One of the largest and least densely populated states in the US, Wyoming is renowned for both its awe-inspiring scenery and exciting outdoor activities. While most people flock to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national park, there are countless secluded spots and state parks to explore around the Cowboy State.
As it encompasses everything from the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains to deserts, canyons and lakes, there is always some dramatic new scenery to see. Besides basking in its beauty and enjoying its lovely views and nature, you can also hike and camp amidst its delightfully diverse landscapes. It is also known for its amazing wildlife with bears, bison, elk and moose often spied roaming around the national parks in Wyoming.
While Wyoming is mostly known for its wild and untouched open spaces, a couple of state parks in Wyoming protect interesting historic sights. Visitor centers too help shine a light on the history, nature and wildlife on show in each region.
11. Buffalo Bill State Park
Sprawling across a massive area directly west of Cody is the peaceful and picturesque Buffalo Bill State Park. As well as boasting some stunning scenery, nature and views, it also has all kinds of fun outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy.
Established in 1957, it is centered around the reflective Buffalo Bill Reservoir and its huge 350-feet dam which was once the tallest in the world. Both of these are named after famous Wild West figure William ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody who founded the nearby city and increased agriculture and irrigation in northwestern Wyoming.
Asides from hiking, biking and camping along its scenic shoreline, you can swim and boat about its tranquil waters. After having snapped some photos of the spectacular Shoshone Canyon, make sure to stop by its excellent visitor’s center which has interesting exhibits on the history of the region and Buffalo Bill himself.
10. Sinks Canyon State Park
Nestled amidst the Wind River Mountains is another stupendous spot to hit up: the incredible Sinks Canyon State Park. Lying just outside of Lander in the center of the state, it encompasses everything from a roaring river and rapids to lots of local fauna and flora.
Named after a small portion of the Middle Fork Popo Agie River which flows into an underground cavern, it was founded back in 1971. While no one knows the exact route of ‘the Sinks’, you can see ‘the Rise’; a pretty pool where the river reemerges into the colossal canyon.
Formed over the course of millennia by slow-moving glaciers, its craggy cliff walls now offer some great rock climbing. Visitors can also hike, picnic and camp amidst its shady woodlands or fish and splash about in its numerous lakes and waterways.
9. Bear River State Park
On the eastern limits of Evanston, you can find the beautiful Bear River State Park. Straddling both sides of the river, it has exquisite overlooks, wildlife viewing and nature trails for locals and tourists alike to enjoy.
Set just a stone’s throw from the Utah border in the southwest corner of the state, it protects woods and meadows, the river and wildlife. Particularly delightful are the small herds of bison and elk that roam about the park with moose, deer and even bears sometimes spotted amidst the undergrowth.
Since the area was cleaned up in the early nineties, people have enjoyed ambling about besides the river and drinking in its divine views. There are also picnic spots, benches and a pavilion where you can rest while you watch the wildlife and a visitor’s center which teaches you all about the park.
8. Fort Laramie National Historic Site
While most of Wyoming’s state parks protect its pristine wilderness and wildlife, a couple preserve important historic sights. At Fort Laramie, visitors can learn more about the nation’s expansion west and the fierce resistance soldiers and settlers faced from the region’s Native Americans.
Located just outside the tiny town of the same name, its collection of historic old buildings lie at the spot where the Laramie and North Platte rivers meet. It was this strategic setting close to the lowest crossing point over the Rockies that saw a private trading post spring up in the 1830s.
As travelers along the Oregon, California and Mormon trails all stopped by the site, a United States Army military installation was established several decades later to protect them. Packed with lots of authentic artifacts and exhibits, photos and short videos, its buildings present a fascinating look at what life was like at a frontier outpost during the American Indian Wars.
7. Curt Gowdy State Park
Just a couple of hours’ drive south of Fort Laramie is the superb Curt Gowdy State Park. The perfect place to relax and unwind, its countless lakeside campsites have a myriad of excellent amenities and outdoor activities for visitors to delight in.
Hidden away amidst the rolling foothills of the Laramie Mountains, it includes lush woods, flower-filled meadows and jagged rocky outcrops. While its highest point reaches 7,214 feet in height, its focal feature are the three large reservoirs that offer up such great fishing, boating and water skiing.
Besides lounging by the lakeshore and swimming and splashing about in their cool waters, you can also hike, bike and horseback ride along its more than 35 miles of shady trails.
6. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
If it is staggering scenery and views that you are after, then you can’t beat the breathtaking Bighorn Canyon in the very north of the state. Straddling the border with neighboring Montana, its national recreation area has a wealth of wonderful watersports and exciting outdoor activities to try out.
Partly set within the Crow Indian Reservation, the massive man-made Bighorn Lake was formed by the damming of the river back in the sixties. Rising up steeply on all sides are the colossal canyon’s colorful, craggy walls which remarkably stretch over seventy miles in length.
While boating, kayaking and jet skiing about its calm waters, you can bask in phenomenal views of its ochre hues all around you. In addition to hiking along its rim and snapping photos of the canyon from above, you can also stop by its handful of historic ranches and see herds of wild horses nearby.
5. Hot Springs State Park
Appropriately located in Thermopolis, Hot Springs State Park has plenty of steaming springs, spas and water parks for guests to wallow in. After all the sightseeing and strenuous outdoor activities, it really is the ideal place to soak and soothe your aching muscles.
Home to the largest hot springs in North America, its warm waters and travertine terraces have been protected as part of a park since 1897. Since then, generations of families have come to see its pools and springs with it also encompassing age-old petroglyphs and a rather large herd of peaceful bison.
While the bubbling springs already make for impressive viewing, no visit can be complete of course without taking a dip yourself. Many establishments have fun wave pools and water slides to try out while the free State Bath House has indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs to recline in.
4. Fossil Butte National Monument
Situated not too far from Bear River State Park in the southwest corner of Wyoming is the fantastic Fossil Butte National Monument. Known for both its hulking great butte and hundreds of fossils, it has scenic hikes and drives for visitors to enjoy as well as engaging geology talks.
One of the most unique and extensive paleontological sites on Earth, it was originally discovered by miners in the late nineteenth century. Since then, perfectly preserved fossils of insects, fish, plants and birds have been unearthed all about the long dried up Fossil Lake. Astonishingly enough, these fascinating finds date to the Eocene Epoch which lasted from about 56 to 34 million years ago.
Aside from examining the delightfully detailed fossils in the park’s visitor center, guests can attend talks, watch videos and peruse all its interactive exhibits. What’s more, you can also hike about the butte where digs still take place each summer.
3. Devils Tower National Monument
Rising up dramatically above its surroundings is the distinctive Devils Tower in the northeast of the Cowboy State. Actually the first national monument to be established in the US, the giant geologic landmark needs to be seen to be believed such is its striking size, scale and shape.
While the mighty monolith has been protected since 1906, Native American tribes have worshiped and revered it for centuries if not millennia longer. Towering 1,267 feet above the ground, its steep sides and lonely location make for some fabulous photos with outstanding hiking, camping and rock climbing all being on offer.
At its visitor center, you can learn all about the lofty landmark which is actually the exposed core of a long extinct volcano.
2. Grand Teton National Park
Sure to delight both nature lovers and outdoor aficionados alike, Grand Teton National Park lies just outside of Jackson in Northwest Wyoming. Amidst all its soaring mountains, sweeping valleys and sparkling lakes, you can immerse yourself in nature and bathe in its spectacular scenery and views.
Renowned for its dramatic landscapes and vast swathes of untouched wilderness, it was established back in 1929. The hugely popular park is named after the massive and majestic Teton Range’s tallest peak which remarkably reaches 13,775 feet in height. Stretching almost endlessly away below it are verdant forests and flower-filled meadows, punctuated by twinkling lakes and roaring rivers.
Visitors can hike, bike, camp and climb about its slopes or fish, swim and kayak in its refreshing waterways. To top it all off, everything from regal moose and elk to bears, bison and bald eagles can be spotted in the enormous park.
1. Yellowstone National Park
Just north of its wild reaches is another utterly incredible and unmissable national park. While most of Yellowstone’s mighty mountains, canyons and geysers lie within Wyoming, small sections sprawl over into neighboring Idaho and Montana.
Due to all its sublime scenery, it was impressively the first national park to be founded in the world in 1872. While Yellowstone is awash with astounding natural sights, it is mostly known for the over 10,000 hot springs, mudpots and geysers that dot its scenic confines. Of these, Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful are the most popular and photographed for their startling colors, size and regular eruption.
Besides exploring the world’s largest geothermal area, you can of course hike and camp amidst its gorgeous forests, mountains and valleys. Yellowstone is also renowned for its phenomenal wildlife with bears, bison, cougars and Canadian lynx all residing in the park.