The mountain-hemmed town of Dubois and the Upper Wind River Valley that surrounds it are only about an hour’s drive from Jackson Hole, but they’re a world away. The area is one of the most spectacularly scenic — and still relatively undiscovered — vacation destinations in the Northern Rockies.
The town and its outlying hay meadows and cattle ranches are bordered by several million acres of National Forest, more than half of which are protected as wilderness areas.
Spectacular Wild Country
To the east of town are the dramatic redrock canyons and colorful rock formations of the Dubois Badlands. To the southwest loom the rugged peaks and glacial lakes of the Wind River Range. To the North rise the pine-clad slopes and alpine meadows of the Absaroka Range. And rolling away to the southeast are the sagebrush hills and high plains of the vast Wind River Indian Reservation, home to the Northern Arapahoe and Eastern Shoshone tribes.
The valley abounds with wildlife. Nearby Whiskey Mountain supports the largest herd of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in North America. Other big-game animals and rare species thrive in the wild country that surrounds Dubois: moose, elk, antelope, deer, mountain lion, bald and golden eagle, grizzly and black bear. Area streams and lakes teem with an impressive array of game fish, including rainbow, lake, brook, cutthroat, golden and brown trout, grayling and mountain whitefish.
Lots To Do in Town
Although outdoor adventures are the area’s specialty, there’s lots to do in town as well.
The National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center, opened a few years back, has already become a major visitor attraction. The center houses a number of impressive exhibits on bighorn sheep biology and successful herd management methods used at Whiskey Mountain. Next door, the Dubois Museum’s exhibits link the valley’s ethnic, social, cultural, and work history with its archaeology, geology, and natural history.
Dubois shops sell everything from cowboy boots and fly-fishing gear to handsome coffee-table books and upscale gifts. A tour of town shops reveals fine silver jewelry, crafts by Native American tribes, high-quality Western-theme gifts, and crafts by local artists.
Off the Beaten Path
Dubois is a busy place in the summer, but the solitude and natural splendor of the badlands and mountains are only minutes away. Miles of scenic unpaved roads take visitors in vehicles or on mountain bikes deep into the backcountry, and dozens of trailheads lead to a network of well-maintained hiking and horse trails.
Southwest of Dubois is Union Pass, said to be the only place in the country where three river sources flow in different directions: streams born on the pass eventually join the Columbia, Mississippi, and Colorado rivers. Union Pass is accessible to four-wheel-drive vehicles during the summer months and early fall.
Southeast of town is Whiskey Mountain with its resident bighorn sheep herd and a major trailhead that serves as the jumping-off point for hikes and horsepack trips into the Fitzpatrick Wilderness. The bumpy dirt road that leads to the trailhead makes for slow going, but sharp-eyed travelers can spot ancient petroglyphs carved into rock faces along the way.
For those who really want to get away from it all, a number of local outfitters offer guided fishing and pack horse trips into nearby wilderness areas.
Summer Activities & Events
Dubois bustles with activities and events nearly every night of the week in the summer. Lectures and demonstrations by the Dubois Museum, the National Forest Service, and the Bighorn Sheep Center will be given at the fire circle in the Dubois Town Park. Topics include: history, geology, camp cooking, fishing, wildlife, breaking wild horses, berry picking, and other general interest subjects. Gather beforehand at the Sheep Center and take the short walk to the park.
Story by Nancy Debevoise. Published in Mountain Country visitors’ guide