15 Things Wyoming is Known and Famous for

Straddling the Rocky Mountains and the High Plains of the American interior is the great state of Wyoming. Small in population but mighty in character, the Cowboy State is the epitome of the wild, wild West. Wyoming is also a state of many firsts — the first national park, the first state to grant women’s suffrage, among others.

Wyoming is famous for its scenic byways, natural monuments, diversity of ecosystems, and national parks like Yellowstone. Wyoming is also known as the first state to grant women the right to vote.

Saddle up and get ready to ride through these 15 things that make Wyoming unique in the union.

1. Indigenous history

Wyoming State Capitol Building and statue of Chief Washakie, head of the Eastern Shoshones

Humans have inhabited Wyoming for over 12,000 years, carving out trade routes and paths across the rugged, sprawling lands and constructing monuments like the Medicine Wheel.

The stone monument, which served as a center of spiritual ceremony, is located in Bighorn National Forest and is one of the largest and most well-preserved of its kind.

Wyoming is also the resting place of Sacagawea, a Shoshone woman who guided U.S. explorers across the West in the early 1800s. She is buried within the Wind River Indian Reservation. 

The Wind River Indian Reservation is located in the heart of Wyoming and is shared by the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho peoples. Together, the tribes operate cultural centers, casinos and ecotourism within the 2.2 million-acre reservation. 

2. Suffrage

National League of Women Voters hold up signs reading, 'VOTE', Sept. 17, 1924.

Wyoming is famous for women’s suffrage, being the first place (it was a territory at the time) in the United States to grant women the right to vote. Starting in 1869, women could head to the ballot boxes over 60 years before the 19th Amendment granted universal suffrage. 

At the same time, the territory also granted the women the right to hold office, own and inherit property and legal guardianship of children. All of these advances were incorporated into the state constitution in 1890.

Wyoming also elected Nellie Taylor Ross to governorship in 1925, making her the first woman to serve as a state governor. The election earned Wyoming the apt nickname of the Equality State. 

3. Low population

Buford is an unincorporated community. It is the highest populated settlement along Interstate 80 and First Transcontinental Railroad.
Editorial credit: EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

Wyoming has the lowest population in all of the United States, with only 581,348 people even though the state is one of the largest by physical area. Only Alaska has a lower population density than Wyoming. 

Almost 80 percent of Wyomingites live in one of the state’s ten biggest cities, leading to large swaths of land where people are few and far between.

There’s a ruggedness to the wild landscape of Wyoming, lonely stretches of highway with dozens of miles between settlements, that makes the state so unique. 

4. Winter sports 

Wyoming skiing

Bring your coats and gloves, because wintertime Wyoming gets cold. The average temperature ranges between 5 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 to -15 Celsius), with some parts of the state averaging 5 below zero. 

But that winter chill means plenty of opportunities for winter sports. Wyoming’s got it all — ice climbing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and ice fishing.

Above all, Wyoming is a renowned destination for skiing and snowboarding. You can seek expert challenges at Jackson Hole, opt for stunning scenery of the Tetons at Grand Targhee or head to one of the several other excellent resorts in the Cowboy State. 

5. Rodeos

Multiple World Champion Saddle Bronc rider, Dan Mortensen, makes a successful ride at the 2005 Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo.
Editorial credit: Lincoln Rogers / Shutterstock.com

Given its nickname as the Cowboy State, it only makes sense that there are a fair share of rodeos in Wyoming. In fact, Wyoming is famous for rodeos big and small.

Cheyenne Frontier Days, one such rodeo, is held annually for nine days in the summer. The rodeo is one of the largest outdoor rodeos in the world. 

Strap on those boots and grab your cowboy hat to see some of the world’s best riders brave buckin’ broncos and rope cattle. Other rodeos occur all across the state, forming an integral part of the Wyoming culture and heritage.

6. Sagebrush

View of green sagebrush shrub (artemisia tridentate) in Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, Wyoming, United States

Wyoming is known for its sagebrush steppes, which stretch across much of the central and southwestern reaches of the state.

Sagebrush refers to a variety of shrub plant species that define different ecoregions of the Mountain West. The steppes sit at high elevations amid arid regions, providing habitats for hundreds of vertebrate species like the sage grouse, pronghorn antelope and mule deer, for example.

Sagebrush has also been known to be used by Native American peoples in smudging, a ceremonial practice that involves the burning of sacred herbs for spiritual cleansing. 

When present, sagebrush dominates the landscape and, if you don’t look closely, might appear barren. The silvery-green stalks, however, provide critical ecosystem functions and are important to both wild and domesticated grazing species. 

7. Red Desert

Aerial view of Red Desert, Wyoming

Wyoming is known for the Red Desert, a high-altitude desert in the state’s southwest. Once part of an inland sea, it is now an arid basin around which the Continental Divide splits and rejoins.

The Red Desert is a land of rugged canyons, sand dunes and badlands, among which roam the largest herd of pronghorn antelopes in the continental U.S., the world’s largest herd of desert elk and herds of wild horses. 

You can also find all sorts of migratory bird species in the Red Desert throughout the year. Within the desert is the largest unfenced area in the continental United States, which greatly aids the migratory species through its boundaries. 

The desert is rich in natural resources and ecological diversity, making it a contentious landscape between industrialists and conservationists. 

8. Wild horses

Wild Mustangs Horses against beautiful mountain landscape Wyoming USA

Nothing is quite like watching a wild horse race across an untamed landscape. In Wyoming, you can do just that, if you’re lucky. Wyoming is famous for its mustang herds, which predominantly gallop across the southwestern quarter of the state. 

