Johnson County is nestled between the rolling plains of the Old West and the towering peaks of the Bighorn Mountains. Whether it's our dramatic scenery, the wide open spaces, the numerous outdoor recreation opportunities, or a mining of the past through Western History at our three great museums, Johnson County is a place you'll love to visit. You'll enjoy Western hospitality at our restaurants—from family fare to fine dining—as well as an eclectic variety of shops and art galleries. Rest your head at one of your many hotels, motels, campgrounds, guest ranches and mountain lodges, where you can relax after a long journey.
Dare to explore the rugged outdoors of the Bighorn Mountains! Johnson County is a recreational haven for the adventurous with diverse activities to challenge individuals throughout the year. Spring and Summer offer an abundance of cycling, fishing, camping, hiking, wind surfing, waterskiing, rock climbing, horseback riding, geocaching and Kayaking. In the Fall and Winter we have the perfect climate for hunting, ATV and snowmobile riding, skiing, sledding, ice-skating, snow shoeing, and ice fishing. We offer 20 Motels, a Bed and Breakfast 4 Mountain Resorts, 7 Private Campgrounds 7 forest Service Campgrounds, 16 restaurants and 7 Guest Ranches.b: www.visitlaramie.org/snowmobiling
Buffalo is centrally located on Highway 16 between the Black Hills of South Dakota and Yellowstone National Park. This scenic highway takes its travelers through 60 miles of breathtaking mountain vistas. You'll climb from the foothills of Buffalo to Powder River Pass at an elevation of 9,666 feet before descending into awesomely rugged Ten Sleep Canyon.
The majestic Bighorn Mountains have a magnetic effect, drawing people with their natural beauty that will raise one's sense of adventure. This mountain range boasts a recreational playground of more than 900,000 acres, which includes the vast Cloud Peak Wilderness Area.
Indeed, the Bighorns are an outdoorsman's paradise for hunting, fishing, camping, backpacking, picnicking, rock climbing, snowmobiling, and skiing. A fountain of inspiration for artists and photographers alike, the massive peaks and rolling meadows are abundant with wild flowers and native creatures including moose, elk, deer, turkeys and more.
For a full on Old West experience, choose a stay at one of our local ranches. Dude ranches will allow you to learn the ways of the cowboys of yesteryear. Stay a week at the Klondike or the Willow Creek ranches to work cattle on horseback and experience life like a real live cowboy. For a more leisurely approach, pick a stay at Paradise, HF Bar or TA guest ranches. Here, you can enjoy the majestic beauty of the area in rustic luxury.
Johnson County offers incredible hunting opportunities for deer, elk, antelope, moose, small game, and upland game birds. Venture out on your own or select a local outfitter for a guided hunt. There are lots of public lands available but landowner permission is always required to hunt on private land.
Pack a camera or GoPro for a visit to Johnson County. From spectacular sunrises and sunsets, to the annual blossoming of spring wildflowers and autumn's last blaze of color; the scenery will dazzle. Choose a secluded mountain vista or hike the Clear Creek Trail System for amazing views. Bird watching is also a popular pastime with hundreds of species of song birds, owls, and raptors, including varieties of the majestic eagle.
Lake DeSmet started as a natural lake where Native Americans and settlers took refuge. Over the years, it has been expanded with dams, becoming an oasis for water sports and incredible fishing opportunities. Boaters, skiers and swimmers flock to the 5½ mile-long lake which features ramps, docks, campgrounds and picnic shelters. The lake is home to several species of trout, bass and walleye.
Johnson County is an angler's paradise. For the fisherman of any skill level, there are many places to cast a line. These include the Powder River (near Kaycee), area reservoirs (Tie Hack and Healy) and the alpine lakes and streams of the Bighorn National Forest. For the convenience of travelers, you can gear up at one of our local retail stores (The Sports Lure), where you can rent fishing equipment and purchase an out-of-state fishing license.
Strapping on skis and snowboards is a favorite pastime around the Bighorn Mountains, thanks to incredibly dry snow, which is just perfect for powder hounds. The Meadowlark Ski Lodge offers challenging runs, a warm, hospitable lodge, and a variety of equipment rentals.
There's also ample opportuniies for backcountry skiers. The U.S. Forest Service office in Buffalo can pinpoint the best areas to access the backcountry.
The Bighorn Mountains elevation means an abundance of powdery snow. Both in and around town, you'll be in a paradise for cross country skiers. There are miles of groomed trails to explore from the Buffalo Golf Club in Buffalo to Willow Park and Pole Creek outside of Buffalo Powder River Nordic Ski Club hosts a variety of trails and a website for enthusiasts. Visit the links for information on Nordic areas, snow conditions, and upcoming events.
