How to Spend Five Days in Dubois (and Why It Should Be Your Next Big Trip)
Perfectly situated between two spectacular mountain ranges that extend east from the Tetons, the town of Dubois ideally captures the spirit of a rustic, authentic, and Old West town. Small, but quirky, it’s surrounded by endless natural beauty and has access to some of the most scenic sights along the Continental Divide. With Yellowstone National Park, and the Wind River Indian Reservation about an hour in each direction, and many attractions nearby, Dubois is the perfect jumping off point for countless family or solo adventures.
While there’s no way you’ll be able to see everything the Dubois area has to offer all in one trip, the following five-day itinerary will get you off the beaten path, to some of the best trails in the surrounding national parks, and around the Wind River Range.
First things first, find a place to stay. It’s just a matter of figuring out which spot suits you best. Located right in town, Twin Pines Lodge and Cabins is comfy and rustic, and you can stay in a room at the lodge or grab one of the spacious cabins, perfect for families. Or check out the Branding Iron Inn for another log cabin experience. If you want something a bit fancier, the high-end, all-inclusive Brooks Lake Lodge will provide all the pampering you need—and you can stay in a log cabin here if you want too. There are also many cabins available for private rental. Finally, if you prefer to sleep under the stars, consider camping at a campground in town along the river or out near Brooks Lake for a perfect night out in nature.
Once you get settled, it’s time for the fun to begin.
Day 1: Getting to Know Dubois
If you want to start your day off on the right foot, a journey into Coyote Blue will liven your spirits with delicious food and a strong cup of Joe. Coyote Blue has numerous options for breakfast, including great burritos to get you fueled up for your adventures.
To start your day, head to Whiskey Basin just outside of town. It has hikes into glacial valleys full of lakes, sweeping mountain views, and waterfalls—these are just the tip of the iceberg for adventures in the region. The trails at Whiskey Basin are relatively uncrowded and extremely beautiful. Both Whiskey Mountain and Lake Louise have stunning views.
If you are visiting with your family and have little ones in tow, stop by the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center and learn all about the region and the animals through exhibits, movies, and full-scale taxidermy mounts that replicate the habitat of bighorn sheep. There is also a five-hour wildlife viewing tour November through March, where you can witness firsthand the world’s largest wintering herds of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Afterwards, don’t forget to take your picture with the giant jackalope at the Exxon Country Store—no trip to Dubois is complete without it.
As the day comes to a close, head to the Cowboy Cafe for a quick and tasty bite. Everything on the menu is good, but the Bubba is a steal. It’s a cheeseburger, fries, and slice of pie with ice cream for under $10. The staff is friendly and jovial, even on crowded summer days.
Once dinner is done, don’t miss out on a beautiful sunset. Nowhere in town offers better viewing than up on the ridges surrounding the Overlook Drive mountain bike trails. From this vantage point above the town, you can watch as the sun sets in the distance, illuminates the hills, and turns everything different shades of purple, red, and orange.
Day 2: Discovering the Wind River Range and Beyond
Since today will be a long day, skip the formal meal and grab a quick breakfast from your hotel. If you do need something more substantial, swing by The Perch Coffee House, which opens at 6am. Fill up on a breakfast burrito or bagel, grab a coffee, and hit the road.
The Cirque of the Towers is one of the best spots for hiking and backpacking in the area. Yes, it’s a three-hour drive from Dubois, but the 20-mile loop hike will reward you with views of stunning, craggy mountains rising in all directions— it’s what many call a mountaineer’s Disneyland. There are also about 200 climbing routes. For less of a journey from town, check out the trails around the campgrounds in the part of the Shoshone National Forest up Horse Creek Road. Check with the US Forest Service office in town for trail maps. There’s enough wonderful and remote hiking in the area to have you happily worn out by dinnertime.
For families looking to get outside, head up past the town landfill to explore the red-rock badlands on either side of the dirt road leading across Table Mountain. It’s the perfect place to explore the slickrock and hoodoos of the region. Stay for as long as you like, the scrambling and climbing will keep the kids entertained for hours, and you may find a buffalo bone or even a petrified rock along one of the countless draws. When you are finished here, be sure to drive west to the edge of the Wind River Indian reservation for unforgettable views of these striped formations, ending in a dramatic huge wall of solid red on the south side of the highway.
