Category Archives: Wyoming

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area

Overview

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is an underappreciated gem in the National Park Service (NPS) system.  It has gorgeous scenery, a winding reservoir, and abundant wildlife, including bighorn sheep and wild horses.  The 525-foot tall Yellowtail Dam was completed in 1968, creating a 71-mile long reservoir, the majority of which is in narrow Bighorn Canyon where cliffs soar up to 2,000 feet above the water.

Highlights

Devil Canyon Overlook, Hillsboro Dude Ranch, Horseshoe Bend, Yellowtail Dam

Must-Do Activity

No road connects the north and south portion of the park, making for a long drive between the NPS visitor center in Lovell, Wyoming and the one at the Yellowtail Dam in Montana.  Thus, it is best to choose either one side or the other and explore the canyon by boat.  Devil Canyon Overlook and most of the 27 miles of hiking trails are in the southern section.  This is also where the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range enters into Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.  In the summer there are lifeguards at the designated swimming areas at Horseshoe Bend and Ok-A-Beh.

Best Trail

The southern portion of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area has trails to historic sites like Hillsboro Dude Ranch and several tipi rings found along Bad Pass Trail, a route which has seen over 10,000 years of human use.

Instagram-worthy Photo

If you are unable to get out on the water, the highlight of the park is Devil Canyon Overlook where the cliffs drop over 1,000 feet straight down to the lake.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/bica/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Almost every road is paved, but they are narrow and winding so may not be advisable for very long RVs.

Camping

There are drive-in campgrounds (fee) in both states, as well as free boat-in campgrounds on the Montana side.  Backcountry camping is allowed below the highwater mark of Bighorn Lake.

Related Sites

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (Montana)

Devils Tower National Monument (Wyoming)

Jewel Cave National Monument (South Dakota)

Explore More – The Yellowtail Dam is named after whom?

Grand Teton National Park

Overview

Just south of Yellowstone National Park, is one of the most recognizable skylines in the United States, topped by 13,772-foot tall Grand Teton Peak.  The Teton Mountains were established as a National Park in 1929, but the rest of the park has a strange history.  Land in the Jackson Hole valley was bought up by the Rockefeller family and attempted to be donated to the U.S. government for decades.  In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Jackson Hole National Monument under the Antiquities Act, but it did not include the Rockefeller holdings.  It was not until 1950 that a deal was struck merging everything into Grand Teton National Park as we know it today.  Part of that negotiation was a requirement that in the future no land in Wyoming would ever be established as a National Monument under the Antiquities Act.

Highlights

Jenny Lake, Inspiration Point, Jackson Lake Lodge, Oxbow Bend Turnout, Mormon Row

Must-Do Activity

One of our favorite places in the park is Jenny Lake, which sparkles below 12,325-foot Teewinot Peak.  This is the trailhead for Cascade Canyon, but there are plenty of activities other than hiking, which include boating, horseback riding, mountain climbing, whitewater rafting, or cross-country skiing in the winter. 

Best Trail

You can hike around Jenny Lake to the lake to Hidden Falls and the waterfalls of Cascade Canyon, or you can take the shortcut aboard a shuttle boat (fee).  This popular trail can get very busy in the summer, which is true of most of the trails in the park.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Oxbow Bend Turnout is found along Highway 89/191/287, north of Moran Junction Entrance Station.  It overlooks a curve in the Snake River towards the Teton Mountain Range, which is why we chose it for our original logo design (see below).

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$35 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

The only main road that are not paved is the short segment that connects Phelps Lake with Jackson Hole Ski Area, but there are other rough gravel roads that follow the Snake River.

Camping

The first-come, first-served tent-only campsites at Jenny Lake or Signal Mountain are usually full, so you can always try Gros Ventre Campground which has 350 sites and rarely fills up.  Reservations for sites with hook-ups are accepted at Colter Bay RV Park and Headwaters at Flagg Ranch, which is just north of the park boundaries on the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway.

Related Sites

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming-Montana-Idaho)

Fossil Butte National Monument (Wyoming)

Devils Tower National Monument (Wyoming)

This design we created to celebrate Grand Teton National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – How did the valley of Jackson Hole (and the city of Jackson) get its name?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Fort Laramie National Historic Site

Overview

Fort Laramie National Historic Site in eastern Wyoming was originally founded in 1834 for its strategic location at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers.  Purchased by the U.S. military in 1849, it saw its share of history as a major military post on the Oregon Trail, Pony Express, and Cheyenne-Deadwood stage route. West of the fort, stop at Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site and Register Cliff where pioneers left their mark along the North Platte River.