Ranked by SnoWest Magazine as one of the Top 10 places to snowmobile, the Bighorn Mountains are a paradise for snowmobilers from all over the country. The 132 miles of groomed trails mean endless acres of fine fun on pure powder. A trail map is available at the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce for directions to specific trails and some local shops & lodges offer snowmobile rentals and repairs.
The Buffalo Golf Course is a hidden jewel for golf enthusiasts, rated a 4-star course by Golf Digest and listed in "Places to Play" for municipal courses. This 18-hole, par 71 course offers spectacular mountain vistas and challenging play. Everything you need to play a round, including club rental, is available in the well-stocked pro shop which features a revamped restaurant and bar - "Rub of the Green".
Bursting with more than 15,000 artifacts from the Old West, this impressive museum celebrates the history-filled area and legendary characters that inhabited it. The museum and its unique gift shop is open year-round. The museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums. Buffalo's Johnson County Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum houses one of the best collections in the American West, from the region. Items from the Custer/Little Big Horn Battlefield, Fetterman Fight, Johnson County Cattle War, and personal effects from famous lawmen & outlaws all reside in the museum.
The Clear Creek Trail System is an incredibly scenic way to enjoy the many sights Buffalo offers, and a great way to stretch your legs. Get in your daily run, bike ride, or just see the town from a different perspective. Starting at the South By-Pass on the east side of town and ending in the foothills via historic Main Street, the Clear Creek Trail totals nearly 20 miles from start to finish. You can join it at several points throughout town.
There are over a dozen historic buildings downtown, all with a story to tell. The Main Street Walking Tour brochure at the Chamber of Commerce has all the tales, including the Occidental Hotel, where Owen Wister's Virginian finally "got his man." In addition, there are nearly life-size bronzes, created by local sculptors, scattered around downtowncommemorating the ranch life and the Johnson County Cattle War.
The Buffalo City Park boasts its status as the home of Wyoming's largest free outdoor swimming pool, making it a mecca for adults and children alike in the summer. The park also has tennis courts and multiple playgrounds for kids of all ages.
Kaycee gives visitors a true Old West experience and was home to many of Wyoming's famous outlaws. This is the actual "Hole in the Wall" Country, the legendary hideout of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and the rest of the infamous Hole in the Wall Gang.
Kaycee is the site of the KC Cabin from the Johnson County Cattle War, one of the most significant events in Old West history. The Bozeman Trail's wagon ruts can still be viewed east of town, and Fort Reno was established on the Trail to protect travelers from the Indians.
Agriculture, mining and the oil industry have all helped to develop and support Kaycee. Cattle and sheep drives still occur twice a year on the same stock trails used since the homesteading days, up the mountain in the spring and back down in the fall. Always remember that livestock have the right of way; be prepared to stop in what is fondly referred to as a Wyoming Traffic Jam.
Kaycee is home to the Hoofprints of the Past Museum, where visitors will find authentic replicas of an old-time school house and one-room jail, as well as cowboy apparel and memorabilia. Kaycee's museum houses collections that highlight the area's most prominent historical locations and the scenes of Old West drama: The Johnson County War, the Hole in the Wall and the Dull Knife Battlefield. It also includes an old time school house setting, mercantile store, blacksmith shop, post office and other historical venues from its past. The museum offers an annual guided tour to the Hole in the Wall in June and is open from Memorial Day weekend through October 31st.
The 19th day of June has been declared Chris LeDoux Day and as a result, the community of Kaycee and the Chris LeDoux Memorial Foundation decided to make the honor a celebrated tradition. Chris LeDoux Days is an annual occurrence in mid-June with an array of events - including Saddle Bronc Riding, Bareback Riding, Indian Relay Race and Street Dance. Be sure to stop by the 'Good Ride Cowboy' monument and see why Chris LeDoux, a country music singer-songwriter, bronze sculptor and rodeo champion, was a legend and inspiration to so many people.
History books have tried to capture the past of Johnson County, but only when you visit the area personally can you experience the true American West as it was - and still remains. Some areas are public, while others are privately owned. Call the Chambers of Commerce in Buffalo or Kaycee to find out how and when to get permission to visit these historical treasures.
Seventeen prehistoric rock drawings, including a large warrior figure, dominate this inspiring cave located in the heart of Hole in the Wall Country. Just past Outlaw Cave, this is a great bonus to any historical trek.
Fort Phil Kearny, one of the three forts built as the U.S. Army moved north to protect travelers on the Bozeman Trail, is located at the foot of the Bighorns, which was once Crow Nation land. The largest stockade post of its time, this fort was under daily attack by Lakota and Cheyenne warriors during its brief two-year existence.
