September 29, 2021

Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary. Photo courtesy of Melissa Hemkin

Unforgettable Discoveries in Wind River Country

Go beyond Yellowstone National Park. Slow down in Wyoming’s Wind River Country, and discover your own unforgettable holiday moments.

It’s not uncommon to find your travel inspiration in the big names, such as Yellowstone National Park. It’s also not surprising to find that the most memorable parts of a holiday are the unexpected adventures, the self-guided discoveries and the wild and wonderful places and experiences that one encounters along the way. Wyoming’s Wind River Country provides all of these things. Even better: it’s just a few hours from the renowned inspirational destinations of Yellowstone.

Pack your bags for the bucket-list vacation to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, and tuck these ideas into your itinerary for the days before or after your national park tours. You can enjoy any of these experiences in a single day in Wind River Country, starting less than an hour from Yellowstone’s southeast gate, meaning you can pack all of this in.

This story was created in partnership with Visit USA Parks.

 The Unforgettable

Fishing the Wiggins Fork near Dubois. Photo courtesy of Scott Copeland

The small town of Dubois, Wyoming, sits just over a gorgeous mountain pass from Yellowstone. Enjoy the views as you drive over Togwotee Pass, making sure to stop on occasion to stretch your legs and take pictures. Just before reaching town, you’ll start to notice large archways over long driveways. These are the dude and guest ranches of Dubois. Whether you spend a meal, an afternoon trail ride or a week at one of these ranches with your family, the guest ranch memories will stay with you forever as authentic Wyoming moments.

The Unexpected

National Museum of Military Vehicles. Photo courtesy of Wind River Country

On the other side of Dubois, you’ll come across a massive museum: the National Museum of Military Vehicles. Though not what you’d expect to find in the foothills outside this small Western town, it is a world-class facility dedicated to preservation and education about artifacts from the world’s wars. This popular museum made USA Today‘s 10 Best list in 2020 under the category Best New Attraction.

Beyond the museum lies the town of Riverton, but on the way, keep an eye out for bison. Though you’ve probably seen plenty in Yellowstone, this elusive herd is different. It was reintroduced to the area—the Wind River Indian Reservation—in 2016 as part of the local, Native heritage. Keep your eyes on the fields to the right as you drive past Pilot Butte Reservoir between Dubois and Riverton, and you might spot the tribe’s herd.

In Riverton and its neighboring community, Hudson, you’ll find great opportunities to enjoy local meals. From locally raised beef burgers to a steakhouse rooted in Yugoslavian heritage—and plenty of locally grown veggies and unique sweets in between—it’s delightful to eat local in these two towns.

Before leaving Riverton, check the events calendar. Known as the Rendezvous City, this town, located in the heart of Wind River Country, fills each season with festivals, historical reenactments, cultural exhibitions and more.

The Self-Guided Discoveries

Much of Wind River Country is the Wind River Indian Reservation, home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. There are numerous points of interest open to the public, as well as events and tours that provide a deeper understanding of the history and heritage of the area. We recommend downloading the TravelStorys app and following the Wind River Indian Reservation audio tour.

Just outside of the city of Lander, visitors and locals enjoy a beloved 1.5-mile hike to the Popo Agie Falls. This trek is particularly popular on hot days in the summer, because what awaits at the top brings thrills and relief from the heat: a natural waterslide into a cool pool of fresh mountain water. Even if you opt out of sliding down the waterfall, the entertainment of watching is grand. With striking views at each turn and a reward like that at the top, who could resist?

The Wild

Whitewater rafting Wind River Canyon. Photo courtesy of Jennie Hutchinson

The Popo Agie and Wind rivers that runs through this region flows peacefully in places, turns to whitewater in others, amongst hungry trout and through breathtaking scenery. You can book a float with Wind River Whitewater and Flyfishing. Many of these floats run through the Wind River Indian Reservation, and this business is owned and operated by a local Native American.

One of the wildest things about Wind River Country is its residents. Watch for bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, elk, eagles and other birds, deer, and even wild horses and sanctuary horses.

The Wonderful

Eagle Spirit Dancers. Photo courtesy of Jennie Hutchinson

One of the most breathtaking things you’ll see in Wind River Country is the spinning, bounding regalia of the weekly Native American dance exhibitions in the summer. Held in Lander every week, these events are a free opportunity to learn about the Native American culture of the area and have the opportunity to enter the dance floor with a skilled local dancer to learn some traditional steps.

Go beyond Yellowstone and slow down so you can discover your own unforgettable moments in Wyoming’s Wind River Country. For more ideas, we have a few suggestions.

This blog is also available in French and in German.

Posted in Notes From the Field