When people think of Wyoming, wide-open spaces and cowboys with guns come to mind. Opposite ends of the spectrum that apparently meet in Wyoming.
Sure, these days the landscape is beautiful as ever, but the cowboys have traded in their ponies with Ford F-150s, and somehow they all have more guns.
Still, people travel to Wyoming. But it’s usually to Yellowstone, Jackson Hole or the Grand Tetons. All great places, sure. But those are the tourist attractions; those are the places where the beaten path leads. May we offer an unbeaten path? A western town nestled in the foothills of some of the most impressive mountains in the country? If you want an authentic Wyoming experience with beauty, charm and authenticity, look no further than the hidden gem that is Buffalo. It has the western feel of old America, the secluded peacefulness that is pure Wyoming and the wilderness that is second to none not only in the state but the whole country. This is the unheralded Wyoming you want to see. Here’s where to start.
1. Occidental Hotel & Saloon
Courtesy of Occidental Hospitality, LLC
Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch used to knock knees and shoot whiskey from the 25-foot bar at the historic Occidental Hotel & Saloon, so once you set foot inside this place, you’ll be amongst true American history. Buffalo’s main street has over a dozen historic buildings but this should be your first stop. A local hangout of Teddy Roosevelt, Cassidy and other outlaws and lawmen of the past, the Occidental has the bygone vibe of old poker rooms of the west with period antiques from the 1800s. When you take a seat at the bar today, it’s in the same place as cowboys, sheriffs, desperados and cattle barons sat way back when. And you’ll feel just as cool. Whiskey is plenty; beer is served on draft, in bottles and by the cans; and every Thursday is live bluegrass night. The hotel offers nights in 16 unique rooms and two suites, rates vary from $80 to $165 in the winter and $110 to $250 in the summer. Suites with multiple rooms and beds will cost a little more.
2. The Virginian Restaurant
Courtesy of Occidental Hospitality, LLC
Named after Owen Wister’s famous novel, The Virginian Restaurant is an extension of the Occidental but it has its own unique environment. The white tablecloth vibe is fancy enough to make you feel like you’ve moved into the higher class of the 1800s, but the menu is anything but aged. Go for dinner and get the house special buffalo steak. The prime rib and filet mignon are two other standouts.
3. MISHAP! Brewing Company
A Main Street and Historic District staple since 2012, MISHAP! Brewing Company (formerly Clear Creek Brewing) is the go-to spot for craft beers in Buffalo. The tasting room has 16 taps consisting of 15 beers and one reserved for their housemade root beer or cream soda. Mary McCorkle, the brewery’s former co-owner, suggests the Tacklebox Wheat for starters. Other standouts include their Fire Hole Chili Porter made with chocolate malts and Japanese red chilies and their Right Meow Cream Ale. “Our space is a true labor of love and what we hope to be the perfect place to sit, relax and share a beer or two with friends,” McCorkle said. They’ve also got a killer to patio that opens as soon as all the snow melts off the mountain.
4. Bighorn National Forest
Photo by amadeustx/Shutterstock
One million acres of national forest and 1,200 miles of hiking and horseback trails in the Cloud Peak wilderness. Whether a hiker wants to climb to the beautiful Diamond Lake or stay in the car and fly up and down the Bighorn Scenic Byway en route to Yellowstone, the Bighorn National Forest truly is a hidden gem that gets vastly overlooked. One of the first things you’ll notice is how quiet the drive is. At the bottom of the mountain in Buffalo, temperatures might be 30 degrees warmer, but once you’re car gets closer to the snow-topped peak, brace yourself for chills and heights—the highest point is Cloud Peak at more than13,000 feet.
5. Longmire Days
Photo via Netflix
Craig Johnson’s first Longmire novel came out in 2004. This July, Buffalo celebrated the success of his books and the hit TV show based on them with the sixth annual Longmire Days. Longmire, which debuted in 2012 on A&E and is now produced by Netflix, is set in a fictitious version of Buffalo and Johnson County. During the biggest annual event in Buffalo, the whole town transforms into downtown Absaroka County. Fans can take a seat in Walt Longmire’s office; snag pictures of his trusty Ford Bronco; enjoy food trucks from the set of the show; attend talks, screenings, autograph sessions; and meet virtually every actor that is featured on the show, as well as the man behind the characters. The event has grown to host 10,000 visitors a year; that’s more than double the population in Buffalo.
6. Dash Inn
Dash Inn might have the best fast food in the state, thanks to the greasy burgers, inventive desserts, fried chicken, ribs and a whole lot more. No one should ever drive through Buffalo without making a quick stop at Dash Inn. The service is great, the food is better and it’s always packed, as if everyone in the very small town of Buffalo eats there every day. And that might very well be the case. And we wouldn’t blame them.
Patrick is a writer and traveler living in Wyoming. You can follow him @PatrickFilbin.