From Cowboys to Climbers: An Epic Wyoming Road Trip

There’s a lot to love about the east side of the state too.

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Photo By: Erin Gifford

Photo By: Erin Gifford

Photo By: bhp imaging

Photo By: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Photo By: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Photo By: Erin Gifford

Cheyenne Depot Plaza

Just 90 minutes north of Denver, Cheyenne is all about the Western lifestyle. Go in July for the annual Cheyenne Frontier Days, a 10-day celebration of the American West featuring rodeos, parades, chuckwagon cook-offs and plenty of cowboys. Cheyenne Depot Plaza is in the center of town, and before you do anything else, you’ll want to pop into The Wrangler to load up on Western wear, like hats, boots, even cowboy cologne. Explore the history of the railroad at the Cheyenne Depot Museum, then enjoy a free narrated historic carriage ride around downtown.

Bit-O-Wyo Ranch

After a one-hour trail ride at Bit-O-Wyo Ranch in Cheyenne, you’ll wish you booked a two-hour ride with horses like Washakie or Cherokee as your guide. The views as you cross bubbling creeks and scenic valleys on horseback are tremendous. On Saturdays in July and August, plan to stay for the dinner show, which includes a cowboy steak dinner, music and comedy acts. Bit-O-Wyo Ranch has several cabins on-property, as well as places to canoe, fish and hike.

Buford

You won’t need to go far to find the smallest town in America. Just 30 minutes west of Cheyenne along I-80 is Buford, a once prosperous railroad town that today has just one permanent resident. The town changed hands a few years ago when it was purchased by a Vietnamese businessman and is now officially known as PhinDeli Town Buford, a reference to the PhinDeli coffee brand sold at the town’s roadside convenience store and gas station. Stop in for a snack, pose for a selfie with the Buford sign, then get back on your way along I-80.

Ames Monument

As you cruise along I-80, make a stop at exit 329 to ogle the 60-foot tall granite pyramid that was created to honor the financiers of the Union Pacific Railroad. Finished in 1882, Ames Monument sits on the highest point along the railroad, which is located in the highest town between New York and San Francisco along I-80 (Buford). In 2016, the Ames Monument was honored with a national historic landmark designation, so take a few minutes on your way across the interstate to dig deeper into the railroad history of the United States.

Vedauwoo Recreation Area

Vedauwoo Recreation Area near Laramie is a great stop for hiking trails that go over and around fantastic granite rock formations. The Turtle Rock Trail is an easy three-mile loop that encircles, yes, Turtle Rock. In the spring and early-summer, you’ll find wildflowers all along the well-marked trail. You’ll also find aspen groves, shady pine trees and small ponds, making for a rather scenic hike. There are several campgrounds at Vedauwoo Recreation Area, and plenty of opportunities for climbing, hiking, biking and horseback riding.

Laramie Mural Project

The Laramie Mural Project began in 2011 as an artistic collaboration enabling local artists to create large-scale murals across downtown Laramie. Today, there are more than 50 colorful murals that brighten up this small town and implore visitors to walk around and see them all. Visitors can download a walking tour map and dial in to a cell phone audio tour to learn more about each one.

Jackalope Square

As you head north, make a stop in Douglas to see what was once the world’s largest jackalope at Jackalope Square. The “Jackalope Capital of the World” is home to several monuments honoring the mythical jackalope, a cross between an antelope and a jackrabbit. This jackalope stands at eight-feet tall, but you won’t need to go far to see the current world’s largest jackalope, which is 13-feet tall and sits just outside the nearby Douglas Railroad Interpretive Center.

Ayres Natural Bridge Park

Ayres Natural Bridge Park is a 15-minute drive from downtown Douglas, but it’s worth a stop for a picnic lunch and a short hike. Ayers Natural Bridge is cited as one of Wyoming’s very first tourist attractions, a respite for the first settlers from the arduous trek along the Oregon Trail. Kids will love splashing around LaPrele Creek that flows under the natural limestone bridge. Bring a fishing pole or a bicycle, but leave dogs inside the car or trailer at this park.

Frontier Auto Museum

Frontier Auto Museum is a small, antique museum that’s filled with restored cars, neon signs and old-time gas pumps. Located in a building originally built for a Ford dealership in the 1940s, the location is the ideal place to display fixed-up classic cars and petrol collectibles, like restored gas pumps and local gas station signs. There’s also an old-time General Store and a huge display of antiques and handmade items for sale.

Devils Tower National Monument

You can’t plan a trip to the east side of Wyoming and not make time for Devils Tower National Monument. This 867-foot monolith appears out of nowhere, beckoning you to stop, as you’re cruising along US-14. It’s a bit of a side trip if you’re driving to Rapid City to see Mount Rushmore, but you’ll be glad you made the time. Hike the 1.3 mile paved Tower Trail or climb this unique wonder, then stay the night at the Devils Tower KOA, which is barely 25 feet from the park entrance. There’s even a nightly viewing of Close Encounters of the Third Kind at the campground.

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