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Two Wyoming communities hope to see increased tourism following national recognition

The Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range is part of one of the alternate routes on the Continental Divide Trail.
Caitlin Tan
Wyoming Public Media
The Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range is part of one of the alternate routes on the Continental Divide Trail.

Lander and South Pass City are officially ‘gateway’ communities along the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) as of Wednesday, August 24, and the hope is the designation will bring more business and tourism to the towns.

Each year, a few hundred people attempt to hike the entire Continental Divide Trail, which spans 3,100 miles between Canada and Mexico. About 500 miles of it goes through Wyoming.

The CDT Coalition, which helps oversee the trail and provides information for hikers, recognizes 20 towns and cities along the route as ‘gateway communities.’ Those towns, which now include Lander and South Pass City, are advertised to hikers as places to stop along the way.

“It's going to provide business for local businesses,” Helen Wilson, who helped apply for the designation, said, “whether people are choosing to go and stay in a hotel and shower there or resupply at a grocery store, or just spend a couple of days taking a break from the trail and being in the town.”

Wilson said it is less about the trail, and more about the communities.

“The trail isn't changing – the trail is how it has been for many, many years, and this is just a way of bringing recognition to the communities that can help these travelers as they're moving through the area,” she said.

Wilson added that travelers could include everything from people hiking the entire trail to people hiking sections of the trail over a few days.

Lander and South Pass City join three other Wyoming towns that have the ‘gateway community’ status – Pinedale, Rawlins and Encampment.

“People can have choices about where to stop and what in-town experiences they want to have,” Wilson said.

Fremont County, which includes Lander and South Pass City, saw almost $300,000 more in lodging tax revenue for the 2021/2022 fiscal year, compared to last, indicating higher tourism numbers for the area.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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