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WYOMING FAM

TRIP

REPORT

Experience the Cowboy State through the eyes of seven travel professionals who travelled hundreds of miles and experienced its unique culture and awe-inspiring landscapes

TRAVELWYOMING.COM

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yoming – or ‘Wy’ – is a word that evokes images of the Wild West: rugged landscapes and equally rugged cowboys. Over a six-day trip, a group of seven agents set about exploring this huge state and discovering why it should be on every traveller’s list. “The perception of Wy is cowboys riding around on horses,” says Natalie Muncer from Travelbag. “And I’m happy to say that that is the reality - but it’s much more than that too! It’s beautiful – there’s so much open space and incredible views, even when you’re driving. “The history is fascinating and I loved going into all the bars which still have a real western feel to them, with old bullet holes in the ceilings.” “There are so many activities to try out in Wyoming,” says Adele Jones from Kuoni. “Horse riding, hiking, biking, wildlife and bird watching, skiing and winter sports, and photographers and artists will be inspired by the landscapes too.” “Most people I know would love to visit Yellowstone, but there’s much more to see,” says Sibella Thompson from Flight Centre. “We saw a lot in six days but we barely touched the surface.” “The cowboy culture is more prevalent than I expected it to be,” says Liz Dickinson from Southern Cross Travel. “You really do feel like you’re in the Wild West and it offers a completely different kind of holiday to destinations like California or New York. I think it will appeal to those who have enjoyed a California road trip. If I have a client who requests

Yellowstone, I’ll encourage them to extend their stay and see more of Wy.” “It’s a great option for people who have enjoyed places like Yosemite,” echoes Travel Counsellor Gwyneth Prosser. “Wy is perhaps not for first-time visitors to the U.S., but third or fourth. And it will appeal to anyone that likes the idea of getting out on the open road.” “I met so many friendly people – real characters, in Wy,” says Bethanie Parsons from Travel Nation. “I would recommend selling Wy to someone who loves New Zealand. The landscapes are stunning and the driving is easy. I’d also offer it as an alternative to South Africa, for a more affordable wildlife watching trip.” “If I had a client looking for something off the beaten path, I’d send them to Wy,” says Claire Gray from Travel 2.

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How to book it

Our group flew into Denver and drove 90 minutes to reach Wy. The Cowboy State is bordered by Colorado to the southeast, Utah to the southwest, Idaho to the west, Montana to the north and South Dakota and Nebraska to the east. There are other ways to reach Wy and many UK operators sell fly/drive itineraries which connect it to other Rocky Mountain states. Read on to discover its historic and cultural draws, scenic driving routes, natural attractions and more. Why would you not want to? Wy indeed!

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P ar k n S ta te

Proudly Published By BMI Publishing Ltd: Suffolk House, George Street, Croydon, Surrey, CR9 1SR, UK | 020 8649 7233 | enquiries@bmipublishing.co.uk. Editor/Writer: Laura Gelder, Editorial Director: Steve Hartridge, Publisher: Sally Parker, Senior Designer: Louisa Horton, Designer: Caitlan Francis, Production: Clare Hunter, Managing Director: Matt Bonner, CEO: Martin Steady. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, BMI PUBLISHING LTD cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Images provided by Laura Gelder, Wyoming Office of Tourism and sourced from istockphoto.com

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Way back

WHEN

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History comes to life in the 44th state, but it’s not all about cowboys and Indians. Wyoming was roamed by dinosaurs whose bones still lie in the earth, and it made history in the fight for gender equality

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ur history lesson started in the state capital Cheyenne, where the best way to acquaint yourself with the city and bring its colourful past to life is to take a trolley tour. “This lovely, old-fashioned wooden trolley car takes you all over, says Gwyneth. “You get a great historic overview and lots of interesting facts about the houses and the people who lived there.” As we trundled through the snowy streets, our guide told us how Cheyenne was born as the railway moved west, starting off as a city of tents. She pointed out the Atlas Theatre, where melodramas were held, with a plaque-bearer prompting the audience to boo or cheer; the Tivoli building, which was a notorious saloon and brothel; and the Wrangler building, once a mercantile which hung its beef outside in the winter. She told stories of Calamity Jane, who caused a stir by riding into town in breeches, and of her two arrests for horse thieving after she drunkenly rode someone else’s home.

