5 Reasons Why Your Next Fall Trip Needs to be to Wyoming’s Wind River Country

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Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Sunset in Dubois.
Sunset in Dubois. Photo credit: William Vangroll
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Traditions. They are great, aren’t they? A Fourth of July parade down Main Street. Football on Thanksgiving day. Seeing the leaves change color in fall in New England. Traditions are the bedrock of our yearly routine. What if I told you you can still have your fall tradition but with a Western twist? It is true.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Enjoy the Fall colors on The Loop Road, near South Pass City, Wyoming, as you descend from 9,500 feet to Sinks Canyon State Park.
Enjoy the Fall colors on The Loop Road, near South Pass City, Wyoming, as you descend from 9,500 feet to Sinks Canyon State Park. Photo credit: William Vangroll

A stunningly beautiful, tranquil, and harsh landscape in the upper northwest part of Wyoming, south of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming’s Wind River Country is home to the towns of Dubois, Hudson, Lander, Riverton, Shoshoni, the Wind River Indian Reservation, and other smaller towns.

The area is vast and expansive, as you would expect for being out west, however, what is most surprising is the variation in tree color, rapid changes in terrain, and the peaceful silence you can only get in a place like Wyoming.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - View from the scenic overlook in the town of Dubois, Wyoming. Dubois Badlands in the foreground and the snowcapped Absaroka mountains in the background.
View from the scenic overlook in the town of Dubois, Wyoming. Dubois Badlands in the foreground and the snowcapped Absaroka mountains in the background. Photo credit: William Vangroll

Reason #5: So Many Things to Do in Wyoming’s Wind River Country

Most visitors think of Wyoming as only having winter sports like snowmobiling or skiing at Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, or Grand Teton National Park. Wyoming’s Wind River Country is in the middle of many mountain ranges, each with an individual look and feel providing opportunities for many outdoor adventures.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Groups of 4-6 are guided down the Wind River.
Groups of 4-6 are guided down the Wind River. Weather permitting, you can jump out and swim in the river. Photo credit: William Vangroll

Floating Down the Wind River

One of the best ways to experience Wyoming’s Wind River Country is an outdoor adventure of floating down the Wind River. The Wind River flows through northwest Wyoming and the Wind River Indian Reservation. The Wind River Indian Reservation is home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Indian Tribes and spans a large part of Wyoming’s Wind River Country.

Big Wind River Float Trips and Fly Fishing (BWFT) is a 100% Native American-owned company. They are a permitted outfitter of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes and recently started service out of Dubois.

We were privileged to have Yvonne as our guide. We chose the two-hour scenic float with the additional lunch afterward. I highly recommend this tour!

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Upper Dinwoody Lake.
Upper Dinwoody Lake. Photo credit: William Vangroll

Upper Dinwoody Lake

As you float down the river, you’ll see the Wind River Range, the longest single continuous chain of the Rocky Mountains, change from red to green, and rough to smooth.

As a special treat, limited only to BFWT as a permitted Native American outfitter, we pulled over to the river bank where Yvonne took us to see ancient petroglyphs carved in the mountains. These amazing relics were only the appetizer for what was to come.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Ancient Petroglyphs
Ancient Petroglyphs are believed to be part of the ancient Native American culture of the Eastern Shoshone tribes. Photo credit: William Vangroll

After the float, we drove up to Upper Dinwoody Lake, a glacier-fed lake on the edge of the Shoshone National Forest.

We enjoyed lunch on the edge of the beautiful lake, then followed a path up the mountain to see more elaborate, stunning petroglyphs. These drawings are thought to be thousands of years old and are done with tapping and scraping tools.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - The left side of the D-Day Amphibious Assualt exhibit at the National Museum of Military Vehicles.
The left side of the D-Day Amphibious Assualt exhibit at the National Museum of Military Vehicles. Photo credit: William Vangroll

National Museum of Military Vehicles

A phenomenal indoor attraction a short drive from Dinwoody Lake to Dubois is the National Museum of Military Vehicles. This is not your average museum. With more than 160,000 square feet of exhibit space, and 500 fully restored tanks and vehicles, it is the largest privately funded military museum in the country.

