People want to start traveling again, yet many are understandably unsure about how that looks. The desire to satisfy wanderlust but in a safe manner has inspired the revival of the great American road trip, where your vehicle is your guide to expansive destinations and unique locations. The state of Wyoming tops many people’s road trip bucket lists.
Wyoming is the least populous state in the country — even though it’s the 10th largest in terms of surface area — with 48% of the state Federal Public Land and nearly 6% State Public Land. This makes it the ideal destination for travelers looking to explore while keeping social distancing and health measures in mind. What’s more, with 20 scenic byways, it’s the perfect road trip state, where your vehicle can twist and climb through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world.
Planning a road trip in 2020 and beyond
Here are a few tips to properly prepare before taking off on your adventure.
1. Plan accordingly
With many government agencies and visitors’ centers operating with reduced staff and resources due to COVID-19, planning is essential. Most campsites are requiring reservations currently. In a year when road trips have become the ideal vacation, be sure to check the status of the destinations you want to visit. If they are at capacity or closed, prepare a back-up plan to ensure a memorable and fun vacation.
2. Remember to be mindful
Being a mindful traveler is key when exploring Wyoming’s wilderness. The staff of the Lander, Wyoming-based National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) are experts in wilderness education, helping prepare adventurers to experience the great outdoors. When out exploring, NOLS recommends adventurers stick to the trails as to not disturb nature. For those unfamiliar with an area, it is important to slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce risk of injury, especially as many healthcare resources are strained at this time.
Visitors can encounter wildlife anywhere in the West but be sure to always keep a safe distance. Stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards away from other animals, such as bison and elk. Remember to never feed wild animals and keep food and trash away from your campsite to avoid unwanted encounters.
3. Pack with health in mind
Pack an abundance of snacks and drinks in the car so your travel crew can conveniently munch whenever hunger or thirst strikes. Additionally, Wyoming’s high altitude and climate can sometimes surprise visitors (especially those coming from sea-level locations), so it is important to prepare for the altitude by staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water.
To limit risks and potential exposure to germs, pack face masks, disposable gloves and sanitation supplies like wet wipes and hand sanitizer to keep everything clean.
4. Customize your itinerary
There are many ways to explore Wyoming and you can customize your trip to your interests and timeline. To get inspired, the Wyoming Office of Tourism shares four main road trip itineraries, perfect for late summer and early fall.
The high season for travel in Wyoming typically runs through October, but shoulder season in November offers another option to avoid large crowds and enjoy off-season deals on accommodations.
- Park to Park: Follow a popular early 1900s auto route connecting 12 national parks in the West, from Wyoming’s capital city to quaint small towns that move at a refreshingly slower pace. A few places to explore include Terry Bison Ranch, Hot Springs State Park, Ayres Natural Bridge and Garden Creek Falls.
- Rockies to Tetons: Epic outdoor pursuits await on a road trip through the Rocky Mountains to the Teton Range, where the beauty of the Snowy, Medicine Bow, Seminoe and Wind River mountain ranges heighten the scenery — literally. Immerse yourself in nature with activities like rock climbing, hiking and biking, and delve into American Indian, women’s suffrage and frontier history.
- Black to Yellow: During your journey from northeast Wyoming’s Black Hills to Yellowstone, you can step into the past to meet larger-than-life characters like Buffalo Bill Cody and find out what life was like in Wyoming during different periods in history by exploring Old Town in Upton. Enjoy exhibits on paleontology, archaeology, and Wyoming’s early settlements at the Washakie Museum & Cultural Center. This route includes stops at places like Devils Tower National Monument, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area and Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
- Salt to Stone: Welcoming small towns brimming with local flavor and stretches of unscathed wilderness await visitors traveling from Salt Lake City into southwest Wyoming and northward to Yellowstone. Discover dreamy mountain vistas, hike around Green River Lakes and Square Top Mountain, and tour museums and attractions that showcase Western culture. Stops include Flaming Gorge, Fort Bridger State Historic Site, Fossil Butte National Monument, National Elk Refuge and Kodiak Mountain Resort in Afton.
For more road trip information and exploration ideas, visit travelwyoming.com.