“Names like Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill felt like fictional characters to me, but when you come to Wy they come alive and everyone is so passionate about telling their stories,” says Sibella.

F irst for Females

The most surprising thing we learnt was that Wy was ahead of the game when it came to gender equality. The state granted women the right to vote in 1869 and refused to join the union if it meant removing that right. Wy elected the first female bailiff, female justice of peace, female governor and the first all-female town council. As we drove through Wy, more layers of its past were revealed. In Thermopolis we learnt that the state is home to some of the world’s most significant fossil sites. At the Wyoming Dinosaur Center visitors can dig for bones and, if it’s not too significant a find,

CHEYENNE WESTERN STORE

Se lling tip

“Cody has great independent shops. I bought local art prints and handmade jewellery, which I selected the gems for myself before watching them make it in front of me. Locals here go out hunting for gem stones. I also met a famous boot maker who knows Arnold Schwarzenegger. His boots go for thousands so I resisted making a purchase!” Adele Jones, Kuoni

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The Oregon Trail, California Trail, Mormon Trail and Pony Express went through Casper and its National Historic Trails Interpretive Center explains all. An hour away is Independence Rock, a landmark for pioneers. Buffalo is home to the Occidental Hotel, where Butch Cassidy stayed, and Jim Gatchell Museum which has over 15,000 old west artifacts.

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HAT’S WY

The 10th largest state has the smallest population - less than 600,000 share its wild landscapes

take them home too! ”Thermopolis has a wild west feel, you can imagine horses tied up outside the buildings, says Liz. “You can tube down the river, relax in the hot springs, go hiking or dig for dinosaur bones.”

Cowboys & Indians

In the Wind River Indian Reservation we met with the Northern Arapaho tribe, and watched them dance in vibrant and intricately-made costumes decorated with shells, elk teeth, eagle feathers, bear claws and porcupine quills. Routines like the energetic prairie chicken dance have spiritual or cultural significance for the tribe and are performed at national pow wows. On the cowboy trail, nowhere embodied the West for us quite so much as Cody, founded by ‘Buffalo’ Bill Cody in 1901. “I really recommend the Buffalo Bill Center of the West,” says Claire. “It’s five museums in one and the entry pass lasts two days, so you can dip in and out. There’s the Buffalo Bill Museum, Cody Firearms Museum, Draper Natural History Museum, Whitney Western Art Museum and Plains Indian Museum.” But it was the Irma Hotel where the past and present collided, over a huge slice of its famous prime rib with a side of fries

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MEETING THE NORTHERN ARAPAHO

and ghost stories. Built by Buffalo Bill and named after his daughter, the hotel sports stag heads on the walls and a bulletpocked tin ceiling. Patrons tuck into plates of beef without removing their cowboy hats, or sit at the ornate cherrywood bar, donated by Queen Victoria. “When you look around the Irma you can imagine you’ve gone back in time,” says Adele. “I wish the bar could talk – can you imagine the stories it would tell?” Owner Mike Derby did tell us about the reported ghost sightings, such as the ‘half a soldier’ walking through the dining room, waitresses being grabbed by nothing and taps being turned on and off. The town of Jackson, near Grand Teton National Park, was a total contrast in culture. A ski town in winter, it’s more cosmopolitan than cowboy, popular with A-list celebrities – including Harrison Ford who has a home nearby – and has restaurants serving world cuisine and highend shops selling art and outdoor gear. The town square’s elk antler arches and the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, with its horse saddle bar stools, are a reminder that you’re still in the west though. “Jackson had a nice feel about it,” says Gwyneth. “I loved the mountain backdrop and the people were so friendly.”

