Are You Wild at Heart? Stargazing, Dude Ranches, and More Await in Wyoming
In Sheridan, the spirit of the West is alive and well all year long, whether you’re exploring the outdoors deep in the heart of the backcountry or discovering a bounty of impeccable craftwork on display in town.
Just beyond Bighorn National Forest, Sheridan, Wyoming, is a true four-season city linked inextricably to its Old West roots. With a great many outdoor adventures and winter sports to experience in its wealth of wide-open spaces, plus a thriving craft culture, to visit Sheridan is to enter a living history of gunslingers, cattle drivers, and artisans at the dawn of the American West.
In winter, Sheridan’s backcountry comes alive, offering the ultimate way to refresh and rejuvenate with stargazing, moonlit skiing, and cozy campfires under fresh blankets of snow. Protected parks like Cloud Peak Wilderness and Sibley Lake serve as ideal settings for rock climbing and ice fishing, or for observing Wyoming’s wildlife in its natural habitat (safely, of course). For collectors and more casual shoppers alike, the handmade, high-quality crafts of downtown Sheridan’s boutiques draw on the rich culture that thrives here and keep the legend of the West alive and well.
Stargazing in Sheridan
When night falls on the Great Plains, it might be tempting to visit one of Sheridan’s many lively pubs or distilleries or tuck yourself into your cozy bed at the one of the city’s historic inns, but the awe of gazing up at the cluster of constellations in the crystal-clear night skies is unparalleled.
Thankfully, out here, you don’t need to go far to experience the beauty, as millions of stars twinkle freely within easy reach of Sheridan city limits. Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site, a former military garrison that played a key role in Red Cloud’s War from 1866-1868, is now an expansive State Park featuring the SkyLab observatory, where visitors can gaze deep into space.
Even without technology, in a land so free from light pollution, opportunities abound to meditate upon the wonders above. Tongue River Canyon, offering fantastic rock climbing and fly fishing by day (along with eagle spotting at Welch Ranch), is a dramatic setting for star spotting at night, as is Sibley Lake, where, come winter, the Black Mountain Nordic Ski Club hosts all skiers, fat bikers, and snowshoers with several nocturnal celebrations including Moonlight Ski events. Hovering 8,000 feet above sea level, the Red Grade Trails also offer great opportunities for night biking under that great cosmic canvas, while Cloud Peak Wilderness affords hikers access to excellent viewpoints from any number of its trailheads.
Outdoor adventures and dude ranches
For those looking to push themselves, the aptly named Solitude Loop Trail offers backpackers 60 miles of open road to explore the Cloud Peak Wilderness over the course of 4-6 days, with ample avenues for alpine ice and rock climbing—for only the most serious of climbers—along Thundercloud Arete and the East Ridge of the Merlon, a sheer granite face alongside Cloud Peak.
Bighorn Scenic Byway is a drivable route through Bighorn National Forest’s dramatic canyons and waterfalls, with plenty of trails like Dayton to Shell worth exploring on foot. Sibley Lake features a moderate, 2.3-mile hike from Nordic Trails to Warming Hut and is a great option for trout fishing and moose sightings. Further north along the Montana border, Amsden Creek and Kern’s Wildlife Habitat Management Areas are also fabulous places to observe Wyoming’s precious wildlife, including mule deer, elk, and as many as 80 different species of birds.
Unsure of where to turn or how to approach all this beauty? Bighorn Mountain Guides are on hand to help you get the most out of the region. Or, for amateur cowpokes, Eatons’ Ranch, Canyon Ranch, and Double Rafter Cattle Drives can be first-rate points of entry to the ways of the west, albeit with a slightly softer touch.
Shopping for handmade crafts
For centuries, Sheridan’s artisans have long been outfitting adventurers with the gear they need to help take on what’s out there. To furnish your own dalliance with the depths of Wyoming’s wilderness, King’s Saddlery is a time-tested purveyor of ropes, saddles, hats, and other tack, while King’s Museum pulls back the curtain on this important sector of American workmanship.
For knives and holsters as dependable as they are beautiful, KAW Rawhide & Steel leans on Kevin Wiley’s two decades of forging experience. Tom Balding Bits and Spurs have been supplying horses and their riders with handmade, industry-best gear since 1984.
As an important extension of the can’t-miss Brinton Museum, The Brinton Leather Shop puts master leather carver Jim Jackson’s impossibly intricate leatherwork on full display for those looking for a one-of-a-kind belt, purse, or wallet to make their own. Western Grace features Jesse Call’s brand of custom clothing to complete the look.
For a glimpse of the creative spirit that Sheridan inspires in its locals, visit Red Bison Studio and SAGE Community Arts, where you can find a wide range of handmade ceramics and fine art ready to transport the essence of the West right into your home.
There are so many ways to go wild in Sheridan, whether it’s coming face-to-face with Wyoming’s most majestic beasts, looking upward and inward under a blanket of stars, wandering into a wondrous no-man’s land, or exploring the fertile creativity here.