Gillette, a city in the northeast corner of Wyoming, is known for providing almost 35% of the nation's coal and is also a significant producer of oil and natural gas. Thus, Gillette calls itself the "Energy Capital" of the country.
Gillette and Northeast Wyoming—other area towns include Sundance, Moorcroft, and Wright—offer interesting things to do. Devils Tower National Monument, one of Wyoming's most popular visitor attractions, is located nearby. Tourists and locals can also experience bird watching, swimming, and fishing at the state park, explore cultural museums, and tour a coal mine. Other engaging activities in Gillette include seeing a buffalo jump, the first national monument in the country, and the historic downtown, which gives visitors a taste of the old West and small-town American life.
The first national monument in the U.S., Devils Tower is sacred to many Native American tribes and is a compelling sight to visitors. Jutting up among the surrounding grasslands, the monument is an odd and noteworthy geological formation that demands your attention as it stands 1,267 feet (386 meters) above the Belle Fourche River. You can hike, climb, and explore the visitor center's interpretive exhibits and bookstore.
Travelers can view Devils Tower National Monument 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The visitor center is open daily in the spring, summer, and fall.
The Late-Prehistoric Plains Indians made clever use of the natural landscape for their annual buffalo hunts. Now an active archaeological site, the Vore Buffalo Jump took advantage of a sinkhole in the landscape. Scientists determined that this particular buffalo jump was in use relatively recently, from about 1500 to 1800. The exhibit building at the site is a great place to learn about how Plains Indians drove the buffalo herds off of the jump as well as how every part of the animal was harvested and used. You can also visit the actual outdoor pit and observe the excavations in progress.
The Vore Buffalo Jump, located just east of Sundance off of Interstate 90, offers guided public tours early June through Labor Day and is usually closed the rest of the year, though off-season tours may be arranged.
To check out the former City Hall where everything from dances to funerals to public meetings were held, or the old Gillette Post Office—which is on the National Register of Historic Places—stop by the Gillette Visitor Center to pick up a free walking tour guidebook. For a more modernized experience, the no-cost TravelStorys app (click on WY Tour Gillette) offers an audio tour that plays as you and your phone stop in front of any of the 10 tour stops along the way.
You can also visit The Wyoming Office of Tourism to collect a walking tour map that will detail Gillette's history, including the local shops and eateries on Gillette Avenue.
This local museum that takes its name from the Rockpile, a landmark rock formation, does have a few rocks. The focus, however, is on the history and culture of Gillette and Campbell County. Exhibits at this free museum include artifacts from early homesteading, ranching, and mining days, as well as information about the region's current mining industry. During your visit, you can watch a film about coal mining or catch a presentation like "Black & Yellow Theatre, Powder River Basin Voices from the Black Hills to Yellowstone" about the cultural history and environment of the area's Powder River Basin.
Available from Memorial Day through Labor Day, these guided coal mine tours in "The Energy Capital of the Nation" take around two hours. During the bus outing, you will learn about Wyoming's vast coal reserves, observe massive mining equipment in operation, see the actual surface mine, and get information about the post-mining land reclamation activities. Reservations are required with the Gillette Visitor Center.
Located slightly north of Moorcroft on the western edge of the Black Hills, Keyhole State Park is a popular place all year for boating, fishing, hiking, and swimming—as well as wildlife and bird watching. There are 10 campgrounds in the park, some of which offer cabins or RV hookups and which are utilized by families planning a visit to Devils Tower National Monument. Park facilities include a beach just south of the Keyhole marina, a picnic area and shelter, children's playgrounds, and more to enjoy.
Creativity galore can be found on the Avenues of Art walking tour across town, sponsored by the City of Gillette and the Mayor’s Art Council. Visitors may view over 100 sculptures (all for sale, in an exhibit that changes yearly) designed by local and national artists. To grab a brochure with a map covering each piece in this year’s exhibit, visit the Mayor’s Art Council.
For two days in late June at Gillette College, the town is home to the fun Donkey Creek Festival, featuring plenty of live music and family entertainment. The outdoor event is also full of art exhibitions, and it's the place the chosen sculptures for each year's Avenues of Art make an appearance. There are also food vendors, a beer tent, and children's activities. The festival has no entrance fee, whether you are a local or a visitor.