Fort Laramie National Historic Site is one of the U.S’s most important locations in the history of western expansion and Indian resistance. Head to Sundance, where the Sundance Kid got his name and see where his trial took place, now the Crook County Museum & Art Gallery. For a taste of cowboy culture, head to Wyoming during July and August to catch a rodeo. Big ones include Cheyenne Frontier Days Cody Nite Rodeo and Sheridan WYO Rodeo.

BETHANIE AT THE IRMA

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O n the

ROAD

Hit the open road to discover rocky canyons with rushing rivers, snow-capped mountains and rolling sagebrush prairie with big open skies, all ripe for adventure

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Top tip

“I was inspired to see Wy’s wonderful landscapes because of the old Western films, but if you can’t see them from a horse, it’s a great place to self-drive! The roads are wide and quiet, the scenery is stunning and it’s so easy to pick up a car and take off, park up at a motel and be off the next day.” Gwyneth Prosser, Travel Counsellor

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s we entered southeast Wyoming, near Cheyenne, the landscape was undulating prairie with snow falling, but during the week we soon learnt not to fall asleep in the bus – you just never know when the landscape or the weather will change. Considering the size of the state I think it’s important that customers know that on the way to a national park they won’t be driving on boring roads,” says Bethanie. “I had no preconceptions,” adds Liz, “but the vastness of the landscape – the endless plains and snowy mountains – and how much it changes as you drive, is stunning. You can’t appreciate that until you’re here.” Even the stretches of road that aren’t designated beauty spots will mesmerise: we spotted antelope and wild horses on the plains, bison and moose in the parks, big horn sheep in the mountains and an osprey nesting on an electricity pylon at the side of the road.

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We even happened upon a ghost town, Jeffrey City, which was founded in the late 1800s, became a boom town thanks to the uranium in its hills but was abandond in the 1980s when nuclear demand slowed. Once home to 4,500 people, its shops and houses are now abandoned, its roads cracked and weedy.

Wind River

Our first official scenic road was the Wind River Scenic Byway. Starting in Shoshone it winds its way north, through the Wind River Indian Reservation and Boysen State Park, before ending just after Thermopolis. As we drove north, the yellow Owl Creek Mountains rose in the west, as we followed the rapids of the Wind River itself, which enters a rocky canyon 2,500 feet high on each side – 2.9 billion year-old rock. “It was such an impressive drive, says Liz. “The railway line that runs alongside the

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gorge had rickety tunnel supports that looked like something from a film set.” Gwyneth adds: “I felt as if we were the only ones on the road and the rock formations took my breath away!”

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There are over 20 scenic byways in Wy, crossing peaks and high desert, forests and prairie

F laming Gorge

The Flaming Gorge – Green River Scenic Byway is a loop drive starting southwest of Rock Springs and hopping briefly into Utah. Having been told the best bit didn’t start for a while if we wanted to sleep, we were blown away at every turn, not least by the high desert, an inhospitable shrub-dotted landscape punctuated by distant windsculpted rock formations and topped by a moody sky pierced with shafts of sunlight. “The drive to and from Flaming Gorge

was incredible,” says Adele. “The rock formations, colouring and the dimensions of the landscape changed so quickly as we travelled.” We walked through a grove of fresh-smelling pines to the Red Canyon Overlook and its famous vista, 700 feet wide and 1,400 feet deep. “Here, you can look down and see the full scale of it,” says Claire. Sibella adds: “The drama of the gorge makes it comparable to iconic national parks like Arches and Zion.” But in Wyoming every road and every stop had character and appeal, from tiny Farson and its mercantile selling giant ice creams to Rawlins and the friendly Buck’s Sports Grill, decorated with Americana and serving ‘healthy zucchini sticks, made good by breading them, then frying them’.

