Embrace the Spirit of the American West from the back of a conestoga, the midst of an Indigenous art exhibit or hip-deep in a river in Casper, Wyoming.

In the middle of sweeping plains and the widest sky you can imagine, Casper, Wyoming, rises up from the grass. The Laramie Mountain Range tucks the city into its northernmost peaks, including the region’s unmissable landmark, Casper Mountain. The second-most-populated city in Wyoming, Casper is the most centrally located “big” city in the state (there are only about 90,000 residents in Natrona County) and is a crossroads for history, culture, and adventure.

This story has been created in partnership with Visit USA Parks.

Relive the Storied Past: History Brought to Life

The North Platte River Valley that surrounds Casper saw hundreds of thousands of migrants pass through in the mid-1800s. Most famously, the Oregon Trail (as well as the Pony Express and the California and Mormon Pioneer trails) cut across this very swath of America. A visit to the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center cannot be missed. The hands-on exhibits ignite imaginations of travelers from around the world and establish a solid understanding of life in the Old West and the difficult journey across the country. 

But to really understand life on the trail, Historic Trails West will knock your boots off! This completely immersive experience puts you in the back of a covered wagon, drawn by horses and mules, through the actual ruts from the country’s first “highway.” Pulling up to a tipi village, your mouth will surely begin to water when you smell the hot Dutch oven dinner waiting for you, cooked the old-fashioned way: over the campfire. This trip back in time will be a history lesson you’ll never forget (although you’ll likely appreciate your modern vehicles and memory-foam mattress afterwards!) 

Tip: If you want to fully embrace the experience, study up on your Western culture and pop in to Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters downtown to look the part.

Historic Trails West Wagon Ride

The West’s Modern Lens: Casper’s Art Scene

Dating back to the ancient Indigenous peoples that roamed through these lands, art continues to play an integral role in the Casper community. You are sure to spot the murals that populate downtown walls, and throughout the summer you can catch free live music, movies, and farmers markets at the  David Street Station. Discover locally crafted creations at galleries like Art 321 and Scarlow’s Art & Coffee (who can say no to art and an afternoon pick-me-up, really?). But the art showstopper is known locally as “The NIC.” The Nicolaysen Art Museum rotates world-class art exhibits through their beautiful spaces. Known as a premier art center in the state, the NIC’s entry fee is nominal but the cultural return is huge!

Local Life: Get Out and Play!

With gorgeous surroundings like these, Casper’s outdoor adventure opportunities are plentiful. Hikers and snowshoers, mountain and fat bikers, fly fishermen and skiers all may want to carve out an extra few days of vacation here. Trails crisscross the wilderness just minutes from town, the slopes at Hogadon Basin Ski Area offer affordable winter fun, and the fishing is truly first-rate. 

Snowboarding at Hogadon Ski Basin on Casper Mountain

The ‘Quintessential Casper Hike’ award goes to the Bridle Trail and Split Rock Loop in Rotary Park. From the base of Casper Mountain, follow the short trail to Garden Creek Falls, then continue on the 4.5 mile (7.2 km) loop, taking you through local wildlife’s natural habitats and the iconic “tunnel” of an enormous halved boulder (Split Rock). Keep in mind that you are starting the hike at over 6,200 feet (1,890 m) above sea level. Bring plenty of water to compensate for the altitude and dry air!

But, for the true Casper experience, pack your favorite rod and reel (or rent one). Whether you are a seasoned angler or a complete novice, the North Platte River is worth a cast or two—or a hundred. Local outfitting guides can help you master flyfishing (and share private access points where the fish bite). Geared up at Ugly Bug Fly Shop and let Crazy Rainbow Fly Fishing or Grey Reef Anglers show you everything you need to know! 

All This and More…

This all just skims the surface of what you can discover in a visit to Casper—the culinary and craft beverage scene is great, too. Truly embrace the spirit of the American West from the back of a conestoga (covered wagon), the midst of an Indigenous art exhibit or hip-deep in the North Platte. Casper, Wyoming, welcomes you and your curiosity to come explore!