Throughout Wyoming, rolling mountains, windswept plains and sparkling alpine lakes form dreamy camping scenes that few states can match. Just be sure to plan your trip for high summer, as nighttime temperatures drop dramatically come September.
The granddaddy of all National Parks, Yellowstone is the world’s oldest national park. Striking geological formations – from bubbling hot springs and mud pots to hissing fumaroles and gushing geysers – showcase the planet’s formative years, while bison, antelope and bald eagles are just a taste of the wildlife found in these parts.
You can drive to many of the highlights, but the best way to take in the wonders of Yellowstone is by foot, winding your way through the park’s network of hiking trails. You can fish Yellowstone Lake; or make your way to the soft limestone formations of Mammoth Hot Springs, which look something like a cave turned inside out. The triple cascades of Lower Falls light up like a painting at sunset, its canyon walls awash in warm pink and yellow.
The park’s most famous geological resident, Old Faithful, is surprisingly not the tallest or largest geyser in the park – Steamboat Geyser gets that title – but it is the most reliable, erupting somewhere between 44 minutes to two hours like clockwork. And while there are hundreds of colorful hot springs to choose from in these parts, don’t miss the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring – larger than a football field, and truly transfixing.
Informally referred to as the Tetons, Grand Teton National Park is truly a sight to behold. The soaring, 12,000+ foot mountains date back millions of years, and offer some of the best rock climbing in the country. You can hike over two hundred miles of trails; or float down Snake River to enjoy the striking landscape from the water.
Tucked into the foot of the Teton Mountains, Jackson Hole – and its namesake town, Jackson –is part vintage cowboy scene, part hip ski region. Old wood buildings lock in its Old West charm, but cool restaurants and galleries give it a cosmopolitan vibe. The craft beer scene is solid, offering the perfect spot to cool your heels after a day in the mountains.
Don’t think all of Wyoming’s best attractions are jammed into its northwest corner. Bighorn Mountains, in the northeast region, offer some of the best vistas in the state, with red cliffs soaring above winding blue water. Enjoy panoramic views from Devil's Canyon Overlook, or cast a trout line in the Bighorn River. Packs of wild horses are the norm here, alongside the park’s namesake animal, Bighorn sheep.
East of here, you’ll find the country’s first national monument: Devils Tower. You may remember the dramatic 867-feet laccolithic butte (made up of igneous rocks) from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and many Native American tribes still hold sun dances at the formation. There are hiking trails, climbing routes, and incredible stargazing opportunities via the park’s astronomy program.
To the west of Bighorn, the world's largest single mineral hot spring awaits at Hot Springs State Park. Visitors can soak inside the State Bath House or in the 104˚ outdoor pools; hike among the gorgeous flower gardens; or make their way to the Rainbow Terrace stream.
With Utah knocking at its back door, the state’s southwest corner is home to some gorgeous red sandstone cliffs complements of Gorge National Recreation Area, a popular fishing, rafting and kayaking spot.
24 miles south of Lander, along Highway 28, one of the most scenic landscapes in Wyoming can be found in the salmon-hued Red Canyon. The colorful rock formations along the scenic Canyon Rim Trail offers photo opps galore – and you might just catch a petroglyph or prehistoric fossil along the way.