While most folks who visit Yellowstone pass through Jackson on their way, there is a road less traveled. Drive Highway 287/26 and discover the hidden gems and real Western towns that make up Wyoming’s Wind River Country. Experience authentic rodeos, spot mustangs roaming the plains, and maybe even find some gold! Welcome to the true West.
National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center
Dubois (pronounced dew-boys) is a fascinating small town with some big history, and is home to the largest wintering herd of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. Stop by the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center to learn about these incredible animals. The Center also offers guided tours with experienced staff from November to March (yet another reason to visit Dubois in the winter), so you can see some bighorn sheep in real life.
Friday Night Rodeos
If you want to experience a real ranching-style rodeo, look no further than this town’s summer Friday Night Rodeo. Watch cowboys take on broncs and bulls, barrel racing, calf roping, and other traditional rodeo events. This family-friendly event will keep you on the edge of your seat! The 2019 rodeo season runs from June 14 – August 23, with events running from 7:30 -10pm at the Clarence Allison Memorial Arena.
Chow down at the Trailhead
From Dubois, continue driving south on Highway 287/26 to reach Riverton, the Rendezvous City. Stop by the Trailhead and order a local beef burger. You can also tuck into their other typical western cuisine and quaint cowboy atmosphere.
Slake your sweet tooth
If you didn’t fill up on pie, swing into Sweet Surprises for fresh pastries and lunches that incorporate locally-grown produce. Afterwards, if you’re feeling fantastically stuffed, burn off the calories walking and shopping along historic Main Street.
Wind River Indian Reservation
Dance exhibition at Wind River Hotel & Casino
The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes of the Wind River Reservation host performances of traditional Native American dance throughout the summer. Traditional, fancy feather, grass, jingle dress, fancy shawl, and hoop dancing are performed by talented dancers in full regalia. These performances are a great way to learn about Native American culture. Join in the friendship dance, meet the dancers, and take some incredible photos. Dances begin at 6 pm, and are free to the public.
Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary
The Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary is the only one of its kind in the area, and features free-roaming mustangs on an expansive ranch. The Interpretive Center details the history of Native American horse culture. The Interpretive Center also includes a gift shop with handmade Native American crafts and gifts. Schedule a tour to see these amazing animals up close.
Lander Pioneer Museum and the Museum of the American West
Want the truth about the old West? Want to know where Butch Cassidy and his pals spent their time? Stop into the Pioneer Museum for some real western history. The museum is packed with authentic artifacts from the Native American tribes of the area and the early settlers from the East. Enjoy a tour, and walk around the outdoor exhibits of the Museum of the American West to stretch your legs.
Sinks Canyon State Park
For a small town in the middle of Wyoming, Lander is shockingly cosmopolitan. The proximity to the Wind River Range creates outdoor opportunities for climbers, hikers, mountain bikers, anglers, and hunters. Check out Sinks Canyon State Park for gorgeous canyon views. The Sinks Visitors’ Center along the Nature Trail provides information on the canyon’s mysterious geologic namesake. Afterwards, enjoy a 3 mile round-trip hike to the beautiful Popo Agie waterfalls.
Atlantic City & South Pass City
South Pass City Historic Site
For a scenic drive to your next destination, drive the Loop Road. This gravel road begins at the top of the switchbacks in Sinks Canyon and winds through the foothills of the Wind River Range. Several gorgeous alpine lakes dot the side of the road. Pass (or stay the night!) at Louis Lake Lodge, a beautiful lakeside cabin perfect for family vacations in the mountains. If you’ve had enough time in the car, rent a canoe for a few hours and paddle the lake! From this road you can easily access the South Pass City State Historic Site, an old gold mining town high in the mountains. Tour the Carissa Mine, and maybe even pan for gold!
After a day of touring South Pass City, enjoy a delicious dinner at either the Mercantile Restaurant or the Grubsteak Bar & Grill. The Grubsteak’s stuffed burgers are some of the best around. Atlantic City’s welcome sign boasts “about 57” residents, and is a fascinating small mountain community. In the summer, this town comes alive with Continental Divide Trail thru-hikers, cross-country bikers, and visitors of all kinds.
This text was created in partnership with Wyoming’s Wind River Country.
Photos courtesy: Bill Sincavage, Melissa Hemkin, and Jennie Hutchinson