Wyoming is one of the least populated and least traveled states in the U.S., making it an appealing family destination with plenty of wide open space, especially with social distancing still a priority for health and safety. The Rocky Mountain State is the 10th largest, so there’s a lot of terrain to explore. Legendary Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are the biggest draws, but there’s plenty more frozen fun to be had around Wyoming this winter.
The Big Boys
If anyone in your family is a train buff—it usually spans generations, from grandparents to the little ones—Cheyenne may already be on your radar. The city is currently home to two of the world’s largest steam locomotives: Big Boy steam engines 4004 and 4014. These powerful coal-fired engines were designed to pull a 3,600-ton train over steep grades between Cheyenne and Ogden, Utah.
Visit the 4004, one of the eight remaining Big Boys throughout the country, year-round in the southeast corner of Holliday Park. You can park your car in the lot accessible from East 17th Street and Morrie Avenue. Find No. 4014 in the UP Steam Shop at the Cheyenne Depot.
Most people haven’t heard of ice sailing, which makes it a true adventure for uninitiated families. Unlike a traditional boat, an ice boat is designed to run over ice instead of through water. This wintertime activity is ideal on the North Crow Reservoir of Curt Gowdy State Park. There’s a great video that explains the sport and better shows what the boats look like and how to plan for the adventure.
Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
Cheyenne provides quick access to miles of trails for snowshoeing, remote cross country skiing trails, and more. In the wintertime, the trails of Vedauwoo National Monument, located roughly 35 miles west of Cheyenne, become an ideal winter playground for non-motorized snow sports. Vedauwoo boasts pedestal-shaped rock formations sculpted by natural forces over eons of time, including 1.4 billion-year-old Sherman Granite towers.
A bonus: If you’re not a gear owner, Cheyenne’s Rock on Wheels offers all types of equipment to fit any excursion level or activity. Additionally, Albany County, located halfway between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming, is an old ski area with plenty of powder skiing that makes a great home base for a day of cross-country skiing.
Where to Stay Near Cheyenne: Curt Gowdy State Park
Located roughly 25 minutes from Cheyenne, Curt Gowdy State Park is home to ice fishing, river fishing, and rustic-but-comfortable lodging. Granite and Crystal Reservoirs are often the first to ice up. Expect plenty of trout or perch, or head to Upper North Crow where rainbow and brown trout, splake, and grayling can often be caught.
If you want to stay in one of the four heated and furnished camping cabins at Curt Gowdy State Park’s Sherman Hills campground, you’ll need to book in advance. Each cabin features beautiful views of the Granite Springs Reservoir, and cabins #2 and #4 are also ADA accessible. Cabins may be reserved year-round by calling 877-996-7275 or by booking online.
This legendary mountain town is known for a mix of chic celebrity and old Western roots. Jackson Hole borders both Yellowstone National Park and its namesake ski resort. Downtown is charming with wood-planked boardwalks, lots of restaurants offering takeout, and stores loaded with Western gear, clothing, art and furniture.
Social-distancing parameters mean it’s vital to book in advance at the mountain resorts if you’re there for some world-class skiing or snowboarding. But with more than 100 winter activities in the area, there’s something for every family member whether or not you’re a family of skiers. Cross-country ski, snowshoe, snowmobile, dog sled, soak in hot springs, take a sleigh ride, horseback ride, snow tube, explore national parks, go on wildlife tours; it can all be arranged in the surrounding area in a socially distanced and appropriate manner.
Where to Stay: The Lodge at Jackson Hole
The Lodge at Jackson Hole offers roughly 150 premiere guest rooms for the family in the heart of downtown. It has an all-season indoor/outdoor heated pool and jacuzzi and a fireside lounge to keep warm. This winter, the property has a Fire & Ice package, where guests will enjoy a sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge; a Lodge at Jackson Hole beanie to help keep warm; gourmet hot chocolate to be enjoyed after the day’s adventure; and a choice of a “fiery” or cold “icy” cocktail at the Fireside Lounge for adults. The Fire & Ice package starts at $269 and is available to book through March 31, 2021.
Wyoming Winter Off-the-Beaten Path: Brooks Lake Lodge
Located about an hour and a half-drive east of Jackson Hole is the charming town of Dubois, a winter mecca and the closest town to remote Brooks Lake Lodge. The family-friendly all-inclusive guest ranch is surrounded by Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest.
The historic guest ranch offers lakeside views and panoramic vistas of the snow-capped Wind River Mountains and Pinnacle Buttes. The Lodge has 600 miles of groomed trails and 2 million acres of untrammeled backcountry terrain. Rooms, suites, and private cabins have wood burning stoves, comfy lodgepole pine beds, and views of the remarkable surroundings.
Brooks Lake Lodge will accommodate a maximum of 18 overnight guests at a time this winter, as the safety of staff and guests in the lodge is a priority. The lodge will remain open for the winter season through March 15, 2021.