Located near Laramie Wyoming, Vedauwoo is a rock climber’s dream. Beautiful mountains of granite cover the landscape. Combined with the wildlife (mule deer, elk, marmots, pronghorn, coyotes, and mountain lions), the hoodoos (tall, thin spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland) give this place a magical quality. It’s easy to see why the Native American’s named it Vedauwoo because it means “Land of the Earthborn Spirits”. It’s also easy to imagine western outlaws hiding out in the countless nooks and crannies.
Vedauwoo has a lot of outdoor activities to offer (hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing). While I was there, I hiked the Turtle Rock Trail and I highly recommend it! It takes you right next to some incredible rock formations, beaver ponds, and meadows with absolutely gorgeous wildflowers (June and July are the best times to visit as they are in bloom).
There are 28 campsites available on a first come first serve basis ($10/night). They are open from June 1st to November 1st.
9. Cody Museums
Buffalo Bill’s Center of the West
At first, I was hesitant on going to the most mentioned museum that I researched. Usually, when that happens, it means one thing…tourist trap. However, nothing could be further from the truth. This place was incredible! You could and should spend a few days exploring it because it’s actually five museums in one!
Cody Firearms Museum
My favorite was no surprise, the Cody Firearms Museum. It’s the most comprehensive firearms museum in the United States, by that I mean there are more than 10,000 firearms! If that doesn’t make you want to yell MERICA! And shoot your guns up in the air like Yosemite Sam, then I don’t know what will.
This place is also super interactive. They have exhibits where you can learn how to cock different guns, an awesome virtual gun game to test your skills as a marksman, and drawers that have oodles of guns!
Whitney Western Art Museum
My next favorite was the Whitney Western Art Museum. Some of the artwork was so realistic, you’d swear it was a photograph.
Viewed as one of the best western art museums in the country, this place has numerous works from artists like Charlie Russell, Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt, and other traditional and contemporary artists.
One cool thing I found out was that in the family of America’s oldest gun maker was also a talented artist. That man was Frederic Remington.
Buffalo Bill Museum
Of course, the main attraction for most people is the Buffalo Bill Museum. The history about the man the town is named for William F. Cody. This dude was larger than life. He fought in the civil war and for Indian rights. He traveled the world doing his wild west show and even performed for the queen of England.
In the museum, you’ll find actual items from Buffalo Bill, Anne Oakley, and Sitting Bull.
Plains Indian Museum
In the Plains Indian Museum, you can explore the cultures, histories, and living traditions of Plains Indian peoples in one of the nation’s largest collections of Native American art and artifacts.
Draper Natural History Museum
A world-class, kid-friendly museum focused on Yellowstone’s sights and sounds. You’ll learn about the wildlife and plants of the area.
There is also a live raptor education program that shows off the spectacular wildlife the region is known for—the birds of prey.
Kids 6-17 $14
Kids <5 Free
Tour Groups Call: 307-578-4000
May 1 – Sept. 15 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sept. 16 – Oct. 31 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Nov. 1 – Nov.30 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Dec. 1 – Feb. 28 Thu. – Sun., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Mar. 1 – Apr. 30 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed NYD, Thanksgiving, Christmas
Dug Up Gun Museum
Cody has numerous museums, but the one I was most interested in was the Dug Up Gun Museum. This unassuming place has amazing archeological finds of the firearm variety from all over. It is exactly as the name states: all the guns were dug up from famous battle fields or in the middle of nowhere. Some of the guns date back clear to the revolutionary war! I was personally amazed by the brass knuckle knife that was found in my hometown of Cumberland Maryland. I never even knew a battle took place there during the civil war. This is definitely a worthwhile stop for gun and history lovers.
It is located at 1020 12th St, Cody, WY 82414 and is open May – September 9:00am – 9:00pm 7 days a week. Cost is by donation.
8. Independence Rock
Did I travel hundreds of miles just to see a rock…you bet I did! And I wasn’t the only one! During the push west in the 1800’s, almost half a million Americans passed by Independence Rock on their way to their new homes on the frontier. It is one of the most important landmarks that travelers on the Oregon trail looked forward to seeing. The reason being is within the name itself. If you were on the Oregon trail and traveling west, your goal was to be at Independence Rock by July 4th (Independence Day). If you managed this, then you would have plenty of time to make it over the Rocky Mountains before the snows set in—much later than that and you were in trouble. Just ask the Donner party.