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More scenic drives to recommend

The Big Horn Scenic Byway starts in Shell and goes for 58 miles to Medicine Wheel Passage, past the Bighorn National Forest and over Granite Pass, with views of ranchlands and peaks. Medicine Wheel Passage continues through the Absaroka Mountains, passing the Historic Landmark Medicine Wheel, a stone arrangement of celestial sigificance for Indians. The 57-mile Oregon Trail Historic Byway begins at the Nebraska border and passes Fort Laramie and Guernsey Park, where a cliff is still inscribed with messages from pioneers. The Beartooth Scenic Highway starts east of Yellowstone and winds through Shoshone National Forest, past trailheads and lookouts. The Black Hills Scenic Byway explores this geologically significant region near South Dakota, with the chance to hike or see ghost towns.

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The great

OUTDOORS Wyoming’s not all about cowboys and ranches. Its many parks protect unique wild eco-systems and wildlife ranging from eagles to elk and bears to the bison, which adorns its state flag

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a vast network of underground passages through billions of years old rock. “Sinks Canyon is a stunning place and feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere when it’s actually quite close to town,” says Natalie. “I’d like to go back and try the hiking trails.” These cover varied habitats, from dry sagebrush to dense pine groves and the wet riverside eco system. Wildlife in the park includes porcupines, black bears, moose and eagles, but we only had time to see the river, which thanks to the melting snow was a force of white water roaring over boulders – a contrast to the calm pool dubbed ‘The Rise’, where it bubbles up later, below lurking brown trout.

Yellowstone

Undoubtedly Wy’s most famous attraction, Yellowstone National Park is nearly 3,500 square miles of protected nature. When we entered through its eastern gate in May we found it simultaneously smouldering and

Agent tip

“Yellowstone is eye opening. There’s so much to discover that I’d recommend clients get a guide to maximise the chance of seeing wildlife. The Lamar Valley, in the more remote northeast of the park, is known as the Serengeti of America and is the best place to spot wolves. But it’s not all about Yellowstone – Grand Teton is equally beautiful.” Bethanie Parsons, Travel Nation

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yoming leads the way when it comes to protecting its natural assets. It’s home to the U.S.’s first national park (Yellowstone), first national monument (Devils Tower), and the first national forest (Shoshone). Our first wildlife experience was at Terry Bison Ranch, where we took a train tour around the farm. “It’s great for families, says Claire. “You get up close and feed and stroke them, and see their amazingly long tongues! It was a good introduction to Wy.” Our first park visit was Sinks Canyon, one of Wy’s 12 state parks, six miles from Lander where Butch Cassidy once languished in jail for stealing horses. The park is centred around a geological phenomenon which sees the Popo Agie River disappear into a dark cavern – the sinks – and reappear a quarter of a mile away at a pool. What’s curious is that tests show the water takes several hours to journey between the two, which geologists attribute to

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Mo rmon Row , Gran d Teton

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FEEDING TIME AT TERRY BISON RANCH

