Come for Fort Laramie, Stay for Wyoming Charm
Explore Fort Laramie National Historic Site and the surrounding towns in Goshen County on your way to Yellowstone.
Fields of golden prairie grass and green crops roll up to bluffs and rocky outcroppings. Sunflowers bob their heads in a summer breeze, brilliantly yellow against the blue Wyoming sky. Horses and cows dot the landscape. Gazing out across this southeastern corner of Wyoming, you can imagine what life would have been like for the pioneers crossing the many trails headed west to seek a new life. In the 1800s the Oregon, California, Mormon, Bozeman and Pioneer trails, along with the Pony Express, all crossed through this part of Wyoming, making it an important respite for westbound travelers. Stop here on your way to Yellowstone for a peek into the past.
Fort Laramie began as a private trading post in 1834. The Lakota and Sioux would trade buffalo robes for manufactured items until the bison population dwindled and the U.S. Army bought the fort in 1849, adding many buildings to the complex. Fort Laramie became the primary military establishment on the Northern Plains and was where the U.S. Army launched military campaigns against the Plains Indians and eventually signed the fraught Treaty of 1868. Today, Fort Laramie National Historic Site is a great place to learn more about the history of the American West.
The historic site is open daily to the public, but the summer months are the best time to visit with living history demonstrations where costumed docents interact with visitors to help bring the 1800s to life. Weekends are especially fun, with historic weapons demonstrations including the firing of a Mountain Howitzer, a cannon-style weapon that shot 12-pound artillery.
Start at the visitor center where you can download an audio tour to explore the area on your own, or the fort’s junior ranger program will lead kids through lots of fun activities in order to earn a badge. Check the calendar for special events like the yearly performance by the Wind River Dancers from the nearby Wind River Reservation, home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho.
After exploring Fort Laramie, head just down the road to the surrounding town of the same name. Grab lunch at the Fort Laramie Bar & Grill where you’ll find great burgers including the Jalapeno Popper with melted cream cheese, fresh jalapenos and raspberry drizzle. For dessert, don’t miss Haystack Hills Trading which is housed in an old gas station and features ice cream and fun souvenirs.
Southeast of Fort Laramie, you won’t want to miss an afternoon spent strolling Torrington’s cute Main Street. Stop into shops like Heartland Embroidery which sells University of Wyoming Cowboys’ gear, or Bluebird Boutique for women’s clothing. You’ll also find great places to eat and drink from coffee shops to Open Barrel Brewing Company, which serves up its own Wyoming craft beer.
Stop by Town Market to stock up on items for your Yellowstone camping trip. You’ll find local Wyoming steaks, frozen and ready for your grill, along with locally roasted coffee, local beer, wine and spirits and fresh flowers.
For dinner, head up the hill to Bucking Horse Grill. Overlooking the valley, with the Platte River winding through it, their patio might just be the prettiest place in the county. Their menu focuses on upscale comfort food like local steak, seafood pasta and potato skins, with fun one-off events like a Cajun Boil and an afternoon tea.
When the stars come out, this part of Wyoming is home to some great Airbnbs like Haystack Cabins, a collection of modern tiny homes in the middle of a hay field where you’ll have deer strolling up to your front door and can take in the stars around a bonfire.
Learn more at www.gogoshen.net.