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Cowboys have been an American icon ever since the time of the Wild West. While the days of lawless frontier towns may be over, the cowboy spirit still lives on in many states.
For those wanting to experience a taste of the American West, a visit to a cowboy state is the way to go.
What makes a state a cowboy state is the number of operational ranches and rodeos the state has as well as significant Wild West historical locations. In these states, cowboy culture is still alive and thriving, with horses and cattle being a regular part of everyday life for many.
Here are the top 12 cowboy states that will take you back in time to the Wild West.
When people think of Texas they often think of cowboys, and for good reason too. Bandera, Texas is known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World” due to the large number of cattle drives that took place in the town during the 1800s.
Bandera is not the only city where the cowboy lifestyle thrives. Towns such as Fort Worth, El Paso, Lubbock, and Amarillo keep the Western way alive with attractions such as cattle drives, rodeos, and stockyards.
Throughout Texas, you will find plenty of dude ranches, Old West museums, and horseback riding that will give you the ultimate cowboy experience.
Montana has gained significance thanks to the neo-Western drama Yellowstone. The scenic state has a long history with cowboys, as many ranches were settled in the 1800s and early 1900s.
Some of the largest cattle ranches are found in Montana, as there are plenty of lush pastures for grazing. For a relaxing getaway, there are many beautiful dude ranches that provide a chance to experience the cowboy way firsthand. The Big Sky state is also the home to many prominent rodeo events.
Nicknamed the Cowboy State, Wyoming is a place where you can experience the beauty of the American West. Cowboy culture remains a prominent aspect of the state, as ranching is one of the leading industries in Wyoming.
It’s hard to beat the thrill of a Wyoming rodeo or the charm of the Old West towns like Buffalo and Cody. Wyoming has many guest ranches that give you the opportunity to try your hand at various ranch activities. There is plenty of authentic cowboy experiences to be had in this picturesque state.
While Colorado is well known for the Rocky Mountains and plentiful skiing and hiking opportunities, the state also has a deep history of cowboys. Colorado is even home to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
There are plenty of action-packed rodeos that take place in Colorado that attract some of the best cowboys in the world. For those seeking a unique vacation, there are many luxury dude ranches that provide an unforgettable cowboy experience.
While visiting Colorado you can also check out one of the many historic gold rush towns such as Silverton, Idaho Springs, and Breckenridge.
Oklahoma has a long history with cowboys that is still relevant today. The state is home to National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum where you can learn all about the cowboy’s impact on American history.
Oklahoma City keeps the Old West alive with Stockyards City. Stockyards City is full of Western storefronts, steakhouses, cattle auctions, and country music. It is the largest stocker/feeder cattle market in the country.
6. New Mexico
New Mexico was one of the most important areas for cowboys during the 1800s. Many cowboys buffalo hunters, and railroad workers worked the land.
Plenty of colorful characters called New Mexico home back when there was little to no local law enforcement. The Western culture is still kept alive at the New Mexico State Fair and the authentic dude ranches found across the state.
Kansas remains a hub for ranches, as the open land provides an ideal location for grazing pastures. With miles between towns, there will be times you see more livestock than people.
Kansas is also home to the historic Dodge City, which tourists can still visit today and experience the cowboy lifestyle. As a frontier cowtown, Dodge City was home to gamblers, gunslingers, and cattlemen, hosting many Wild West icons.
8. North Dakota
Cowboys have long remained an integral part of North Dakota. Many working cowboys can still be found herding cattle in the state.
The cowboy tradition is kept alive in North Dakota with museums, rodeos, powwows, and heritage days that educate people on this important part of American culture. Historic frontier towns like Medora give visitors a taste of what the Old West was really like.
9. South Dakota
In South Dakota, riding horses and working cattle is a normal part of life. Many Wild West icons once called this cowboy state home.
There is plenty of Western fun to be had at rodeos and heritage days in South Dakota. The spirit of the Old West remains alive in the city of Deadwood, which is famous for the lawless legends that once ruled the town.
Idaho played a significant role during the Wild West. The state is home to many historic ghost towns that once served as booming mining locations.
With a trip to Idaho, you can explore these desolate mining towns that once attracted cowboys in large numbers in hopes of striking treasure. Several Western-themed festivals take place in the state, educating visitors on this fascinating time in history.
There is plenty of livestock to be found across the state of Utah. Many cowboys still work the land as they did 100 years ago.
Utah also has its share of ghost towns, as mining was once a popular occupation in the state. There are also many rodeos that take place across the state, keeping the tradition of the West alive.
When many people think of California they think of stunning sandy beaches and glamorous movie stars in Hollywood. However, the Golden State also has a rich cowboy history.
The cowboy lifestyle remains thriving and diverse in California, with many competitive rodeos held in the state. The state is home to not only luxury dude ranches but also several working cattle ranches as well.
California also has an important history with the Gold Rush, with many iconic mining towns drawing in tourists from around the country.