Just before sundown a mountain lion paced back and forth along the timberline of Yellowstone Lake. From a tent you could make out its silhoutte from hundreds of yards away with its long tail curving up and down as he walked. A night camping on the lake is filled with wolves howling, owls hooting and cougars crying. Waking up on an August morning, the day's high temps are to be in the 90s, but there's a thin layer of ice on the puddles outside our tent. Frosty nights and sunny days are what summers bring in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Tall waterfalls, deep gorges, hot springs and sulfur geysers mark the landscape in the northwest corner of the state.
The "Cowboy States'' rodeos and cattle drives are a part of everyday life in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Just south of Grand Tetons National Park the town makes a great base camp for backpacking, trail riding and canoe expeditions into the park. The tall jagged peaks of the Grand Teton Range are the types of mountains you picture when you hear of the Rockies. Purple grey rock in the lower altitude gives way to summits covered with white snow most of the year. This pristine wilderness is a haven for moose, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and marmots. Cool alpine streams and lakes make for paddling in front of iconic, towering mountain peaks.
While central Wyoming has more mountain ranges like the Big Horns in the north and Laramie in the south, it also has vast flat open spaces. Cattle roam on ranches so huge that, when you wander by them, it's hard to even imagine what ranch they might belong to. Huge pasturelands and big productive ranches make the "Cowboy State" worthy of its nickname. With only 580,000 residents, Wyoming has the smallest population of all 50 states, and it's the 2nd least densely populated. There are almost three times as many cattle in Wyoming as people.
Wyoming offers an abundance of hunting opportunities. Big game options here include deer, mountain lion, wolf, bison, moose and more. Epic hunts in Wyoming are strewn from the Wind River Mountains all the way down to southwest Wyoming's Red Desert. Sagebrush periodically pops up in a region of drifting dunes, badlands, sandstone spires and deep canyons. The lack of vegetation makes this area a surprising place to find an abundance of wildlife. Despite the odds, the state's largest migratory herd of pronghorn live here and a unique desert elk — said to be the world's largest — leave footprints in these sands for just a short time before the wind sweeps them away. Hunters scouting and tracking big game find hunts here that are like no other. Snow melts in the region create temporary ponds that attract white pelican, trumpeter swan and, for hunters, a plethora of waterfowl.
The "Cowboy State" ranches and lands provide adventure and solitude in one of America's great wilderness states.