freezing. The snow was still piled over a and ground squirrels watched us with metre high at the roadside but as we drove beady eyes from their burrows. We along we noticed plumes of steam rising watched an osprey with a fish in its beak from innocuous looking puddles. soar over us through a sulphurous mist. A large portion of Yellowstone, we soon After rising at 05.00 we were rewarded by learnt, is a volcanic caldera formed during the sight of two grizzly bears loping along a an eruption 630,000 years ago from the snowy riverbank to a frozen bison carcass. super volcano which lies beneath; not that “It’s difficult to find the right words to you would know it, looking across the still describe Yellowstone,” says Gwyneth. and frozen Lake Yellowstone. “Beautiful, amazing or stunning aren’t This volcanic energy manifests itself above adequate. I loved Artist Point, which looks ground with hot springs, steam vents and out over the dramatic yellow and red geysers. Yellowstone is home to half the canyon to Lower Falls.” planet’s geysers, with Old Faithful its most famous. It gets its name because it erupts predictably around every 90 minutes, Having had high expectations for sending thousands of gallons of boiling Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park, water over 100 feet into the air. just south, was a complete surprise. “Grand This explosive spectacle is in the Upper Teton is all about the views,” says Claire. Geyser Basin along with hundreds of other “The mountains are spectacular and it’s so thermal features like turquoise bubbling close to Yellowstone you have to see both.” pools and sinister smoking mounds. Bethanie adds: “There’s still wildlife “The diversity of Yellowstone’s landscape in Grand Teton but you have the town is incredible,” says Adele. “The vibrant of Jackson nearby, with shops and colours of the thermal features and the restaurants, and lots of activities for kids.” variation, from Old Faithful to the pools.” The wildlife shunned us on our short We also explored Old Faithful Inn, a safari, aside from a moose we glimpsed in national historic landmark considered to the distance, but we explored the park’s be the largest log structure in the world. famous vistas: groves of quaking aspen, The lobby is like a fairytale tree house with slim silver-barked trees named for their warm candlelight illuminating four trembling leaves; the ice-blue floors connected by gnarled, Jenny Lake; and Mormon Row, twisting staircases. an old religious settlers’ Our first animal Yellowstone homestead, famous encounter was with a for its wooden barns large, woolly bison, is the only place in backed by spectacular which swaggered the U.S. where bison views of the Tetons. across the road have continuously We also drove 1,000 towards us as we roamed since feet of switchbacks backed hastily prehistoric to the summit of away, clicking times Signal Mountain, a top photos. Outside bear spotting area with hotels, elk herds sweeping valley views. grazed nonchalantly

Grand Teton

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AT’S WY

RestOF THE West More parks & wildlife hotspots The igneous rock formation Devils Tower is so otherworldly looking that it starred in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It rises 867 feet above the rolling grassland and is a popular place to spot prairie dogs. Fossil Butte National Monument preserves one of the largest deposits of freshwater fish fossils in the world. The brighly-coloured layers of rock are still excavated. Seminoe State Park has giant white sand dunes, acres of sagebrush, thousands of antelope and the moon-like Seminoe Mountains Forest, mountains, prairie, deep canyons, broad valleys, high desert and wetlands all wait to be discovered at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Shoshone National Forest borders Yellowstone and includes the Absaroka, Wind River and Beartooth Mountain ranges.

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ADELE ENJOYING THE TETONS

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Magical

MOMENTS Every member of the group fell in love with Wyoming and their reasons for doing so ranged from ‘the nightlife’ to ‘the wildlife’

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“Standing on the bridge in Sinks Canyon State Park is one of my best memories. The one minute there was bright sunshine and blue skies and the next a blizzard hit just as we were posing for a photo on a rope bridge swinging out over the rushing river.”

Bethanie Parsons, Travel Nation

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“I loved my night out in Cody at the Silver Dollar Bar. It really felt like I had stepped into a different world and it’s not like any night out in the UK – we actually felt involved in the whole scene. It’s a Western-style bar and total strangers come up and ask politely: ‘Mam would you like to dance?’ before spinning you around the floor in front of a live band!”

Natalie Muncer, Travelbag

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“Grand Teton National Park felt so pure. When we arrived we walked out onto a pontoon in the middle of a partially frozen lake, with the white mountains in the backdrop. As we drove into Jackson, down a straight road, the mountains stayed with us on the right-hand side the whole way, with the sky looking so blue next to the snowy peaks.”

Adele Jones, Kuoni

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“Seeing bears is a once-in-alifetime experience and when we spotted the grizzly in Yellowstone it truly took my breath away. It was early morning and we looked across to the other side of the river, which was as still as glass, and saw him running. Seeing his movement against the snow was beautiful. I was in my

element there and will never forget it.”

