Tour of Southeast Wyoming Parks
It’s probably no surprise, that when you think of Wyoming parks, you think of Northwest Wyoming, where you’ll find Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. And that’s for good reason, since Grand Teton and Yellowstone are two of America’s most prominent national parks. However, after taking a Southeast Wyoming road trip recently, I discovered that Wyoming’s amazing parks exist far beyond just its national parks in the Northwest. So today we’re taking a virtual road trip of Southeast Wyoming’s parks.
Vedauwoo Campground & Recreation Area. Located west of Cheyenne near Laramie, Vedauwoo is less state or national park, and more small recreation area. But what it lacks in size, its landscape makes up in stature, characterized by large, natural rock formations, some of which are several hundred feet tall. It’s a playground for hikers and climbers alike, home also to a number of campsites that are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Curt Gowdy State Park. Not far from Vedauwoo off Highway 210 is Curt Gowdy State Park, which in a word could be described as “epic,” literally, since it was named so by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Additionally, a number of hiking trails can be found around the park. Curt Gowdy State Park features several reservoirs, a couple of which, Granite and Crystal, are often used for fishing. Dotting the shoreline of the reservoirs are camping sites, many of which were in use by RVers and tent campers on the day I visited.
John and Annie Woodhouse Recreation and Wildlife Habitat Area. From Curt Gowdy State Park, I went off-the-beaten-path, literally, as I drove miles down a gravel path until I found the unexpected John and Annie Woodhouse Recreation and Wildlife Habitat Area. The smallest recreation area listed here, the area is characterized by a red rock, tabletop mountain that contrasts beautifully with the green landscape and reservoir right below it. If you’re feeling ambitious, follow one of the paths toward the summit of the mountain. Otherwise, it’s a nice offbeat find in Southeast Wyoming, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have it all to yourself.
Medicine Bow National Forest. That’s right, the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks aren’t the only national lands in Wyoming. Enter Medicine Bow – Routt National Forest, which is an area of more than 2 million acres in Wyoming and Colorado. The Wyoming portion of it, Medicine Bow, is a national forest that was first created as a forest reserve in the early 1900s. Its mountain ranges are to Southeast Wyoming what the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone’s mountains are to Northwest Wyoming. Among its notable peaks is Medicine Bow Peak, the tallest peak in the Snowy Range sub-range of the Medicine Bow Mountains, featuring a number of trailheads to the summit. Otherwise, a great drive is the Snowy Range Scenic Byway, which passes by glacial lakes, sweeping meadows, and granite peaks.
Fort LaramieHistoric Site. National park areas continue with Fort Laramie, which is actually located a couple hours northeast of the town of Laramie itself. Fort Laramie is steeped in history, dating back to the early 1800s, when it was one of the most important outposts in the West, and a frequent stop for the thousands of emigrants traveling the Oregon, Mormon and California trails. It was first and foremost a fur trading post, but also existed as a military post before its abandonment in 1890. Today it lives on as an example of well-preserved 1800s history, where you can visit some of the fort’s buildings from the 1800s and learn about its history at the confluence of the North Platte and Laramie rivers.
Guernsey State Park. Guernsey State Park, located 15 miles west of Fort Laramie, was the most unexpected surprise. Weaving down country roads, I all of a sudden approached the gate to the park, and it wasn’t long after before I was greeted with tall canyon walls rising above a lake that boats and jet skis were speeding down. Some of the side roads of the parks featured overlooks from atop rocky bluffs, with sweeping views of the entire park, while other areas included small campgrounds. One such campground even had yurts that overlooked the lake. Guernsey State Park even had its own castle, which was more of a multi-story picnic shelter in the shape and style of a castle, but was perched on a bluff, overlooking the lake. Best state park ever?