Escape to Dubois, Where the Largest Herd of Bighorn Roam
Stop at this small cowboy town on the way to Yellowstone.
What rhymes with “cowboys” and has been named “best escape in Wyoming” by Expedia? The small, scenic town of Dubois, Wyoming just 90 miles from Yellowstone and worlds away from the crowds.
In this small Wyoming town, you’ll find stunning trails with none of the crowds you’ll find in nearby Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Plus, you’ll find a range of lodging from affordable to high-end, and a downtown lined with rustic log buildings that look much as they did when the town was first settled in the late 1800s. The bonus? It’s just a 90-minute drive to the South Entrance of Yellowstone National Park and to the Moose Entrance of Grand Teton National Park.
Dubois is nestled in a valley between the Absaroka and Wind River mountain ranges And, yes, a river runs through it. The Wind River meanders peacefully through town on its way to join the Yellowstone River system. Native Americans, fur traders, homesteaders, outlaws and Scandinavian tie hacks are all part of the area’s diverse cultural heritage. Legendary outlaw Butch Cassidy even spent a fall and winter living near Dubois before embarking on his most notorious crime spree. History buffs can learn more at the Dubois Museum.
For the outdoor enthusiast, Dubois offers four seasons of outdoor adventures. Dubois is surrounded by the Shoshone National Forest and more than 800,000 acres of unspoiled wilderness. Camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, fishing, hunting, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and cross-country skiing are just some of the possibilities. Always be sure to bring bear spray with you and know how to use it, along with water, snacks and clothing layers in case the weather changes.
Up for a six-mile round-trip hike? Head to Brooks Lake Trails located about 20 miles west of town off of a gravel road off of US Hwy. 26/287. You’ll hike about 3 easy-to-moderate miles uphill from Brooks Lake to Upper Brooks Lake or Jade Lake.
Or get a great view of western Wyoming’s badlands near town, drive up (with a high clearance vehicle) or hike up nearby Table Mountain. The hike is about 3 miles one way from Mason Draw and climbs about 1,000-1,300 feet. There’s no shade on the mountain, so be sure to being a lot of water and start early in the morning. The Dubois Museum actually offers half-day tours of the mountain, which has tipi rings, eagle traps and bison line drives from the native Shoshone who lived in the area.
To drive up Table Mountain, head east from downtown to Boedecker Street. Follow it until it turns into North Mountainview Drive. Continue north for 4.2 miles until the road forks in three ways. Turn right onto a dirt road and follow it to the Table Mountain Summit. Once you turn off of North Mountainview Drive, you’ll need a high-clearance vehicle for the rest of the way.
What to Do in Dubois, Wyoming
On Friday nights during the summer, you can attend the Dubois rodeo where local cowboys and cowgirls show off their skills in a variety of events. If you’re in town on a Tuesday night, it’s definitely worth watching or joining into the square dancing that takes place at the Rustic Pine Tavern. Don’t worry if your square dancing skills are a little rusty. There’s someone called a “caller” on the dance floor who teaches participants all the steps. It’s all about having fun and less about nailing your dance moves.
Eat at least one of your meals at the Cowboy Cafe, which serves hardy breakfasts, lunches and dinners. It also has an extensive beer selection, which includes fun, Wyoming-based beers like Old Faithful Golden Ale. For breakfast, order the Wild Sampler Platter to get a real taste of the West. It includes smoked buffalo and spicy elk sausages, two eggs, hash browns and toast. The Cowgirl omelette is great for non-meat eaters- it’s made of onion, peppers, mushrooms and cheddar cheese. And for those looking for a pure vegetarian option, there’s Avocado Toast.
Get your caffeine fix at The Perch Coffee House, which also serves breakfast burritos and bagels. There’s everything here from cappuccinos and frappes to mocha lattes made with Ghiradelli chocolate sauce. It’s located at 132 E. Ramshorn St. Down the street, there’s Village Cafe and Daylight Donuts at 515 W. Ramshorn St.
National Museum of Military Vehicles
A newcomer to Dubois is the National Museum of Military Vehicles, a $100-million, privately funded museum that provides a fascinating and state-of-the-art look at the vehicles used during World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War. The 475 vehicles, artillery pieces, naval vessels and aircraft date back as far as 1897 and are as current as today and have been impeccably restored. The stories behind them provide so much insight into battles, military strategy and more. For instance, the Red Ball Express, a combat vehicle featured in the museum, enabled the U.S. to continue to fight against the Germans while resupplying U.S., British and Canadian troops after the Battle of Normandy in 1944. Former attorney and CEO of St. Jude’s Hospital Dan Starks and his wife Cynthia funded the museum. They own a ranch in the Dubois area.
The Wildlife Side of Dubois
The area is home to the largest herd of bighorn sheep in the lower 48 states and a great place to spot the bighorns is in Whiskey Basin, which has a number of great hiking trails to explore. But while you’re in town, don’t miss The National Bighorn Sheep Center, which tells the story of bighorn sheep through interpretive displays. In the middle of the museum stands Sheep Mountain, a 16-feet tall diorama.In winter, you can go on a center tour to view the sheep in their natural habitat.
Several thousand elk winter around Dubois, and watchful visitors can easily spot mule deer and moose. Wolves have been a presence in the area since a pair of wolves wandered out of Yellowstone National Park to establish the first pack outside the park. There’s one animal in Dubois you won’t find too many other places. It’s the giant jackalope statue at the Exxon Country Store. Stop by and take a selfie.
Where to Stay in Dubois, Wyoming
Despite its rustic appearance, Dubois offers accommodations to fit every taste and pocketbook. Guest ranches offering an authentic Western experience are a long established Dubois-area tradition. Two of the oldest guest ranches in Wyoming are located a few miles from town. The CM Ranch opened in 1927 and offers log cabin rooms or even larger houses for families and couples. Enjoy healthy meals, ride a horse through the desert badlands in the area and just kick back and relax. The Absaroka Ranch is home to a 100-year-old historic lodge. Stay in a rustic cabin, spend your days horseback riding, hiking and more before ending the day with a cocktail hour and cowboy singing entertainment.
In town, you can stay at the Twin Pines Lodge & Cabins where you can choose from a room in the lodge or a cabin to sleep in. The Branding Iron Inn also offers a log-cabin experience. On the higher end, you can stay at Brooks Lake Lodge, which offers an all-inclusive experience. You can choose between a lodge room or cabin.
If you’re more interested in sleeping in your tent rather than a room, there’s in-town camping along the river and also near Brooks Lake.
Events in Dubois
A surprisingly varied selection of special events is part of the Dubois experience. Beginning with Winterfest in February, there’s something happening almost every month. Dubois’ Headwaters Arts and Conference Center is home to a national juried art show in July. Beginning in June, a family-oriented rodeo and a chuckwagon dinner are held weekly. The National Bighorn Sheep Center and Dubois Museum offer free weekly interpretive programs.
For more information:
National Bighorn Sheep Center
Wind River Visitors Council