The USA’s second-least densely populated state, Wyoming also has the smallest population of all the nation’s states. Additionally, it’s the last state on an alphabetical list. Coming at, or near, the end, however, certainly doesn’t make Wyoming a loser.
Wyoming was a winner in things that matter, like giving voting rights to women; it was the first place in the nation to do so, and this historic act is one of the main reasons why Wyoming is now known as the Equality State. Wyoming can also boast of being home to the country’s first national monument: the spectacular monolith of Devil’s Tower.
The state’s name was derived from the word “mecheweami-ing”, which means “at the big plain” in the language of the Lenape Indians.
Covering 97,814 square miles, Wyoming is completely landlocked. That doesn’t mean that visitors can’t escape dry land for some island fun however; the state has more than 30 river and lake islands.
A fantastic destination for fans of nature and the great outdoors, Wyoming is known for being home to (most of) the world’s first national park: the incredible Yellowstone National Park. Mother Nature’s marvels can be found throughout the state, and there are also plenty of historic and cultural attractions too.
While Wyoming’s most famous wonders attract large crowds throughout the year, take time to discover some of the state’s more hidden treasures as well. Here are 20 of the best hidden gems in Wyoming.
1. Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting, Greybull
Both off the beaten trap and a bit quirky, Greybull’s Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting is located close to a former major centre for aerial firefighting. You may be wondering what aerial firefighting actually means … it’s exactly as it sounds: fighting fires, mainly forest fires, from the air.
The museum is home to an assortment of aircraft, but its main focus is on educating people about aerial firefighting. It displays planes that are commonly used to help tackle raging fires, along with showing which materials are dropped on fires to help to snuff them out. Visitors can also learn how systems developed over time, from kegs in the back of small planes to modern air tankers.
Other interesting displays are related to the detection of fires, general aviation history, and planes used in the World Wars.
A seasonal museum that was founded in 1987, the Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting is a real delight for aviation enthusiasts.
2. Goodwin Lake Trail, Jackson
While Wyoming has a number of scenic lakes that attract many visitors, Goodwin Lake is a relatively under-visited gem. A beautiful alpine lake, the body of water is located at the end of the Gros Ventre Range. Within Grand Teton National Park, the looped trail is a little over six miles long. The terrain doesn’t present too many challenges for people with reasonable fitness levels and hiking experience.
Following the trail to the lake provides impressive views of the impressive Tetons, and the lake itself is a sight for sore eyes. It’s also a terrific spot for soothing and aches and pains; strip down to your bathing suit and take a dip in the refreshingly cool waters and feel tensions simply melting away.
It’s also a stunning destination for a serene picnic—just be sure to bag all trash and take it away with you for disposal. Do watch out for bears along the trail, or you could be in a surprise.
3. Hole-In-the-Wall, Johnson County
An outlaw hideout from times gone by, Hole-In-the-Wall was a refuge for infamous characters such as Butch Cassidy, Jesse James, and the Logan Brothers. The hell-raisers lived beyond the law, laying low in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains.
Located in the Willow Creek Ranch, today’s hopefully law-abiding visitors can follow dirt tracks and foot trails to the Hole-In-the-Wall shelter. Isolated, quiet, and out of the way, the former sanctuary for members of the criminal underworld sees few visitors.
Given that the journey is at least a day by horseback from the nearest areas of civilisation, passing through canyons and valleys, there’s little fear of Hole-In-the-Wall becoming a mass tourist attraction. Those who do make the trip, however, can let their imaginations run riot and admire the sweeping views.
The area took its name from a rugged pass through the rock walls. Eroded by weather and worn down over time, the pass forms a literal hole through the mesa’s wall.
4. Smith Mansion, Cody
Inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park lies a forgotten and overlooked dwelling. Smith Mansion, often referred to as the Abandoned Mansion of Yellowstone, provides an unusual diversion from the famous geological and geothermal attractions for which the park is famous for.
Construction started on the wooden home in 1970. The owner was seemingly never quite satisfied with his handiwork, though, and continued to add and expand the property until his untimely demise in 1992.
Level after level was added, along with balconies, extensions, rooms, outer staircases, and terraces. The owner’s passion for building led to his divorce, that didn’t halt his devotion. It was his DIY construction work that eventually caused his death too.
A work of architectural creativeness, or a sign of a disturbed mind, nobody really knows what made Mr. Smith tick. The property fell into a state of disrepair and decay, and became steeped in urban myths, with tales of lunatics, ghosts, and strange happenings.