Day 3: Enjoy the Numerous Rivers and Lakes Near Dubois
There are 2,000 rivers and streams, and numerous lakes in the Wind River Valley, so why not spend your third day in Dubois exploring the local waters by boat? Start the day by grabbing some breakfast at the Village Cafe and Daylight Donuts in Dubois, and figuring out where you want to paddle.
The Wind River flows right through town and makes for the perfect (and very convenient) spot for a relaxing float down the river and through the gorgeous scenery of the Wind River Range. Look for the “Wind River Access” signs along the river for good spots to put in. You can also head out to quieter lakes not far from town like the placid Trail Lake or Torrey Lake, but there are many other options as well. The outdoor shops right in Dubois can help gear you up with everything you need for your day.
When you are done on the water, stop in at the Dubois Fish Hatchery, where they produce, on average, 500,000 fish annually for stocking Wyoming’s streams, ponds, and lakes. Tours of the hatchery are available daily from 8am-5pm year round.
When the day is done, head out for some delicious dinner at the Nostalgia Bistro. The friendly staff and local draft beers will have you re-energized in no time.
Day 4: Brooks Lake and Beyond
Take the time to have a leisurely breakfast at one of the three aforementioned breakfast spots in town: Coyote Blue, The Perch Coffeehouse, or the Village Cafe and Daylight Donuts. Since today’s adventure will bring you into the Shoshone National Forest, you’ll also want to plan snacks and lunch before you leave as most of your day will be spent away from amenities. You can pick up food at the Super Foods in Dubois or get a meal-to-go from the delicious Nostalgia Bistro.
Today’s trek brings you to Brooks Lake. It’s about a 45-minute drive from Dubois, but the adventure begins the minute you leave the highway and head toward Brooks Lake. Rising up to the northeast, the Pinnacles act like a beacon for adventurers and wilderness lovers. The region is full of incredible hikes for all levels and the lake is a great destination to explore if you just want some fresh air. For families that hike, check out the seven-mile, round-trip trek up to Bonneville Pass. In the summer months, the region explodes with fields of wildflowers.
For serious hikers, there are numerous incredible destinations to hike, but the best is the trail to both Lower and Upper Jade Lakes. While just five miles round trip, this trail allows you access into the pristine wilderness of the Absaroka high country. The route can be extended to bag two more stunning lakes—Upper Brooks and Rainbow Lakes— before topping out at Bear Cub Pass. The region gets more remote with every passing mile and grows in beauty just as fast.
Day 5: A Journey Into Yellowstone
Once again, you’ll want to get an early start on your day, so stop in at any of the aforementioned spots to get caffeinated and full for the spectacular, two-hour drive to Yellowstone National Park. If you haven’t come this way before, the smooth drive across historic Togwotee Pass offers unforgettable views of broad mountain meadows and pine forests. Keep your eyes open for wildlife before you even reach the park.
Since you will be arriving from the south, your first stop should be at Lake Village, where you can explore Yellowstone Lake and the old lodge that rests on its shores. From there, drive through the bison-filled Hayden Valley before exploring the majesty of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Yellowstone Falls. After being awestruck, head toward Norris and explore the numerous and iconic Geyser Basins along the road before ending your day at Old Faithful.
If you want something a bit more extreme in Yellowstone, wake up early and drive through the park to tackle two iconic trails. The first is hiking to the top of Mount Washburn from the Grand Canyon side of the road. The trail is steep, but beautiful, and has views of the park and maybe even a wildlife encounter. If time allows, continue heading up toward the northeast entrance and hike the Specimen Ridge Trail at the start of the Lamar Valley. This trail is epic, and offers sweeping views, endless animal sightings, and a level of remoteness not found in this normally crowded park. If you have the time, stay at Old Faithful and catch a sunset as the geyser erupts. There is little more beautiful than this experience.
After all day hiking, you have surely worked up an appetite, and as it’s your last day in Dubois, why not splurge on a special meal? The Wilderness Boundary Restaurant at Lava Mountain Lodge, just east of the Brooks Lake Road turnoff, is a perfect spot to spoil yourself on your way home from Yellowstone. Their menu covers the gamut from nachos and pizza to elk burgers and prime rib. The food is guaranteed to hit the spot after a long day on the trails.
Originally written by RootsRated for Dubois Chamber of Commerce.
Featured image provided by Bill Sincavage