Story by Kristin Schaeffer
With warmer weather, green grass, and sunny days the stirrings of cabin fever can often be felt surfing on sun rays through office windows. Are you longing for lungfuls of our fresh mountain air, the sound of water lapping on rocks, sun kissed cheeks, and adventuring memories fit for the record books? Is work suffering because you’re daydreaming about getting out on the river to collect new fodder for epic fishing tales?
Luckily, Casper is centrally located in one of the most recreation-rich areas of the West. Only short road trips, some as short as 15 minutes, separate Casper’s adventure junkies from this summer’s stories you’ll be telling around campfires for years to come. So pack a lunch, pack a swimsuit, or your favorite activity gear, fill your tank, and get on the road to one of the places on our list. Destination: Daycation.
Located between Pathfinder Dam and Alcova, Fremont Canyon calls to rock climbers, fishermen, photographers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. For fishermen the stretch of water boasts Brown, Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout on approximately two miles of fishing area. A low trout population offers challenging fishing experiences, but when you catch one their size makes it worth the effort.
Climbers will find routes anywhere from 40 to 400 feet long. It’s a good place to climb for most experience levels as there are routes rated from 5.6 to 5.13d. Halfway, Flip Top, and Low Voltage are the lowest rated routes. Routes named All Time Loser, Distant Thunder, Superman and Orion are the routes for more advanced climbers.
Hell’s Half Acre
Colorful Spires and land formations cover nearly 320 acres at Hell’s Half Acre, located approximately 40 miles west of Casper on US 20/26, despite its misleading name. Besides being an impressive site to see, evidence suggests that the gorge played a role in an area Native American buffalo hunts. It is thought that the hunters drove the buffalo into the gorge to trap them amongst the formations where they then killed them.
In more recent history a store, restaurant and hotel stood at the attraction until 2005 and the filming of scenes for Starship Troopers is Hell’s Half Acre claim to fame on the big screen.
Buffalo is a quaint town rich with history. Its lazy creek running right through the edge of town provides glimpses of trout swimming an a relaxing view from the Busy Bee Cafe windows, (favorite of the fictitious Walt Longmire).
Buffalo is known for its Occidental Hotel and stories of famous outlaws prowling the nearby Big Horn Mountains, where Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch hid out in the Hole-in-the-Wall, now private land – (visit http://www.willowcreekranch.com to learn how to visit).
While in Buffalo, don’t miss the Jim Gatchell Museum and plan your visit around Longmire Days, a fun festival devoted to the Longmire television show based on books by Wyoming Author Craig Johnson.
Miracle Mile Canyon or Kortes Canyon is a 5.5 mile stretch of tailwater between Pathfinder and Siminoe Reservoirs. Fishermen will find Rainbow and Brown Trout and the occasional Cutthroat or two on the Mile.
Each year Wyoming Game and Fish biologists confirm the existence of Brown Trout on the mile who weigh more than 10 pounds. Book a guide at Ugly Bug Fly Shop, or call Crazy Rainbow Fly Fishing directly.
Whether fishing with friends, family or with our local guides, you’re sure to have a great time and catch some big fish!
Not a lot has changed in Cody since it was founded in 1896. Just as they could more than 100 years ago, visitors can hear gun shots in the streets, (gun fight reenactments) and see world-class rodeos. Yellowstone National Park is nearby, and there’s something for everyone to do in Cody.
From hiking, biking, rafting and rock-climbing to kayaking, fishing and horse-back riding the potential for summer fun is endless for all the outdoorsy types traveling in Wyoming. Do you enjoy more of an inside vacation activity? Be sure to see all the museums and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West!
Located near the northern end of Wind River Canyon, Thermopolis is home to Hot Springs State Park which claims the largest mineral hot spring in the world and a herd of American Bison.
Also located in Thermopolis is the Wyoming Dinosaur Center; the only museum this side of the Atlantic to house fossil remains of an Archaeopteryx. It’s also on of the only museums within driving distance of some of its dig sites!
Dinosaurs and hot spring soaks provide a unique getaway for the historically minded in need of relaxation! But really, who doesn’t love dinosaurs and hot springs?
Box Elder Canyon
Box Elder Canyon is six miles south of Glenrock. From Casper take I-25 to the Glenrock exit and about 1.5 miles east of Glenrock on highway 20/87, turn south on County Rd 90, Box Elder Rd and drive about 6 miles south. After a steep climb you will see a pullout on the left at the crest of the road.
