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Many people travel through northern Wyoming on their way to visit the wonders of Yellowstone National Park to the west. This is one of the most logical ways to see the area, but beware: the empty spaces between towns and the wide-open road might tempt you to speed through the region too quickly. Give yourself enough time to allow for occasional stops, and don’t hesitate to overnight in one of the area’s small towns. You won’t just be breaking up the car ride; you’ll get to visit some of the American West’s hidden gems. Planning ahead is imperative—hotels, gas stations, and restaurants can be few and far between, and with the recent energy-production boom it can be difficult to get reservations.
If you’re headed into Wyoming from the east along I–90, be sure to stop at Sundance and Devils Tower National Monument. The towns of Gillette, Buffalo, and Sheridan are also worth your time, and are ideal places to spend the night. You have your choice of guest ranches and mountain lodges here, and you can take the opportunity to explore both the Wyoming plains and the foothills of the Big Horns. Take either U.S. 14 or U.S. 16 through the mountains and stretch your legs in the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area, a prime spot for outdoor recreation, whether it’s a 15-minute hike or a daylong ski trip. West of the Big Horns, the two highways meet up near Basin; from here, U.S. 14 is a straight shot to Cody and U.S. 310 is a scenic route through the arid plains near Lovell and Deaver.
An alternative for those interested in pioneer trails and stagecoach routes is to head south from Buffalo via I–25 to the eastern Wyoming towns of Casper, Douglas, and Lusk. They lie in flatter landscape and offer less in the way of visitor services, but this is where you’ll find the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, Fort Fetterman State Historic Site, and similar attractions. From here, head back north on U.S. 20 to Thermopolis and travel either northeast into the Big Horns on U.S. 16 or northwest toward Cody and Yellowstone National Park on Highway 120.