8 Ways to Have a Vacation That’s Good For You—and Is a Force For Good—in Sheridan, Wyoming
From rodeos and fascinating, multicultural history to under-the-radar stargazing and shopping small, here’s how to keep this part of the Equality State wild and free when enjoying its wide-open spaces and way of life.
With warm hospitality, rich heritage, and dramatic vistas of the Bighorn Mountains, Sheridan, Wyoming offers travelers a thrilling gateway into the Old West of childhood imagination. The ability to time travel by experiencing a place as it was in the past, whether a couple hundred or several thousand years ago, is why the region earned a top spot in our list of “Where We’ll Go in 2021—When We Can.” Here, you can learn how to make rope from a cowboy, go on a real cattle drive, and spend the night camping under the stars. The best way to experience the region’s natural beauty and western lifestyle? By traveling responsibly and protecting this unique destination and the people that call it home.
By choosing activities that tap into Sheridan’s authentic character, escaping the crowds, and exploring the area’s many large expanses of land, travelers have the opportunity to support the community and enjoy a more personally rewarding getaway. From historic sites and outdoor adventures to local businesses, here are the best sustainable ways to discover Sheridan.
Shop small at King’s Saddlery. Much more than a Western tack store, this family-owned business houses the Don King Museum, a remarkable collection of cowboy memorabilia including preserved wagons, coaches, Plains Indian artifacts, antique guns, and hundreds of saddles. Learn how traditional ropes are made from expert craftsmen and be sure to pick up a pair of boots, a handkerchief, western jewelry, or one of their cult favorite caps. (Pro tip: For another small business with a lot of heart, check out the locally made and made-in-the-U.S.A goods at Jackalope Ranch Mercantile.)
- Set up camp—and leave no trace—in Cloud Peak Wilderness. The wildest section of the Bighorn Mountains, Cloud Peak Wilderness clocks in at nearly 200,000 acres of pristine alpine scenery, including tranquil streams, lakes, pine and spruce forest, wildflower-filled meadows, and towering, sheer rock faces above glacier-carved valleys. It’s an idyllic location for backpacking where you can discover a remote spot along the hundreds of miles of trails and spend the night stargazing in undisturbed silence.
Celebrate a Wyoming tradition. Founded in 1931, the annual Sheridan WYO Rodeo marks one of the top rodeo events in the U.S. Every summer locals and visitors alike gather to join the festivities and join adrenaline-revving performances like bucking broncs, bull riding, and rodeo clowns. There’s also the opportunity to experience American Indian culture during events like the First People’s Pow Wow, which features ceremonial dancers from many tribal nations.
Drink and eat locally in downtown Sheridan. Sheridan’s main drag boasts a slew of historical sites, including the WYO Theater, “Wyoming’s Wonder Picture Palace,” dating all the way back to 1923. And thanks to a public art committee, the area is awash in bronze sculptures including one that commemorates the local legend and Pakistani immigrant Zarif Kahn. But no trip is complete without ordering a couple cold ones at the Mint Bar, where cowboys have been meeting since 1907. While the ice is no longer delivered via horse and carriage, this watering hole still exudes plenty of character, from its wooden bar and taxidermy to its friendly regulars. For a contemporary slice of the town on Thursday evenings from July through September, you can also catch live music, shop arts and crafts, and dine at pop-ups and food trucks at the Sheridan Farmer’s Market.
- Fish in peace and quiet. While much of Wyoming has developed a reputation for stellar fly fishing, Sheridan offers anglers treasured seclusion alongside a unique array of fish including Yellowstone cutthroat, golden trout, Arctic grayling, tiger musky, and shovelnose sturgeon. Even avid fisherman Ernest Hemingway traveled here to finish his novel A Farewell to Arms (and to catch some gilled trophies). From Kleenburn Ponds to the icy water of the Bighorn Mountains, you never know what you might hook in the area’s 4,000 lakes and 27,000 miles of streams.
Saddle up for an authentic cattle drive. For a true taste of the western life, consider spending six days on the open range. A far cry from tourist dude ranches, Double Rafter Cattle Drives are run by a real working family ranch. You’ll learn to move cattle, cook over hot coals, battle the elements, and sleep under the stars in 1800s-style canvas tents. Push the herd through the rough and rugged Little Horn Canyon, the lush Big Horn Mountains, and to the plunging falls of Leaky Mountain where you’ll be a four- to six-hour horseback ride away from the first sign of civilization.
Explore Tongue River Canyon. A favorite recreational retreat for locals, Tongue River Canyon provides stunning rock formations, a rushing river, and enthralling wildlife. (Keep your eyes open for bald eagles, deer, and of course, bighorn sheep). It’s also not unusual to have it all to yourself, either, whether you’re there for hiking, a great “one-way” mountain bike ride, or rock climbing on limestone walls.
- Step into the past at Fort Phil Kearny. Built in 1866 as one of three military posts along the Bozeman Trail—a dangerous route that connected Montana’s gold fields to the Oregon Trail in Wyoming—Fort Phil Kearny played a significant role in Red Cloud’s War, an armed conflict between the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Northern Arapaho peoples and the U.S. In an effort to establish peace with the Indians under the Treaty of Fort Laramie, it was later abandoned by the army in 1868. Today travelers can visit the fort grounds—which have been reconstructed—to better understand the Indian Wars and what life was like in such an isolated, perilous location.