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In Wyoming, the wide open spaces of the Great Plains alternate with spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains, and the Red Desert of the southwest contrasts with golden wheat fields to the southeast. Wyoming’s climate is semiarid and features huge swings in temperatures; some areas see less than 10 inches of rain each year, while the mountains get up to 200 inches of snowfall.

The largest city and capital is Cheyenne, with a population of just 60,000. Notable draws there include the Old West Museum and the cowboys-and-Indians-themed Frontier Days. In late July, thousands flock to the famous rodeo events and free pancake breakfast.

Popular sites in Casper, the state's second largest city, include the free Werner Wildlife Museum and the Fort Casper Museum & Historic Site, an 1865 military post. To the west is Jackson Hole, where the Snow King Resort beckons skiers and snowboarders to 400 sloping acres. Tourists can take a bobsled ride down Snow King Mountain on the 2,500-foot Alpine Slide.

The federal and state governments own and manage more than half of Wyoming. Protected places for camping, boating, hiking and fishing include Bighorn Canyon and Flaming Gorge National Recreation Areas.

A must-stop is Yellowstone National Park. 3 million visitors arrive each year to see erupting geysers and wild herds of buffalo, bison and elk. Adventurous types can delve into the deep backcountry to discover unique plants and endangered animals. Wildlife viewing is optimal in Lamar Valley, known as the American Serengeti.

Grand Teton National Park, located between Yellowstone and Jackson, is famous for its epic beauty. The Snake River is chock full of salmon, smallmouth bass, sturgeon and steelhead, making it a favorite fishing destination.

Another popular draw is the dude ranch, where greenhorns can experience the Old West in comfort. Ranch visits combine outdoor recreation, magnificent scenery and a dose of pampering. Top dude ranches are Lost Creek Ranch & Spa in Jackson Hole, which overlooks Grand Teton National Park, and Eatons’ Ranch on Wolf Creek Canyon.