More than 4 million travelers visit Yellowstone National Park each year, and more than 3 million visit Grand Teton National Park. Both parks are massive, and these numbers shouldn’t deter you – but if easy solitude is what you’re after, Wyoming has plenty to offer.
Matador spoke with Chip Jenkins, Superintendent at Grand Teton National Park, to get his insight into where travelers should spend time in Wyoming beyond the incredible national parks.
Jenkins has been at the helm of Grant Teton National Park since 2020 and has nearly four decades of experience behind the scenes of America’s national parks. First, Jenkins encourages travelers to Wyoming to check out the Wyoming Wonder Map, which shows places to visit in Wyoming based on visitors’ preferred activities and makes recommendations on where to stay.
“A part of what makes Grand Teton special is that it is part of a national system of parks that preserve America’s heritage for today’s and future generations,” Jenkins says. “It is truly remarkable that this country supports this kind of heritage preservation and continues to strive to make it accessible to our people.”
Wyoming is the least-populated state in the union, but the tenth-largest by area. That means there’s tons of open space to explore. Jenkins recommends these five places.
For a high-altitude adventure beyond Yellowstone and Grand Teton, head four hours east to the Bighorn Mountains. There, you’ll find more than 1,200 miles of trails to cover several weeks’ worth of exploring between Bighorn National Forest and Cloud Peak Wilderness. Wildlife spottings abound here at near-Yellowstone levels, including elk, deer, and antelope. If you hike through gorgeous Tensleep Canyon, you can stay overnight at one of the many campgrounds available throughout the Bighorns or opt for backcountry camping if you’re truly adventerous.
You’ll want to make it an overnight — or potentially two nights — if you attempt the 13,171-foot Cloud Peak, as the hike is 23 miles roundtrip. Sheridan is the largest nearby town and offers a variety of dining and lodging options.
Time to allow: One to three days
Matador’s guides to where to stay on your Wyoming road trip:
Green River Lakes and Squaretop Mountain
Near Pinedale and just south of the national parks, the Green River Lakes offer a tranquil getaway from the hectic scene of Jackson in the summer. Get out on the water by boat, paddleboard, or kayak, or explore the beautiful Clear Creek Canyon on foot. One must-do in the area is the Clear Creek Natural Bridge, a rock bridge over a creek accessed via the 10-mile roundtrip Clear Creek Trail.
Squaretop Mountain is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Wyoming and certainly among its most photogenic natural landmarks. You can hike to the top of it, though the route is 30+ miles roundtrip and requires at least one overnight.
Time to allow: Two days
Wind River Indian Reservation
Southeast of Yellowstone National Park is the Wind River Indian Reservation, the nation’s seventh-largest. It’s home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho people and a prime place to visit to learn about regional history while simultaneously exploring the outdoors.
Your first stop should be the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Cultural Center in Fort Washakie to gain an understanding of how the region’s Indigenous peoples lived and cared for the land prior to the arrival of white settlers. Sacajawea, who guided Lewis and Clark, is buried nearby and many artifacts from her time are on display here at the center.
Hike the Wind River Range, and if you’re a climber, attempt the famed Wind River High Route. Other recommended activities for your intenirary include spending a night at the Shoshone Rose Casino and Hotel, fishing the Wind River, or taking a rafting trip with Wind River Canyon Whitewater.
Time to allow: One to two days
Devils Tower National Monument
Devils Tower rises 867 feet above the surrounding Black Hills of northeastern Wyoming. If you’re a climber, you already know it’s among the country’s most popular rock climbing destinations.
Between the tower and the NPS-protected land around it, there are five hiking trails, a campground, and several scenic viewpoints that offer distinct perspectives on this monolith made of rare phonolite porphyry igneous rock. And yes, it probably looks familiar: it’s the backdrop of the final scene in 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Time to allow: Half-day
Just southwest of Casper, Alcova Reservoir offers a similar experience to Grand Teton National Park’s Jackson Lake, but without the crowds. Motorboat rentals including jet skis are available at Alcova Resort, though the most peaceful way to experience the water is on a kayak, raft, or paddleboard. It’s one of the most beautiful, but also least-crowded, places to visit in Wyoming if you’re trying to spend time on the water to beat the summer midday heat. The Black Beach Campground is the largest and offers excellent beach access, though the Fremont Canyon Campground gives you the best access to exploring the hikes and water of the canyon.
Time to allow: One to three days