Preservation work is now being undertaken to help Mr. Smith’s legacy and dreams to survive. Surrounded by the splendour of the Wapiti Valley, the former family home is an oddity when seen from the outside. Although closed to visitors, curious souls may be able to take a peek inside if they contact Mr. Smith’s daughter, Sunny Smith Larsen.
5. Crazy Woman Canyon, Buffalo
From a madman to a crazy woman, you’ll find this craggy trail close to Buffalo. A bustling route in times gone by, the gaping canyon was part of the brutal and gory Bozeman Trail, an important trail that was known for being particularly violent during the gold rush era. It was also a significant crossing for Native Americans.
Despite its history, few people attempt the difficult crossing today. High cliffs sit either side of the chasm, with large fallen boulders strewn across the ground. If you do decide that you’re up for the challenge, though, you can tag on visits to the nearby Crazy Woman Creek and Crazy Woman Battlefield.
What’s with all the craziness though? Various stories exist as to how the area got its name. One major account tells of a Native American lady who was left to live alone in the area, loneliness and solitude eventually driving her to insanity. A more brutal rumour is that a local settler lost her mind after seeing her husband scalped by Indians.
6. Leigh Lake, Grand Teton National Park
Situated at the end of both the Leigh Canyon and the Paintbrush Canyon, the glacial lake of Lake Leigh is one the spectacular national park’s lesser-visited bodies of water. Stretching for 2.8 miles, and with a width of 2.4 miles, fewer people might complete the mile-long hike to reach Lake Leigh but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of the effort.
In fact, it’s one of the Grand Teton National Park’s most well-kept secrets and among its most beautiful lakes.
Named after a local mountain guide, the sparkling waters of Lake Leigh are fringed by pristine white beaches. A perfect place for a picnic with postcard-worthy views, outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy camping, fishing, and kayaking. Soak up the gorgeous views and revel in the sound of silence before heading off to some of the park’s more well-known spots.
7. Eden Valley
You’ve almost certainly heard of the Garden of Eden, but how about Wyoming’s very own Eden Valley? A dinky town, as opposed to a biblical paradise, Eden Valley is brimming with history. Take a fascinating journey back to pioneering times and explore what was previously a major gateway to the West.
Native Americans and fur traders were in the Eden Valley area long before the pioneers of the 1800s. A popular passing point before actually becoming settled, the town was officially founded in the early 1900s. The early agricultural and ranching visions are still alive today. Not only that, the area also offers stunning views of the surrounding landscapes.
Hikers will be in their element exploring the scenic trails and bikers can also get the blood pumping as they take to the saddle. Big Sandy Reservoir offers awesome fishing, camping, picnicking, boating, and relaxing. See a different side of Wyoming and travel back in time at this small-town secret.
8. Bitter Creek Brewing, Rock Springs
The micro-brewed craft beers produced at Bitter Creek Brewing are sure to get the taste buds tingling and satisfy even the most discerning of beer lovers. Open since 1997, the gastropub brews a large selection of tempting drinks.
With inspiring names, beers produced onsite make use of local ingredients and seek to reflect local culture. With a floral scent, Red Desert Ale has mixed malts. The light Sweatwater Wheat has almost equal barley and wheat and uses unique yeast, and Boar’s Tusk is another light ale that’s low(er) calorie and made from hops from the northwest. And that’s just a small selection.
Don’t worry if you have a different tipple of choice; the establishment also has a good selection of wines and other beverages.
The menu includes tempting favourites like pizza, pasta, burgers, steak, salmon, and sandwiches. Little ones are catered for with the special kids’ menu. You can even take away a memento from your visit, with glasses and t-shirts among the merchandise.
9. Aladdin General Store, Aladdin
Selling a mixed variety of items you’d be forgiven for thinking that this general store was named after Aladdin’s treasure-filled cave. Alas, there are no flying carpets and magic lamps to be found here. It was, however, named after the local town. Nonetheless, stepping inside the store reveals exciting bounty.
In operation for more than a hundred years, the shop feels as though it hasn’t changed much in that time. Sit down on the porch with a cool glass of something refreshing before browsing the goods and shop like the people of the past once did.
While Aladdin General Store sells a range of useful modern items and clothes, it’s the trinkets, knickknacks, and antiques that are often the most interesting. Ascend into the attic to see the real delights.
10. Gannett Peak, Fremont / Sublette
Rising up into the sky at the point where the counties of Fremont and Sublette meet, Gannett Peak isn’t anywhere near as famous as the mountains that make up the Grand Tetons. It is, though, taller than any of its more well-known cousins. Actually, it’s the state’s tallest mountain, though it remains relatively unheard of.
Standing at an impressive 13,804 feet tall, it presents an exciting challenge for experienced climbers. If you’re visiting Wyoming especially for its hiking and mountains, Gannet Peak is a lesser-visited gem to add to your want-to-conquer list. Climbing the mountain will earn you a certain amount of bragging rights too, as it’s often said to be among the most difficult state highest summits to climb.
Part of the Wild River range, one of the best ways to get to the mammoth mountain is by following the trail across Bonney Pass. The mountainous wilderness features several dramatic glaciers. Terrific vistas and an exhilarating journey are all but guaranteed.
11. Hoofprint of the Past Museum, Kaycee
An interesting museum in the heart of downtown Kaycee, Hoofprints of the Past Museum opened in 1989. Established to teach people more about the area’s history, heritage, legends, and legacies, the museum takes visitors on a journey through the times of Native Americans, the bloodlust of the Bozeman Trail, traders, fugitives, and European settlers.
Johnson County’s past is brought to life with exhibits and information related to battles, trade, criminal gangs, and more. The surrounding landscapes and the local culture are also themes in the charmingly named museum.
The museum is housed across several historic buildings, including an old log cabin, the first school in Kaycee, and Kaycee Jail. Artefacts include items from the Portuguese trading site known as the Portuguese Fort, things discovered at Fort Rena, battle site memorabilia, weapons that were once held in the clutches of outlaws, antiquated farm equipment, and wagons. Experience yesteryear in the Blacksmith Shop, Music Room, Tack Room, and Kitchen.
12. Historic Hotel Greybull, Greybull
Great for a visit or to get your head down in a history-filled ambience, the owners of Historic Hotel Greybull have worked hard to restore the building to its former grandeur and offer guests a taste of what the area was like in its heyday.
The building was erected in 1914, during the booming oil industry, having the honour of being the first brick building constructed in the town. A sign of wealth and greatness to come, it was home to the First State Bank. The bank ultimately collapsed during the Great Depression and the building was then a centre of illicit operations, namely a basement speakeasy that imported banned alcohol from Canada during the Prohibition period.
Eventually becoming a hotel in the mid-1920s, it gained notoriety for its back-room prostitutes and illustrious clientele. Ghosts of former guests are still said to frequent their old haunt.
The hotel today combines whispers from the past with all mod-cons. Visit the Speakeasy Restaurant for some great grub and a not-so-illegal drink.
13. Fossil Bone Cabin, Medicine Bow
A rare sight in the middle of nowhere, Fossil Bone Cabin is surrounded by craggy hills and dense scrubland. People tend to shy away from the arid and unforgiving terrain. Dusty tracks wind through the area, leading to the unusual building. Built more than 100 years ago, the strange cabin was once both a private home and a museum of fossils. While the museum has long since closed, the cabin is still used as a private dwelling.
While you cannot look inside, and should definitely respect the privacy of those who choose to live among the decaying bones, it’s an odd vision from the outside. A sign reads “Believe It Or Not”, inviting viewers to challenge their perceptions.
Discovered in the late 1800s, the home was unwittingly built from rocks containing dinosaur bone fossils. The builder certainly could not have imagined the unusual spectacle that his abode would become.
Although now gradually fading into obscurity, the bizarre home is certainly up there on the list of Wyoming’s strangest hidden gems.
14. WYO Theater, Sheridan
Fancy a few hours of good old-fashioned vaudeville fun while exploring Wyoming? Then be sure to head to Sheridan where you’ll find the long-running WYO Theater.
Originally called The Lotus, the theatre held its grand opening in 1923. Among the first vaudeville venues in the state, it is now proud to be Wyoming’s oldest-running such theatre.
The theatre has seen many changes since its inception, and was most recently closed in the 1980s, throwing open its doors once again in 1989 to entertain and amuse the public with a little light-hearted fun. A shining star in Sheridan, today’s patrons can enjoy a varied lineup of musical, dance, and theatrical performances, enjoying some welcome relief as did the people of the town in times gone by.
15. Ames Brothers Pyramid, Buford
The Ames Brothers were big names in the middle of the 19th century. Oliver and Oakes were known for their dealings in the burgeoning locomotive industry, with one of their grandest schemes—seen as impossible when the idea was first floated—to build the very first transcontinental railway. In spite of doubts and mockery, the brothers made their vision come true.
Their brilliance was quickly tarnished, however, when people learned of shoddy business deals and fraudulent funding. In a bid to try and make people forget, and associate the family name with grandeur again, the brothers commissioned a mighty monument to be built alongside the railroad.
Placed in a remote spot, the resulting pink pyramid once towered over the tracks. When the course of the railway was changed the monument was quickly forgotten. Nowadays, the brothers’ faces still peer out over the barren landscapes, perhaps wondering where they went wrong and still trying to cook up schemes to placate their egos.
