Tucked away in southeast Wyoming, there’s a little corner of the state that’s a true taste of the American west. From Cheyenne to Laramie to Saratoga and everywhere in between, you’ll experience the tales of well-known outlaws, jaw-dropping landscapes, and immersive western history lessons. Wyoming was also a leader in the fight for women’s equality across the United States, and the legacies of these unsung women are honored throughout southeastern Wyoming and beyond. This three-day road trip highlights the best things to do in Wyoming when you’re exploring the southeastern region of the state.
Day 1: Cheyenne
The first stop is the traditional ancestral land of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ people (Cheyenne, Wyoming). While you can fly into Cheyenne directly, it’s only about an hour and a half drive from Denver, so it makes for an easy road trip if you’re looking for additional flight options. You’ll definitely want to have a car to get around for this three-day journey to see some of the best sights!
Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley Tour
There’s no better way to get to know the Wild West history of Cheyenne than with a trolley tour! The Cheyenne trolley tour is the perfect overview to start off your trip and get the lay of the land in town. It also passes by different museums and attractions so you can decide what you want to go back and see later. In addition to Cheyenne’s history, some of the things you’ll learn about include infamous folks from Wyoming’s past, like Tom Horn, Wild Bill Hickok, and Big Nose George, and you’ll find out why the bell in the St. Mark’s church bell tower randomly rings at 2am.
Cowgirls of the West Museum
It may be small, but this museum packs a punch! The Cowgirls of the West Museum is filled with countless stories about the women that contributed to the American West. The museum features (among many others) sharpshooter Annie Oakley, compassionate mining prospector Nellie Cashman, Tad Lucas who rode bulls during World War I to raise money for the Red Cross, generous Titanic survivor Margaret (Molly) Tobin Brown, and Jeannette Rankin, the first Congresswoman in the United States during a time when most women in the country were not yet allowed to vote. Each of these inspiring women and many others featured in the museum took on roles and earned achievements some women couldn’t even fathom at that time.
The Wrangler Western Store
One of my favorite shops in town, this three-story red brick building is hard to miss. The store started as family western wear store, and is the place to go for authentic western attire. Don’t be confused if you see Boot Barn on your GPS instead of The Wrangler. Boot Barn bought them and required all stores to change their name, except for this one because of their history.
Rib & Chop House
According to our server, the Rib & Chop House is the #1 steak house in Wyoming and Montana. Our homestyle dinner started off with the fried green tomatoes appetizer (one of their top sellers), then we split the parmesan crusted Delmonico ribeye and their award winning baby back ribs, with a side of BBQ shrimp. Needless to say, we walked out of there like we just finished Thanksgiving dinner and can definitely vouch for the claim made by our server!
Accomplice Beer Company
Yes, a self serving brewery is a real thing. And it’s located right in the historic Cheyenne Depot. Accomplice Beer Company offers 14 craft beers on tap that vary depending on the day and season. Upon arrival, you will receive an access card that records how much beer you pour yourself. Pick your glass, swipe your card, and start pouring! It’s a dangerous amount of power, so make sure you pace yourself! Both your liver and wallet will thank you.
They also serve a variety of food that’s a step up from your typical bar fare. Think: artisan pizzas, poutine, baby arugula salads, and beer brats. We started off strong with the hot and salty soft pretzels with beer cheese, and my mouth is watering just thinking about the buffalo boneless pork wings and side of kale salad and kettle chips I had for lunch.
Stay: Fairfield Inn & Suites Cheyenne Southwest/Downtown Area
It’s hard to go wrong with a Marriott! This Fairfield Inn & Suites (1820 W. Lincolnway) in Cheyenne is a cozy place to rest your head after a road trip or full day of exploring. It’s right off the highway and a short drive from downtown Cheyenne. Plus, for an extra bonus, breakfast is included.
Day 2: Laramie
Cheyenne to Laramie, via Highway 210 – 1 hour
From there, the next stop is the traditional ancestral land of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ people (Laramie, Wyoming). I always opt for the scenic route, so when heading from Cheyenne to Laramie I recommend taking Happy Jack Road (Highway 210). Laramie was officially incorporated in 1874, not long after the Union Pacific Railroad was extended across the Laramie Plains. It went on to become a hub where women paved the way in making strides for the women’s suffrage movement.
Historic Ivinson Mansion / Laramie Plains Museum
The Ivinson Mansion, now the Laramie Plains Museum, was the home of Edward and Jane Ivinson starting in the late 1800s. They were both instrumental in the Laramie community. Jane was very involved in local women’s groups and worked to improve the cultural development of Laramie. Edward established his own mercantile and bank. He was also very supportive of Jane and her involvement in the community, so the home now features moments when women made history as well as other historic collections.
The ornate mansion is an important part of Laramie’s history and Wyoming in general. The incredible amount of thought and detail that was put into the renovations will transport you to early Laramie. Take a guided tour (required in order for you to see the property) through the mansion to step back into another era. Tours are offered Tuesday – Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday Afternoons 1-4pm. In the summer they are impressively led by young students who will give the tour whenever you drop by during their open hours.
Wyoming’s House for Historic Women
This entire museum is dedicated to the women who made a powerful impact both in Wyoming and across the nation in the movement toward gender equality. The Wyoming House for Historic Women in downtown Laramie honors these notable Wyoming women. The museum is located just down the block from where Louisa Swain became the first woman to cast a vote in a general election and where the first women were ever seated on a jury.
