Wyoming is a state full of stunning mountain peaks, beautiful national parks, and so much unspoiled nature that it might seem untouched by modern human design. In a way, nature here has remained relatively unscathed from outside influence as Wyoming is the least populated state in the whole country.
Amongst all the grandeur, the gorgeous flowing rivers that make their way through Wyoming are some of the most beautiful parts of this state – yet often go unnoticed and are underappreciated.
Wyoming’s rivers are simply just beautiful to look at, and also provide some of the state’s most thrilling outdoor recreation opportunities – from kayaking and whitewater rafting to fishing and swimming.
We’ve put together a list of the 12 most beautiful rivers in Wyoming – so next time you’re passing through, don’t miss your chance to check them out.
Table of Contents
1. Snake River
Without a doubt, the Snake River is one of the most beautiful rivers in Wyoming – if not the entire US! This pristine body of water cuts its way through some of the state’s most famous recreation areas, with headwaters in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. From there it makes its way south into Jackson Lake and flows further into the heart of Grand Teton National Park.
Often referred to as “Jackson Hole’s Liquid Gold”, the Snake River is certainly a treasure worth protecting. It’s been dubbed a wild and scenic river by congress and plays host to over 300,000 visitors a year who visit its shorelines for a wide variety of aquatic adventures.
Jackson is as good a place as any for a scenic float down the river, and you’ll find tons of outfitters from which to rent inner tubes, kayaks, rafts, SUPs, and canoes. If you’re hoping to meander through Grand Teton National Park, you’ll need a permit – so the best way to float through this area might be by joining a guided tour.
Fishing is another popular activity in the area, and it’s renowned by anglers worldwide. When you toss a line into the Snake River, your main goal will likely be to reel in a famous, fine-spotted cutthroat trout (locally known as a “cutty”) – a specimen that is unique to this watershed.
For a more extreme experience on the Snake River, head further south to the Snake River Canyon and take on some Class II and III rapids. This is a favorite spot for experienced kayakers, but if you’re a beginner looking to try it out, you can arrange a guide service to show you the ropes.
No matter where you are or how you experience it, the Snake River is surrounded by gorgeous scenery that you will have to see to believe.
2. Yellowstone River
The Yellowstone River is one of the most beautiful and unique waterways in the entire country. It is the only major river in the lower 48 that remains untamed, meaning it’s the only one that is not dammed.
As you may have guessed from the name, the Yellowstone River starts in Yellowstone National Park in northwestern Wyoming and makes its way north through Montana and North Dakota before meeting the Missouri River. Although only a small section of the river runs through Wyoming, some of its most beautiful areas are along this stretch.
One of the most scenic areas to spot the river is at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, located inside of the national park. The canyon boasts colorful slopes and thundering waterfalls and is one of the most beautiful places in the entire park. The river is at the center of this breathtaking area, and the best views can be found at various lookout points around the canyon – most of which can only be achieved after a hike.
The Yellowstone River also has a long and rich history, as the area around it saw much of the conflict between the Native Americans and the U.S. government during the late 1800s. Learning about a place’s past can often make it more magical when you see it in person – so don’t hesitate to brush up on your history before visiting this beautiful Wyoming river.
3. Popo Agie River
Just south of Yellowstone State Park you’ll find one of Wyoming’s most beautiful rivers, the Popo Agie River. The river is a bit of an anomaly and performs a vanishing act that has puzzled geologists for centuries.
The Popo Agie River disappears into a canyon on its way through Sinks Canyon in Sinks Canyon State Park, and magically reappears about a quarter of a mile away in what is known as “The Rise”. Scientists believe that the water travels through tiny limestone passages underground, which were likely created by glaciers thousands of years ago. The passages are so small (some of them merely cracks) that it takes about 2 hours for the water to reappear on the other side.
No matter what the cause of this strange phenomenon, it’s a beautiful sight to see – and there’s even a viewing platform at the state park. While you’re in the park, you could also go for a hike, fish for trout, or go rock climbing.
You could also visit the river outside of the park, as it flows northeast into Montana for 54 miles from the Wind River Range. No matter which stretch you choose to explore, you’ll find beautiful scenery surrounding it – from colorful sandstone cliffs and verdant valleys to sagebrush hillsides and forested mountain slopes.
4. Greys River
As a tributary of the famous Snake River, Greys River is easily one of the most beautiful in Wyoming. Starting up high in the Wyoming Range in the western part of the state, Greys River is about 55 miles long and a favorite outdoor playground among the locals. The river is conveniently located near the road, and there are many access points along this scenic stretch.
The drive along the river is seriously stunning, with the Salt River Range to the west and the Wyoming Range to the east. No matter where you are along the river you’ll be surrounded by scenic views of towering mountain peaks, carpets of wildflowers, and verdant forests.
