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  • Author: West Edge
  • Created: May 27, 2020 3:52 pm
  • Updated: May 27, 2020 8:46 pm

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  • Distance Instructions
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  • Distance 581.21 miles
  • Time 10 h 30 min
  • Speed 55 mph
  • Min altitude 0 ft
  • Peak 0 ft
  • Climb 0 ft
  • Descent 0 ft

Recommended routes and roadside stops from all directions on the way to and through Wyoming's Wind River Country from local Ambassador Allan Maybee.

1. From the Southwest

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To reach Wyoming’s Wind River Country from the southwest, you will likely start on Interstate 80 going east. You will need to look for the Highway 372 exit a few miles east of Little America. Turning north on Highway 372 will lead you along the west side of the Green River. The highway is on the tableland above the river, so you won’t see much of the river itself. The Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails cross the highway. About 20 miles north of I-80, look to the right for a concrete post four feet tall marking the Oregon Trail where the ruts are visible. There are no fences here and you can stop the car and walk along the trail if you wish. Please do not drive on the trail since it is a national treasure we want to preserve.

Twenty-seven miles after turning off I-80, you will turn right onto Highway 28 toward Farson. This is open range country, so you might have to slow down and wait for an antelope, deer, cow, or cowboy. Look for the concrete posts again on either side of the road because the Oregon Trail crosses this road a number of times. Look for the Simpson Hollow marker located about 10 miles after turning onto Highway 28. If you have time, stop and read it. It mentions the conflict between the U.S. government and the Mormon people.

Farson is a crossroad with a few stores. If you didn’t stop here for one of the famous ice cream cones at the Mercantile, you will be missing a legend.

Continue east on Highway 28 toward the Continental Divide. Off in the distance to the left you will see the legendary snowcapped Wind River Mountains. These mountains were a formidable barricade to the western-bound pioneers. Were it not for the South Pass of the Continental Divide, our country would not be as we know it today.

About 26 miles east of Farson, three county lines come together (Fremont/Wind River Country, Sweetwater, and Sublette). On the left is a fenced-in area about the size of a football field. Oregon Trail markers are located inside. The trail is easy to see here and well worth the stop. This area has become known as the “False Parting of the Ways.” It is not the California turn-off of the Oregon Trail as originally speculated.

Continuing north, you will cross the Continental Divide. If it were not for a roadside sign to designate the divide, you would not know you were crossing the spine of the American West the pass is so gentle.

Approximately 40 miles from Farson, start looking for signs pointing the way to the gold mining towns of South Pass City and Atlantic City. These ghost towns are located just a few miles off the main highway to the right. The two ghost towns are connected by wide, well maintained gravel roads. I urge you to take the time to visit these special towns in the summer and fall. South Pass City is a national treasure maintained by the State of Wyoming. At one time 5,000 gold mining, adventurous, fortune seekers lived here trying their best to make a go of it. In the end they all failed. What remains is an unequaled and unique window into Western American history.

Heading north once again on Highway 28, you will begin descending into the heart of Wind River Country. About five miles from the Atlantic City turn-off, you will see an abandoned open pit iron mine on the left. The ore processed into taconite pellets was hauled 275 miles by rail to Orem, Utah, to be made into steel. This area is presently undergoing reclamation.

A few miles further you will pass Red Canyon on your left. This red soil dates back 200 million years to when dinosaurs ruled the earth. There are several parking areas here which offer grand photo opportunities. The canyon is also an elk wintering area.

From here, you travel on to Lander. The Lander Visitor Center and Chamber of Commerce is located on the right about a block past McDonald’s and is an excellent resource.

Have you heard of the Sinks? Be sure to ask about this one. You won’t believe it even when you see the rushing river slam into a rock wall and disappear. Sinks Canyon State Park, located just a few miles from town, is maintained by the State of Wyoming with no charge to visitors.

From Lander, I recommend you drive over to Riverton. Be sure to visit the Wind River Heritage Center, the 1838 Mountain Man Rendezvous grounds, and the shops on Main Street. Here are some more ideas.

If you are heading to Yellowstone and/or Jackson from Riverton, you will go west on Highway 26 to the beautiful and rustic mountain town of Dubois. On the way, be sure to watch for the recently introduced Wind River Reservation bison herd just past the tiny town of Morton on the left. About halfway to Dubois, you will pass Crowheart Butte on your right. There is a large wooden historic marker on the left side of the road with ample parking explaining one story of this formation.

Dubois has great restaurants, comfortable lodging, and a number of art galleries. Learn more about all you can do here, from watching bighorn sheep in rut to mountain biking and learning to square dance at duboiswyoming.org.

From Dubois you will start the gradual climb over Togwotee Pass and the Continental Divide on Highway 26 where scenery abounds. The jagged rock cliffs to the right of the highway are called the Pinnacles and are part of the Brecia. Keep your eyes peeled for a sign marking Wind River Lake on the right side of the road just before you cross the Continental Divide. One of the many campgrounds located on the Shoshone National Forest, this easily accessible lake affords great fishing, picnic tables and restrooms. Besides, the setting of the lake under Sublette Peak is breathtaking.

As you begin the descent into Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, just before you leave Wind River Country, you will be treated to a spectacular view of the mighty Teton Mountain Range and the Grand Teton.

2. From the Northeast

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If your route to Wind River Country is from the northeast, you will enter Wyoming from South Dakota on Interstate 90. Once inside the Cowboy State, you will eventually reach the town of Buffalo. Looming high above this historic little community are the majestic Big Horn Mountains. Highway 16 west from Buffalo is one of the most scenic routes along these incredible mountains and the best way to gain access to the many recreational options in them. The highway into the Big Horn Mountain Range climbs gradually to the summit of a 9,666-foot Powder River Pass. This is a favorite route to Wind River Country.