Independence Rock also became known as the “Register of the Desert” as travelers would carve their names into it before moving onward. Thousands of names were carved, although, only the ones in the weather protected areas remain today.
This mountain of stone is 1900 feet long, 850 feet wide, and 130 feet high. But before such accurate measurements, travelers would describe it as “a big elephant up to his sides in mud,” or “a huge whale,” or my personal favorite:
“One can compare it to nothing so much as an irregular loaf of bread raised very light & cracked & creased in all ways,” ~Daniel Budd
Despite these descriptions, the name Independence Rock stuck, and the rest is history.
7. Mormon Row Barns
If you’re looking to take some epic scenic shots on your vacation to Wyoming, then I highly recommend that you check out the Mormon Row Barns. These barns have the dramatic background landscape of the Grand Teton Mountain Range. So, it’s no wonder that they are considered some of the most photographed barns in the world.
The land was settled in the 1890s by Mormon families due to the Homestead Act of 1862, which granted land ownership to any person willing to build a house and cultivate the area for five years. There were originally 27 homesteads, but only a few of the barns remain today. So, it’s a good thing that in 1997 the district the was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
It is definitely a worthwhile stop to capture some of that sweet sweet scenery in the ol’ memory bank and with a camera.
6. National Museum of Wildlife Art
When you’re heading through Jackson Hole, you have to stop the National Museum of Wildlife Art. They have incredibly beautiful artwork depicting animals and nature from all over the world! Keep in mind this is coming from a guy that doesn’t normally like art (at least the modern variety).
Some of the art goes back centuries!
There are masterpieces everywhere you look and they’re not that hippy modern art where the artist has to explain it to you. No, these pieces are beautiful portrayals of nature in its simplicity despite some of the chaotic scenes represented. Some of the paintings are so realistic that they look like photographs.
If you want to know more about this amazing museum, stop by on your way to Jackson Hole or check out the video I made:
Museum Galleries: Open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Museum Shop: Open daily, 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Palate Restaurant: Open Tuesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
*Closed on Mondays
$13 Senior (65 and over)
$8 1st Child ages 5-18
$4 Additional children
Children 4 and under FREE
5. Wind River Range
If you’re looking to get into the remote wilderness away from the crowds of Yellowstone, then the Wind River Range is the place for you! It is home to Wyoming’s highest point, Mount Gannett, which is in the top five most difficult high points in the US. Why? Simply because it is so remote. You have to hike 25 miles just to get to the mountain.
I attempted to take this on solo, but over did it. Initially, my plan was to hike twelve miles each day, which would give me a five-day trip. Two days hiking in, one summit day, and two days out. However, what I didn’t realize is that the first few miles in are nearly straight up. By that I mean, literally, over 30 switchbacks! After the halfway point to my first camp, I was exhausted…and then the mosquitoes found me. Now, I was smart and brought bug spray, but it didn’t faze these little bastards. The swarms were so thick that you would breathe them in. So, if you’re going to take on Mt. Gannett, I recommend mosquito netting. Then I got caught in a usual afternoon thunderstorm, however, the wind gusts were so strong that it undid the snaps of my poncho, turning me into a giant sail. When I finally reached my campsite, exhausted, sore, and covered in mosquito bites, I knew I was heading back in the morning.
Don’t let this story deter you from visiting the wind river range. Use it to prepare and plan better than I did. Grab some mosquito netting and if you’re taking on Mount Gannett, take a few extra days so you don’t exhaust yourself getting to the mountain. I say this also because this place is one of the last isolated pockets of wilderness in the world. The fact that it was beautiful wasn’t all of it. It was because you are so deep in nature, alone, and can feel it filling you up; exactly, how it must have been for the first people to explore this magnificent land.
4. Beartooth Highway
Said to be one of the most beautiful drives in the US, the Beartooth Highway lives up to its reputation. It starts at the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park, which is where Cooke City resides. Officially, it’s called U.S. Route 212 and it’s a 68 miles long journey over the mountains and into Montana.
As you travel, use the pull offs to take in the gorgeous views. Particularly, when Beartooth becomes visible. Pilot and Index Peak Overlook was one of the best stops during the journey. I also suggest checking out the Top of the World Store at around the halfway point. There are lots of cool items that you can take home as gifts for the kids or grandkids. Definitely pick up some huckleberry jam while you’re here. Thank me later 😉
I filmed the drive across if you want to get a better idea of how beautiful this place is, check it out:
3. Devils Tower
If you want to see something truly spectacular, then you’ve got to check out Devils Tower. Even at a distance driving in, it’s something special to behold. This massive stone monolith rises out of the verdant landscape and creates a sense of wonder. You feel like you might have wandered into another world, where maybe giants exist. So, it’s easy to understand why Stephen Spielberg used it as a focal point in Close encounters of the third kind.
