Wyoming contains some stunning natural wonders at any time, but especially when the landscape is capped with snow. It's cattle country, of course, but on this drive from the capital city of Cheyenne to the to the high plains oasis of Little America, there are plenty of surprises along venerable Interstate Highway 80. Much of southwestern Wyoming is still relatively unchanged from the days of the first pioneers and driving across this land provides a glimpse into what must have been like.
Here are some highlights along the route.
Cheyenne, Wyoming (Starting point)
Few cities evoke the Old West more than Cheyenne, and few facilities offer a more thorough glimpse into the life of that era than Nelson's Museum of the West. Three floors of exhibits including saddles, firearms, military items, Native American artifacts and a few taxidermies await. it's located in the heart of the historic downtown area, a good place to take a stroll. Every year since 1897, the city has celebrated Frontier Days, which includes a very good rodeo.
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Laramie (Mile 50)
Laramie is rather low-key for a major college town (it's home to the University of Wyoming), but it's also historically significant. Of special interest is the Wyoming Territorial Prison. Constructed in 1872, it housed over 1000 men, the most notorious of whom was Butch Cassidy, as well as about a dozen women.
Routt National Forest (Mile 80)
There is a good chance of spotting a variety of wildlife, especially if you take the time to do some hiking. It was while fishing here once upon a time that Thomas Edison was struck with an idea to that led to the creation of the light bulb, and you may be almost as inspired yourself. Note: State Highway 230 is closed in winter, and is a challenge for some vehicles when it's open. As an alternate, stick to I-80 until the town of Elk Mountain, then take the local roads to Saratoga.)
Saratoga (Mile 128)
Saratoga is a small town, but it's well worth visiting because of the hot, and I do mean hot, mineral springs in the heart of town. Any time of day or night, you can walk right in and take a dip in the soothing, steaming hot Hobo Pool. It's an especially memorable experience in the midst of a Wyoming Winter. And it's free! But if you have the time and budget to really pamper yourself, there's the Saratoga Resort and Spa.
Rock Springs (Mile 277)
If you wish to lay over for the night in Rock Springs, there's an outstanding bed and breakfast, Miner's Repose.
Little America (Mile 317)
An 80-acre motel property is not what most people think of as a bonafide roadside attraction, but Little America is the exception. The legend behind this 188 room motel is that the founder endured a very miserable, cold night in a Wyoming blizzard in the 1890's very near to the spot where this property now sits. It opened for business in the 1950's and has become one of those must-stop places along I-80. About 36 miles to the west is Fort Bridger, with several restored historical buildings and the scene of enactments.
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Little America Fuel Station, perhaps not as scenic
as Yellowstone Falls, but very much appreciated
by generations of weary travelers
Photo courtesy of Little America Resort