June 29, 2018

By David Rule, visitusaparks.com

Wyoming’s Wind River Country is a region that contains one of the most diverse landscapes I’ve ever seen. From lush forests with waterfalls to desert badlands, this part of Wyoming has it all. I was fortunate enough to explore this area for a weekend, and I was truly blown away by how much there is to do here. There are literally hundreds of great spots in Wind River County, but I’ve narrowed it down to five top destinations for you.

Sinks Canyon State Park

The road down Sinks Canyon State Park at dusk.
The views in Sinks Canyon are unbelievable. Photo: David Rule

Located just south of Lander, this park is full of wonder. It is named after the sinks, which is a rocky cavern in which the Popo Agie River is sucked into the earth only to reappear further downriver. At the rise, there is a fish food dispenser so that visitors can feed the monstrous trout below. In addition to the sinks and the rise, this canyon is also a huge climbing destination and is home to many miles of beautiful hiking and biking trails. My favorite is the trail to Popo Agie Falls. The waterfall forms a natural waterslide over a smooth rock face, and it’s always fun to go take the plunge into the water beneath.

Downtown Lander

Lights moving through Lander, WY
Day or night, the entrance to Lander has impressive views. Photo: David Rule

There are few towns in Wyoming that are as recognizable as Lander. When entering town, one of the first things you’ll see is the historic Purina Mill grain elevator, which towers over downtown. In town, you’ll find a delightful array of unique restaurants and shops. There is no shortage of outdoor gear suppliers, as Lander is a hub for climbers, cyclists, and backpackers. This town is also home to many events throughout the year. My favorite is the 4th of July, which is complete with a half marathon, parade, rodeo and incredible firework displays. Be sure to stop and check it out!

Dubois Badlands

The badlands of Dubois rise toward the sky
Dubois’s colors will make you slow down, whether you’re driving, biking, or hiking. Photo: David Rule

You may think that the nation’s only badlands are in South Dakota, but Dubois also offers an incredibly impressive rocky landscape. As you’re driving in from the East, you will spot colorful red rocks that were carved by the Wind River, which eventually begin to feature interesting geology, including purple rock deposits. Most of these rocks are on restricted land of the Wind River Indian Reservation, but some can be accessed directly from the roads of southeastern Dubois. These dirt roads go to great places to catch a sunset or walk the dog.

Dubois Scenic Overlook

Dubois, Wyoming, and surrounding mountain ranges
Dubois is adorable from the center of town and from above. Photo: David Rule

In the heart of Dubois, you will find a gravel road going up to a grand overlook of the town. If you’re looking for a new perspective of Wind River Country, this is the place for you. The scenic overlook offers an amazing view of the entire town, nearby mountain ranges, and the badlands. You couldn’t ask for a better photography spot in Dubois. Along with the views, the Dubois Overlook is covered in green meadows with colorful flowers. After you get down from the overlook, be sure to head into town and check out the “world’s biggest jackalope exhibit.” You certainly won’t forget it. For a more realistic wildlife display, visit the International Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center.

Boysen Reservoir State Park

Boat dock at Boysen Reservoir
The possibilities for fun stretch on forever at Boysen Reservoir. Photo: David Rule

Near the border of Wind River Country and Hot Springs County, Boysen Reservoir offers a place to boat, fish, or just sit back and relax. The north end of the reservoir is my favorite, as it is filled with stark rocky canyons to hold the vibrant blue water. There are numerous spots to camp on the shores of the reservoir and in the state park, which would be a perfect way to spend time with some friends. If you want to take a boat out on the reservoir, there are easily accessible boat docks, marinas, and even restaurants.

Posted in Notes From the Field