The Canyon’s rapids are somewhat advanced and best suited for advanced kayakers. Hiking is the main draw to the Canyon and Converse County Park. While West Winds Magazine did find indications that Box Elder Canyon is a rock climbing area, we were unable to find any information on set routes. If you have information please post it on our facebook page.
In 1906 Theodore Roosevelt passed the Antiquities Act and Devil’s Tower became the first National Monument on Sept. 24. Largely thought to have been formed by lava and revealed through erosion, the tower is the main attraction. Like so many landmasses in Wyoming it is an oddity and worth the time to explore, walk the trail that traverses the perimeter of the formation.
Visiting the information center at the base of the tower is a must. It’s full of interesting facts that help the visitor to understand the historical significance the tower had to Native American tribes in surrounding areas. With proper permits, climbing Devil’s Tower is even a possibility!
Ayers Natural Bridge
As early as 1843 pioneers were visiting the Ayers Natural Bridge located within 5 miles of 1-25 off exit 151 only a mile from the Oregon Trail. The 30 foot high, 50 foot wide arch was formed over time by LaPrele Creek wearing away a large rock wall.
The arch can be found in 150 acre Ayers Natural Bridge Park, where visitors can wade in the creek, camp and frolic while eating a picnic at the picnic tables.
The free to visit par is open from April 1 to October 31. Go see it this summer. There’s no excuse not to!
In 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the Casper-Alcova project to build the Alcova Dam as part of the National Industrial Recovery Act. Alcova lake was borne of this project when the dam was completed in 1937. The lake covers 2,470 surface acres, and offers visitors six campgrounds, eight boat ramps, the Dinosaur Interpretive Trail, marina services, and several beaches.
The lake supports Rainbow, Brown and Cutthroat Trout, and Walleye, and offers fishermen of all ages and levels a rewarding fishing experience. There are small pavilions and picnic areas at many of the beaches. Boating, water skiing, wake boarding, and swimming are also great activities for a day at the lake.
The attraction closest to home, of course, is our very own Casper Mountain. In 15 minutes or less adventurers can be up on the mountain stopping at scenic overlooks on the way to take in breathtaking views of Casper and surrounding areas with visibility for miles.
The mountain offers mountain biking trails, a multitude of hiking trails, the waterfall in Rotary Park, Crimson Dawn Park, (find information about the park and museum at http://www.crimsondawnpark.org), Beartrap Meadow, home of the annual Beartrap Summer Music Festival. There’s so much to do, in fact, that West Winds can’t possibly fit it all here. Visit http://visitcasper.com to learn more.
While Yellowstone is within a few hours driving distance, once inside the park it takes nearly a whole day to drive the entire loop. We recommend making plans ahead of time to camp or stay in one of the lodges. Planning your trip is essential to ensure you have accommodations – they fill up fast!
Some of the highlights and must see areas of Yellowstone include: the Old Faithful Area, Mammoth Hot Springs Area, The Artist Paint Pots, Grand Prismatic Spring, Roaring Mountain and so much more. Yellowstone’s geothermal activity creates so many amazing features to visit and enjoy, you just have to see it.
Majestic views of the jagged peaks of the Teton Mountain Range, wildlife, hiking, camping, water features, and getting back to nature are the draws to Grand Teton National Park. Walk historic trails, unwind, connect with nature, unplug and forget the outside world for a while.
Explore historic homesteading sites like Mormon Row, where Mormon settlers from Idaho built together in the 1890s; Menor’s Ferry, where Bill Menor settled in 1892 and built his General Store to serve the area. J.P. Cunningham settled the area in 1892, but during the economic downturn after WWI proposed the buyout that would form the national park.
The National Memorial featuring the faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln presides over the Black Hills region of Keystone, South Dakota. The drive from Casper to the 60 foot tall memorial is only a few hours, and once in the Black Hills area, is nearly as impressive as the memorial itself.
The sculptures were begun by Guzon Borglum in 1927 by way of federal funding, and construction continued until Borglum’s death in March of 1941. By this time the faces had been completed, but Borglum’s son, Lincoln took over to finish the busts. Funding ran out, however and the project stalled. Finished or not, it’s a great place to visit and ponder how two men singlehandedly tackled such a project!