12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Wyoming
In Wyoming the Wild West comes alive. One of the most sparsely populated states in the US, Wyoming is a land of rugged landscapes, rich tribal legend, rodeos, ranches, cowboy towns, and some of the world's great wilderness areas. Yellowstone, with its geothermal wonders, together with the spectacular Grand Teton National Park comprise one of the largest intact temperate-zone ecosystems on the planet. Both parks are home to an astounding diversity of wildlife, from grizzlies and golden eagles to wolves, elk, moose, bison, and black bears. Further afield visitors can explore red-walled gorges, hot springs, historic prairie towns, pioneer museums, and the historical attractions of Wyoming's capital, Cheyenne. With all this wilderness and wide-open space, outdoor adventures abound. Wyoming boasts excellent hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, and fishing, as well as some of the best skiing in North America.
1 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. Visitors can drive through the park, but the huge network of hiking trails is the best way to appreciate the park's diverse ecosystems. Top tourist attractions here include the famous Old Faithful geyser, Yellowstone Lake, and the jaw-dropping cascades of Lower Falls. The park is open year-round but most people visit in the summer.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Yellowstone National Park
2 Editor's Pick 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. The best way to explore the spectacular scenery is by hiking the many trails. Some of the roads and access points close during winter months.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Grand Teton National Park
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.
Camouflaged in a rocky hillside just south of town, the National Museum of Wildlife Art is another top attraction with more than 4,000 paintings and many rotating exhibits. Other highlights include scenic float trips down the Snake River, fly fishing, chuck wagon cookouts, the popular summer rodeo, and downhill skiing on Snow King Mountain. A 20-minute drive from Jackson, the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort at Teton Village offers some of the best skiing in North America as well as a fun lineup of summer mountain sports and outdoor concerts.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Jackson Hole
4 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.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Hot Springs State Park
5 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. In 1925, the Gros Ventre Slide carved down a mountainside creating Lower Slide Lake. Visitors can still see evidence of the slide today. Crisscrossed by miles of trails, the entire region is excellent for hiking, hunting, fishing, ski touring, and mountaineering.
6 The Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody
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. Wyoming wildlife and geology are the main themes of the Draper Museum of Natural History, and visitors can learn about the culture of the prairies' first inhabitants at the Plains Indian Museum through exhibits and a multimedia show.
In addition to all these historical exhibits and artifacts, the center offers a treat for art lovers. At the Whitney Gallery of Western Art, works by Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, and George Catlin continue the Wild West theme. Near the center are the rodeo grounds where some of the best cowboys in the Wild West perform in the summer.
Address: 720 Sheridan Ave, Cody
7 Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
Named for the area's striking red sandstone cliffs, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area stretches from Green River, Wyoming, south and into Utah. Fed by the waters of the Green River, Flaming Gorge Reservoir is a popular spot for boating, fishing, swimming, camping, and kayaking. Adventure seekers can also raft the area of the Green River downstream from Flaming Gorge Dam. High on the canyon, the Red Canyon Vista and Visitor Center offers impressive views of the gorge. From the Visitor Center, the Canyon Rim Trail threads along the lip of the canyon with lookouts along the way. In addition to the colourful rock formations, some of the rock walls display petroglyphs, and prehistoric fossils are often found in the area.
Address: Hwy Loop 530/191 S Green River, Green River
8 Casper National Historic Trails Interpretive Center
The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center is more than a museum. It's an interactive experience recreating the old pioneer trails and their important role in American history. Full-scale dioramas and multimedia presentations tell the story of Wyoming's first settlers, the mountain men and fur trappers, the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, the California Trail, and the Pony Express route.
Address: 1501 North Poplar Street, Casper
9 Fort Laramie National Historic Site
Once a private fur-trading post, Fort Laramie, the first garrisoned post in Wyoming, became an important outpost serving pioneers emigrating west on the Mormon, Oregon, and California Trails. The area was also an important military post during the Plains Indian Wars. In 1938, President Roosevelt proclaimed the 214 acres of military reservation land a national monument. Today the National Park Service manages the site. Your first stop should be the Visitor Center where a short audio-visual presentation tells the story of the fort's history. Artifacts such as uniforms and weapons are also on display here. After the Visitors Center, a walking tour of the restored buildings brings the fort's fascinating history to life.
Address: 965 Grey Rocks Rd, Fort Laramie
10 Devil's 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. After exploring the monument, visitors can hike along 8 miles of nature trails, which circumnavigate the rock and thread through the surrounding forest and meadows. During the spring and early summer, abundant wildflowers create fantastic photo opportunities. Rock climbing is a popular pursuit here during certain months, and anglers can fish for black bullhead, catfish and walleye in the Belle Fourche. Ranger-led tours of the area are also available.
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. For a taste of the Wild West at other times of the year, head to the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum with rodeo exhibits and antique horse-drawn wagons. Cheyenne's other top tourist attractions include the Wyoming State Capitol Building, a National Historic Landmark; the Wyoming State Museum with interactive child-friendly exhibits; and the historical railroad displays at the Cheyenne Depot Museum. Near the depot, in Holliday Park, look for the Big Boy locomotive, one of the largest steam engines ever built.
12 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. Stop by the Visitor Center in Lovell for details.