When planning a Wyoming vacation, it’s easy to find yourself knee-deep in maps, brochures, guide books, and blogs that will flood your brain with information about the state’s northwestern corner. It’s almost as if the tourism companies completely forget about the rest of Wyoming! While I am in no way trying to discount the beauty and wonder of the Tetons and Yellowstone, a few nearby towns and places are constantly overlooked. If you’re looking to explore Wyoming in a way that showcases some of the most incredible scenery, cuisine, and hospitality of the West
without making your trip entirely based on the crowded and busy National Parks, you’re in luck. On a recent trip out west, I found myself with three days and two nights to explore Wyoming’s stunning Wind River Country. Clear some time in your itinerary to explore at least a few of these places before heading back home from your trip to Wyoming.
I started my trip in the Tetons for a few reasons. It’s easy to get to — whether you fly into Jackson, Idaho Falls, Bozeman, or Salt Lake City.
Also, honestly, I think that the Teton Range is the most beautiful place on Earth. I spend as much time in the area as I can each year.
When I’m in the Jackson Hole valley, I typically make my base camp at the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch.
Grand Teton Climbers Ranch - American Alpine Club, 314 Climbers Ranch Road, Moose, WY 83012, USA
American Alpine Club
property is a historic cabin campground that offers hostel-style shared bunks, a library, bikes to borrow, and a communal cook shelter. Over the years, I’ve met some of the kindest people under the shelter’s awning, and there’s nothing I love more than hearing travel stories and learning from the expert hikers and climbers that gather here.
As much as I hate to leave the Climbers' Ranch, I decided to take a few days away from the Tetons to explore Dubois, Lander, and Pinedale - three towns I’ve driven through countless times but have never really had the chance to visit. I spent three days and two nights discovering these underrated communities and the attractions within the Wind River Range.
Before I had even left the Ranch, my first day was off to a dreamy start. A rare morning thunderstorm woke me before sunrise and seeing the clouds whipping up sent me in a frenzy to pack my gear and head out of the Climber’s Ranch in a hurry to get to Oxbow Bend.
The early start was worth it, as Mount Moran lit up in a way I’ve rarely seen, and the peaceful scene of a Teton sunrise put me in the right frame of mind to hit the road.
I had time for a quick stop at the Elk Ranch Flats turnout to catch another angle of the storm's path through the valley. Luckily, once the sun was up and shining, the clouds moved out quickly, and my trip could begin.
The first stretch of my drive was from Grand Teton National Park to Dubois. The route crosses the Continental Divide near Togwotee Pass, and the elevation was so high that roadside snowfields were still going strong, even though it was nearly July.
Togwotee Pass, Wyoming 82513, USA
The Breccia Cliffs were visible for a good part of my drive. Once I crossed the path, I considered taking a detour to see Brooks Lake, but the road was in rough condition and I decided to save that for another trip when I had more time.
It wasn't long before I found myself in the charming downtown section of Dubois, about an hour from the Moran Junction of Grand Teton National Park. I was so ready for a meal at this point, and the
Cowboy Cafe was calling my name.
Cowboy Cafe, East Rams Horn, Dubois, WY, USA
I ordered two enormous pancakes, along with a side of deliciously crispy bacon and buttered toast. Not the healthiest breakfast, but it was the kind of comfort food I had been craving since most of the food near Jackson is meat-heavy.
Cowboy Cafe is famous for its pies, and when I saw that they had German Chocolate Pie as a feature, I had to try a slice.
The waitress recommended getting it warmed up and topped with ice cream, and I'm so glad I did! This might have been the single
best thing I've ever eaten in Wyoming
, and it was all I could do to stop myself from picking up an entire pie for myself.
I was excited for my next stop, the
National Bighorn Sheep Center, right around the corner from the cafe.
National Bighorn Sheep Center, 10 Bighorn Lane, Dubois, WY 82513, USA
This museum and interpretive center is packed with information about one of Wyoming's most fascinating critters!
As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by a woman who was clearly excited to share her knowledge. Each display here is carefully curated, and even though the center is small, I learned a ton in the short time I walked around.