Like everything in Wyoming, it is hard to appreciate the scale of this museum through a photo. There is so much thought and detail around every corner, you could spend two days touring it and not see everything.

Free tours are offered daily and if you go on Saturday, you may be treated to a tour by the museum’s founder Dan Starks.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Private John Simpson’s Musket, a .79-caliber Dutch flintlock musket that fired the first shot at Bunker Hill in 1775
In addition to military vehicles, the museum boasts over 200 military weapons. One highlight is Private John Simpson’s Musket, a .79-caliber Dutch flintlock musket that fired the first shot at Bunker Hill in 1775. Photo credit: William Vangroll

SheBuysTravel Tip: After touring the museum, go next door to the Canteen restaurant for a fresh made-from-scratch milkshake.

Take a Hike or Bike the Mountain

If you are a serious trail hiker, a casual backpacker or enjoy mountain biking, fall is an amazing time to find a trailhead. You can even trek part of the more than 500 miles of the Continental Divide Trail that winds through Wyoming.

The town of Lander recently became the fourth Gateway Community of the Continental Divide Trail. Along with Pinedale, Rawlins, and Encampment-Riverside, these self-selected towns support trail users in various ways such as providing package pickup and resupply locations.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Carissa mine building, and gold melting furnace.
Carissa mine building, and gold melting furnace. English Tunnel and the not-so-wildest ride in the wilderness! Photo credit: William Vangroll

Pan for Gold

South Pass City is a state historical site of two former gold mines – the largest mine named Carissa and the English Tunnel.

Positioned in a small valley along Willow Creek on the southeastern end of the Wind River Mountains, South Pass City was founded in 1867 and was a former Oregon Trail station. You can tour both mines, walk through the restored structures (including an outhouse) of the town, and pan for gold in Willow Creek.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Sign marking the start of a mountain biking trail system in Dubois.
Sign marking the start of a mountain biking trail system in Dubois. Photo credit: William Vangroll

Reason #4: Real Fall Feel

I imagine by now you are asking: “William, fall is supposed to be about colors, pumpkins, and layered clothing choices. Where are they?”

Don’t worry, Wyoming’s Wind River Country has you covered. The colors are in the mountains and fields which you can enjoy on the many turnouts on the roads. A secret unpaved road named “The Loop Road” is a must-do. It passes through Sinks Canyon State Park and starts and ends at Lander.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - View of a butte on the Loop Pass Road.
View of a butte on the Loop Pass Road. Photo credit: William Vangroll

The 70-mile scenic drive through the Shoshone National Forest, meanders over the Little Popo Agie River, around high mountain lakes, and back and forth with switchbacks. You might enjoy sliding down Popo Agie Falls if you are daring enough.

As you descend the mountain, stop at the Sinks Canyon State Park  Visitor Center to take in the Popo Agie River as it goes into a limestone cavern. It comes up out of the cavern miles down the road at The Rise.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Popo Agie river going under the mountain towards The Rise.
Popo Agie River going under the mountain towards The Rise. Photo credit: William Vangroll

SheBuysTravel Tip: Make a stop a couple of miles down the road at The Rise and peek over the railing to see the huge trout in the pool. You can even feed them fish food from a nearby vending machine.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Sunrise behind the “Dust of the Fur Trade” sculpture in Lander.
Sunrise behind the “Dust of the Fur Trade” sculpture in Lander. Photo credit: William Vangroll

Marvel at the Sun

Fall in Wyoming also comes with gentle sunrises and crisp sunsets. The mountains provide a great backdrop for any shutterbug who is an early riser or finds themselves near one of the many outstanding sculptures or murals found all over the towns.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Obligatory tourist selfie in front of the Red River Canyon along the Southern Wind River Mountains
Obligatory tourist selfie in front of the Red River Canyon along the Southern Wind River Mountains (in Fall layers too!). Photo credit: William Vangroll

Reason #4: Beautiful Fall Weather

Weather in the fall in Wyoming is similar to the Northeast. It can be cool in the morning, warm up in the midday, then drop to cold when the sun goes down. It is not uncommon to come out of your pine lodge cabin and see newly fallen snow on the distant mountain peaks.

