Casper, Wyoming's second-largest city in the eastern central part of the state, has an interesting history—crude oil was found in the area during the 1890s, making Casper the regional center for the petroleum industry. The area is also known for its beautiful parks and historic sites filled with Native American artifacts and reminders of the pioneers who passed through. While Casper is the center of population and services, you don't have to drive more than a few hours to find fascinating places for scenery and outdoor recreation like camping, hiking, biking, and more. Like Casper itself, the historic trails of America's westward migration are the focus of many engaging places to visit and explore.
Found about two hours from Casper, this important fort began life as a fur trading post in 1834 and later became a key military facility that supported America's westward migration through 1890. The Fort Laramie National Historic Site visitor center offers a film, exhibits, a bookstore, and summer interpretive programs. You can explore the grounds and buildings on a self-guided tour.
The park is open from dawn until dusk every day of the year, but the Museum and Visitor Center are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. There are extended summer hours from June through August.
Established in 1867, Fort Fetterman (about 50 minutes from Casper) served as a base for military expeditions and battles with the Plains Indians. Travelers to the Fort Fetterman State Historic Site will find a visitor center, restored structures such as officers’ quarters, foundations, and walking trails with interpretive signage.
The site is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day on Tuesdays through Saturdays.
You'll find this large Wyoming park about 1.5 hours from Casper. Guernsey State Park encompasses the entire 2,400-acre Guernsey Reservoir and is a registered national historic landmark; it offers a long list of day use, boating, and other facilities. Hiking, swimming, biking, fishing, and birding are all popular Guernsey Reservoir activities. The Civilian Conservation Corps made significant contributions to the structures and amenities throughout Guernsey State Park.
Guernsey State Park is open all year; however, the cliff-side Guernsey Museum is open from early May through the end of September. Camping is available seven campgrounds, five of which surround a lake.
Located at the south end of the sprawling Glendo Reservoir and approximately 1.25 hours from Casper, Glendo State Park is a beautiful hot spot featuring about 22,000 acres for outdoor recreation, including boating, swimming, mountain biking, hiking trails, fishing, and picnicking. The park and surrounding area are full of historic artifacts from the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Oglala, and Brule Sioux tribes; note it is illegal to remove such items.
Glendo State Park is open every day and offers 21 campgrounds with a variety of settings.
About 1.5 hours from Casper, you can learn about the hardships and triumphs of travel along the Oregon Trail at this historic site which captures the imagination. Understand the struggles of the people who journeyed along the California, Oregon, and Mormon trails in the great western overland migration. A quick hike at this historic site takes you to deep gouges left from actual wagon train traffic along the Oregon Trail; you'll see interpretive displays and picnic areas.
The site is open all year from sunrise to sunset.
Driving about an hour and 40 minutes from Casper, you'll reach a sandstone cliff that faces along the Oregon Trail and retains the "we were here" markings of hundreds of pioneers who wrote their names, dates, and other messages into the cliffs. In "Westward-Migration time," the Register Cliff State Historic Site is a week out of Fort Laramie; you can now drive the trip in 40 minutes or less. These distinctive cliffs were a well-known landmark among Oregon Trail pioneers, serving as a checkpoint along the journey and providing assurance that they were on the correct route to South Pass.
Enjoy the site from sunrise to sunset throughout the year.
Another important landmark along the Oregon Trail at just an hour from Casper, this whale-shaped, light-colored mound of rock lets travelers know that they were on the right track toward their final Western destination. Independence Rock State Historic Site takes its name from the first wagon train to take this particular route. The travelers reached this location on July 4, 1830. During your visit to Independence Rock, you can walk about a mile around the entire formation. Like at Register Cliff, you'll see many places where over 5,000 pioneers carved their names, dates, and other information onto the sandstone rock face.
Independence Rock is open all year, weather permitting.