Most people are familiar with what the western side of the Cowboy State has to offer. Between Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks and the awesome skiing and touristy things to do in Jackson Hole, there’s plenty to keep you busy and happy without ever going any further east than the Shoshone National Forest. If that’s how you’ve experienced Wyoming, you’ve certainly had an amazing time, but there’s so much you’re missing out on in the rest of the state. In fact, here are 10 overlooked treasures that make a trip to eastern Wyoming more than worth it.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum, 100 Fort Street, Buffalo
In 1900, Jim Gatchell opened a pharmacy in Buffalo. It was a popular stop for many in the area such as settlers, ranchers, cowboys, and Indians. Over the years, the well-liked pharmacist received numerous gifts from his customers including buggies and wagons, rifles and other firearms of the day, and loads of Native American artifacts. After Jim passed away, the family donated his collection to Johnson County, and the museum was built to house and display it all.
2. Ponderosa Café and Bar, 115 Main Street, Hulett
Yes, the Ponderosa looks like a small-town diner, but it's the place to go for a gourmet meal when you're in Hulett or the vicinity. It's less than 10 miles from Devil's Tower, so it's a great place to stop for exceptional meals in the dining room from the distinctive seasonal menu or even top-of-the-line bar food favorites in the saloon.
3. Wyo Theater, 42 North Main Street, Sheridan
As one of the first theaters in Wyoming, the Wyo is a historic place that also happens to offer first-class entertainment. Where else in Wyoming can you experience The Met in high definition, or enjoy fabulous live music and plays? With a vision to be a significant performing arts center for the region, the Wyo more than meets its goal.
4. Don King Museum, 184 North Main Street, Sheridan
Touring Don King's Saddlery is an attraction all its own. It's a veritable warehouse filled with handcrafted saddles, hats, tack, and more. The saddlery is only the tip of the iceberg, however. Just off the rope shop is a massive museum that houses more than 30 years of memorabilia collected by the King family. From saddles to wagons, guns to artwork, and a number of Indian artifacts thrown in for good measure, it's easy to spend hours at this eastern Wyoming spot.
5. Fort Phil Kearny, 528 Wagon Box Road, Banner
This 1,000-acre historic fort includes two battle sites that were central to Red Cloud's War in the late 1860s. On the tour, visitors can view historic landmarks, archeological artifacts, and specific locations of combat lines. There's more than enough interesting things at the fort to keep you busy for hours including a bookstore, videos, interpretive exhibits, and a wildlife habitat, too.
6. Cook Lake Campground, Black Hills National Forest
A large section of the Black Hills National Forest is in Wyoming, and the Cook Lake Recreation Area in our neck of the woods is delightful. It's the perfect place for camping on the eastern side of the state and offers opportunities for various water sports and other outdoor activities, as well, including hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, and wildlife watching. Take a look and see:
7. Trail End State Historic Site, 400 Clarendon Avenue, Sheridan
Once the home of the Kendrick family in the early 1900s, this over 13,700 square foot mansion is now a museum. The original Kendrick, John B., served as a governor of Wyoming and as a U.S. Senator. Considering the family's affluence, a tour of this museum offers a different than usual glimpse of life in the early days of the Cowboy State and is an excellent opportunity to see how the other half lived.
8. Campbell County Rockpile Museum, 900 West 2nd Street, Gillette
Built around a famous and historic pile of rocks, you'll learn everything you've ever wanted to know and more about local and regional history at this museum. The rockpile is where the first settlers in the area centered their claims, and it served as a landmark to travelers, signifying that they'd arrived in Gillette. In addition to viewing exhibits filled with fossils, Native American artifacts, wagons, rifles, and other Old West memorabilia, there are interactive events for visitors including a dress-up activity for kids.
9. Hoofprints of the Past, 344 Nolan Avenue, Kaycee
The Kaycee area is rich in cultural heritage, and it all comes together at Hoofprints of the Past. Western events in the area including the Outlaw Era, the cattle boom, the Johnson County War, the Dull Knife Battle and more are shared with visitors in the exhibits displayed throughout the museum. A post office, mercantile, school house, and blacksmith's shop are just a few of the fascinating historic, artifact-filled displays you'll see here.
10. Aladdin General Store, 3983 Highway 24, Aladdin
There are only five 19th-century mercantiles still left in Wyoming, and Aladdin has one of them. Operating as a general store since 1896, everything about it is original from the windows and cabinetry to what's left of the wallpaper peeling off the walls in the upstairs antiques attic. That's not to say that the inventory isn't new, though the same types of goods are still sold at this general store including clothing, fishing supplies, hardware, groceries, and beer.