Itinerary: A Long Weekend in Southwest Wyoming

Flaming Gorge
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte
Killpecker Sand Dunes
Evanston Scenery
Bear River

Not only is a road trip through Southwest Wyoming unimaginably scenic, it’s also incredibly practical. Climbing gas prices mean you want to get the most of your vacation money and, because Wyoming has so many free and low-cost attractions, you’ll do just that.

Follow the route below for guaranteed wildlife sightings, pioneer and ancient history landmarks, mountain vistas and small-town Wyoming charms. Bring along an inclination for a leisurely pace and gear for hiking, fishing, mountain biking, kayaking or canoeing — you’ll find plenty of places to use them!

Days 1 and 2

Start in
Evanston, Wyoming’s southwestern-most town, located on Interstate 80 near the Utah border. Encircled by the Uinta Mountains, Evanston is a great place for hittin’ the trails. In town, visit Joss House, an 1894 Taoist temple that served as a place of worship for the large Chinese community that once lived here, and stroll historic downtown to find shops and restaurants.

Take a visit to nearby Bear River State Park to see elk and bison roam and amble along the Bear River Greenway, a trail that starts in the park and runs along the river.

Next, head west on I-80 toward the town of Green River. Veer off the interstate at the 20-mile Bridger Valley Historic Byway Stop to explore the Fort Bridger State Historic Site, an 1843 pioneers trading post, and a handful of old towns that sat on the Pony Express route, the California/Oregon Trail and the Mormon Trail.

Once you loop back to I-80, Green River is just about 40 miles away. The town is a great base for exploring the treasures of the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area to the south and Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge to the north.

Flaming Gorge is named for the awesome, kaleidoscopic colors of its landscape. It’s truly a land of living color, with many rock formations changing colors and perspective with the varying sun. The reservoir within boasts 375 miles of shoreline.

Seedskadee’s 27,000 acres along the Green River itself are home to great blue heron, northern pintail ducks, bald eagles, pronghorn, moose, river otters and more than 200 other wildlife species.

Day 3

Travel west again on I-80 to Rock Springs, just 18 miles from Green River. Check out the 
Community Fine Arts Center, which houses works by world-famous artists such as Norman Rockwell and Grandma Moses, and the Rock Springs Historical Museum.

A short drive north of Rock Springs on Hwy. 191 are the Killpecker Sand Dunes, North America’s largest active dunes. The massive, shifting dunes are popular with OHV enthusiasts, but there are also hiking trails that are great for exploring them.

Continue north for 90 miles on Hwy. 191 to the town of Pinedale. Check into one of the area’s welcoming dude and guest ranches, where the area’s Old West character remains in full effect. If you have the time, stay a few days for trail rides, trap shooting and down-home cooking at the base of the aspen-filled Wind River Mountains. (Call ahead to make a reservation.)

To learn about Pinedale’s rugged past, stop into the Museum of the Mountain Man, where you’ll find relics of the Rocky Mountain fur trade, historic photos and much more.

Day 4

Pinedale is also just outside the Bridger Teton National Forest
, with 3.4 million acres of mountain paradise. Stay and play in the forest on your own or with the help of Pinedale’s many outfitters, or continue to loop around this part of the state by heading southwest to Kemmerer and Fossil Butte National Monument, 100 miles from Pinedale along Hwy. 189 through the lush Green River Valley.

Pull over in Big Piney, where you’ll find the Green River Valley Museum’s displays of early ranching life, as well as a handful of cafes. Continue on to Fossil Butte. The monument is a 50-million-year-old lakebed that holds the world’s largest deposit of freshwater fossils, including fish, insects, reptiles, plants, birds and mammals that tell the story of Wyoming’s ancient past.  

Finish up with a leisurely turn on the Big Spring Scenic Backway, a 68-mile former wagon-train route from Kemmerer to Cokeville (high-clearance vehicles are recommended for the western portion of the backway). The drive winds through river valleys, the alpine-forested Tunp Mountain Range, remnants of old homesteads and the ladder-esque Big Spring waterfall and picnic area.

Click here for a basic driving map of this southwest Wyoming itinerary.

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