(BPT) - As the pandemic slowly subsides in the U.S., people are looking to put the rubber to the road. Many like to travel out west to see the gorgeous stretches of mountains and quaint towns that provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of metro living.
While the quiet life and the breathtaking scenery may be calling your name, it's important to be mindful stewards of the land, animals, culture and communities where you travel. You can make your trip to Wyoming and similar destinations a memorable and responsible one without sacrificing fun. Here's how to get the most out of it:
Enjoy natural spaces responsibly
Be respectful of your surroundings by:
- Leaving places better than you found them: If you stop for a break and have a snack, throw everything away in a nearby garbage, recycling or compost bin. If none are available, hold onto your garbage until you can dispose of it appropriately.
- Stay on the trail: This is especially important for new hikers. Make sure you stay on marked trails and keep a map on you. While going off trail can seem like a quick and easy shortcut, you could risk damaging the flora and natural vegetation of the area, which can have an impact on the surrounding wildlife.
- Check the weather: If you plan outdoor activities, check the weather before you leave. Wyoming summers are usually mild. However, storms can catch you unprepared, especially in mountainous regions.
- Give wild animals some distance: Visiting Wyoming gives you the chance to encounter wildlife you don't get to see in other places, like grizzly bears, black bears, bison and elk. If you're planning to visit any national or state parks, chances are you will encounter some of these animals. As recommended by the National Park Service, remember to stay at least 100 yards away from predators such as bears and wolves and 25 yards away from all other wildlife. It's also important not to taunt them, intimidate them or get near their offspring as that could increase your risk of injury.
- Keep it clean: Not all trailheads have bathrooms, so be sure to find a place to 'do your business' before you start your hike. If you are backpacking or camping in an area with no restroom facilities, make sure you bring the appropriate tools to correctly dispose of your waste. And always pick up after your pets.
Be fire aware
If camping is on your itinerary, be cognizant of fire hazards. Some parts of Wyoming enact fire bans during the summer to protect land and prevent forest fires. When camping, choose a campsite with pre-existing fire rings and follow local and federal fire safety guidelines. Even when you're in a camp with fire rings, your campfire can still burn out of control. You can reduce the risk of uncontrollable fires by:
- Fully extinguishing the fire upon leaving your campsite or going to bed
- Not leaving the fire unattended, especially when young children are present
- Not using chemicals like kerosene or gasoline
- Keeping dirt and water nearby to put out the fire easily
- Avoid parking in areas of tall grass. The exhaust and undercarriage can easily ignite a wildfire.
Be part of a responsible community
Chivalrous travelers don't just respect and protect their natural surroundings; they make efforts to support local communities. Wyoming has fewer than 600,000 people, with most living in small to mid-size towns. Many of these communities rely on tourism to thrive, so it's important to support locally owned restaurants, souvenir shops and local tourist stops beyond highly popular destinations, such as the national parks and monuments.
Responsible tourists also follow local health and safety guidelines. The pandemic saw people visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton in record numbers. While Wyoming's COVID-19 restrictions have loosened, some businesses and federal lands may have guidelines in place.
Find a new route
If you're interested in and discovering the hidden gems of Wyoming, here are a few places locals suggest checking out:
- Wyoming Frontier Prison: Located in Rawlins, the prison was in use from 1901-1981 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can get hour-long guided tours that take you through three cell blocks, the cafeteria, the grounds and the Death House. This is turning into a popular destination, so consider booking your tour tickets in advance.
- Wind River Country: For more experienced hikers looking to go beyond Yellowstone, Wind River Country gives you stunning views with plenty of hiking/biking trails and fishing without a huge tourist influx.
- State Parks: Wyoming's state parks are another great way to get outside and beat the crowds. Buffalo Bill State Park is great for those near Yellowstone who want a chance to explore the greater eco-system. Or, you can head over to Hot Springs State Park, which is known for its mineral waters, geological formations and bath house.
- National Museum of Military Vehicles: Built from its owner's personal collection, the National Museum of Military Vehicles has nearly 475 restored artillery pieces, navy vessels aircrafts and other military vehicles, spanning across a multitude of wars. The museum also has a historic and significantly large firearm collection.
- Dinosaur attractions: These prehistoric creatures may be long gone, but there are plenty of places in Wyoming that preserve their history and legacy. If you're a dinosaur nerd or looking for someplace fun to take the kids, consider checking out the Red Gulch Dinosaur track site, the Wyoming Dinosaur Center or Tate Dinosaur Safaris.
Explore everything Wyoming has to offer
Wyoming offers many opportunities for adventure. To help preserve this vast and gorgeous state, tourists and locals all play a part in being respectful and leaving things better than they found them.
Check out travelwyoming.com/wy-responsibly/ to learn more.