Lander, Wyoming

Rodeo hearts and adventure souls

Thousands of years ago, elks grew tusks, though evolution deemed the rack a better way to strut your stuff     Photo: Corel

IT'S PUZZLING WHY even more climbers don't end up in Lander, where the high desert meets the Rockies and calm, sunny days are the norm. Everything from abundant bouldering routes to sandstone and limestone cliffs to multipitch granite peaks in the Wind River Range awaits—plus you can camp for nothing on the banks of the Popo Agie (pronounced Po-PO-zha) River in Lander City Park. If you need a Home Depot, you'll have to head 25 miles northeast to Riverton, but that doesn't mean Lander is a fudge-shoppe-and-wax-museum tourist town. Fremont County ranks among the top in the state for cattle, sheep, and hay production—those guys in cowboy hats aren't poseurs. Throw in rock jocks, instructors from the National Outdoor Leadership School headquarters (on Lincoln Street), greenies, accountants, and lawyers and you end up with a serendipitous blend in this eight-block-wide town.

OUTDOORS: Sinks Canyon State Park, just nine miles south of Lander, has limestone cliffs and routes ranging from 5.5 to 5.14a. Wild Iris, a summer favorite at close to 9,000 feet, boasts nearly 250 more routes. By the time you factor in the 318,000 acres of the Popo Agie and Fitzpatrick wilderness areas—with 256 peaks higher than 12,000 feet, and populations of elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and even grizzlies, wolves, and mountain lions—you'll be lucky if you ever see Lander.
REAL ESTATE: If a quaint little one-bedroom just big enough to hold your gear will do, you can likely land one in town for $75,000 or so. The 80-year-old cottonwood-shaded homes along South Third Street, just a few blocks from downtown, list for $300,000 to $400,000.
HANGOUTS: The Pronghorn Lodge is a log-cabin-themed motel within walking distance of downtown (doubles, $74-$90; 307-332-3940, www.pronghornlodge.com). The Blue Spruce Inn, an Arts and Crafts brick house built in 1919, has a porch swing on the front veranda (doubles, $85; 888-503-3311). The Gannett Grill, with its shaded patio, buzzes with a lively summer-night scene; it and the adjacent Lander Bar, a classic western watering hole, host functions during the International Climbers' Festival each July.

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