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For many folks, the Cowboy State symbolizes the American West. Bordered by Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado, it’s a vast land of mountains, farms, and plains. Just 578,800 people call Wyoming home, and many live in small towns dotted across the rugged, 97,914-square-mile expanse, so that means there are countless wide-open spaces to roam. If you want to escape the crowds, commune with nature, and experience frontier life, there’s truly no better place.
Here are 12 of the best small towns in Wyoming to visit on your next adventure out west.
Related: 20 Most Beautiful Small Towns in the U.S.
One of the best adventure destinations in the United States and a four-season fan favorite, Jackson puts two national parks, three ski resorts, an elk refuge, and heaps of outdoor recreation — from hiking and biking to horseback riding and zorbing — within easy reach. The walkable, Western downtown has saloons, restaurants, galleries, shops, and the famous antler arch.
Related: 21 Best Things to Do in Jackson Hole — Including National Parks, Hot Springs, and Cowboy Bars
Tourists love Lander because of the mix of nature, adventure, and fringed fun. Sinks Canyon State Park is amazing for trout fishing, gawking at sunsets, and camping. This vibrant town on the upper plains of the Rockies is also home to local breweries, the Museum of the American West, and the Lander Art Center. You might want to consider timing a trip to the Pioneer Days Rodeo or the Wyoming State Winter Fair.
Though technically a city, a population of just 4,469 residents gives Buffalo a characteristic Old-West, small-town feel. Nestled in the Bighorn Mountains, this historic community has many interesting landmarks including the Occidental Hotel, where both Teddy Roosevelt and Butch Cassidy stayed, and the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum. Outdoor recreation ranges from fishing and hiking in the summer to snowmobiling and skiing in the winter.
Fans of bull riding, steer wrestling, and barrel racing should head to Cody, also known as the Rodeo Capital of the World. So much excitement centers around these entertaining and competitive events that are fun for all ages (kids can even participate in the calf scramble). Buffalo Bill also casts his influence on the town with statues and a cultural center that includes various museums and hands-on activities dedicated to the American soldier.
Rugged, remote, and ringed by mountains, Dubois embodies the true spirit of the West. Opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, rock climbing, wildlife peeping (look out for elk, moose, and grizzly bears), snowshoeing, skiing, and drives on the Centennial Scenic Byway abound. You can also get your cowboy on with horseback riding and ranch activities and shop for the appropriate gear (boots and hats, anyone?) at the trading post downtown. And be sure to visit the National Bighorn Sheep Center.
Backed by dramatic peaks, the town of Sheridan is one of the many crown jewels of this state. Several buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, providing a glimpse into the past. On the more modern side of things, downtown has vibrant arts, culture, and dining scenes. Not surprisingly, there’s excellent hiking, biking, and fishing. The Sheridan WYO Rodeo, which traces its roots back to 1931, is also a huge draw for locals and visitors alike.
The name Ten Sleep gives off a rather snoozy impression. While this spot in the Bighorn Basin leans into relaxation and makes for a great place to unwind in between outdoor activities, it’s certainly not boring. Visitors can hit the hiking trails, gawk at the scenic lookouts, go rock climbing, catch fish in the creek, drive through the surrounding area that’s dotted with cattle and sheep ranches, and then head back into town to browse the historic mercantile.
Known as the gateway to the Wind River Mountains and Jackson Hole, Pinedale has more going for it than just being an access point to bigger and better things. Nature takes center stage in this rugged Wyoming town with parks, mountain peaks, and wilderness areas within arm’s distance. It’s quite popular with snowbirds who flock here for skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, skating, and ice fishing on frozen lakes. Sommers Homestead Living History Museum gives visitors a peek at the past.
In need of a spot to relax and soothe sore muscles during a break from the endless outdoor action? Head to Thermopolis, the site of one of the largest natural hot springs on the planet. (Did we mention that soaking in the mineral-rich waters is free?) You’re also bound to see local bison out and about. The Wyoming Dinosaur Center displays prehistoric fossils including the “Thermopolis Specimen” of Archaeopteryx, the only real specimen of this genus outside of Europe.
An all-American town with heaps of family vacation potential and access to both Yellowstone National Park and the Bighorn Basin, Powell is friendly, with great weather and an abundance of outdoor activities. Enjoy mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, fishing, and camping? It’s all waiting. Don’t miss the Homesteader Museum and the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center.
Tucked away in the valley of the Bearlodge Mountains in northeastern Wyoming near the South Dakota border, Sundance is a small town with a deep connection to Native American heritage and culture. The Vore Buffalo Jump remains a significant archaeological site of the Plains Native Americans. Keyhole Reservoir and Sand Creek are favorite spots for anglers to cast a line. Hiking, horseback riding, and ATV adventures also bring outdoor thrills.
Set at the base of the Snowy Range Scenic Byway and entry point to white-capped mountains, the tiny town of Centennial, which was home to the Plains Native Americans and later settlers, has just 300 current residents but ample reasons to visit. That list includes Nici Self Historical Museum and outdoor adventure in the form of hiking, fishing, and camping as well as skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. It’s also a springboard for exploring the Thunder Basin National Grassland and Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest.