Dude Ranches, National Parks, and the Best of the West on This Five-Day Trip Through Wyoming

Discover the ways of the Old West in Northern Wyoming, from Shoshone National Forest to Paintrock Canyon Ranch and all the way to the historical hub of Sheridan, as you road trip through the state.

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The surreal colors of Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic

Courtesy of Travel Wyoming

From Yellowstone National Park to the first National Forest in the United States, Northern Wyoming is especially exemplary of the frontier spirit that helped define a nation. On this five-day Wyoming dude ranch vacation, you’ll explore the mythology of the West, including Wyoming’s Indigenous cultures, natural landmarks, and their very own Buffalo Bill Cody, with ample opportunities to get your boots dusty along the way. Expect epic hikes on your journey, not to mention frontier history and visits to awe-inspiring dude ranches. To top it off, plenty of rancher-friendly dining options can be had, plus a spectrum of artisan arts and crafts to enjoy while you’re at it.


Trip Highlight

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

All five museums at the Center have something special to offer, but on the third weekend of every June, Native American artists and artisans congregate from all over North America to participate in a powwow in the garden behind the Museum of the Plains Indians, featuring dance, food, and other cultural touchstones.

Trip Designer

Travel Wyoming

Travel Wyoming welcomes all kinds of travelers to one of the last true American frontiers, a land of uninterrupted natural beauty, friendly people, and rich culture. There are many ways to enjoy the Cowboy State, whether it’s camping in a national park or enjoying turn-of-the-century style in town, and Travel Wyoming is the perfect means to plan it all.

Touring Yellowstone National Park on horseback.

Courtesy of Travel Wyoming

Day 1:Tour Yellowstone on Horseback

After touching down at West Yellowstone Airport, your adventure begins with an hour’s drive bringing you to the doorstep of its namesake national park. Check into the historic Old Faithful Inn, then head to Roosevelt Corrals for a guided one-hour tour on horseback, where you can take in excellent views from Hellroaring Mountain.

Upon your return, discover what made Yellowstone famous with a visit to some of its unique thermal sites, including the roiling mud and fumaroles of Fountain Paint Pot and the unearthly colors of Grand Prismatic, the largest hot spring in the United States. After heading back to the Inn, a short distance from the legendary geyser for which it’s named, settle in for a drink at the Bear Pit Lodge, then dig in for dinner in the hotel’s dining room, whose rustic aesthetic remains largely unchanged from its original opening in 1936.
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Hiking along the Shoshone River

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Day 2:Explore Buffalo Bill’s Cody

It’s little more than a 1.5-hour drive from your hotel into the 2.4 million acres of Shoshone National Forest, and the nation’s first such national forest won’t disappoint. Driving through a volcanic landscape like no other, the forest offers countless hikes through ancient glaciers, alpine meadows, and epic waterfalls.

Time permitting, be sure to visit the Wapiti Mountains to try your hand at some clay shooting, then continue east to the outskirts of Cody for a visit to Old Trail Town, a page out of the past first settled in 1895 by Buffalo Bill himself and frequented by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, among other famed outlaws.

There’s plenty to see in downtown Cody as well, of course, starting with a visit to Buffalo Bill Center of the West, just 10 minutes from the ghost town. This compound of five distinctive museums offers narratives of frontier history and includes Buffalo Bill’s childhood home, which just might be the oldest structure in the state.

Grab a signature cut of prime rib at Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel, then, if you happen to be in town between June and August, head over to the Cody Nite Rodeo for a spectacle from professional and amateur riders alike. Close out another action-packed day with a stay an hour west of town at Crossed Sabres Dude Ranch or turn in downtown in turn-of-the-century style back at the Irma.

One of many unbelievable hikes in the Wyoming wilderness

Courtesy of Travel Wyoming

Day 3:Enjoy the outdoors at Paintrock Canyon Ranch

Start the day right in Cody with a house-roasted coffee and a crepe at The Station before stocking up on gourmet goods at Proprietress Market + Bar for a drive two hours east. Passing along the plains where wild mustangs roam free and the McCollough Peaks loom in the distance, you’ll have plenty of places to pull over and enjoy a picnic before arriving at Paintrock Canyon Ranch. Here at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains, you can enjoy nature’s many forms, including guided horseback rides among the lakes and pine forests, trout fishing in Paintrock Creek, and hiking among the elk, bears, and whitetail deer (while always being sure to keep a safe distance from these majestic—but wild—creatures).

After visiting the 2,000-year-old Native American petroglyphs of Medicine Lodge Archeological Site, tuck in for a warm onsite dinner at the Ranch. Then spend the night snuggled up under the stars in one of the safari-style tents.

Shopping for local gear.

Courtesy of Travel Wyoming

Day 4:Walk and shop in Buffalo

It’s just under a two-hour drive east to Buffalo and with an early departure from the ranch, Lolly’s Sugar Shack will welcome you with the scent of fresh-baked cinnamon buns, gingerbread, and more. From there, take some time out to shop and stroll downtown on Main Street, then head a few minutes out of town to tour the looms at Mountain Meadow Wool, where they spin textiles sourced from local sheep.

Upon your return to town, trade stories with the locals over a pint and a flatiron steak at Occidental Saloon, a Buffalo fixture since 1908. Amble upstairs to soak in the clawfoot tub or cozy up by the fire in one of the Occidental Hotel’s classic rooms.

Sheridan’s legendary Mint Bar

Courtesy of Travel Wyoming

Day 5:Western art and eats in Sheridan

Striking an ideal balance between modern convenience and rugged adventure, Sheridan is hardly a half-hour north of Buffalo, but it’s an experience apart. Rolling in at your leisure, you’ll kick off the day with a visit to the modernist Brinton Museum for fine Western art and an adjoining workshop and boutique to see the finest leather workers ply their trade.

Even more intricate craftwork awaits at King Saddlery and Museum, then browse the custom, elegant ranch apparel at Western Grace just a few feet down the street. Order the house special “bock and a burger” at P.O. News & Flagstaff Cafe, then pull up a stool for a Wyoming whisky or two at Mint Bar, Sheridan’s oldest watering hole. Close things out at The Historic Sheridan Inn, a charming boutique hotel opened in part by none other than—you guessed it—Buffalo Bill himself. Once you’re ready to say goodbye to your Wyoming vacation on the ranch, Sheridan Airport is a five-minute drive south of the city.