As the least populated state in the lower 49, it would be fair to think Wyoming is well off the tourist trail. Yet this midwest state, snuggled between Montana and Colorado, South Dakota and Idaho, has some of the USA’s most prized outdoor wilderness areas. Wildlife watchers, snow seekers, celebrities and cowboys all flock here, for epic ski resorts in Jackson, the rodeo capital of the country Cody, and of course, the USA’s first national park, Yellowstone. This part of the world is ideal for a grand road trip, taking in the mountain town of Jackson, through to classic western locales like Casper, Buffalo and Sheridan. Be sure to pull up a chair at the bar and enjoy some old fashioned hospitality, or ask a local about the best rivers for fly fishing, a favourite summer pastime.
There are two main reasons visitors flock to Wyoming. The first is Jackson for the winter ski season. This famous resort town sits in Jackson Hole, a valley beside the mighty Grand Tetons mountain range. In summer, the ski resorts turn into hiking and mountain biking meccas. The second reason you may have heard of Wyoming is Yellowstone. America’s first national park, this huge wilderness area sits atop a supervolcano, making it famous for harbouring more geothermal features than anywhere else on earth. A barren wilderness in the winter, come summer it’s teeming with wildlife, including grizzly bears, moose, bison, herds of deer and even wolves.
Cody, a cowboy town east of Yellowstone is known for having the longest running nightly rodeo in the country, drawing cowboys from across the world. While you’re there be sure to check out the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, an excellent museum that could easily be in New York of LA. Casper, a trade town to the east, is home to the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, while just outside you’ll find Independence Rock and Casper Mountain. Classic western towns Sheridan and Buffalo are also worth a visit, as is the drive through Bighorn National Forest toward Yellowstone.
Eat and Drink
Dining in Wyoming is a casual affair. No need to pack your fancy shoes or suit jacket here. Yet a collared shirt and cowboy hat won’t go astray. Jackson’s restaurants range from burger joints to organic cafes, and the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is as much a local hangout as it is a tourist highlight. If you head to Buffalo, be sure to stop for a drink at the Occidental Hotel. A traditional pub with old fashioned service, you’ll also find quite the array of taxidermy animals here - just incase you don’t catch them on your wildlife viewing pursuits. Food options in Yellowstone are limited to the townships around the park - your best bets for a decent meal are the lodges: Old Faithful Inn, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, Canyon Lodge etc.
Where to stay
As you might expect from a rural state, Wyoming is home to an array of accommodation options that range from roadside motels to luxury wilderness lodges and classic dude ranches. Visitors wanting to explore Yellowstone can choose from one of the lodges within the park, however it’s possible to stay in Jackson, Cody or West Yellowstone and take day trips in to explore. You will also find a range of ski resorts and hotel options near the Grand Tetons and the Bighorn Mountains.
Wyoming like a local
It’s true that during summer, Yellowstone is crawling with tourists who have road tripped from near and far. The best way to avoid the crowds is to stay in the park and start exploring early. Yet away from the park, Wyoming remains a fairly unspoiled state. You’ll find hidden gems like Casper Mountain and the Nicolaysen, a superb art institution in Casper. While in Buffalo, you’ll find delicious Mexican at Papa Binos (quite surprising for a town of under 5,000 this far from Mexico!) Wherever you go, just ask the locals for recommendations, the Wyoming folk are known for their old fashioned friendly hospitality.