The area is full of fun outdoor activities including hiking, OHV riding, trophy elk and deer hunting, and horseback riding, to name a few. One of the most popular pastimes along the river itself is fly fishing, and common catches here include the highly sought-after Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat and trout.
There’s also a nice whitewater section along Greys River, so skilled kayakers and rafters come here to enjoy technical rapids. You’ll find Class III, IV, and V rapids at the confluence of Greys River and Little Greys, and the paddling gets tougher the further down you go. Only skilled paddlers should take on this choppy stretch – and beware of potential log jams and boulders.
If you’d like to spend more than a few hours reconnecting with nature, you’ll find 5 developed campsites along the river. For those looking for a true backwoods experience, there are hundreds of undeveloped sites along this stretch as well.
5. North Platte River
One of Wyoming’s most beautiful rivers can be found in the center of the state. The North Platte River is a long and curvy tributary to the larger Platte River, and visitors to this scenic waterway will find plenty to keep them busy.
Not only is the North Platte River a beautiful sight to see, but it’s also a favorite for summertime recreation. Summers in Wyoming can get hot, with temperatures often rising north of 80 degrees (F). There’s no better way to cool off than having some fun in the water, and the North Platte River is the perfect place to do just that.
You’ll find locals canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding along the river all summer long, and one of the most fun ways to explore the river is via inner tube. A nice long float will have you relaxed and cooled off in no time, and there are plenty of places to start and finish. The North Platte River has dozens of access points, making it as convenient as it is fun.
Like most Wyoming rivers, the North Platte sees its fair share of anglers – and from 6 Mile Gap to Glenrock, the trout fishing is often regarded as some of the best in the country.
Hiking is another popular pastime along the river, and the 11-mile North Platte River Trail is a stand-out. Besides beautiful scenery, you’ll find boat launches, restrooms, plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities, and even a park.
6. Laramie River
Flowing over 200 miles through southeastern Wyoming, the Laramie River is one of the most beautiful in the state. The river starts in Colorado and winds its way into Wyoming before joining up with the lovely North Platte River – and is mostly used for irrigation projects.
Laramie River is about as remote and pristine as they come, allowing visitors to bask in the area’s tranquil beauty. Although the upper section of the river has a bit more access, the lower section is known for being more beautiful. With less access, this part of the river is also less frequented – further adding to the charm of the scenic surroundings.
This tributary is well-loved by anglers, and the trout are plentiful. Laramie River is especially famous for its population of wild brown trout, with fish regularly caught in the 12-25” range. The best time to catch a keeper is in the early spring or end of June – but as long as the river doesn’t freeze over, there’s no bad time to cast out.
Paddling along the Laramie River is also a popular activity and the class I and II rapids are less intense than some of the other rivers in the state. The rapids only last for a few miles, however, so be prepared to walk your vessel back up to the starting point a few times if you’re hoping to make a full day of it.
You could also enjoy this beautiful area by taking a hike. The Medicine Bow Trail and Pache Trail are some of the most popular hikes amongst nature lovers. If you’d like to enjoy the solitude of the area for a bit longer, there’s a campsite near Laramie River for both tenting and RV camping. There are also a few hotels a bit further away, but these fill up quickly in the summertime.
7. Sweetwater River
One of Wyoming’s most beautiful rivers is another one of the North Platte’s tributaries. Sweetwater River flows mostly east from the Wind River Range to the Pathfinder Reservoir.
The river is as historic as it is beautiful, and has served as a compass for travelers for thousands of years. The Oregon Trail followed a section of the Sweetwater – and before covered wagons and pioneers, fur trappers and Native Americans made use of this waterway.
Independence Rock, also known as the “Great Register of the Desert”, is a large trailside rock where travelers would carve their names so that friends and relatives who made the same journey at a later time would know they had made it safely to this point. You’ll still find the great granite monolith near the river today – and even if you’re not a history buff, you’ll likely enjoy this pre-social media check-in point.
You may not be surprised to learn that Sweetwater River is another popular fly fishing destination. Like so many Wyoming rivers, the trout here are abundant – but unlike some of the other streams around the state, Sweetwater is highly underrated. This is likely due to the fact that access is not as convenient, but those who seek it out will be rewarded with a primitive wilderness experience that they’ll likely have all to themselves.
The journey to the river will be a rugged one, but the unspoiled nature makes it all worth it. Unwavering enthusiasm for hiking helps, as does a vehicle with four-wheel drive.
8. Wind River
Starting as a tiny creek in the upper reaches of the Wind River Range and growing in size and force as it makes its way southeast, Wind River is one of the most beautiful in Wyoming. After it flows down to Dubois through Riverton, the river meets up with the scenic Popo Agie River – and together they flow through Boysen Reservoir, Wind River Canyon, and Thermopolis to form the larger Bighorn River.
