Wyoming often seems to get less adventure cred than its rectangular neighbor to the south, Colorado. Maybe because one-tenth the amount of people live there, or it doesn’t have a population center of almost four million souls at the foot of its mountains. Maybe it’s because the great stuff is a little spread out and there are so many driving miles between the Tetons and Lander and Devils Tower.
Well, we don’t mind a little driving. The open space is what makes Wyoming Wyoming, and why some people are dismayed that Montana got the nickname “Big Sky Country”-it’s an apt moniker for both places, really. Here’s our list of things we love about the Cowboy State, in no particular order.
1. The Tetons
The Rockies’ youngest mountain range, home to a bajillion alpine rock routes, world-class backcountry and resort skiing, and of course, the name.
2. The Wind River Range
A couple hours south of the famous Tetons lies one of the West’s most underrated mountain ranges-even though it includes life-list backpacking (Titcomb Basin), alpine rock (the Cirque of the Towers), and Wyoming’s high point, 13,809-foot Gannett Peak.
3. Yellowstone National Park
Old Faithful, grizzly bears, bison, elk, deer, remote wilderness. You’ve heard of it. Also massive supervolcano under it that basically would blow 2,000 times the size of Mt. St. Helens and would block out the sun and cause worldwide famine. But we don’t love that part. We love all the other stuff about Yellowstone.
4. Devils Tower
You might think Close Encounters of the Third Kind; we think classic crack climbing.
5. No One’s There
Wyoming is the least-populated state in the U.S.-more people are packed into Rhode Island’s 1,214 square miles than live in Wyoming’s 97,814 square miles.
6. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
The burliest big ski area in the United States more than lives up to the reputation of its 4,139 vertical feet.
7. The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich
Ehrlich’s 1985 portrait of life in rural Wyoming masterfully captures landscape and paints meaning onto it: “True solace is finding none, which is to say, it is everywhere.”
The beautiful tough, squat, climbing destination that makes hands bleed, hardened climbers rewrite their definition of “sandbag,” and holds some of the nastiest offwidths in the west.
9. Granite Canyon
Steep, dark, and avalanche prone, this dramatic defile at the southern edge of Grand Teton National Park offers the best O.B. next to one of the best ski areas on the continent.
The National Outdoor Leadership School was founded in Lander in 1965 to teach outdoor skills through its courses, now on six continents, and is the entry point into the outdoors for many.
11. International Climbers Festival
The longest-running climbing festival in the world, the International Climbers Festival will celebrate its 21st year in 2014, bringing climbers from all over the world, and some of the biggest names in climbing as keynote speakers.
12. The Lander Bar
Where everyone (climbers, ranchers, NOLS instructors, cowboys, hunters, fishermen) goes.
13. Todd Skinner
Maybe the biggest name in Wyoming climbing ever, Skinner put up first ascents around the world, developed tons of routes in Wyoming and elsewhere, started the International Climbers Festival, and left a storied legacy when he died in 2006.
14. Glenn Exum
Famed mountaineer, co-founder of Exum Mountain Guides. Also the guy who put up the first ascent of the Upper Exum Ridge on the Grand Teton, free solo, in a pair of borrowed football cleats that were two sizes too big.
15. Mark Jenkins
Longtime adventure writer for just about every outdoor publication, Jenkins’ two books, The Hard Way and A Man’s Life, are two of our favorites.
16. Bill Briggs
If you don’t know Bill Briggs’ name, he’s the guy who arguably pioneered North American ski mountaineering (and/or North American “extreme skiing,” if you will), when he skied from the summit of the Grand Teton in 1971.
17. Teton Gravity Research
The masters of big-air, big-huck, big-terrain stoke call the Tetons their home base.
18. Sierra Trading Post
If you visit this site and shop for gear, you know what Cheyenne, Wyoming’s Sierra Trading Post is.
19. The Jackalope
The mythical jackrabbit with antlers was “discovered” in Wyoming in the 1930s.
Wyoming has an official state mammal. It is an awesome one.