The descent down the west side of the mountains into the Big Horn Basin is every bit as colorful as the climb up the east side. Stay on Highway 16 until you reach Worland, a busy agricultural community that always has a welcome mat out for visitors. At the intersection of Highway 16 and 20, go straight ahead to Highway 20 which turns south outside of town.

The next major community you will pass through is Wind River Country’s nearest neighbor in this direction, Thermopolis. The Hot Springs State Park is located on your left as you come into town. There are a number of choices for soaking and recreational pools, some of which are free. These water pools are fed by the world’s largest hot water springs. The park is colorful and educational.

The drive from Thermopolis to Riverton is spectacular. Just outside of Thermopolis, you will notice a steep uplift that reaches all the way up to the Owl Creek Mountains. At first sight, this wall of mountains appears to be a formidable barrier. However, as you approach the mountains, instead of climbing up and over them, the road will dip as you head into the legendary Wind River Canyon on a Scenic Byway. Your entry into the canyon will also mark the gateway to Wind River Country and the boundary of the 2.2 million-acre Wind River Indian Reservation.

At this point I need to clarify a question that may arise as you drive. There are not two different rivers in this canyon. There is only one, and it has two names. This is because the river was named by two different groups of mountain men in the early 1800s. The first half of the river from its source to the mouth of this canyon was called the Wind River. The river’s name becomes Big Horn from the mouth of the canyon to its confluence with the Yellowstone River in Montana.

The Wind River Canyon is about 15 miles long, and in areas the rock walls are composed of some of the oldest rock on Earth. Roadside signs will tell you the names of the various formations and their approximate ages.

There are three tunnels at the south end of the canyon. After you pass through the third tunnel, you will see the lower campground of the Boysen State Park on your right. The upper campground is a few miles further down the road, but this is just the beginning. Boysen State Park is Wyoming’s largest state park and includes many campgrounds and recreation areas around the reservoir and on the river. You can’t miss the dam and the lake on your right as you drive out of the canyon. Visitor information is available at park headquarters a few miles beyond the dam on your left. Fishing and boating are always great on the 20-mile long Boysen Reservoir. If you don’t pack a pole or boat, you can always enjoy a swim, picnic, or hike in the park.

After driving the length of Boysen Reservoir, you will reach the small town of Shoshoni, one of the nearest places to the reservoir to pick up supplies. At the main intersection in town, you will turn right onto Highway 26 for the final, 20-mile stretch to Riverton.

You will enter Riverton on Federal Boulevard. Watch for the large green overhead signs and turn right on Main Street. Explore a bit and then load back into the car to visit the Riverton Museum, Wind River Heritage Center, and the 1838 Mountain Man Rendezvous site. Here are some more great ideas for a day in Riverton.

It is only 24 miles from Riverton to Lander on Highway 789. As you drive these miles and enter this picturesque community, soak up the views of the Wind River Mountains ahead. Upon reaching Lander, turn right just after McDonald’s. Stop in at the Visitors Center then head out to explore town and the outdoor recreation opportunities that surround it.

Don’t miss Sinks Canyon State Park. You won’t believe it even when you see the rushing river slam into a rock wall and just disappear. This geographical wonder is in a state park that is free to visitors.

For more incredible views and some fascinating history, head southeast out of Lander to see Red Canyon and visit the old gold mining ghost towns of Atlantic City and South Pass City State Historic Site.

After you’ve explored Lander and South Pass, take Hwy 287 north to Fort Washakie. Though you’ve only been back on the road for 16 miles, you’ll want to stop to check out Wind River Trading and Maker’s Space 307 for local art and artifacts.

From Fort Washakie, you can take a short side trip to see Sacajawea’s gravesite and memorial. Sacajawea was the young woman who saved the Lewis and Clark expedition by guiding them across much of the Rocky Mountain West. She is buried outside Fort Washakie with her sons.

From the Shoshone Tribal Service Station on the corner of Hwy. 287 and North Fork Road, turn towards the mountains (west) and bear left onto South Fork Road to Cemetery Lane.  You will see the cemetery to your right.

Once back on Highway 26, you’ll drive north for about 16 miles. Highway 287 intersects with Highway 26, and you will turn left to get to Dubois, then Yellowstone. Approximately 13 miles from this intersection you will see a large historical marker on your left. There is plenty of room for parking and stretching your legs while you take in the view. This marker gives a version of the legend of Crowheart Butte.

Approximately 30 miles west of here you will come to the mountain community of Dubois. This close-knit town has flavors of tie-hack, cowboy, and pioneer history. Be sure to visit the museum complex which includes the National Bighorn Sheep Center to learn about the largest wintering bighorn sheep herd in the country. If you want to stay over and enjoy the lack of crowds before checking Yellowstone National Park off your bucket list, you’ll find a number of welcoming hotels, cabins, and guest ranches to suit your liking.

From Dubois you will start the gradual climb over Togwotee Pass and the Continental Divide and you’ll immediately be immersed in breathtaking scenery. The jagged rock cliffs to the right of the highway are called the Pinnacles and are a part of the Brecia. Keep your eyes peeled for a sign marking Wind River Lake on your right. One of the many campgrounds located on the Shoshone National Forest, this easily accessible lake affords great fishing, picnic tables and restrooms. Besides, the setting of the lake under Sublette Peak is breathtaking and ideal for a mid-road-trip break.

As you begin the descent toward Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, you will be treated to a spectacular view of the mighty Teton Mountain Range and the Grand Teton. This view is your goodbye from Wind River Country, so we’ll wish you the best and hope y’all come on back.

Recommended routes and roadside stops from all directions on the way to and through Wyoming’s Wind River Country from local Ambassador Allan Maybee.