Read More: Complete Yellowstone Packing List

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Welcome to Atlantic City.
Welcome to Atlantic City. Photo: Wind River Country / Brad Christensen

Reason #3: Lack of Crowds

If you live in or near any city, you are familiar with crowds. Crowds in line at the grocery store, theme parks, and restaurants. Even our national parks – yes, you too Yellowstone – have crowds overflowing their capacity.

However, since fall in Wyoming is a shoulder season, meaning the summer crowds have gone and the winter crowds have not arrived, you can visit places like Atlantic City, a town with a population of about 57, enjoy a state monument by pulling over on the side of the road, or take in a historic site sometimes without seeing anyone else.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Sacajawea cemetery monument and grave.
Sacajawea cemetery monument and grave. Photo credit: William Vangroll

Native American Culture

There are many Native American cultural spots in Wyoming’s Wind River Country to choose from. Most of the area is in the Wind River Indian Reservation and is home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Indian Tribes, which is special to the area.

One Native American cultural spot worth stopping at is the Sacagawea Cemetery and grave site. There is a monument and plaque highlighting her contributions to the Eastern Shoshone tribe and the Lewis and Clark expeditions.

In the fall, you can spend as much or little time at sites without the feeling of being rushed by others waiting for their turn.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Use the turnout on Route 26 to view Crowheart Butte and read about the amazing history behind it.
Use the turnout on Route 26 to view Crowheart Butte and read about the amazing history behind it. Photo credit: William Vangroll

Reason #2: Authentic Locations

The towns of Dubois, Hudson, Lander, Riverton, Shoshoni, the Wind River Indian Reservation, Atlantic City, South Pass City, and other smaller towns make up Wyoming’s Wind River Country.

These towns embrace everything they are and don’t pretend to be something they are not. They look and feel as different from each other as the scenery that surrounds them.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Folks in western Wyoming have a sense of humor.
Folks in western Wyoming have a sense of humor. Photo credit: William Vangroll

The town of Riverton, Wyoming, has a “big city” feel with car dealers, chain restaurants, and mainstream banks but was small enough that when we discovered the Fall Festival on Main Street, everyone greeted us as neighbors.

It is the only town in Wyoming’s Wind River Country with a commercial airport and is a quick 45-minute flight from Denver, Colorado.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - A map of where your food comes from on the wall of the year-round Farmers Market store in downtown Riverton.
A map of where your food comes from on the wall of the year-round Farmers Market store in downtown Riverton. Photo credit: William Vangroll

Dubois, Wyoming is the closest to a classic western town. The town is situated south of Yellowstone National Park, and surrounded by Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest, and Gannett Peak.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Part of Dubois’ classic western Main Street.
Part of Dubois’ classic western Main Street. Photo credit: William Vangroll

It has everything you think a Western town should. The stores on Main Street are made of knotty pine, the sidewalks are wooden planks, and there is a great cowboy restaurant bar and a “Cowboy Cafe.”

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - There is a trading post store, a Pine Lodge with cabins, two antler archways, and a few non-human friends roaming the streets.
There is a trading post store, a Pine Lodge with cabins, two antler archways, and a few non-human friends roaming the streets. Photo credit: William Vangroll

Reason #1: The Scenery

Wyoming can feel like a big road trip. I have to admit I was a bit worried about the time in a car traveling across a state where the towns are 70+ miles apart from each other.

I am an East Coaster and road trips mean very frustrating and exhausting drives from Virginia north to New Hampshire, through New York, and Massachusetts.

Driving in Wyoming is the complete opposite. It may sound cliche, but there was always something to see. Always. Each road seemed to bring another winding river, or colorfully jagged mountain, a field of bison, or a cliff full of antelope.

Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Views from the Wyoming roads.
Views from the Wyoming roads. Photo credit: William Vangroll
Wyoming’s Wind River Country - Town of South Pass City and Willow Creek.
Town of South Pass City and Willow Creek. Photo credit: William Vangroll

Hopefully, by now, you have been able to see just how colorful Wyoming’s Wind River Country truly is. In the four days I spent there, I captured more than 500 photos. Everything from rocks, flowers, rivers, mountains, petroglyphs, sunrises, sunsets, statues, fish, birds, bison, and much more. You cannot help yourself.