The museum host was happy to suggest that my next stop be a short detour off the main road. She explained that while mid-day and mid-summer weren't ideal times for sheep-spotting, this out-of-the-way road would be a great place to get a chance to see Bighorn Sheep, beautiful scenery, and historic petroglyphs.
The road she pointed me towards takes you into the Whiskey Basin Wildlife Habitat Area. You'll find it just off of the highway - it's four miles south of town. Look for a sign for the Dubois Fish Hatchery, then stay left when the road forks.
The gravel road twists and winds up the mountain and down towards Ring Lake and Torrey Lake. While it is a gravel road, it was in great condition.
Keep an eye out for Petroglyphs on the cliffs and hills, particularly down by the lake. This area was home to the Tukudeka Shoshone people.
There's a small
Forest Service campground by Ring Lake, and it's a great place to park and rest while admiring the views.
I stayed here for a bit to take photos and look for wildlife, and it was a peaceful detour that was well worth the extra time.
After taking in the fresh air and gorgeous scenery, I drove along the scenic highway, passing red cliffs and driving through canyons, until I ended up in the town of Lander.
Crowheart Butte, Wyoming 82516, USA
The route took me through the Wind River Reservation, past Crowheart Butte, through Fort Washakie and into Lander.
On my way into town, I noticed the Fremont County Pioneer Museum and decided to stop. This two-story museum features many exhibits about life in the Wind River Range and surrounding towns from prehistoric days through the 1920s.
Fremont County Pioneer Museum, 1443 W Main St, Lander, WY 82520, USA
It showcases the
history of Lander
as a community, too, from the first barber shops to the original post office systems. There are also outdoor exhibits that show off what life was like in the earliest days of the settlement.
After exploring the museum and walking around outside, I was ready to check into my room for the night.
Mill House, 125 Main St, Lander, WY 82520, USA
I stayed at the
, which is a boutique hotel that's a renovated section of the town's legendary and historic Mill. Anyone familiar with Lander's history knows how important the original mill was to the community's development, and it was so much fun to be staying in a piece of history.
The Mill House is a newer space, but it retains so much old-world, historic charm. My Cottage Suite included a comfortable bed, a spacious bathroom with a clawfoot tub...
... and a beautiful sitting space that opened up to a private back patio area.
I quickly made myself at home, unpacked my bag, and flipped through the brochures and magazines to learn more about the area.
I was thrilled to see that one of the best restaurants in Wyoming was right across the street!
Cowfish is the sort of place that you can never skip over, so I hustled over for an early dinner.
the meal was outstanding
. I started off with a cocktail from their seasonal menu and ordered a steak as my entree. Every bite melted in my mouth and the
Lander Bake Shop
bread served alongside made me feel like I was in a gourmet culinary heaven. I got walked to my room and slept like a baby!
The next morning, I woke up early and walked across the street for breakfast. I'm from New Jersey, so it takes a lot for me to enjoy a bagel anywhere else, but
Lander Bake Shop did not disappoint.
It was so convenient to be staying right in the heart of town, and if I had more time, I would have loved to explore all of the shops and stores up and down the street!
My next stop was probably my favorite adventure on the trip! I arrived at the
Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary just in time for one of their first tours.
I rode in a UTV for about 45 minutes as I learned all about this
Bureau of Land Management mustang sanctuary
. The Sanctuary is Native-owned and located on the Wind River Reservation. The horses here are all "three-strike" horses, meaning they were adopted out and returned three times, or they were deemed unadoptable when they were rounded up. All of the horses here are geldings, and most of them were caught in Wyoming. The Sanctuary does partner with BLM adoption programs, and there were a few corrals of adoptable yearlings when I visited.
After visiting with the horses (and somehow managing to
not adopt one), it was time to explore Sinks Canyon.
Sinks Canyon State Park, Sinks Canyon Road, Lander, WY, USA
Sinks Canyon State Park is just south of Lander, and it's one of the most fascinating geologic wonders in the state!
The Popo Agie River carved this canyon millions of years ago,and today it is home to a unique and unusual phenomenon.
The river disappears under the rock for about a quarter of a mile. It fills into a hollow cavern called the Sinks before disappearing from view, only to emerge at The Rise just downstream.
You can walk the length of the underground cavern, and interpretive signs tell you about the area's history. There are miles of trails you can explore in Sinks Canyon State Park, and it's a place that I will certainly return to see.
