Wyoming Crowned Best State for Camping

Equality State beats neighboring Montana, Idaho and Colorado

From hiking and fishing to climbing or wildlife watching, camping in Wyoming just can’t be beat — and now there’s a study to prove it. The Cowboy State has been ranked number one across the nation as the best spot for camping. (Wyoming Truth photo by Melissa Thomasma)

By Melissa Thomasma

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Where’s the best place in the United States to camp? Take a look out your back door.

A recent study revealed the Cowboy State ranks number one across the nation for camping excellence. The analysis, completed by sustainable travel advice website Adventures on the Rock, explored 10 distinct factors to develop a full ranking. 

Among the measured factors: “number of national parks and landmarks relative to state area, the number of hiking trails, RV parks and campsites relative to state population, average fuel prices, yearly average rainfall, diversity of plant and animal species, deaths per 10 million national park visits and deaths caused by dangerous animal or plant exposure.”

Established campgrounds across the state frequently offer bear boxes to keep food, pet food, toiletries and other scented items away from curious bears. Whether camping in a campground or in the backcountry, it’s critical to utilize proper bear-safe storage. (Wyoming Truth photo by Melissa Thomasma)

The analysis found that not only does Wyoming offer the most free campsites (45 per 100,000 residents), but the state also boasts the third-highest number of hiking trails (350 per 100,000 residents). 

Hailey Mach, public relations manager for the Wyoming Office of Tourism, said it’s impossible to predict whether the distinction will draw more campers in 2023, but hopes it does.

Mike Keating, an outdoor expert who works at Teton Mountaineering in Jackson Hole, called Wyoming’s top ranking a “mixed blessing.”

On one hand, Keating is glad to see Wyoming celebrated for its outdoor recreation opportunities and acknowledged that the recognition is a boon for the state’s outdoor retail industry. On the other, he hopes that a potential increase in visitors won’t cause irreparable damage to the landscape. 

“It’s great that new users are getting outside, but it’s a problem when they don’t know the ethics of being in the outdoors,” said Keating, who has been camping since age 10 and has spent the past 37 years exploring the wilds of Wyoming.

Keating recalled that a fellow employee at the climbing and camping gear store was a backcountry ranger in the Wind River Mountain Range during the pandemic. “During COVID, the place was absolutely mobbed,” he said. “The rangers spent most of their time picking up garbage and burying poop.”

 Tips for clean, comfortable camping

Keating encourages all campers — whether in campgrounds or in the backcountry — to abide by “Leave No Trace” principles to protect the environment.

In addition to properly handling human waste and garbage, Keating said backcountry campers should camp away from trails and water sources. They also should pitch tents on durable surfaces to minimize plant damage and erosion. “It’s really about respecting the landscape as well as other campers,” he said.

Keating also highlighted the importance of keeping a bear-safe camp by storing all food, toiletries, pet food and other scented items in a secure place away from curious bears. Established campgrounds often have bear box containers, he said, and those who are using dispersed camping sites should consider bringing Kevlar bear bags and hard-sided bear vaults.

Visitors often don’t grasp how chilly it gets in Wyoming—even during summer months. Keating advises campers to equip themselves with a high-quality tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad to stay warm and comfortable through any kind of mountain weather. 

Additionally, Keating underscored the importance of carrying bear spray when recreating outdoors. Similarly, bringing along rain, bug and sun protection will enhance the quality of outdoor experiences. 

Wanted: your campfire, dead out

The Bridger-Teton National Forest, which experienced record-shattering visitorship in 2020 and 2021, has seen guest numbers taper off in the past year, according to Evan Guzik, public affairs specialist for the agency.

“Though numbers have come down a little, we still have a very high level of use, and we know lots of people are looking forward to getting out camping this season,” he said.

One of the agency’s top reminders to those enjoying both developed and dispersed camping is to ensure that fires are never left unattended and are always fully extinguished.

“Before enjoying a fire, it’s critical to know if there are any fire restrictions in the jurisdiction you’re camping in,” Guzik said.

If it’s legal to have an open fire, ensure that it’s “out cold” when you’re done, Guzik added. He also advised against pouring copious amounts of water on the coals, but instead utilizing a stick or shovel to stir them until they’re no longer warm to the touch.

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