The river changes shape and size many times on its journey south, creating whitewater rapids, riffles, pools, and deep runs. All of this makes Wind River the perfect place for trout, and in turn, the perfect place for anglers hoping to catch some dinner.
Wind River Canyon is one of the best places along this stretch to reel in the fishies, and the brown trout fishing is some of the best in the country. Big fish and breathtaking scenery – it doesn’t get much better than this!
The aforementioned whitewater also draws rafters to the area, and whether you’re a complete newbie or a seasoned pro you’ll find a run that fits your skill level.
Whichever you choose, you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking scenery and maybe even some wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep, mule deer, beavers, elk, mink, and a variety of waterfowl as you make your way down the river.
9. Bighorn River
Although technically one and the same as the Wind River, the Bighorn River still makes our list of the most beautiful rivers in Wyoming. The name of the river changes at the aptly named Wedding of the Waters Launch, just south of Thermopolis. From there, the Bighorn River winds its way north and connects with the Shoshone River before heading into Montana.
The river was named by the French fur trader Francois Larocque who noted a large number of bighorn sheep grazing along its banks – and if you’re lucky, you might still see some today.
One of the most beautiful places to observe the Bighorn River is in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, straddling the Wyoming-Montana border. Not only is this area incredibly beautiful – but it’s also full of archaeological features, historic ranches, hiking trails, and lots of wildlife.
Although by now you’re probably aware that Wyoming is home to some great rivers for trout fishing, Bighorn River is perhaps one of the best places to cast out. It is a Premier Blue Ribbon trout river, with the southernmost section boasting over 3,000 fish per mile. You should have no trouble reeling in brown, rainbow, and cutthroat trout – many of which often exceed 25 inches long.
10. Shoshone River
Before meeting up with the Bighorn River and crossing into Montana, the beautiful Shoshone River starts in the Absaroka Range, in the Shoshone National Forest – near the eastern entrance to Yellowstone. Needless to say, the river is surrounded by stunning scenery making it one of the most beautiful in Wyoming.
Teddy Roosevelt once dubbed the start of this river the most scenic 50 miles of land in America – and with acclaim like that, the Shoshone River is anything but a secret. That being said, the upper reaches can only be accessed by foot or horseback – so if you’re looking to admire the river from less crowded shores, this area is your best bet.
Some of the best views can be found at Red Rock Canyon and Lower Canyon, though you’ll likely be sharing the vista point with others.
The high desert of the Cody area is also a lovely place to enjoy the river, and to the south of the city, you’ll find some great fly fishing opportunities. All the trout you catch are the result of natural reproduction, which makes it a favorite amongst some anglers.
Beware that grizzly bears have also been known to come to the river to hunt for fish as well, especially in the spring and early summer.
Cody is also a great spot for those looking to go whitewater rafting or floating along the scenic river, and you’ll find plenty of outfitters to provide you with gear and tours.
11. Tongue River
Although most of its mileage is found in Montana, the Tongue River has its headwaters in Wyoming and is one of the state’s most beautiful waterways.
The Tongue River has a long history, with shores that saw much bloodshed during various Indian wars and disputes. Luckily that history is long in the past; today the river is mostly used for agriculture and recreation.
Located high in the Mountains of Bighorn National Forest in northern Wyoming, Tongue River is an incredibly scenic stretch that is popular amongst hikers, anglers, and paddlers.
One of the best ways to take in the views of the river and the forest that surrounds it is by hiking the Tongue River Canyon Trail located near Dayton. You’ll get peeks of canyon walls as you hike, with the sound of the roaring river filling your ears. The trail is relatively easy – but beware if you’re planning to hike on a hot day, as there’s very little shade.
Of course, it wouldn’t really be a river in Wyoming if it wasn’t known for its trout fishing. Although not the most famous or popular place to cast out, anglers do appreciate this tributary for its easy access.
12. Firehole River
Last but not least on our list of the most beautiful rivers in Wyoming is the Firehole River, located in the northwestern part of the state. Firehole River is one of the two major tributaries of the lovely Madison River, which gets its source from Madison Lake inside of Yellowstone National Park.
Firehole River mostly resides in the park and is best known for feeding the famous Old Faithful Geyser. The river actually got its name from fur trappers who took notice of the steam rolling over it, thinking it looked like the water was on fire.
The river is a must-see when you’re visiting Yellowstone National Park – and if you’re there on a warm day, don’t hesitate to take a dip in the lovely (and cool!) swimming area. There are also some falls that are worth checking out, in addition to a few scenic hiking trails that follow the river.