Pine-carpeted hillsides and snowy mountain summits give way to windswept prairies and clean-flowing rivers where the Great Plains meet the mighty Rocky Mountains. Northern Wyoming’s epic landscape is replete with symbols of the American frontier: the ranch, the rodeo, and the cowboy.
It may be that no state in the union exalts cowboy life as Wyoming does. The concept of the dude-ranch vacation—where urban folk learn to rope, ride, and rodeo with weathered ranchers and professional cattle drivers—started in northern Wyoming, at Eatons' Guest Ranch 18 miles outside Sheridan in the town of Wolf. Numerous other guest ranches are strewn across the grassy plains here, from the dusty prairies east of Cody to the alpine meadows of the Big Horn Mountains. Most Big Horn–area dude ranches run pack trips into these high, rugged peaks, sometimes for days at a time. Even if you prefer a warm bed to sleeping under the stars, don’t be deterred, and certainly don’t leave the state without getting on a horse at least once: try a shorter trail ride or a pack trip that ends at a furnished cabin.
The outdoors is northern Wyoming’s primary draw. Take the time to appreciate the wide-open spaces before you: take a hike, go fishing, ride a bike, or get out into the snow. Much of this territory is just as empty as it was when the first white people arrived here two centuries ago. Even though Europeans settled in Wyoming as early as 1812, the state’s population is the smallest in the nation, at only 515,004 permanent residents. But the few who have dwelt in this place have been history makers. This part of Wyoming has a rich and storied past that encompasses icons such as gunslingers, gamblers, miners, mule skinners, and warriors. Some of the most famous (and infamous) figures of the Old West passed through here, including Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Chief Washakie, Butch Cassidy, and the Sundance Kid, the latter of whom took his name from one of the region’s towns.