WHY VISIT WYOMING
With its vast national parks, bountiful fauna, and rip-roaring Wild West heritage, the so-called Cowboy State is certainly worthy of a yee ha!
Home to the smallest population of any US state, there’s plenty of room to roam in Wyoming. Wilderness abounds, particularly in the northwestern corner, where Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks throw up dazzling scenery and more wildlife than you can keep track of.
Grizzlies, wolves, and bison prowl Yellowstone, whose bubbling hot springs and spouting geysers are as thrilling to watch in winter as they are in summer.
Immediately south of Yellowstone, Grand Teton is a mesmerizing landscape of spiky peaks peering down at the Jackson Hole valley over a mile below. It’s an adventurer’s paradise, crammed with hiking trails, campgrounds, lakes for kayaking, and jagged pinnacles begging to be climbed.
The ultra-cool town of Jackson is a great base for both parks and a jumping-off point for skiing at Jackson Hole, where the snow runs steep and deep and green runs are for losers.
Climbers also find it hard to resist tackling the corrugated rock faces of Devils Tower, a gigantic rocky monolith jutting up from the plains of northeastern Wyoming. If that sounds a bit scary, you can hunt for ancient stingrays or herring at Fossil Butte in the southwest of the state, whose limestone layers conceal the world’s largest deposit of freshwater fish fossils.
Hungry for some cowboy action? Saddle up and experience life on a working ranch or get yourself down to the nearest rodeo. For an all-out rocking rodeo extravaganza, bag tickets to Cheyenne Frontier Days in July, a raucous celebration packing in bull riding, chuckwagon cook-offs, whirring fairground rides, and boot-stomping concerts.
WHAT TO SEE IN WYOMING
- Jackson: Wyoming’s premier resort town is nestled at the foot of the majestic Grand Tetons. This sophisticated, Western-flavored town is both an outdoor mecca and a place for cowboy wannabes to hang out. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has legendary black diamond slopes for winter skiing and summer mountain biking. The Snake River is hot for fly fishing and kayaking, while Grand Teton National Park is a wonderland of wildlife and nature. Jackson also has superb restaurants, boisterous nightlife, and some posh lodges to sleep in. Whatever the season, Jackson Hole is one of America’s most scenic and entertaining mountain towns.
- Yellowstone National Park: America’s original national park is just as enchanting today as it was in 1807 when the Lewis and Clark Expedition first discovered it. Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon are the main highlights, but even more surreal geological wonders are just a bit farther into Wyoming Park. The Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces are a psychedelic marvel, while the Lonestar Geyser Trail is a wonderful hike along the Firehole River. You can also drive through the park to spot wildlife and stop to admire attractions like West Thumb and Yellowstone Lake. If possible, try and stay at one of the grand old hotels right in the park for a total immersion experience.
- Grand Teton National Park: one of the American West’s most dramatic and most exciting mountain ranges is the Grand Tetons. Rising like a jagged jaw line from the rolling prairie, the peaks are legendary for mountain climbing, rock climbing, skiing, and mountain biking. Besides all the adrenalin sports, the national park offers top-drawer hiking along Inspiration Point Trail and horseback riding to Jenny Lake. The largest elk herd in America lives in the Teton Valley, and you’re also likely to spy moose, eagles, and even a bear or two. An easier way to experience the majesty of the Tetons is by driving Signal Mountain road, where 360-degree views await at the summit.
- Cody: founded by legendary Wild West character Buffalo Bill Cody, this city is a great place to layover for a few days in between outdoor adventures. Though it doesn’t have the resort chic of Jackson, Cody is more authentically western. There are several excellent western attractions and museums here, including the Buffalo Bill Historical Center and Old Trail Town, a restored Wild West frontier town. In summer, catch the Cody Night Rodeo or hop on the Cody Trolley Tour for a fun tour of the town and all its colorful stories. As the eastern gateway to Yellowstone, Cody really bursts into life each May when the park opens.
- Buffalo Bill Historic Center: this massive museum lives up to its billing as the Smithsonian of the West. It features both a scholarly look at the origins of the frontier West as well as the entertaining side of its gunslingers, outlaws and showmen like Buffalo Bill himself. The Cody Firearms Museum boasts 5,000 vintage guns, while the Plains Indian Museum sheds fascinating light on the heritage of the Plains Indians. The Whitney Gallery of Western Art is also on-site, exhibiting hundreds of pieces of art depicting the West in its infancy. With five museums under one roof, this modern attraction is a cultural highlight of Wyoming.
- Wind River Valley: often overlooked by travelers, the Wind River Valley is one of Wyoming’s most lovely regions for outdoor recreation and Native American culture. The Wind River Indian Reservation is home to thousands of Shoshone and Arapaho people. Though the reservation offers few attractions, the tribes hold a series of fantastic powwows which are open to visitors from May to September. Lander and Riverton are the two main towns in the area, providing good bases for exploring the empty wilderness of the Wind River Range, a real gem for backpackers and hikers alike seeking solitude and thriving wildlife.
- Devils Tower National Monument: this absolutely surreal tower of rock rising alone from the empty Wyoming plains is worth the drive. It’s the 50 million-year-old core of a volcano, but it looks as if someone meticulously carved it. The Lakota Indians consider it sacred, and you can get a full experience of Devils Tower in a single day. Several trails offer different perspectives of the tower, while the ranger station has an excellent information center. There is also a cool prairie dog colony on site that is entertaining. Devils Towers really puts on a show at dusk when the sun sets, so try and stick around for the photo op.
WHEN TO GO TO WYOMING
The best period to visit Wyoming is from June to September.
