December 1, 2021

Popo Agie Falls. Photo by Scott Copeland

It can be almost daunting, the vast spaces stretching from one mountain range in the distance to another as far as the eye can see in the other direction. It can be almost overwhelming, the new perspective on the galaxy when you see the mass of stars in an unpolluted sky. It can bring tears to your eyes, watching wildlife roam just as they would if you weren’t there watching.

When a place becomes too popular for its own wellbeing or the enjoyment of its guests, it can be easy to look for an entirely different destination for your next holiday. But that isn’t necessary. In recent years, the remarkable geological and wildlife destination of Yellowstone National Park has seen dramatically increased visitation in the summers. Travelers seeking the dramatic and the untraveled need not worry, though. Wind River Country in the fall awaits.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country is a breathtaking home base to see Yellowstone, which is all the richer and more peaceful in the autumn. We’ve outlined some ways to make the most of both  during your travels.

This story was created in partnership with Untraveled.

ARRIVAL AND FIRST DAYS

Fly directly into the heart of Wind River Country and Wyoming by taking a flight to Riverton. This community is known as the Rendezvous City because of its history in the days of fur trappers and traders, and it still lives up to the name. Gather here and participate in local events (there are many) and explore the unique landscape surrounding it. Castle Gardens is a natural development of spires and ancient art. Boysen Reservoir and State Park is a dramatic collision of desert and vast waters, and it leads to the Wind River Canyon where the river’s name changes from Big Horn to Wind.

Explore these landscapes on foot, bike or car, returning to Riverton to explore intimate museums. Top it all off with rich meals of locally sourced beef.

Just beyond Riverton, you’ll find the Wind River Indian Reservation, home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. We recommend taking a couple of hours and following the Wind River Indian Reservation driving tour to learn more about the region, its history, and the enduring culture.

THE PULL OF THE MOUNTAINS

Wind River Mountains. Photo by Scott Copeland

You can admire the Wind River Mountains at a distance from Riverton. They will become your next playground. Drive just 25 miles west toward the Wind River Mountains to find the town of Lander. Settle in for a few days to soak up the art on Main Street, dine on locally sourced meals, and sip beverages at the local microbrewery. Trek through Sinks Canyon State Park and as deep into the Wind River Mountains as your legs desire. The crisp fall air and changing leaves will draw you in and add drama to all your photos. Pack appropriately so you can enjoy the mild sting of fall on your cheeks.

NEARER TO YELLOWSTONE

Your final stop before you enter the southeast entrance to Yellowstone is the mountain community of Dubois. Don’t rush to the national park, though, because this town has a lot to offer. Stroll the wooden sidewalks and walk among the wooden buildings with tall facades while you consider the Norwegian lumberjack history.

Just outside of town, you can watch North America’s largest wintering herd of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Autumn is the ideal time to spot the herd, as the rams rut in the fall in dramatic fashion, smashing their curled horns against each other in a stinging show of brute force.

After you’ve fallen in love with Dubois, point the car toward Yellowstone. Take your time driving over Togwotee Pass so you can appreciate its ruggedly wild beauty on trails to hidden gems like petroglyphs and waterfalls.

Petroglyphs. Photo by Megan O’Neill

THE WORLD’S FIRST NATIONAL PARK

Yellowstone. She inspires images of colorful and unruly geysers, thoughts of unique wildlife, and more. Don’t miss it, highlighted by the impossibly yellow autumn aspens and crowned by the golds of cottonwoods. Enjoy the “shoulder season” with fewer lines and smaller crowds. And then, answer the urge to head back over Togwotee Pass to Wind River Country and the authentic, peaceful—almost too real and wild Wyoming of your dreams.

Posted in Notes From the Field