To learn more about women in Wyoming, read my recent post The Unsung Wyoming Women Who Made History.
All the street art throughout Laramie is hard to miss. There’s a self-guided walking tour of the Laramie Mural Project, a collaboration of Visit Laramie and the UW Art Museum with local artists who have been painting murals all around the historic district since 2011. In addition to adding some fun pops of color around town, the murals also reflect Laramie’s cultural and social assets.
I also couldn’t resist including this cool farm wall here. The water flows from the top down to the plant roots and is then recirculated by the pump at the bottom. This method is called hydroponic farming, which means that it’s grown without soil and it can save up to 97% of the water that would be used by traditional field agriculture.
The Bent and Rusty
If you’re searching for antiques or fun unique items, The Bent and Rusty is the store for you. Their selection ranges from furniture to old signs to clothing and more. I will warn you, a visit in here could cost you hours if you’re not careful!
Coal Creek Tap
For a cold brew, look no further than Coal Creek Tap, microbrewery and tap room. It’s a fun space with a relaxed environment, and a cute patio to enjoy when the weather is nice.
Stay: Hilton Garden Inn
The Hilton Garden Inn (2229 Grand Ave.) is right on the University of Wyoming’s campus and is actually attached to their conference center. It’s only a quick 5-minute drive to get to downtown Laramie from here. Be conscious of any major college events when booking here, like football games and graduation, as it will definitely be busy at those times.
Day 3: Medicine Bow National Forest and Saratoga
Laramie to Centennial Visitor’s Center – 35 mins
Centennial Visitor’s Center to Saratoga – 1 hour (not including stops)
From Laramie to Saratoga, the most beautiful route is to drive through Medicine Bow National Forest on Snowy Range Road (Highway 130). Keep in mind this road is only open from late May through mid-November (weather permitting) because of how much snow they get in the winter. Plan on day three being a day to disconnect. You likely won’t have service most of the time you’re in Medicine Bow National Forest, and the WiFi and cell reception is pretty spotty in Saratoga.
We had intended to enjoy a beautiful hike up to the summit on Lewis Lake Trail. It leads to Medicine Bow Peak, the highest peak in the Snowy Range at 12,013 feet (3,662 meters). Instead, what started as a beautiful, warm day down in Laramie had turned into a mild snowstorm by the time we reached the trailhead! Thankfully, we were able to return home through this same route the next day and enjoy some of the scenic overlooks without a cloud in the sky.
Not doing the hike meant we arrived in Saratoga sooner than expected, but it must have been meant to be! This small town is on the traditional ancestral land of the Eastern Shoshone, Arapaho, and Cheyenne people. Not long after we arrived in town, the weather cleared up and we discovered Togie Days was happening right outside our hotel. This local celebration brings live music, food, drinks, and more for a reason to enjoy a beautiful day and good company. Saratoga may be small, but don’t overlook it! Their downtown is straight out of a western movie.
Medicine Bow National Forest
Over the past 12,000 years, Native Americans have inhabited these mountains, and they are actually how this area got its name. The Native Americans used the mountain mahogany, juniper, and water birch to make their bows, so the name “Medicine Bow Mountains” came to be. Later, the wood from this forest was used to connect the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railway lines.
All throughout Medicine Bow National Forest, the ground is sprinkled with yellow and purple wildflowers and a touch of snow. The drive along Snowy Range Road through the forest was definitely one of the highlights of all the things to do in Wyoming on this three-day journey. There are loads of places to hike and camp along the way, as well as viewpoints like the Libby Flats observation point where you can enjoy a quick stop to soak in the view. When you enter the forest, make a stop at the visitor’s center. They’ll be able to share all the information you need on trails, lakes, scenic overlooks, and more.
Lake Marie was one of my favorite spots. It’s one of many glistening lakes in Medicine Bow National Forest, but it has a special meaning behind it. The lake was named after Mary (Marie) Bellamy by her husband, Charles Bellamy. Mary was the first woman elected to the Wyoming Legislature in 1910, and she led the suffrage drive that eventually passed the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution that allowed (white) women the right to vote.
This route along Snowy Range Road through Medicine Bow National Forest may not be the fastest, but it sure is worth the small amount of extra time for these views! Sometimes detours are just as good as, if not better than, the destination.
Firewater Public House
If you’re craving a juicy burger and some good whiskey, Firewater Public House is the place to go. It’s right along the North Platte River, and there’s a nice patio out back that you can enjoy when the weather is warm. They also share some great tips in case you encounter wildlife in the area!
Stay: Hotel Wolf
We stayed at Hotel Wolf, which is just upstairs from the restaurant and saloon and right in the center of town. This historic hotel opened back in 1893, and walking through those doors nearly feels like you’re walking into 1893 (with some modern amenities added, of course). I have never had such an authentic stay in a historic hotel before. I would return to Saratoga purely to return to Hotel Wolf.
The map below outlines the route I took for this road trip. If you are flying in and out of Denver, it makes for a really scenic loop, so try to add on a few extra days if you can to enjoy some other stops along the way. Do you have other suggestions for things to do in Wyoming when you’re in the southeast corner? Let me know in the comments below!
Special thanks to the Wyoming Office of Tourism, who facilitated this trip! Note that this did not affect my views and all opinions are my own.