Freedom still exists. It’s out here.
Gillette, Wyoming has become a must-stop for a night or two when traveling between the great western icons of Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore National Memorial, by way of Devils Tower National Monument.Devils Tower National Monument. Photo by Erika Land.
This story was created in partnership with Visit Gillette and Wright, Wyoming.
Gillette and its neighbor community, Wright, are welcome surprises to most visitors traveling the “Monumental Route” through northern Wyoming. Most return visitors are now planning at least two days in Gillette while on their national park holidays.
Here are some ideas for you and your family to experience while in Gillette and Wright:
Day 1: Arrive with an Appetite!
The most popular route to Gillette is on I-90 – one of the main east-west corridors in the U.S. – which makes traveling from Yellowstone to Mt. Rushmore, or visa versa, a memory-making experience your family will never forget. If leaving from Yellowstone in the morning, you will arrive in Gillette in the early-to-mid afternoon. If traveling from Mt. Rushmore, you will want to leave in the morning and go directly to Devils Tower and take a guided or unguided tour of the majestic and mysterious formation. Both routes will deliver you to Gillette around the same time. So, the first order of business will be FOOD.
For a city of around of almost 40,000 in coal mining country, Gillette has a surprisingly eclectic foodie scene. With numerous gastro pubs, independent restaurants and an inordinate number of street food trucks, everybody will find something they love. How about the best prime rib you’ve ever had, or a succulent bison steak paired with a wine from the largest private wine collection in Wyoming at The Prime Rib Restaurant & Wine Cellar? There is also an Italian-Mexican fusion—Armando’s Tacos & Pasta Shop—and a Philly steak joint constructed completely out of large shipping containers (the Phillies are out of this world!).
So, grab some great food and maybe a craft beer or mead (Gillette is home to Wyoming’s first meadery – Big Lost Meadery) then settle in for a good night’s sleep. You’re going to need it.
Day 2: Bison, Coal, History … and more food
Your family cannot visit Gillette or Wright without taking a tour of one of the nation’s oldest and largest bison ranches: the Durham Ranch. Book your tour on Visit Gillette’s website, or call or stop by the Visitor Center in Gillette after you arrive. All tours leave from the 3rd Street Plaza in the heart of Gillette’s historic downtown district. The tour will take you to the ranch where a ranch tour guide will drive amongst the buffalo and learn about the history of North American Bison, the ranch itself and how modern range management has strengthened the herd. A chuckwagon cook out after the tour is available.Durham Bison Ranch tour. Photo by Erika Land.
After returning to Gillette, grab a bite at any of the numerous bistros, cafes, restaurants and brew pubs in downtown before catching a second shuttle to one of the nation’s largest surface coal mines. The Powder River Basin – where Gillette and Wright are located – provides up to 40% of the coal used in the U.S. Powder River coal is desirable because it has some of the lowest Sulphur content in the world. Your tour will take you up close to a gigantic haul truck that is four stories high as well as show participants the reclamation efforts that take place once the coal has been removed from the Earth. It’s as if there never was a huge hole in the ground in the reclamation areas.
After your day of touring both historic and modern economic drivers of the Gillette area, relax and unwind in the evening. Be sure to check the Gillette events calendar for nightly live music, events, festivals, rodeos, and sports events at the CAM-PLEX Multi-Events Complex. You can even take a self-guided walking tour of historic (and reportedly haunted) downtown Gillette.
Day 3: Until next time …
Sleep well because on day three you will grab breakfast and take in some last-minute views of downtown Gillette or Wright before resuming your trip to Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, and Devils Tower.