When I arrived, I originally was just going to hike around it and there are some great trails to do it:
- Tower Trail (1.3 Miles) – Nearest to Devils Tower. Most popular (i.e. crowds)
- Red Beds Trail (3 Miles) – A little further away, but with awesome views
- Joyner Ridge Trail (1.5 miles) – Connects to Red Beds Trail. Less traveled and good views.
However, after seeing it up close, I knew there was one thing I had to do…CLIMB IT!
I’d always wanted to learn how to rock climb using the gear and figured there was no better place to do it. I researched rock climbing places and found that the Devils Tower Lodge had an introductory rock climbing course for only $150. There are other various options, including summiting Devils Tower, but having no experience, I decided on the introductory course.
My guide Zach has traveled all over the US to go climbing. Originally, he got into it to get over his fear of heights. It was a very thorough and fun course where you climb up to 100 feet high! I learned the basics of belaying, climbing, and knots, as well as how to use the other gear (cams and such).
If you want to climb while you’re visiting, here is the contact info for Devils Tower Lodge:
Aside from the climbing, Devils Tower also has some really cool history too! For example, it was the first national monument and was established on September 24th, 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.
It got its name from a misinterpretation. In 1875, Colonel Richard Irving Dodge’s interpreter told him the name the Native American’s gave it meant “Bad God Tower”. This was interesting because most of the Native American’s at the time called it something else entirely, usually associating it with a Bear. Examples being: “Bear House, Bear’s Lodge, or Home of the Bear.” The reason for this was an ancient legend that went something like this:
Two girls were running to get away from a bear that wanted to eat them. They fell on their knees and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. He heard their prayers and caused the rock to rise out of the ground with the girls on it and saved them from the bear.
So if you’re looking for some incredible landscape with some awesome history, then you need to check out Devils Tower!
2. Yellowstone National Park
No top ten list about Wyoming would be complete without America’s first National Park. You see it on tv. You read about it. And you hear people talk about it. But experiencing it is a whole other animal and let me tell you, Yellowstone has plenty. Naturally, my first stop was also the most famous:
Located in the Upper Geyser Basin, Old Faithful is an iconic geyser that has become part of the image of America. It’s been in films, mentioned in historical accounts, and visited by countless millions. Old Faithful got its name because it erupts with such regularity (around 50-127 minutes). The Park Service provides estimates for the next eruption online and at the visitor’s center. However, the key with going to see Old Faithful is the same as going anywhere in Yellowstone: GET THERE EARLY!
Yellowstone is one of the most visited National Parks in the world, so it becomes crowded rather quickly (especially late morning/early afternoon).
I actually went twice while I was there. The first time I got their early. Only a small gathering of people were around the boardwalk. Everyone was silent and waiting with anticipation. It was like being in the presence of something truly sacred. When it erupted our joy was unleashed in cheers and laughter.
The second time, I got there late. The crowds were nearly unbearable. When the time drew near most quieted down, but many did not. Some even video called and talked obnoxiously throughout the whole thing. I tell you this for two reasons:
- If you want the best experience when you go to see Old Faithful, get there early.
- When you do get there, be quiet and respectful. There is something here that is unique and wonderful. Don’t taint it with unnecessary calls or loud chatting about things that don’t matter. Be present and take in the experience.
Grand Prismatic Spring
My next stop was nearly as famous as Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic Spring. A beautiful hot spring with a variety of colors that are caused by thermophiles (bacteria that survive intense temperatures). The best way to see it is two-fold:
- Remember rule one? GET THERE EARLY! (Parking can be a nightmare if you don’t)
- Don’t go to the Grand Prismatic Spring Boardwalk. Instead, go to the Fairy Falls Trailhead. The trail is about 1.6 miles out and back. It takes you to the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook. If you decide to only do the boardwalk, you’ll only have shots like this to look forward too:
A later stop I did while exploring the park was Mammoth Hot Springs. What makes this place awesome is the geology. Mammoth Hot Springs provides one of the best protected examples of travertine terraces. Travertine is caused by the hot water mixed with carbon dioxide, which in turn makes a weak solution of carbonic acid. As the solution rises through the limestone rock, it dissolves the calcium carbonate (the primary compound in limestone). At the surface, the calcium carbonate is deposited in the form of travertine, the rock that forms the terraces.
