There’s energy in Gillette, Wyoming. In fact, Gillette is known as the “Energy Capital of the Nation” because 35 percent of the nation’s coal is mined in and around Gillette. But, among the locals, the energy comes across as pride, self-sufficiency, hard work, and a desire to share their place with the world.
Story written in cooperation with Visit Gillette & Wright, Wyoming.
About Gillette, Wyoming
Ranching, then coal, oil and gas allowed Gillette to prosper, grow and diversify. Gillette has come into its own as the third largest city in Wyoming and has become a one- or two-night must-stop for Yellowstone to Devils Tower to Mount Rushmore visitors, gastro tourists, history buffs, and outdoor recreation enthusiasts alike.
Gillette is located on Interstate 90 in northeast Wyoming, in the Powder River Basin between the Black Hills and the Bighorn Mountains. It is a modern, growing city nestled among rolling grassy hills. It’s perfect buffalo habitat, so naturally you’ll want to check out one of the world’s oldest and largest buffalo ranches, Durham Buffalo Ranch. It is just 35 miles south of Gillette, near Gillette’s in-county neighbor, Wright. Group tours of the ranch are available through Visit Gillette.
The star of the area’s geological features is the vast deposit of low-sulphur coal just below the topsoil. The coal is highly sought after because of its low sulfur content, which allows it to burn cleaner. Some of the world’s largest surface coal mines are near Gillette and Wright. Just east of Gillette, the Wyo-Dak Coal Mine can be easily seen from Interstate 90.
Gillette’s growth has allowed it to ride out the boom-and-bust cycles of the energy industry a little easier through increased diversification. Many miners also own businesses that they operate during their off hours and seven-on, seven-off shift schedules. This resilience has spurred a renaissance of sorts and created a vibrant community with some truly unique tourist attractions, modern amenities and an incredible culinary and art scene that belies Gillette’s former reputation as a rough-and-tumble mining town.
With two craft breweries, Wyoming’s first meadery and over 70 restaurants, Gillette has become a regional foodie haven—to the delight of visitors and locals alike. From a wood-fired pizza place that has been named Best Pizza in Wyoming by time.com, Money Magazine and Yelp to a South American rotisserie chicken restaurant located in a former gas station, the locally-sourced culinary fare in Gillette and Wright is as good as you will find in the region.
Other Gillette Must-Sees
After you have toured the buffalo ranch and coal mine—and enjoyed wonderful food—make some time to check out the museums in Gillette and Wright. The Rockpile Historical Museum in Gillette tells the story of Campbell County through artifacts, displays, and presentations. The Frontier Auto Museum & Frontier Relics Antiques is right across the street from the Rockpile Museum—and it is also well worth your time. The sprawling space is the private collection of the Wandler family and includes many restored automobiles, wagons, petroleum signs and vintage gas pumps. Then, travel south 40 miles to Wright and experience the Wright Centennial Museum —the historical museum of the Wright area.
So, when traveling between the iconic western national parks this summer, be sure to devote some time in Gillette. It will energize your great western vacation.