103 miles E of Sheridan; 243 miles E of Billings

Gillette is now "Energy Capital of the Nation" and boasts the local convention and visitors bureau, but just a century ago it was a huge sea of open range. Where there were once herds of cattle, you can now see several massive surface coal mines such as the RAG Coal West-Eagle Butte Mine. The mine, which opened in 1978, shipped its 250-millionth ton of coal on April 15, 1998, and continues to produce more than 40 million tons a year. The huge coal mines, along with recently discovered coal-bed methane gas, have made Gillette a booming community of about 25,000 residents, which means that this is a pleasant enough place to live, with a variety of modern facilities, including a first-class swimming pool and water park. There is still plenty of undeveloped plains habitat, too, particularly in the 1.8-million-acre Thunder Basin National Grassland. Anyone who likes geological wonders, and anyone who enjoyed Close Encounters of the Third Kind, will want to visit the nearby Devils Tower National Monument.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.