Highlights

Museum, film, 1874 Cavalry Barracks, 1849 “Old Bedlam”

Must-Do Activity

Come for the free 4th of July festivities and explore the restored buildings encircling the parade grounds, in between watching demonstrations of cannon firing and oxen plowing.  The National Park Service (NPS) employees host a variety of old-fashioned activities for kids and adults, including a three-legged race for adults.  Grab a partner and join in the fun or simply watch from the sidelines with a cold sarsaparilla, cream soda, or birch beer in your hand.  You are sure to have a good, old-fashioned good time even if you head home before the fireworks.

Best Trail

Fort Laramie was never a condensed, palisaded fort, so walking to all 11 restored structures covers quite a bit of distance (like Fort Union in New Mexico).  You can also hike along the banks of the Laramie River where the Oregon National Historic Trail once led.

Instagram-worthy Photo

“Old Bedlam,” the former quarters of bachelor officers, dates to 1849 making it the oldest documented building in Wyoming.  The right side is now restored to appear as officers’ quarters and the left side to post headquarters in 1863 when Lt. Col. William O. Collins lived on the second floor with his wife.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/fola/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The last portion of the drive is a graded dirt road, as is the parking lot.

Camping

The town of Fort Laramie offers camping at its small municipal park, or head west to Guernsey State Park with its historic Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) structures.

Related Sites

Scotts Bluff National Monument (Nebraska)

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site (Colorado)

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

Explore More – What was the name of the original stockade constructed by fur traders in 1834?

Fossil Butte National Monument

Overview

One-hundred years after the creation of Yellowstone National Park, another Wyoming site was added to the National Park Service (NPS) system in 1972: Fossil Butte National Monument.  It is dedicated to 50-million-year-old fossils found in an ancient subtropical lakebed, including plants (like palms and ferns) and animals (like turtles and lemurs). 

Highlights

NPS museum, film, Fossil Lake Trail, Historic Quarry Trail

Must-Do Activity

Even 50-million years ago it was windy in Wyoming!  The excellent preservation of the fossils may be in part due to high winds that kept surface water well-oxygenated while deeper waters were stagnant.  If you need to get out of the wind, head into the visitor center to see fossil fish, turtles, and other species on display.  On the deck outside there is an awesome timeline that traces CO2 levels and life on Earth throughout geologic time.

Best Trail

Take the steep steps up the Historic Quarry Trail to find fish fossils still in the rocks.  There is no shade along the trail, but even in the summer the weather is usually not that hot at 7,000 feet in elevation.  From the picnic area, the 1.5-mile Fossil Lake Trail leads to aspen groves.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Get up close with fossils that stand out against the white bedrock in the NPS museum or on the Historic Quarry Trail.  On private land nearby, you can pay to excavate your own fish fossils that you get to keep.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/fobu/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Entrance road is paved

Camping

None within the National Monument, but to the north Bridger-Teton National Forest provides opportunities for dispersed camping.

Explore More – Kemmerer, Wyoming is home the very first example of which well-known department store?

Devils Tower National Monument

Overview

Devils Tower was named the United States’ first National Monument by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906.  Legend has it that its deep stripes were made by the tearing claws of a giant bear attempting to climb after seven girls who were saved when the rock grew from three feet high to its current 867 feet.  You can see the girls today as the constellation Pleiades.  The bear came to rest in Bear Butte State Park in South Dakota.

Highlights

Tower Trail, Joyner Ridge Trail, Prairie Dog Town

Must-Do Activity

Devils Tower is a distinctive 50-million-year-old volcanic plug, whose steep sides have been an irresistible challenge to rock climbers for years.  Watch for them as you complete the 1.3-mile loop trail around the entire tower, as it looks different from every angle.  Also look for the colorful prayer cloths left by Native Americans, many of whom would prefer this sacred site be renamed Bear Lodge National Monument.

Best Trail

Joyner Ridge Trail provides a unique view of the tower and forms a 1.5-mile loop or connects to the longer Red Beds Trail that circumnavigates it.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Visit in late September for fall foliage: golden quaking aspens and red chokecherry bushes.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/deto/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$25 per vehicle or America The Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Long vehicles must park just below the visitor center and hike a short ways up.  The short West Road to Joyner Ridge Trailhead is a good dirt road.

Camping

On the prairie below Devils Tower, a 50-site campground is located within a grove of cottonwood trees, with running water available May through October.  A private campground with RV hookups is located near the park entrance.

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