By Carrie Haderlie
SHERIDAN — Fall brings with it cool air, crisp colors and sun streaking through dancing aspen leaves.
Though Wyoming may not be known for its trees, travelers willing to head into some of Wyoming’s more remote areas may be surprised to find deciduous trees traversing the divide between high plains desert and national forest land.
“Fall in Wyoming welcomes cooler temperatures, vibrant colors and an abundance of outdoor recreation,” Chelsea Nemec with the Wyoming Office of Tourism said. “Fewer visitors also make it an ideal time to slow down and take it all in.”
Fall is an excellent time to pass through golden aspen groves along alpine hiking and mountain biking trails, or scale premiere rock climbing walls while the air is crisp, she said.
According to an interactive Fall Foliage Prediction Map of the nation created by Smoky Mountains Tourism, the peak times to see fall foliage across Wyoming fall between Oct. 1-8.
The 47-mile Cloud Peak Skyway, the southernmost route across the Bighorn National Forest, is listed as the second of six amazing fall drives in Wyoming by Wyoming Travel and Tourism.
Along the road, which is accessible at Ten Sleep from the west or Buffalo from the east, travelers will see views of the Bighorn Mountains framed by yellow- and gold-hued aspens.
According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s 2017 State Wildlife Action Plan, quaking aspens make up the bulk of Wyoming’s leaf-losing tree population. Wyoming is also home to many other deciduous trees, most commonly found in riparian areas, including narrowleaf and plains cottonwood, green ash, box elder, elm, choke cherry, Rocky Mountain maple, alder and peachleaf willow, according to the WGFD.
The largest concentrations of quaking aspens are found on the Sierra Madre, the Wind River and Gros Ventre ranges, with sizable stands also occurring in the Medicine Bow and Laramie Mountains of southeastern Wyoming.
Fantastic fall spots in Sheridan County include the Tongue Canyon Road to the Tongue River Canyon, where deciduous trees follow the road alongside the Tongue River and continue up the canyon, according to Sheridan Travel and Tourism executive director Shawn Parker.
Beckton Road to Eatons’ Ranch also offers stunning views of the mountains and countryside. The Bighorn Scenic Byway and the Medicine Wheel Passage Scenic Byway, with the potential to find moose in the aspen groves around Burgess Junction, are both unique journeys.
In town, both North and South Park offer tree-covered walking paths that are beautiful in fall colors, Parker said. Fort Road to Ft. Mackenzie — the Sheridan Veterans Affairs Medical Center — is also home to deciduous trees that line both sides of the road and cover the grounds of the facility.
Ideal weather and beautiful fall colors are only the beginning when it comes to reasons for getting outdoors this the fall, Parker said.
Fall events include Oktoberfest at Black Tooth, Biketoberfest, Farmers Market Fall Festival and later this winter, the annual Christmas Stroll. Local eateries like Java Moon, Andi’s Coffee and Red Velvet offer seasonal drinks and eats, from the ubiquitous pumpkin and cinnamon spice drinks to baked goods, Parker said.
Local Halloween events include the Koltiska Pumpkin patch, Halloween skates at Scotty’s Skate Castle, several haunted houses, boo bashes and trunk-or-treat events.
For the adventure-seeker, Parker suggested a climb with Bighorn Mountain Guides, or kayak and paddleboard with Wyoming Adventure Ninja.