In 1897, Frederick W. Angier, Traveling Passenger Agent of the Union Pacific Railroad, suggested holding a festival similar to Greeley, Colorado’s “Potato Day” to the editor of the Cheyenne Daily Sun-Leader. And so, plans for the first Frontier Day were formed. Events included pony races, bronco busting, steer roping, and other tests of cowboy skills. The inaugural event expanded to two days and a parade was added.
Now, 126 years later, Cheyenne Frontier Days is a full 10-day, rip-roarin’ festival. Featuring one of the most authentic and largest rodeos in the world, there’s rides, events, and Western entertainment galore. Inside the Cheyenne Frontier Days Arena, a 19,000-seat stadium, are the rodeo, a night show, and several other cowboy events.
Past concerts include Johnny Cash in 1977 and 1986, Chicago in 1990, and Garth Brooks in 1993 and 2021. This year, you can catch Jason Aldean with Gabby Barret, Dierks Bentley with Chancey Williams, Parker McCollum with Ian Munsick & Brett Kissel, and Kid Rock with Night Ranger.
Disconnecting from screen time and reconnecting to each other on a family camping trip is an economical way to see Wyoming. Whether you spend a nominal fee and sleep in an established campsite in one of many state parks or disperse camp for free in one of the national forests, sleeping under the stars doesn’t break the bank. Wyoming really shines when it comes to cheap or free vacation activities that come natural to the outdoors, like fishing, hiking, or wildlife watching.
Luxury lodging in the Heart of the American West is also very affordable at The Cody Hotel. Located just under an hour’s drive from Yellowstone National Park’s East Entrance, The Cody offers upscale amenities for a fraction of the cost of other places.
One of the newest hotels in Cody provides service and comfort in a true Western Style. This includes a fancy, old-fashioned lounge, an indoor pool, and homey, spacious rooms.
Picking up a car at the Cheyenne Airport and keeping it as a road trip ride from seven days will begin at about $300.
This is just a preview of what the Cowboy State has to offer in the spring and summer. If you’re looking for a real taste of the Wild West, strap on your leather boots and get truckin’ over to the country’s least populous continental state this year.
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