The best thing about packing a sense of adventure for a trip to Casper, Wyoming, is the treasure it unlocks for travelers to the Oil City. That, and it doesn’t take up any room in the overhead compartment.
Guests can take advantage of opportunities in Casper thanks in near-equal parts to the city’s history and geography. Casper is sandwiched between densely forested Casper Mountain and the winding waters of the North Platte River in the heart of Wyoming. In its infancy, Casper was a rough-and-tumble cowboy town. It earned its misspelled name from Caspar Collins, an Army lieutenant who lost his life in a battle in 1865 outside the now-renamed and restored Fort Caspar, and became a hub for both travelers and information. That’s because Casper is the only spot in America where the Pony Express, the transcontinental telegraph trail corridor and the Oregon, California and Mormon trails converged.
Today, spirited pioneers converge in Casper year round for outdoor escapades and immersive historic experiences. The town is a bullseye on a map of must-visit rodeo destinations and its sweet city scene retains a small-town vibe.
Head to the North Platte, which hugs and laces through the city, to see the sleek shapes of golden, rainbow and other hybrid trout touring the shoreline. “If you love the outdoors and fishing, you need to get an outfitter and do some fly fishing,” said Tyler Daugherty, president and CEO of Visit Casper. There was an excited edge to his voice, and for good reason: The North Platte River is a mecca for anglers thanks to its status as a blue-ribbon trout river. With 4,000 catchable fish per mile, some of the undisputed best fly fishing in the world is in the clear blue waters around Casper. Envision the trout making acrobatic leaps out of the water as groups fight for the fish of a lifetime. Guides and outfitters are numerous.
Travelers energized after a triumphant morning on the water can head just out of town to Casper Mountain. During the winter months, there’s skiing and snowshoeing. After temperatures thaw, trails abound for nearly every type of bike. Groups itching to get some miles on their boots have numerous hikes to choose from.
“Elevation goes from 5,150 to 8,000 feet once you get on the mountain,” Daugherty said, “On a bright blue, sunny day, you feel so close to the skies. If you want to get lost, just turn around and you’re hiking on Casper Mountain.”
Nearly 50 miles of trails for all skill levels are 20 minutes south of town. The Bridle Trail at Rotary Park will woo hikers with whispering pines and vistas of waterfalls and the added reward of views of the city below.
Knowledge mavens can sink their teeth into history in Casper. “If you’re looking for a unique experience, I’d recommend Historic Trails West,” Daugherty said. Participants experience life in the West as it was in all its raw and fragile glory in the 1800s. Traveling under a canvas-covered wagon is a good surface-skimming preview of what awaits.
Groups traverse the historic trails of the West in an authentic, primitive setting. “You’re riding in a wagon they would have used back then,” Daugherty said. Explore during simple two-hour tours or commit to the unforgettable immersion of an overnight experience. “You can get a taste for as much as you want,” he said. “Eat out of a Dutch oven on an evening tour and stay overnight in a teepee village.”
Life in the West is just one angles taken with history in Caspar. “We do have a rich history of the West, from the Tate Museum and the dinosaurs to our trail centers,” Daugherty said. Markers and tours detail the routes and purposes of multiple sites, including the national historic trails. “Museums and history experiences here invite people to come and get lost,” Daugherty said. Consider an afternoon dedicated to the Tate Geological Museum, the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, the Fort Caspar Museum and Historic Site or the Nicolaysen Art Museum.
It’s nearly impossible to truly experience Casper without attending what for many locals is the year’s defining event. Casper is the home of the College National Finals Rodeo, where daring and skilled students compete in the highest echelon of collegiate rodeo sports, carving dirt out of the Ford Wyoming Center arena and championships for themselves.
“It’s a special event,” Daugherty said. “It’s a big deal for our Native American community and all the western-loving communities in Wyoming, Arizona, Idaho, the Dakotas, Washington and Canada.”
Events include bull riding, bare bronc riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling and barrel racing, among many others. Embrace the dust and bring a big hat. The competition traditionally takes place in June, with tickets going on sale in the early spring.
In the City
After enjoying the outdoors, groups should spend time experiencing Casper’s other attractions. A family-friendly atmosphere has replaced the raucous culture of its cowboy country origins.
“We have genuine, good people,” Daughterty said of the city’s decidedly friendly atmosphere. “We’re the adventure capital of the state, but Casper is also an activity hub for Wyoming. It has the infrastructure people need to shop and get an in-state staycation. We have good food and drink, and the locals love David Street Station.”
David Street Station, a community plaza, bridges the city’s Old Yellowstone District with the downtown district. Anopen-air amphitheater that was once a furniture store now hosts seasonal events.
“It’s a gathering space for people downtown,” Daugherty said. “It’s on a prime piece of real estate downtown and in the winter, people come to enjoy ice skating around lit Christmas trees.” Groups can unwind at David Street Station, connecting through food, events and live music.
They can also partake of a growing craft beer scene at local breweries like Black Tooth an Frontier Brewing or, for great views of downtown, and Casper Mountain, Gruner Brothers Brewing.