Spring is here and just around the corner, summer. It’s time to plan your vacation.
As the great American continent stretches out before you, a thousand and one options are available to you from coast to coast. There is one place, however, that offers all the excitement an adventure road trip demands: Wyoming. Walk through sprawling hills, mountains and lakes that lead to and through national parks, fresh and nutritious food and drink, and distinct events found in few other places in the United States.
So shine your boots, shoe your horses and lube your engines. It’s time to head to the Cowboy State.
Where you stay in Wyoming depends on the level of luxury you want and what you are looking for. Ready to rough it? Throw yourself wherever you want in the vast 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. Stay in town? There are many great options in major Wyoming cities such as Cheyenne, Casper, Gillette, and Laramie.
What all of your accommodations will likely have in common is access to an out-of-this-world, larger-than-life outdoor space, either right outside your door or a short drive away. Here are two highlights among many others.
Search Fireside Resort
With sustainably built, LEED-certified cabins in luxurious Jackson Hole, Fireside Resort offers a unique take on resort accommodation. Outside, you’ll find rustic pine-plank cabins and inside, pure alpine relaxation. Inside, you can relax for days – leather couches, stainless steel kitchens, fireplaces, and flat-screen TVs all sit beneath soaring, wood-beamed ceilings.
Nestled in the wilderness of Teton, the Fireside Resort cabins sit amidst hundreds of miles of nature – hiking trails and cool mountain rivers provide myriad opportunities to walk, climb, hunt or offroad driving through the wild nature. And when the day is done, come back to make your own campfire or grill some 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 is Lander, a wild, sleepy, almost secret town. The pioneer town turned tourist spot sits along the middle fork of the Popo Agie River, just south of the Wind River Indian Reservation. To roam freely and get your fill of wanderlust in a place that author Ernest Hemingway once called “amazing,” post to The Mill House.
As its name suggests, The Mill House is an old mill, the Lander Flour Mill to be precise, built in 1888. Lander grew around this industrial hub, with the excess electricity generated during the day used by citizens in the evening, giving the city a reputation for being one of the first to have electricity in the United States
The mill remained operational until the late 1950s and has now enjoyed a new life as a boutique hotel built and shaped by local artists and artisans. Inside, you’ll find exposed brick walls with local artwork, comfy plush sofas, plush four-poster beds, rainfall showers, and even the option to create 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, pasture-raised beef and lamb, and freshly caught trout. For the more daring, try the lush Rocky Mountain oysters.
With plenty of places to explore, here are just two of the many highlights.
“$” = economy or cheap
“$$” = medium
“$$$” = expensive
Brewery of the Gruner brothers
On the east side of central Wyoming, visitors will find Casper, aka “Oil Town,” named for its history as an oil boom town via the nearby Salt Creek Oil Field.
Like most towns in Wyoming, Casper is an outdoor traveler’s dream sitting beneath Casper Mountain and surrounded by rolling hills. Urban adventurers will also find the booming downtown area influenced by cowboys and resonating with an electric vibe. Wyoming’s second largest city after Cheyenne boasts a revitalized arts and culinary scene. And sitting between those two is one of the best breweries in Wyoming.
Overlooking the town of Casper, Gruner Brothers Brewing is open and welcoming, with indoor and outdoor seating that offers stunning views of Casper Mountain. Its craft beer is the perfect complement to wood-fired pizza. Although the Ludovico Farm to Wood Flame restaurant is now closed, Gruner anticipates that a new restaurant will soon be available to offer several styles of pizza, as well as pasta and other provisions while you enjoy the scenery, and if you plan properly, local and live tunes.
- Ideal for lunch and dinner drinks.
Altitude Chophouse & Brasserie
True to its name, you can find luscious moss 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 drink with a laid-back Rocky Mountain atmosphere. With favorites like smoked beef brisket, charred lime salmon, and prime rib pairing with stellar craft cocktails, the pair seem to have had it all over the past two decades. Altitude has enjoyed numerous accolades for these offerings during this time, including more than 25 regional brewing awards, recognition in Wyoming Homes and Living magazine, and Better Homes & Gardens. The local restaurant has also donated over $30,000 to local organizations over the years.
And Laramie is one hell of a community. The eclectic home of the University of Wyoming vibrates with the energy of college town and Western history and traditions in addition to epic outdoor time. There’s so much to do in Laramie, it’s hard to decide what to miss.
- Best for lunch and dinner
What to do?! Along with massive mountain ranges to explore, cool lakes to swim in, and rivers to fish in, Wyomans enjoy some of the best food, entertainment, and recreation in the country.
Below are two highlights from a seemingly endless list.
yellowstone national park
Yellowstone, America’s (and the world’s) first national park, turns 150 this year and is as beautiful as it was when President Ulysses S. Grant signed it in 1872. Founded to preserve and protect the stunning natural landscapes, cultural heritage and wildlife, geological and ecological systems, hundreds of thousands of people visit the great country every year.
The park is rich in cultural and historical resources with 25 sites, monuments and neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s enough to fill weeks of outdoor fun in Yellowstone. Highlights include active geysers, wildlife like elk, and a bison herd. Fish, hike and swim in mountain streams and freshwater lakes.
Being at a high altitude, things don’t really open up until late April at the earliest. The park is also one of the most popular in the United States, so be sure to plan ahead.
Cheyenne Frontier Days
One of Wyoming’s biggest events happens, appropriately, in its capital every year.
In 1897, Frederick W. Angier, Traveling Passenger Agent for the Union Pacific Railroad, suggested to the editor of the Cheyenne Daily Sun-Leader that they organize a festival similar to “Potato Day” in Greeley, Colorado . And so, the plans for the first Frontier Day were formed. Events included pony racing, bronco busting, steer roping, and other tests of cowboy skills. The inaugural event was extended to two days and a parade was added.
Now, 126 years later, Cheyenne Frontier Days is a full 10-day festival. With one of the most authentic and largest rodeos in the world, there are western rides, events and entertainment galore. Inside the Cheyenne Frontier Days Arena, a 19,000-seat arena, are the rodeo, a nighttime show, and several other cowboy events.
Past gigs include Johnny Cash in 1977 and 1986, Chicago in 1990, and Garth Brooks in 1993 and 2021. This year you can see Jason Aldean with Gabby Barret, Dierks Bentley with Chancey Williams, Parker McCollum with Ian Munsick & Brett Kissel, and Kid Rock with Night Ranger.
Logging out of screen time and reconnecting on a family camping trip is a budget-friendly way to see Wyoming. Whether you spend a nominal fee and sleep at an established campsite in one of the many state parks or scatter 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 naturally outdoors, like fishing, hiking, or wildlife viewing.
Luxury accommodations in the heart of the American West are also very affordable at the Cody Hotel. Located just under an hour’s drive from the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park, The Cody offers top-notch amenities for a fraction of the cost of other locations.
One of Cody’s newest hotels offers service and comfort in true Western style. This includes a chic, old-fashioned lounge, an indoor pool, and spacious, homey rooms.
Picking up a car from Cheyenne Airport and keeping it as a seven-day road trip will start at around $300.
This is just a taste 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 head to the country’s least populated mainland state this year.