Home to the world’s first national park, Wyoming is a land of abundant peaks, rich wildlife and wide-open prairies.
While the big national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Teton are well-known and visited by millions of tourists each year, the state is also home to a number of less-crowded parks with spectacular scenery and incredible opportunities for hiking, camping, boating, fishing, and many other activities.
Explore the Cowboy State’s under-the-radar gems by spending time in some of its finest state parks. Be sure to check operating hours and seasons since many parks, roads, and campgrounds in Wyoming are seasonal.
Buffalo Bill State Park is great for watersports and an intro to Yellowstone
Located 40 miles to the east of Yellowstone National Park, Buffalo Bill State Park is a great base camp for exploring the region. Yellowstone’s whopping 2.2 million acres are understandably an overwhelming prospect for many visitors – this state park is the perfect way to enjoy the stunning Wyoming landscape and get to know a little of your national-park neighbor, while also keeping the focus on having a stress-free good time.
Buffalo Bill State Park has a wealth of its own amenities, including two campgrounds (one with a playground), a visitor center with exhibits, a boat ramp, and fishing. Hire a boat, load up a hearty picnic alongside your fishing equipment, and while away a day surrounded by spectacular views. As your boat floats along on the crystal-clear water be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife including antelope, birds, deer, elk, and sometimes bears.
The centerpiece of the park is the Buffalo Bill Reservoir, which was created when the Buffalo Bill Dam was constructed from 1905 to 1910. At the time of its completion, it was the highest dam in the world, measuring 325ft tall, though its height was later increased. The park’s namesake, “Buffalo Bill” Cody, was also the founder of nearby Cody, Wyoming.
Curt Gowdy State Park is a must for fans of fishing
Just a 30-minute drive from two of Wyoming’s biggest cities – Laramie and Cheyenne – Curt Gowdy State Park is easy to access and offers a wide variety of outdoor fun.
The park boasts three reservoirs – Crystal, Granite, and North Crow – providing ample opportunities for water sports and fishing for rainbow and brown trout as well as kokanee salmon.
On land, visitors can enjoy abundant hiking and biking trails that cover 35 miles, as well as an archery range. The park’s mountain biking trails are so esteemed that they earned the coveted “Epic” designation from the International Mountain Biking Association back in 2009.
Tent and RV camping options are available, as well as cabins and the historic Hynds Lodge, which hosts a variety of concerts, performances, and cultural events. Reserve a campsite, bring your boat, and don’t panic at the idea of leaving your favorite four-legged friend at home in the stable – a horse corral is available near Aspen Grove. In spring, the park’s variety of habitats makes it a popular migration stop for birds – pack your binoculars and get comfortable.
Peek into the past at Guernsey State Park, which was largely constructed by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. The CCC worked to build the “Castle,” a picnic shelter made of local limestone and hand-hewn logs, as well as a cliff-top museum, Brimmer Point Overlook, and other park trails and infrastructure.
Today, the park contains numerous campgrounds, yurts, and hiking and biking trails. Horses are welcome on some roads and hiking trails, and geocaching locations are found in the park. Several beach areas and boat access (water level permitting) allow people to make the most of the lake.
This is the perfect location for fans of US history. Nearby, south of Guernsey, Oregon Trail wagon ruts are visible at the Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site, showing just where people passed by with their wagons in the 1800s. The Register Cliff Historic Site, also near the park, acted as a living record of the emigrants that passed by and carved their names into the soft limestone cliff before continuing their arduous journey – some of the earliest signatures date back to the 1840s.
Feel your stress and tension melt away at Hot Springs State Park
Come to Hot Springs State Park tense and stressed from urban overload and leave relaxed and thoroughly unwound. Slip into the mineral hot springs at the free bathhouse – the water temperature is maintained at a therapeutic 104 degrees – and gaze at the stunning surrounding landscape as you unwind.
Now you’re re-energized and ready to go, there are six miles of trails just waiting for you. Be sure to bring your camera and walk across the river on the “Swinging Bridge” – it provides views of 128-degree water pouring into the river down the Mineral Terrace. Look out for bison and spectacular summer flowers, go fishing, and use the boat ramp to get out on the water. While the park is day-use only, camping and lodging are available in nearby Thermopolis.
Rock climbers will love what Sinks Canyon State Park has to offer
Named for the strange disappearing act the Popo Agie River performs within its boundaries, Sinks Canyon State Park is a favorite state park located near Lander. The river sinks into the earth, vanishing into an underground cavern, before reappearing a quarter-mile away.
Best known for its incredible rock climbing opportunities, Sinks Canyon State Park is also popular among the trail-loving crowd, with plenty of solid hiking and mountain biking options. Make it an overnight trip by renting a spot at the campsite or one of the four yurts on offer. The park is home to lots of wildlife, so keep your eye out for critters like deer, golden eagles, and marmots.