cheyenne
Chapters  1 2 3 4

Open Spaces and Humble Graces

Discover the culture and beauty of Sheridan, Wyoming

By Flash Parker

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A cowboy rides a bucking bronco in front of a full arena at the Sheridan WYO Rodeo in Sheridan, Wyoming

At first blush, picturesque Sheridan is all archetypal mountain verve and Wyoming vigor, but there’s an artistic dynamism and cultural allure here that belies its cow town reputation. Sheridan’s ranching roots run centuries deep, but so too does its polo legacy (and connection to the British Crown).

A cowboy rides a bucking bronco in front of a full arena at the Sheridan WYO Rodeo in Sheridan, Wyoming

The flagship Sheridan WYO Rodeo draws nearly 30,000 visitors to town every July, while the Wyoming Theater Festival, Brinton Museum and the Whitney Center for the Arts have become artistic touchstones with significant regional cache. The Bighorn National Forest, home to the Cloud Peak Wilderness, is an outdoor playground of the highest caliber, abundant with hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and climbing opportunities. National attractions abound, such as the Historic Sheridan Inn—a siren song to the legend and lore of the Wild West, and the Mill Inn, one of Wyoming’s most distinctive hotel experiences. The ancient Medicine Wheel, at an altitude of 9,462 feet, lords over the mountains with a mystical presence that defies explanation. Indian battle sites like Fort Phil Kearny, the Fetterman Fight and the Wagon Box Fight—all located along the Bozeman Trail—are immersive historical attractions.

For the history of the West

A deer stands in a dirt road with the Bighorn Mountains as a backdrop, outside Sheridan, Wyoming

Sheridan is a city steeped in the history of the West. Founded in 1884, Sheridan had been one of the Plains Indians’ most valued hunting grounds, a lush mountain valley brimming with wildlife. The area lay at the center of the American Indian Wars. It was the site of some of the most impressive Indian victories of the conflict, including the defeat of General Custer and his mounted cavalry (the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is a one-hour drive from Sheridan), and Capt. William J. Fetterman’s inability to recognize the elegant trap set by Lakota legend Crazy Horse in the Battle of the Hundred in Hand. Sheridan County’s Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site preserves the history of numerous battles.

A deer stands in a dirt road with the Bighorn Mountains as a backdrop, outside Sheridan, Wyoming

To experience a truly unique marriage of frontier functionality, historical appreciation and old-fashioned fun, spend a week at one of the area’s renowned dude ranches. Eatons’ Ranch, at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains, is the oldest working dude ranch in the nation. At once a functioning cattle ranch and a high-profile Western-lifestyle destination, Eatons’ and local ranches like it are the perfect representation of Sheridan’s distinctiveness.

Canyon Ranch in nearby Big Horn hosts an Orvis-endorsed fly fishing lodge where guests fish with veteran guides along mountain-fed crystal streams. Enjoy private pheasant, grouse and partridge shoots, Merriam turkey hunting, horseback riding, hiking and wildlife and wildflower viewing.

Sheridan’s cultural core

A seated man does leatherwork at King's Ropes & Saddlery in Sheridan, Wyoming

Historic Downtown Sheridan is the central precinct other small towns dream of, a place where cowboy has become couture, where gastro hounds can have their steak when they’re not bouncing between craft breweries, century-old bars, restaurants and farmers’ markets, and where galleries, boutiques and shops seem to multiply like libidinous pronghorn. As such, gift shops are rare here. Sheridan prefers shops like King’s Ropes & Saddlery, a massive Western tack store renowned the world over for its masterful leatherwork, ropes and saddles. The Surf Wyoming outpost on Main Street has become a destination for locally crafted, upmarket threads and handmade goods, while shops like the tremendously appointed Fly Shop of the Bighorns, the unique Crazy Woman Trading Co. and the eclectic Best Out West Antiques are emporiums of the wild Wyoming experience.

A seated man does leatherwork at King's Ropes & Saddlery in Sheridan, Wyoming

At the heart of Sheridan’s cultural tourism industry is a uniquely Western commitment to authenticity. The cowboy ethos is alive and well, and it doesn’t look kindly upon kitsch and posturing. This discerning taste amounts to a kind of collective cultural curating, and has given rise to legacy attractions like the Brinton Museum—located on the historic Quarter Circle A Ranch in Big Horn, Wyoming. The museum features 19th-, 20th- and 21st-century Western and American Indian Art in a setting that is art unto itself. The Brinton Museum’s new 24,000-square-foot, three-story museum space features extensive American Indian and Western Art collections and exhibits in climate-controlled galleries on the second floor, and contemporary exhibits in the reception gallery on the third floor. The Forrest E. Mars, Jr. Building was designed to honor the natural landscape, allowing for unobstructed, 180-degree views of the Bighorn Mountains.

The new Whitney Center for the Arts at Sheridan College has become a performance and visual arts destination, while the Wyo Theater, built in 1923, the center of Sheridan’s song and stage community, plays host to international acts as well as those put on by the vibrant community theater scene. It’s host to the Wyoming Theater Festival, which brings nationally renowned playwrights, actors and directors from theater hubs across the country to write and test new plays, conduct workshops and stage elaborate Broadway-worthy performances.

Where craft is king

A neon sign of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco at Mint Bar in Sheridan, Wyoming

Kolts Fine Spirits, now the Koltiska Distillery, crafted the first Koltiska Original Liqueur in 2001, kickstarting a nascent regional distilling industry. Then along came Black Tooth Brewing Co., a rebel outfit that ushered in sweeping changes to the craft brewing and distilling industries, changing the craft paradigm forever in a region that had long held fast to archaic notions of what libations were. Now burgeoning beyond even the wildest expectations, Sheridan’s craft beer, spirits and wine scene is among the most robust in the Mountain West. Weston Wineries crafts wines from West Coast-grown grapes sourced from the finest producers along the Pacific, and pays homage to the legends and outlaws of the State of Wyoming. Luminous Brewhouse remains one of the finest brewery secrets in the region, a purveyor of malty gold that has carved out a niche as a bespoke brewer with creations like the oft-lauded Ginger Pale Ale, the Java Moon Coffee Ale (brewed with a Sunny Moon Blend from Java Moon, a local coffee shop) and the bold, hoptastic X-X IPA, brewed with Amarillo, Cascade, and Magnum hops.

A neon sign of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco at Mint Bar in Sheridan, Wyoming

Koltiska Horse & Carriage Company is offering horse-drawn carriage tours through Sheridan’s historic district, and is one of the best ways to experience Sheridan. The tour begins at the Best Western, where a beautiful carriage drawn by two Percheron horses will collect up to 14 passengers. The carriage ride includes narration on Western history while touring Historic Downtown Sheridan with stops at the Koltiska Distillery.

There’s an undercurrent of the carefree in Sheridan, and the legendary hospitality of its proud residents is worn like a badge of honor. Blessed by mountain topography and evenly placed between Yellowstone National Park to the west and Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park to the east, there’s a sense about town that Sheridan is poised to be the “next big thing,” though those in the know understand that it already is.

Plan your getaway to beautiful Sheridan, Wyoming.