Gwyneth Prosser, Travel Counsellor

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“I loved the small towns we passed through. If you self-drive you have the freedom to stop and explore places like Lander, where I enjoyed the shops full of local art; Kirby, where you can tour the Wyoming Whiskey distillery; Meeteetse, where a cowboy opened a chocolate shop to fund his rodeo career; or Rock Springs, where you can see Butch Cassidy’s actual butcher’s shop.”

Claire Gray, Travel 2

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“Old Faithful and the surrounding pools, with their vibrant colours, are really spectacular and the boardwalk allows you to get close to the

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GWYNETH LOOKING OUT FOR BEARS IN YELLOWSTONE

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Top activities to enjoy in Wyoming

S in ks C an y on B et ha ni e in

Wy has 98,000 square miles of skiable terrain but most famous are those in the Teton Mountains: the resorts of Jackson Hole - famous for backcountry skiing - Snow King and Grand Targhee.

READY TO RAFT DOWN THE SNAKE RIVER

geothermal features safely. The geyser itself is impressive in its height and power, but go early or late to avoid the big crowds. It’s an ever-changing landscape where the smell of sulphur and the bubbling mud and steaming pools aren’t like anything you’ve seen before.”

Liz Dickinson, Southern Cross Travel

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“The Flaming Gorge - Green River Scenic Byway drive is full of hidden gems. You would think it would be swarming with tourists but it feels like a secret discovery as you drive along, spotting wildlife and stopping off at sometimes deserted look-outs. The contrast between the red canyon walls and the vivid green river is stunning. But what I can’t believe is that it’s virtually unknown to most visitors to the U.S. so you won’t have to battle

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All across Wy there are dude ranches, where visitors can get a taste of cowboy culture by learning to ride western style and rope like a rancher – often in relative luxury.

other tourists for the best photo!”

Sibella Thompson, Flight Centre

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“Rafting down the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park was fascinating on two levels. Firstly, because of the nature that we saw, which included a young moose grazing; comical white pelicans flapping around, caught in the eddying current; a nesting eagle in a tree; and marmots scurrying around the rocks at the river’s edge. But secondly because of the multi-millionaire’s mansions we passed. You can just about spy some of these huge houses through the cottonwood trees which line the bank. Some are ultra-modern and others like giant luxury log cabins, but you don’t have long to look before you’re swept away.”

The ultimate hiking destination, Wy has 18 million acres of public land where visitors can conquer mountains or traverse plains, forests and deserts. Visitors can take to Wy’s lakes and rivers for kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, white-water rafting, or just swimming off a boat.

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Those 4,200 lakes and 27,000 miles of rivers and streams are also a fishing paradise, with options for every level.

Laura Gelder, Editor, Selling Travel

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When planning to visit three or more sites that fall under the National Park Service (these include Yellowstone) buy an annual ‘America the Beautiful’ pass. These cost $80 and are valid for the pass owner and passengers in their vehicle.

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Wyoming is a big state and involves some long drives with plenty of memorable stops along the way to break the journey. Be sure to keep an eye on your fuel tank and top up regularly – it can be a considerable distance between fuel stations.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION AND SAMPLE ITINERARIES VISIT: TRAVELWYOMING.COM OR GREATAMERICANWEST.CO.UK

TO WY

GETTING

Denver, Colorado, is the ‘official’ gateway to Wy, with direct flights from Heathrow on British Airways and United, and from Gatwick with Norwegian. Regional airports across Wy, including Jackson Hole, Cody and Casper, connect to other major hubs.

TravelWyoming.com/maps

#ThatsWY

TRACK YOUR TRIP

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Wyoming Fam Trip Report 2019  

Experience the Cowboy State through the eyes of seven travel professionals who travelled hundreds of miles and experienced its unique cultur...

Wyoming Fam Trip Report 2019  

Experience the Cowboy State through the eyes of seven travel professionals who travelled hundreds of miles and experienced its unique cultur...