The beauty and wonder of Wyoming is undeniable: With the mountains, lakes, forests, and prairies, its got a lot going for it. But tucked among the gorgeous landscape, you can find some truly special hidden gems that are worth the trip to the Cowboy State alone. Follow in the footsteps of Butch Cassidy and other famed outlaws, feel the wind in your hair as you off-road through a massive shifting dune field, see the sights that guided pioneers, and more on an adventure to discover the hidden gems of Wyoming's Sweetwater County.
Straddling the state line between Wyoming and Utah is the utterly enchanting Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Snuggled in between rugged cliffs and mountains lays the massive Flaming Gorge Reservoir, a winding body of water with 65.7 square miles of water for boating and fishing, and 360 miles of shoreline for hiking and swimming. Trails criss-cross the cliffs and forests around the lake, and campsites line the water's edge. You can rent a boat, check out the visitor center near the dam, or go for a scenic drive... just make sure to do some exploring so you can really get a sense for the many and varied views the area offers.
As you make your way into Wyoming, you'll probably have a hankerin' for a snack for the road. Pull over at Cowboy Donuts for a fritter, a kolache (a kind of delicious meat and cheese stuffed roll), or a plain ol' glazed donut. It's the town's only fresh donut shop, and it attracts a crowd of friendly locals each morning who love to linger over a pastry and a cup of coffee. The shop, which was featured on Food Network’s competition show "Donut Showdown" makes over 55 varieties of fresh donuts each day. The sweet scent of donuts will be stuck in your memory for the rest of the trip!
Another local gem in Rock Springs is Bitter Creek Brewing. They craft beers inspired by the local culture, and they're pretty much all worth trying, especially the light Sweetwater Wheat, the wild Mustang Pale Ale, the roasty and dark Coal Porter, and the complex but warm Red Desert Ale. They also serve up some tasty elevated pub grub, like sesame fried calamari, gorgonzola steak salads, and a whole bunch of burgers topped with mouthwatering gourmet goodies.
While you're exploring Flaming Gorge, you can take a moment to sit back and relax at The Snag Bar & Grill on the Utah side of the reservoir. Located at the Cedar Springs Marina, the little hangout spot is right on the water... in fact, it's the area's only floating restaurant. The bright, kitschy, fun atmosphere, killer views, and full bar make The Snag a great place to spend a lazy afternoon in the sun. You can reach the bar via boat or car, but if you happen to be getting here from the water, the marina is a great place to gas up and get supplies as well.
Wyoming is probably the last place you'd expect to stumble upon a stretch of sand dunes, but Sweetwater County is home to the Killpecker Sand Dunes, the world's second-largest moving dunefield. If you've got a 4-wheel-drive, high clearance vehicle, you definitely will want to take it for a spin on the sand. If you're not into off-roading, the dunes are surrounded by a Wilderness Study Area which is home to rare creatures like the desert elk. There's a wildlife viewing area right by the dunes, so you can just enjoy the fascinating scenery here as well.
It's not hard to spot Boar's Tusk, as it's the only rock formation rising from the Killpecker Creek Plains. It can be seen for miles in each direction! It's actually the rocky remains of a volcano that existed more than 2.5 million years ago. You can hike around the lone butte and admire it from every angle. Keep your eyes peeled for desert elk, wild horses, antelope, and sage grouse as you ramble down the dirt path that leads to the rock formation... and keep in mind that it's best visited in a high-clearance vehicle with four-wheel drive.
The best way to end an adventure? With an ice cream cone, of course. Farson Mercantile in Farson is a little cafe with pizza, coffee, sandwiches, and the famous Big Cone. It's roughly the size of four normal scoops, so if you're worried about getting a brain freeze or a sugar rush, you might want to split one. Then again... once you get a taste for their yummy flavors (including an outstanding seasonal huckleberry offering) you might not want to!
As you explore the canyons, mountains, and plains across Wyoming, head off the beaten path to discover the local gems and hidden treasures that are tucked away in this little corner of the state. Where else in the country can you sip a beer on a stunning lake surrounded by red rocks, see the remains of an ancient volcano, and experience the biggest and most delicious brain freeze of your life, all on one trip?
Exploring 8,200 square miles of public land. Catching the “Big One” on Lake Flaming Gorge. Mountain Biking through the high desert. Kayaking on the Green River. Riding the second largest moving Sand Dunes. The only question is how long should you stay in Sweetwater County to fit it all in?