The Oregon Trail

Situated far enough off I-25 to retain its Wild West cowboy character, the enjoyable town of Douglas (pop. 6,531) was founded in 1886 across the river from Fort Fetterman, which for the previous 25 years had protected traffic on the old Oregon and Bozeman Trails along the North Platte River. The setting of Owen Wister’s genre-inventing Western novel The Virginian and, more recently, birthplace of that other Wild West icon, the jackalope, Douglas is a quietly picturesque small town with a wild history, and a great place to break your long-distance road trip.

The Wyoming State Fairgrounds, along the river at the west end of Center Street, host a livestock-frenzied fair at the end of August. The fairgrounds also feature the year-round Wyoming Pioneer Museum (307/358-9288, Mon.-Fri. Oct.-May, Mon.-Sat. June-Sept., free), packed full of artifacts from the late 1800s—everything from rifles and a roulette table to fossils and farm implements. It also houses a Sioux-style hide tepee made for the movie Dances with Wolves. The wilder side of Douglas history is perhaps most vividly apparent in tombstones in the cemetery on the east edge of town at the end of Pine Street, where legendary cattle rustler George Pike is interred beneath an impressive marker that reads, in part:

Underneath this stone in eternal rest sleeps the wildest one of the wayward west.