Wyoming’s climate is typical of the continental US, but conditions here tend to be windier and drier than those in most other states. There are also extreme shifts in temperature between seasons, so visitors should come prepared for active weather conditions at any time of year. The plains are generally warmer than the mountains, which means towns like Casper are almost 10°F warmer than Jackson Hole.
Despite the seemingly cool climate in Wyoming, summers can actually get quite hot at low elevations. Average temperatures in July range from 85°F to 90°F during the day but cool off quickly after dark, dropping into the 50s and 60s (°F). Some regions of Wyoming are classified as desert, so there isn’t much precipitation. Most of it falls as rain in the late spring and early summer, which is also a windy time of year. Fall tends to be very pleasant, but winter sets in fast and early snowstorms can roll through in September and October in the high country.
Winter is very cold in Wyoming but it’s also a beautiful time of year. The air is very dry, so when it snows it comes down as light fluffy powder, a boon for skiers and snowmobilers. Daytime highs rarely break the freezing mark between December and February, dropping well into the negative digits at night. Snow tends to stick around all season once it begins to pile up, creating a lovely winter scene. The only real negative about winter is that it tends to be windy most of the time. Spring isn’t the best time of year in Wyoming because the snow melt creates muddy conditions in May and the temperatures remain chilly.
WHAT TO DO IN WYOMING
Unleash your inner cowboy during Frontier Days
OK, so maybe you moseyed into the local country-western bar in a pair of jeans and a $400 cowboy hat to watch other people ride the mechanical bull. Do you want to see what cowboy culture is really all about? Head to Cheyenne for Frontier Days, nine days of rodeo excitement that will put your elbow to elbow with real bronco riders everywhere you go. City slickers are welcome too, as the annual fair, music fest, and rodeo draw 600,000 people to Wyoming’s capital. Wyoming is more than its natural park. It’s a wonderful mountain culture that’s out in full force the last week of July.
Following is a list of typical festivals and celebrations of Wyoming.
- Old West Days: this four-day Wyoming event each May marks the beginning of the wonderful and busy summer tourist season in Jackson. It’s a Wild West extravaganza, with everything from real rodeo competitions to live bands and theater performances. The entire town of Jackson turns into a big street party, with lots of great food, arts, and crafts vendors offering goodies for sale.
- Alpine Mountain Days: when the summer begins to peak at the end of June, the beautiful town of Star Valley opens up its annual festival to celebrate the culture of mountain living. The scenery couldn’t be better for the roster of fun and quirky events like a black powder shoot, a mustache contest, and a chili cook-off. There are live bands, great food, and plenty of stuff for the kids to do at this family-focused Wyoming festival.
- Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo: a major rodeo event in the American West, Cheyenne’s annual July rodeo boasts the US $1 million in prize money for the top cowboys. Every event on the menu is performed during each of the nine shows that are scheduled daily during the festival. Bareback bronco busting, bucking bulls, and those clever rodeo clowns draw thousands to Frontier Park, with lots of supporting fun like food, music, and activities for the kids.
- Jackson Hole Scottish Festival: this event might seem a bit out of place, but in fact, Wyoming has a rich Scottish heritage running through its veins. The mountain town of Jackson celebrates this heritage every August with a weekend of all things Scottish. The Teton County Fair Grounds plays host to traditional Highlands games, activities, bagpipe performances, and other fun events.
- Jackson Hole Arts Festival: after summer has put on its performance, it’s time for the region’s artists to come out and show their stuff. Jackson transforms into a giant art exhibition, with special gallery events, painting competitions, and artists simply wandering around setting up their kits for an impromptu session. Of course, there is lots of original art for sale as well throughout this week in September.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH WYOMING
Wyoming is one of those American states that virtually requires a vehicle for any kind of practical travel. If you plan to spend your entire trip in Jackson, it’s feasible to use taxis to move around town. But even then, you would need a car of your own to drive to trailheads or other outdoor recreation sites. Nearly every visitor to Wyoming ends up renting a car, which is why it’s essential to book your rental well in advance. This is especially true during the peak winter and summer holiday periods when car rental typically sells out completely. Several major car rental firms are located at the airport in Jackson and in the town centers of most major Wyoming cities.
Taxis can be found in the main towns like Jackson and Cheyenne, and are useful for travelers visiting on short trips for business. Some companies use fixed rates for all trips around town while others use a meter. Fares are reasonable in any case, but drivers do not cruise the towns looking for customers.
There is no train service into Wyoming, but the Greyhound bus network has good routes to most major cities in the state. The bus tends to stick to destinations around the interstates, so it is difficult to reach remote towns without a car. Greyhound buses are cheap but not the most comfortable option for long trips. The large towns in Wyoming have public bus services, such as Jackson’s Southern Teton Area Rapid Transit (START), which keeps regular routes around the useful parts of town. City bus service typically increases dramatically during the summer months.
Main airports are:
GENERAL INFORMATION ON WYOMING
health tips & vaccination: none
local currency: US Dollar
local time zone: GMT-7 (-6)
electricity: type A and type B (120V – 60 Hz)
WHAT TO DO IN WYOMING
typical food in Wyoming
- Chicken Fried Steak
- Rocky Mountain Oysters
- Bison Burgers and steaks
- Chokecherry Preserves
- Rack of Lamb
- Cutthroat Trout
- Fresh Jerky
- White Chili
- Beef Steaks
- Chicken Fried Steak
- Fry Bread
souvenirs from Wyoming
Shopping is not a highlight of a visit to Wyoming. But fans of the American West will find plenty of art, crafts, and interesting curios to bring back home. Befitting of a resort town of its stature, Jackson has the best shopping scene in the state. Its downtown shops sell everything from Native American art to high-end cowboy attire and outdoor gear.