16. Miners and Stockman’s Steakhouse, Hartville
A fabulous restaurant in a tiny and rather non-descript town, Miners and Stockman’s Steakhouse serves up tasty fare. Often said to dish up some of the state’s finest steaks, diners can also enjoy a taste of the Old West. While the food alone might not be enough of a temptation to add this restaurant to your list of must-visits, the history of the establishment might just convince you.
Away from the tried-and-trodden tourist trail, the restaurant is housed in the state’s first bar, established in 1862. That’s not the only historic highlight though—the town is the state’s oldest incorporated town.
Boasting a typical Western style, deer head trophies adorn the walls. Rather than being at risk of a saloon shootout, today’s guests can shoot some pool instead in the back room.
Settle into a seat in what was once a popular hangout for shady characters such as gang members, cattle thieves, and bank robbers. Admire the stylish bar, which was carved by hand in Germany, and choose from the wide selection of spirits, wines, and other drinks.
17. The Red Gulch, Shell
One of the state’s best-kept secrets, the stunning Red Gulch is located in Big Horn County. Layers of multi-coloured rocks form walls alongside the dry and dusty track and, if you examine the walls closely you’ll find that they are embedded with fascinating fossils.
These very lands were once roamed by fearsome dinosaurs and other long-extinct creatures. Gigantic creatures left their marks on the terrain, with large footprints visible in the track. Intriguingly, scientists are still not sure exactly which species trampled the lands to leave their footprints behind. Interpretive signboards help visitors to understand what conditions were like back in the times of the dinosaurs.
Dance your way through the area known as “The Ballroom”, imagining that you’re performing a tango or a two-step with a mighty theropod. Close your eyes and you can almost hear the roars and squawks created by a very different kind of nature in times long since ended.
Only discovered in the late 1990s, the Red Gulch sees fewer visitors than other similar sites that have been in the public eye for longer. You’ll find no guides here and few facilities. What you will discover though is an ancient landscape with marvellous views and reminders of the earth’s wondrous past.
18. Bar Nunn
Close to Casper and within Natrona County, Bar Nunn’s layout is really orderly and rather angular. It may not be apparent at first but the town’s thoroughfares once saw a different type of traffic; they were previously airport runways.
The county’s official airport up until its closure in the early 1950s, the peace of Wardwell Field was once punctuated by the hums and drones of aircraft, the clatter of mechanical repairs, refueling, and loading, and the chatter of people.
Bought by a visionary after its closure, the airfield was imaginatively turned into a town. Runways formed the city streets, with homes springing up either side. The population grew and grew—after all, who wouldn’t want to live on a runway?
If you do stop by Bar Nunn be sure to grab a bite to eat in The Hangar. Located, unsurprisingly, in an old airport hangar building, the restaurant dishes up a mean meal.
19. Island Lake, Pinedale
Wyoming just keeps giving when it comes to places of spectacular scenic beauty. Sitting in the shadow of the imposing Fremont Peak, Island Lake is another Wyoming stunner. Located in the Wind River Range, the remote lake offers plenty of outdoor activities. It would probably be a big hit with tourists if it weren’t for the 10-mile-hike needed to reach it.
The long hike to Island Lake can be completed in a day, but it’s altogether more relaxing to take your time and camp on the way to break the journey. Why rush when there’s so much surrounding natural splendour to appreciate?
Once at the lake the vistas cannot fail to impress. Dine al fresco while marveling at Mother Nature’s handiwork. Keen anglers may be able to hook their supper right from the sparkling waters.
An idyllic hideaway for artists, photographers, poets, writers, musicians, and other creative types, it’s not difficult to connect with your inner muse while surrounded by such beauty.
Take long walks through the area and pitch a tent to sleep under the stars.
20. Rockpile Museum, Gillette
A great launchpad for forays into surrounding areas, Campbell County’s Gillette is home to an interesting museum: the Rockpile Museum.
Centred around regional and local history, heritage, and culture, the museum is a good place to learn more about Campbell County’s past and present. Don’t worry—the museum isn’t filled with pile upon pile of rock.
There are frequently changed temporary exhibitions along with the permanent displays, helping to keep the museum fresh and relevant. The interactive displays are popular with kids and adults alike, and younger visitors are often delighted to play dress up with the selection of period clothing.
Travel back to prehistoric times with the displays of fossils, and move forward in time to learn more about the indigenous peoples who lived from the land. Moving forward even more, and getting closer to the present day, saddles, farm equipment, wagons, and weapons are among the artefacts from the times of early settlers.