The next part of my journey took me along the scenic gravel road called
The Loop Road. The first part was a series of switchbacks and tight turns that took me up to the top of the canyon.
The Loop Road, The Loop Rd, Woodstock, VT 05071, USA
It was a little nerve-wracking, but the views were worth it. As the road wound down the pass, it leveled out, and the driving was easy and peaceful.
For miles, I did not see another car. I did pass UTVs and ATVs with drivers who were enjoying the forest, but it wasn't until the Loop Road met with Highway 28 that I began to see any real signs of life out here.
There's a sign with recreation information and route updates right before the road meets the highway.
Instead of jumping on the highway to head into a bigger town, I crossed it and continued on another dirt road until I found my lunchtime destination in
Atlantic City is an old mining town, but in the last few years, it's been revived from its status as a ghost town. Two restaurants remain here, and it's a popular trail town for hikers on the CDT.
I stopped into one of the restaurants, the
Miner's Grubstake, and ordered a burger.
Miners Grubstake, 150 E Main St, Lander, WY 82520, USA
Before I even got out of my car, I felt the Wyoming wind, which was roaring across the flat prairies of the South Pass area.
There were a few other diners enjoying lunch at the Grubstake's bar, which surprised me.
Some were obvious travelers, others seemed like locals. There were a few hikers dining, too, which was surprising to me. A
Continental Divide Trail
hiker who has made it to Atlantic City before July is on a firey pace!
I stopped to look at the buildings in town before leaving.
Some of Atlantic City's historic buildings have signs and information that explains their story. In South Pass, an entire state historic site will show you what these pioneer towns looked like 100 years ago.
The road out of South Pass continues as gravel for a while, and the wide open views are breathtaking.
After being in mountains and canyons for so long, these open spaces are quite a sight. Also, this part of the drive is very windy, and I'm starting to understand what all the locals complain about when it comes to this roaring weather!
Before rolling into my last town for the trip, I stopped at the famous
Farson Mercantile, 4048 US-191, Farson, WY 82932, USA
roadside general store
has souvenirs, snacks, quick bites, and ice cream. Their cones are
, and I could
My lodging for night two was, somehow, just as incredible as my previous room. The
Lakeside Lodge in Pinedale is on Fremont Lake, and each cabin is full of rustic charm.
The Lodge at Lakeside - Stockton University, Lauren Ln, Galloway, NJ 08205, USA
My cabin included a space to work, a comfortable bed, a fireplace, and a full bathroom.
Oh - and the view was to die for! The lake was a few steps away from my cabin's back porch.
Fremont Lake is one of the largest lakes in the Rockies, and from right behind my cabin, I could see across it and for miles around.
I stayed out here, sitting on a log by the fire ring until the sun turned the sky into a stunning array of colors as it slipped away to end another day.
Fremont Lake, Michigan 49412, USA
I ended up just snacking in my room (that Farson cone really filled me up!), but I did consider heading into town for food at Los Cabos in town, or at The Den in the neighboring town of Daniel.
The next morning, I took my time heading out of town. I considered doing an easy hike in the Winds but decided against it based on the weather and the fact that I was traveling alone. A local photographer had suggested that I head up
Skyline Drive instead.
Skyline Drive, Skyline Dr, Wyoming 82941, USA
The views from this spectacular scenic route were well worth the extra time on the road.
It took about 20 minutes to reach the high point and observation area, but from this ridgeline, you could see across the Wind River Range and across Fremont Lake for miles.
As I was finally heading back towards the Tetons, I wanted to stop for breakfast in Pinedale. A sign for "hot, fresh donuts" caught my attention, and I stopped at
This cute little
gift shop and cafe was right in the heart of Pinedale, and I'm so glad I stopped in! The advertised donuts were miniature, just a little larger than a half-dollar. I ordered half a dozen Cinnamon-Nutella ones and indulged.
The drive back through Hoback Canyon was just as scenic as any other route I've taken through Wyoming, and it still took my breath away around every turn.
Wide open views, underrated mountains, and sprawling scenery as far as the eye can see -- what's not to love about Wyoming?
To discover more incredible boots-on-the-ground adventures across America from our team of local travel experts, check out all of the articles in
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