Canary spring was my favorite, although, it was hard to see from a distance (bring binoculars) to get a good view.
Liberty Cap was also pretty cool. It was created by an active hot spring and the minerals just built up over time. I like it how it has a face.
Artist’s Point (Grand Canyon of Yellowstone)
Old Faithful was something akin to a sacred event, Grand Prismatic Spring was beautiful, but Artist’s Point at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was hands down my favorite spot in the National Park. It was like staring at a painting, so it’s easy to see why it got its name and why so many artists from around the world have come here to paint it.
It is so magnificent that your mind can barely comprehend it. It made me think of that story that talks about how God is a painter and nature is his canvas. I think this was one of his masterpieces.
Did I drive hundreds of miles to see some mud boil…you bet I did! These geological features of Yellowstone are incredible. I mean, how could they not be when you’re standing over a super volcano that could erupt at any moment!
But I digress. There are two famous sets of paint pots to see. The Artists Paint Pots and the Fountain Paint Pots. Both are worth a stop after you’ve seen the main attractions (Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, and Artists Point).
One of the biggest things I wanted to do in Yellowstone was see a wolf in the wild. The best place to do that is in Lamar Valley. In fact, it’s one of the best places in the world to see wolves I the wild. But you have to know where and when to look when you get there.
Wolves are crepuscular creatures, meaning that they are most active at dusk and dawn. So get there before dawn or as the sun is about to set.
I got lucky and happened to speak with some locals who knew that there was a den at Slough Creek. So naturally, I hightailed it there and sure enough, there were a couple groups with their spotting scopes out.
A nice wildlife tour guide gave me landscape points of reference, so that I found the den. While looking through my binoculars, I got to see a black wolf emerge and then a pup! Then they frolicked and played!
This was one of my favorite moments from my entire time exploring Yellowstone.
Additional tip: definitely bring binoculars or a spotting scope or you won’t be able to see the wolves.
Porcelain Basin Fumaroles and Geysers in Norris Basin
Want to see a place where the ground seems like its on fire? Check out Porcelain Basin! This place was awesome! The amount of fumaroles (steam vents), geysers, and mud pots here, give the illusion of a what it must of have been like when the earth was still forming.
My favorite spots were crackling lake (the heated lake actually crackles) and Steamboat Geyser—the worlds tallest active geyser. Although, I didn’t get to see Steamboat erupt (it’s infrequent and impossible to predict), getting to see the cloud of steam coming out of this behemoth geyser was a treat all the same.
But with so many great experiences at Yellowstone, I bet you’re wondering “What’s number one on the list then?”
1. Grand Teton National Park
As I drove into Grand Teton National Park from Yellowstone, I initially didn’t see much difference between the two parks…and then the Grand Teton Mountain range came into view. I can say without a doubt, this was one of the most beautiful sights that I’ve ever seen. The majesty of the Grand Tetons can’t be understated. Just driving beside them would have made them number one on this list. But y’all know me. There was so much to explore in these wonderful wildlands and I wanted to see it all. The problem is that there are literally hundreds of trails in this massive wilderness.
Luckily, I ended up taking my friend’s advice and hiked the Teton Crest Trail, which goes over the Teton Mountain range and hits up the majority of highly sought-after hikes, but is deep within the serene wilderness.
While there are crowds at Jenny Lake and other day hike hot spots, the Teton Crest Trail was like stepping into the pristine wilderness of our forefathers. I only saw a few other hikers due to the remoteness of the hike as well as the limited backcountry permits that a required to hike the trail.
Note: You’ll want to reserve your permits months in advance as this is one of the most sought-after hikes in the US. They do hold back 1/3 of permits for walk ups, but I wouldn’t risk it if you want to do the full hike. You can reserve your permits at www.recreation.gov
Marmots, hawks, moose, and mountain goats were my only company for the majority of the trip and that was fine with me. The snow melt made the rivers, streams, and waterfalls all the more beautiful with their rapid pace. Bear in mind, I was hiking this in late June (yes there was still snow and I did have to use my ice axe and crampons at times).
I felt like Jim Carrey in Yes Man, when he’s running with his girlfriend and taking pictures. Around ever corner there was something even more beautiful than the last. But don’t just take my word for it, see for yourself. I filmed the whole hike:
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