144 miles N of Casper; 130 miles S of Billings; 156 miles E of Cody

Sheridan looks right at home where the Rockies meet the plains, its deep roots evident in its well-preserved historic downtown. The Bighorn Mountains cast afternoon shadows in this direction, across the ranches in the foothills where dude ranching was defined and perfected. One of the largest of Wyoming's small towns, with about 16,000 residents, Sheridan, named after Civil War general Philip Sheridan, retains its small-town charm with century-old buildings along Main Street and the mansions of cattle barons.

The source of prosperity in more recent times lies in the massive coal deposits to the north and east. After decades of production, the big strip mines are in a slow decline, and tourism is on the rise, with an influx of adventurous mountain bikers, rock climbers, paragliders, snowmobilers, and cross-country skiers who are lured by the Bighorns. Ranching these days is less about beef and more about providing saddle time for vacation dudes and retreats for wealthy corporate kings. Or queens -- Queen Elizabeth of England, who has distant relations here, stopped by in the 1980s, and like any sensible horsewoman would, she dropped by King's Saddlery, known worldwide for hand-tooled tack and ropes.