Bill Sniffin: Longest Highway In America Enters Wyoming At Lusk, Exits At Yellowstone

Columnist Bill Sniffin writes, “All the major historic roads from the Lincoln Highway to the Union Pacific Railroad to the Pony Express to the first telegraph line. All passed through Wyoming territory.”

Bill Sniffin

February 10, 20245 min read

Bill Sniffin lots of snow 1 16 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

I was cursing the “longest highway in America” Thursday as I dealt with fog, crazy winds, snowpack, and ground blizzards crossing central Wyoming on U. S. Highway 20.

It was during a 2019 road trip through nine states, when I stumbled on to the interesting factoid that the longest highway in America bisects Wyoming. 

It is Historic US 20, which is 3,365 miles in length. We drove on that road a lot during that trip and it was well worth it.

Everything Crossed Old Wyoming

It should not have been surprising that this road crossed Wyoming. All the major historic roads from the Lincoln Highway to the Union Pacific Railroad to the Pony Express to the first telegraph line. All passed through Wyoming territory.

This highway enters the state east of Lusk on a truly marginal stretch of highway and continues to Orin Junction where it joins I-25 and then heads north to Douglas and Glenrock. It continues to Casper and then heads west to Shoshoni.

My late father always complained that long stretch from Casper to Shoshoni, was “96 miles of nuthin.” Both local rancher Lois Herbst and Wyoming historian Phil Roberts took great umbrage at that description and I stand corrected. But that truly was what my late father used to say about that endless stretch.

From Shoshoni the highway heads north next to Boysen Reservoir and through glorious Wind River Canyon to Thermopolis. It continues to Worland, Basin, and Greybull before turning west to Cody and Wapiti Valley where it enters Yellowstone at the east gate. Along the way Historic US 20 picks up and joins U. S. highways 14 and 18 at times, before exiting the state. 

An effort that started in Ohio is underway to provide more recognition to Historic US 20, both as a tourism corridor and as a tourist destination, in its own right.

Foreign Tourists Would Love Highway 20

I have some experience with foreign visitors, especially the Brits and the Germans. They love to visit out-of-the way towns like Lusk, Shoshoni, Thermopolis, Worland, Basin, and Greybull. Europeans average five weeks of paid vacation each year so they can afford to take leisurely trips along the back roads of America.

They are going to love visiting Historic US 20. Folks in Wyoming along US 20 who want to get involved in this national promotional effort should contact Bryan Farr, who wrote a book a few years ago about the famous highway. More information is at

That 2019 trip saw us travel by car through all these states as we headed to a wedding in Kansas and ended up in Northeast Iowa for a high school reunion.

Roads were generally good in all states although the wife of my best high school friends Everett Rowland, who was a county supervisor in Fayette County, Iowa, claimed that Iowa has the worst roads in the country and the third worst bridges.

That state’s “governor for life,” Terry Branstad, at the time, was all over the TV bragging about Iowa being considered the “second best managed state” in the country. Who was first? Wyoming, of course.

When you are in the Midwest any time of year the big news is the weather. Lately, my relatives in western Iowa complained about minus 18 temperatures and a foot of snow followed by 60-degree temps just a week later.

Let’s Be Thankful For A Mild Winter

Back here in Wyoming, we have had a mild winter. Especially compared to that monster last year. On this trip, as we travelled from Lander to Denver, we had to cancel our planned route on Interstate 80. The highway from Muddy Gap to Rawlins was closed because of weather impacts and resulting car accidents. Separation Flats north of Rawlins was probably a disaster. It can be just awful.  

Thus, we ended up on US Highway 20 from Shoshoni to Casper and then it turned into Interstate 25 until it veered East at Orin Junction. That road goes over to Lusk and then exits the state. We skipped a side trip to Lusk, one of my favorite towns, and kept going to Cheyenne and then on to Denver.

The winds were horrifying as we drove south from the Douglas area to Cheyenne. My GPS said the road had been closed a couple of hours earlier and I could see why. If it was snowing or if there were ground blizzards or just overall bad highways, it would have been a doozy getting through there. The signs read 40 mph gusts but it must have been much worse. Several semi-truck drivers who dealing with leaning trailers as that wind blew hard at them from the side.

Cheyenne was dry, warm, and windy. It sure looked wonderful to me based on my experience with the huge snowpack my town of Lander has endured since a 28-inch blizzard on Thanksgiving Day. Cheyenne’s brown looked wonderful!

Bill Sniffin can be reached at:

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.