Take a guess: How many National Areas does Wyoming Have?


With nearly 100,000 square miles of land, Wyoming ranks within the top 10 largest states in the US. Also the least populated with only 580,000 residents, there is always plenty of room to roam. As a long-time Wyoming resident, I am embarrassed to admit that I have a very long list of areas of the state that I have yet to see. In order to organize my bucket list- I decided to start at the top and explore areas of Wyoming that are Nationally recognized. Digging into some research, I found that Wyoming has 10 Nationally recognized areas to discover. Rich in beauty and history- these are a must-visit for Wyomingites and tourists alike.


The first ones to come to mind, of course- were the obvious show-stoppers: Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Ask any out-of-stater about what Wyoming has to offer, and they're sure to mention these two parks.


NATIONAL PARKS

Grand Teton: Located in the NW corner of the state- Grand Teton National Park covers approximately 310,000 acres, 485 square miles of rugged and diverse land. Founded in 1929, the park saw a strong surge in tourism, with over 51,000 visitors! Tourism today boasts over 3 million visitors in 2020, which is remarkable, considering much of the US was under quarantine and families avoided traveling altogether in 2020. With 6 main lakes; Jackson, Leigh, Jenny, Phelps, Bradley, and Taggart, and over 100 alpine and backcountry lakes, as well as 240 miles of trails to explore - Grand Teton National park offer outdoor exploration for everyone. Grand Teton National Park is the only national park in the United States to have its own airport.


Yellowstone: Further North from Grand Teton is Wyoming's most popular nationally designated destination. Since 1872, Yellowstone is recognized as home to stunning mountains and canyons, a plethora of wildlife & the world's largest collection of geysers. Yellowstone stuns with over 2.2 million acres spanning three states, 2500 miles of rivers and streams, 845 historic structures and 10,000 hydrothermal features. Yellowstone offers 12 campgrounds with over 2,000 sites. Boastin more than 900 miles of trails for hiking, backpacking, and sightseeing. While crowds can certainly be a challenge- the park gates are open 24 hours to accomodate viewing at all hours.


NATIONAL RECREATION AREA

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area: Hiking, boating, fishing and camping are among the favorite amenities of Bighorn Canyon National Rec Area. With over 120,000 acres, of breathtaking diversity in ecosystems, wildlife, and more than 10,000 years of human history to explore, a weekend spent here is a weekend to remember. Located near Lovell, WY- The South District is largely land-based and offers the following recreation opportunities: Cal Taggart Visitor Center (Open year round), Horseshoe Bend Marina (Open Memorial Day to Labor Day) Devil Canyon Overlook, Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, 12 hiking trails, Four self-tour historic ranches and three campgrounds- Horseshoe Bend, Barry's, and Trail Creek Campgrounds.


NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

Fort Laramie: Located near the Laramie and North Platte Rivers in SE Wyoming is the famed outpost - Fort Laramie. It was used first as a fur trade post and then as a military garrison. For 56 years Native Americans, missionaries, emigrants, trappers, traders, soldiers, miners, ranchers and homesteaders worked together to create the history of the American west before it was abandoned in 1890. The Confluence Trail is a 1.6 mile loop which explores the crossings of the North Platte - including fords and ferries and the historic and still standing wrought-iron bridge of 1875.


NATIONAL MONUMENTS

Fossil Butte: This monument park is located in southwest Wyoming near the town of Kemmerer. More than 300 incredible fossils are displayed in the Visitor Center. Meander through the exhibits and visit with park rangers about this inspiring area. Photography is welcome. In addition to the incredible fossils displays, Visitor Center activities include Video Programs, Interactive Fossil Rubbing Table, Fossil Preparation Lab and Ranger Programs. From seeds and flowers to turtles, fish and dinosaurs- there are plenty of diverse fossils here to appeal to all ages.


Devils Tower:

From rock-climbing to hiking to extra-terrestrial movie fanatics. Devils Tower is without a doubt, a must-see. Considered sacred by Northern Plains Indians and indigenous people, legends abound about the tower from tribes such as the Arapahoe, Lakota, Crow, Cheyenne and Kiowa. These tribes and their connections the Tower are as important today as they were for generations well before this sacred and beautiful place became a treasured national monument. Geologists have studied Devils Tower since the 1800s, and still differ in opinions on how it formed. Much of the Tower’s geologic story is agreed upon, but theories differ on certain details. The Tower is formed of a rare igneous rock, phonolite porphyry, and is the largest example of columnar jointing in the world. Geologically, hundreds of parallel cracks make it one of the finest crack-climbing areas in North America.


NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAILS

Pony Express National Trail: Stretching from from Missouri to California- the Pony Express Trail crosses through Wyoming from the SW corner, through Casper, WY and across the southern part of the state. With interactive centers, old outposts and Forts Laramie and Caspar, the Pony Express National Trail is accessible from many areas of the state and rich with history. Visit Independence Rock, Rattlesnake Pass, Devil's Gate, Fort Bridger State historic site and more as you follow along this trail of the past, full of adventure.


Oregon National Trail: Spanning 6 states, the Oregon Trail serves as a reminder of the difficult sacrifices, struggles, stories and victories of the early-American settlers. Modern-day Auto Tour Routes closely track the historic roads with accompanying state map signage and driving directions that provide opportunities for discovering the remnants and notable areas of the trail. Some of the most spectacular ruts remain about three miles south of Guernsey at the Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site.


Mormon Pioneer National Trail: This 1,300-mile route outlines the trails traveled by Mormons fleeing Illinois, to the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1846. 500 Mormon wagons slowly made their way across the winter-bare Iowa prairie toward the Missouri River, leaving behind everything they knew in hopes of a better future. In Wyoming, Fort Bridger State Historic Site served as a post for the fleeing Pioneers.


California National Trail: Over 250,000 emigrants traveled to the gold fields and the promise of rich farmlands in California during the 1840s. Crossing over 10 states and 5000 miles, they passed through Wyoming in search of gold. These emigrants followed the same trail followed by The Oregon adventurers, the Mormons, and the Pony express. One of the most utilized trails is South Pass, a 20 mile wide, gently sloping gap that opened the West to settlement by providing a route over the Continental Divide. It was the only trail that wagons could negotiate, leaving behind a wide and deep path that was created as thousands of wagon wheels and travelers eroded the ground.






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