From the Rocky Mountains to the Hoover Dam, the Central West is a treasure trove of hidden gems. Discover the many adventures of Colorado, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming.
Dunton Hot Springs
DO: Take a rejuvenating dip in a natural hot spring. You can find multiple chances in Pagosa Springs (visitpagosasprings.com) or you can have a more immersive spa and resort experience at Dunton Hot Springs (duntondestinations.com/hot-springs).
EAT: With its running tagline, “New Foods of the Old West,” The Fort restaurant in Morrison (just southwest of Denver) promises an experience like no other inside an adobe castle modeled after Colorado’s Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site. Rocky Mountain Oysters and Buffalo Empanadas are two of the fine-dining menu items inspired by the foodways of Native tribes and Santa Fe Trail pioneers. thefort.com.
STAY: Longtime glampers and ranch enthusiasts alike might flock to Vista Verde Guest Ranch close to the state’s northern edge (vistaverde.com). For pure urban luxury and relaxing views, try Aspen’s Hotel Jerome (aubergeresorts.com/hoteljerome).
DAY TRIP: A jaunt to Vail always does a traveler good, whether they choose to hit the slopes, the links, the hiking and biking trails, or the social gathering places.
High Sierra Lodge
SEE: They’re rites of passage on the all-American family road trip. The Hoover Dam and Lake Mead (which the dam essentially created) are picturesque for the camera-toting tourists and endlessly fascinating for the history and engineering buffs.
DO: Anything and everything in Las Vegas is the obvious “do” here, but Reno (with plenty of casino action itself) has claims to fame. One is the Nevada Museum of Art (nevadaart.org), the sole accredited art museum in the state.
EAT: Hailed as one of the best cowboy-friendly dining spots in Las Vegas, TENDER Steakhouse + Lounge in Luxor (luxor.mgmresorts.com) prides itself on the quality of its dry- and wet-aged steaks. Perfect for a hearty meal during December’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo — or any other time, really.
STAY: For cowboy-friendly Western vibes among the glitz and glam of Vegas’ Strip, rest your head in a room at the Silverton Casino and Hotel (silvertoncasino.com), which is scheduled to unveil its remodeled guest rooms and pool areas this year. And those avoiding Vegas altogether can become one with nature (and shopping and dining and golf) at High Sierra Lodge, a beautiful Hyatt Residence Club (hyatt.com) on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.
DAY TRIP: Take a drive, hike, or activity outing in the largest wildlife refuge outside of Alaska. The Desert National Wildlife Refuge straddles the Great Basin and Mojave deserts. fws.gov/refuge/desert.
SEE: There’s no more exciting way to immerse yourself in the richness of Native American culture and tradition than a powwow. And there are lots to seek out in Oklahoma — Red Earth Festival, Indian Hills Powwow, and the Inter-Tribal Powwow are just a few. The grand entry, singing, drumming, fancy dancing, regalia, fry bread — it’s an enthralling, immersive experience.
DO: Hit Oklahoma City with a “musts” itinerary that includes the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, the First Americans Museum, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Elsewhere, check out celebrity haunts where it’s all about live country music, food, drinks, and retail: Reba McEntire’s Reba’s Place (a partnership with the Choctaw Nation) in her hometown of Atoka and Blake Shelton’s Ole Red in his hometown of Tishimingo.
EAT: The latest crop of James Beard semifinalists boasts several OKC standouts: chef Jeff Chanchaleune at Ma Der Lao Kitchen, chef Andrew Black at Grey Sweater, and the beverage program at Frida Southwest, the new darling on the dining scene in the city’s hip Paseo Arts District. Don’t leave the state without eating some of its signature fare: fried onion burgers (at Tucker’s, in OKC), chicken fried steak (at Kendall’s Restaurant in Noble, outside of town), Indian tacos (at Miller Grill in Garth’s hometown of Yukon), and fried pies (at Arbuckle Mountain Original Fried Pies in OKC, Davis, and elsewhere).
STAY: Book a cabin at one of Oklahoma’s many scenic parks — the Civilian Conservation Corps built many as part of FDR’s New Deal. We’re talking lakes, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, caves. Try Robbers Cave State Park for cabin-cozying (Honeymoon Cabin No. 1), rappelling, lake swimming, horseback riding, trout fishing, canoeing, and hiking to the former cave hideout of outlaws Jesse James and Belle Starr. The park’s equestrian trails and the nearby Talimena Scenic Drive burst into color in the fall.
DAY TRIP: An hour north of Tulsa just outside of Bartlesville, the Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve in the Osage Hills — once the private ranch retreat of oilman Frank Phillips — is a 3,700-acre public gem filled with 30 species of wildlife. Walk the nature trail, hit the museum of Western and Native art and artifacts, and experience the living history mountain-man-camp area. We hear it was a favorite of Leonardo DiCaprio’s when he was in Oklahoma filming Killers of the Flower Moon.
Capitol Reef Resort
SEE: Two of Utah’s best-known scenic attractions can be found — along with many other natural and manmade wonders — in the southeast corner of the state. Take in Monument Valley, the most recognized vista of the West thanks to countless western films; and Four Corners, where Utah comes together with Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico in one perfect photo-op spot. visitutah.com.
DO: A trip to Moab produces countless great-outdoors opportunities, with easy access to Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, and Dead Horse Point State Park. May all your red-rock dreams come true. discovermoab.com.
STAY: For both luxury and natural wonders, we’ve got two options: Amangiri (aman.com/resorts/amangiri), on the southern edge of the state, is a five-star hotel and resort that blends seamlessly into the red-rock ridgeline. Glamping at Capitol Reef Resort (capitolreefresort.com) in Torrey means staying in a luxury cabin, teepee, or Conestoga wagon.
DAY TRIP: Those not already staying in Park City to ski or attend the annual Sundance Film Festival should at least consider a shorter jaunt into the mountain town. Historic Main Street is the center of the city’s activity. visitparkcity.com.
Reid Creek Lodge
SEE: If you can get to the Devils Tower National Monument (nps.gov/deto) after dark, you’ll experience some of the greatest sky- and stargazing possible. The 876-foot geological feature is revered by Indigenous communities and cuts a fine figure against the night sky.
DO: If the weather permits, take a dip in one of the hot springs in Yellowstone National Park or in the alpine lakes of Grand Teton National Park (nps.gov/grte). Relaxing in the water against a mountainous backdrop is some kind of wonderful.
EAT: Grand Teton National Park is home to Jenny Lake Lodge, a luxury resort with a beloved restaurant on property. You’ll experience five-course-meals and amazing views at The Dining Room. gtlc.com/lodges/jenny-lake-lodge.
STAY: For those planning adventure-packed group trips in Western Wyoming, Reid Creek Lodge (wagonhound.com/reidcreeklodge) promises a wide range of experiences. You can get cozy in a log cabin suite at the Magee Homestead (relaischateaux.com), a real cattle ranch in Saratoga. And don’t forget about Jackson Hole’s Diamond Cross Ranch, featured elsewhere in this issue.
DAY TRIP: Speaking of the Jackson Hole valley (jacksonholechamber.com), it’s one of the more populated areas in Wyoming where you can live it up in a variety of ways. There’s the bustling town of Jackson where entertainment options abound, but there’s also the famous Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the National Elk Refuge, and the National Museum of Wildlife Art.