Remember how I said the Red Desert is one of the largest unfenced areas in the continental United States? That fact is critical to maintaining the wild horse herds, granting them ample space to relish in their freedom. But you can find mustangs in many parts of the state. The BLM estimates there are some 6,000 wild horses in Wyoming. 

9. Smith Mansion

Wacky wooden buildings. This is the Smith Mansion just outside Cody Wyoming.
Editorial credit: Grossinger / Shutterstock.com

Smith Mansion may be one of Wyoming’s lesser-known attractions, but catching a glimpse of it as I drove back and forth along the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway was enough to arouse my curiosity. 

Constructed solely by engineer Lee Smith in the 1980s and 90s, the mansion is a dizzying, thorny mass of logs that rises from the landscape in Wapiti Valley. It was initially planned as a regular log home, but once he started, Smith could not stop. He labored for over a decade, creating a bizarre arrangement of juxtaposed rooms, tottering floors and lofty balconies. 

Construction only stopped when he fell to his death from one of the upper perches, leaving a peculiar landmark and a testament to the ambitious invention of one man. 

10. Hot springs and geysers

Grand Prismatic Spring in Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

If you’re strolling through Yellowstone and you inhale the pungent stench of sulfur instead of crisp alpine air, don’t be alarmed. That’s because the park is a hotbed of geothermal features, many of which release a…fragrant sulfuric gas. 

Wyoming is famous for its geothermal activity like hot springs and geysers, most of which are concentrated in Yellowstone National Park. Over half of the world’s (and yes, you read that correctly) geysers are located within the national park.  

But geothermal features don’t stop there. There are several other notable hot springs located around the state, like Hot Springs Park in Thermopolis and Saratoga Hot Springs in the southern part of the state. 

11. Scenic byways

Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, Road 296, Wyoming, USA. Scenic view of Rocky Mountains from Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

Wyoming is also known for its scenic byways. It has designated almost 20 routes through untouched national forests, endless grasslands and twisting canyon roads. 

One such route is Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway, which winds through a state park of the same name as you approach the East Entrance of Yellowstone. Former president and naturalist Teddy Roosevelt described it as “the most scenic 50 miles in the world.” After a sunset drive through its astonishing rock formations and piny forests, you’ll find it hard to disagree. 

Another jaw-dropping byway is the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway. The route takes you along the canyon floor for some 40 minutes, beside the rushing Wind River, with soaring cliffs that hedge you in on both sides. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, several dozen of which are said to roam the steep walls of the canyon. 

But that’s not all of the routes in the Cowboy State. A brochure of scenic byways can be found here. 

12. Public land

A pronghorn antelope crosses the Red Desert in southern Wyoming.

All this talk of deserts, hot springs sagebrush makes one thing clear — that Wyoming has lots of land. But did you know that almost half of the land in Wyoming is owned by the federal government? 

The Bureau of Land Management (the federal agency that, well, manages public land) maintains some 61 million acres in Wyoming. The vast majority of that acreage contains mineral and energy reserves for future or current resource extraction. 

The remaining land, some 18 million acres, encompasses some of the ecological and natural treasures only found in Wyoming. Like, for example, the state’s two iconic national parks. 

13. Yellowstone

A sunset landscape at the Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park, where steam rises from geyser vents and hot springs near a forest of lodgepole pine trees, and a herd of bison is grazing.

In the northwest corner of Wyoming (and bleeding into Montana and Idaho) lies Yellowstone National Park, which was the first established national park in the United States and perhaps the first of its kind in the world. 

Seated atop the Yellowstone Supervolcano, the park is famous for its geothermal activity like geysers, hot springs and mud pots. There are over 10,000 thermal features across the park, such as the Old Faithful geyser and Mammoth Hot Springs. Beyond the thermal features, 

Yellowstone offers incredible outdoor recreational activities like fishing along its lakes and rivers, casual and backcountry hiking, camping and wildlife viewing. The park is home to massive herds of bison and elk, almost 300 species of birds and black and brown bears. Currently, eight packs of gray wolves live within the park, after an effort to reintroduce them in the late 20th century proved enormously successful. 

Humans have not ceased to marvel at the park since they first stepped foot in the land 11,000 years ago. And for good reason — the beauty of Yellowstone is truly incomparable. From the golden canyon walls of the Yellowstone River and the smoking steam vents like Dragon’s Mouth Spring to the flowery banks of the lake of the same name and the bison herds grazing in Hayden Valley, the first national park is unlike any place on Earth. 

14. The Tetons 

Bison in front of Grand Teton Mountain range with grass in foreground

Just south of Yellowstone, the Teton Range rises dramatically from the landscape, the snow-capped wall of stone around which Grand Teton National Park spreads. On its eastern edge, a scenic highway offers spectacular views as it winds along the sagebrush fields, lakes and streams. 

Long-vanished glaciers sculpted the peaks which can be explored on more than 200 miles of hiking trails. Like in many national parks, you need a permit for backcountry camping and a good deal of planning to make sure you stay safe, sound and bear-free. 

If intense backpacking isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other activities in Grand Teton. Boating and floating are common along waterways like the Snake River and Jackson Lake. There are also a number of public access foot trails that allow you to enjoy the wild nature of the park with stunning views. 

15. National monuments

Devils tower

In addition to two national parks, Wyoming is famous for Devils Tower and Fossil Butte national monuments. 

The Devils Tower was the first national monument, making Wyoming the state of firsts in honoring the nation’s natural heritage. The monument is also called Bear Lodge Butte in accordance with its name in various indigenous languages, as the 867 foot-tall rock tower is sacred to various peoples. 

Fossil Butte is a now-dry freshwater basin where dozens of specimens from 56 to 34 million years ago are preserved as fossils, from insects and plants to bats and crocodiles. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this digital ride across the Cowboy State. Let us know in the comments what else makes Wyoming special.

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