Also, known as Trabing Station, Crazy Woman Crossing, a Bozeman Trail historic site, is located just twenty miles southeast of Buffalo. This particular crossing was a favorite ambush site for the Native American tribes of the area. In July of 1866, when a military supply wagon bound from Fort Reno to Fort Phil Kearny neared Crazy Woman Crossing, Indians attacked the expedition and a day-long siege began. Late in the afternoon, soldiers from Fort Phil Kearny arrived and rescued the wagon train.
Traveling toward Story, visitors will find the Fetterman Battlefield, where Captain W.J. Fetterman and 80 men, including 2 civilians, were lured over Lodge Trail Ridge on December 21, 1866, ambushed and killed by an overwhelming force of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe warriors. The war leader of the Oglala Lakota, Crazy Horse, was instrumental in setting the trap for Fetterman and his command. This was the worst defeat suffered by the U.S. Military at the hands of the Indians and was a precursor for the Battle of Little Big Horn that would occur ten years later.
The Hole in the Wall was made famous by Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and the Wild Bunch, who frequented this area of southern Johnson County while evading the law. The entire area west of Kaycee is referred to as the Hole in the Wall Country. The Hoofprints of the Past Museum offers an annual guided historical tour of the Hole in the Wall hideout- located on Willow Creek Ranch property, and not normally available to the public, in June.
The TA ranch, located 13 miles south of Buffalo, was the site of the final conflict in the Johnson County Cattle War. The conflict that has transcended generations began in the years following the Homesteading Act. Local "cattle barons", already established in the territory were surprised to find new homesteaders on the land they'd used for years as their own. Tensions escalated to violence and shady practices, until it finally came to a head in April of 1892. Hired guns, manned with a list of supposed "rustlers" traveled from Texas to protect the barons' interests. After crossing off a few on their list, including local legend Nate Champion, the invaders were headed off at the TA Ranch and surrounded by a posse deputized by the Johnson County Sheriff. The three-day siege ended when troops from Fort McKinney were sent in by the President and the group of mercenaries surrendered. Visitors can still view bullet holes in the old barn at this state historic site, which also is a working guest ranch.
Outlaw Cave, associated with Hole in the Wall Country as a refuge for notorious outlaws, is an adventure to see. Head West of Kaycee, park your vehicle at Outlaw Cave Road, and hike the faint trail that runs down into Powder River Canyon. The Middle Fork of the Powder River, where the cave is located, is also known for its Indian lore.
Near Kaycee, the Dull Knife Battlefield was once considered to be safe winter quarters. In November of 1876, on the Red Fork of the Powder River, the beginning of the final chapter of the Indian wars took place. Colonel MacKenzie and the U.S. Military attacked Chief Dull Knife and the Northern Cheyenne, driving them from the Power River country. Soon after this battle, many Native American groups began to surrender and transition to reservation life began.
Near both Fort Phil Kearny and the Fetterman Battlefield, the site of the Wagon Box Fight can be found, where 29 soldiers held off an Indian attack in the hundreds. On August 2, 1867, Captain Powell and 31 other soldiers withstood an aggressive attack led by Red Cloud and his nephew. Ambushed while cutting wood, the soldiers had recently been supplied with the newly converted Springfield breech loading rifles. This new firearm technology and the protection of the circled wagon boxes were influencing factors in the famous battle.
Nothing compares to visiting scenic and historic sights in person. And in Johnson County, Wyoming there are dozens of places to explore. Some are easily accessible while some require four-wheel drive. Many historic buildings are still standing. Wherever you travel, bring your camera and remember to do a little checking before you set out, to make sure you're properly prepared.
On this tour, you'll see some of the most scenic mountain views imaginable. Expect to see mule deer, whitetail deer, wild turkey, antelope and in winter, elk.
Relive some of the West's most legendary history on this tour, the highlight of which is a well-organized display, along with a visitor's center and museum.
One of the favorite tours of Johnson County locals and visitors alike, this tour takes its travelers along a single lane dirt road past stunning canyon walls into the mountain. Begin at the intersection of (U.S. 16 West) Fort and Main in Buffalo, heading towards the mountains. *Not recommended for trailers or large RVs.
This fantastic tour offers breathtaking panoramic views of both Hazelton Peak and Cloud Peak and the Powder River Basin, in addition to sightings of mule deer and other wildlife. *High-clearance vehicles are necessary for some sections
This tour takes you to the land of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Johnson County locals and visitors favor the area's wildlife and scenery as much as the tales of these outlaws. This is also the area of the Middle Fork of the Powder River. *High-clearance vehicles are necessary for some sections
Follow in the tracks of pioneers, soldiers and gold miners as you explore the Bozeman Trail Loop. Visit the Fort Reno Site and stop at Crazy Woman Crossing where Indians ambushed and killed soldiers from Fort Reno. Once back in Buffalo, stop by Mountain Plains Heritage Park, a unique crossroads of the history of the American West.
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