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U.S. Highway 287

Routing

U.S. 287 is a major diagonal route from Texas 87 in Port Arthur, Texas, northwest to U.S. 89 at Choteau, Montana. The entire trip is 1,791 miles (excluding the break through Yellowstone National Park), according to the most recent U.S. highway log. This makes U.S. 287 the longest three-digit U.S. Highway in the nation.

U.S. 287 follows State Control Route 23 from Colorado to Medicine Bow via Laramie, State Control Route 410 from Medicine Bow to Walcott Junction, Interstate 80 from Walcott Junction to Rawlins, State Control Route 21 from Rawlins to Muddy Gap, State Control Route 20 from Muddy Gap to Lander, State Control Route 15 from Lander to Diversion Dam Junction, State Control Route 30 from Diversion Dam Junction to Moran Junction, and State Control Route 10 from Moran Junction to Yellowstone National Park.

Major Cities

Port Arthur, Beaumont, Fort Worth, Wichita Falls, Amarillo, Boise City, Lamar, Limon, Denver, Fort Collins, Laramie, Rawlins, Lander, Yellowstone National Park (route break), West Yellowstone, Helena, Choteau

Auxiliary Routes from U.S. 287

Bypass U.S. 287 in Rawlins serves as a more direct route for through travelers to the northeast of the city just north of its junction with Interstate 80.

In addition, there used to be a Wyoming 287 between 1936 and 1950. During this time, U.S. 287 between Lander and Diversion Dam Junction jogged north along modern Wyoming 789 and U.S. 26 to serve Riverton. Wyoming 287 was the more direct route that was replaced in 1950 by newly rerouted U.S. 287. The old routing of U.S. 287 became Wyoming 320 (Wyoming 789 in 1954) from Lander to Riverton and U.S. 26 from Riverton to Diversion Dam Junction.

History

The Rocky Mountain Highway followed U.S. 287 across Wyoming. the "Rocky Mountain Highway" route was originally considered for admission to the "Park to Park Highway," but was rejected by the highway's association around 1920. The "Rocky Mountain Highway" then became an independent entity to compete with the Yellowstone/Park to Park system. U.S. 287 is not one of the original 1926 U.S. routes in Wyoming. That year there was a Wyoming 287, which was the route of modern-day U.S. 189 from old U.S. 30N at Kemmerer north to U.S. 187 at Daniel Junction. By 1933, Wyoming 287 was extended south to U.S. 30S near the old communities of Spring Valley and Piedmont.

In 1936, the year of a major recommissioning of U.S. routes in Wyoming, Wyoming 287 was renumbered U.S. 89. At the same time, U.S. 287 was routed via U.S. 285 from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Laramie, cosigned with U.S. 30 between Laramie and Rawlins, replaced U.S. 87 between Rawlins and Muddy Gap, and replaced U.S. 87W between Muddy Gap and Yellowstone National Park. U.S. 87W in Montana was replaced by U.S. 89, and Montana 287 was created along the current path of U.S. 287. By the 1960s, Montana 287 was commissioned as U.S. 287. For more on the U.S. 87E/W split, see the listing for U.S. 87.

At this time, U.S. 287 went from Lander to Riverton then west to Diversion Dam Junction, following the path of modern-day Wyoming 789 and U.S. 26. In 1936, the modern-day U.S. 287 was known as Wyoming 287. This provided a choice for travelers heading to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks: the shorter route via Wyoming 287 or the longer route via U.S. 287.

By 1940, U.S. 287 had been rerouted to avoid Riverton altogether, and the old U.S. 287 was renumbered as Wyoming 320 and Wyoming 287. So the dual "Highway 287" routing persisted. Ten years later, in 1950, this dual 287 situation was eliminated with the commissioning of U.S. 26 across the middle of Wyoming. Wyoming 320 was then renamed Wyoming 789 when that route was commissioned in 1954.

As an interesting aside, Wyoming is not the only state that faced a dual Route 287 situation. In Montana, there is currently an intersection between U.S. 287 and Montana 287. Prior to the late 1960s, U.S. 287 ended at Yellowstone. Montana had a State 287, obviously chosen as a putative extension of U.S. 287. But when they extended U.S. 287 into the state, instead of following the route of State 287, they took the obvious shortcut from Ennis north to (then) U.S. 10. Instead of renumbering the remaining portion of State 287, they left it the same.

Meanwhile, back in Wyoming, U.S. 287 gained its current route in 1950, with the exception of the section it shares with Interstate 80 between Walcott Junction and Rawlins. That section of Interstate highway was completed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the U.S. 287 routing was moved along with U.S. 30 onto Interstate 80.

U.S. 287 Guide

U.S. 287 crosses into Wyoming from Colorado about eight miles south of Tie Siding. Just over a mile north of the state line, U.S. 287 reaches a summit of 8,106 feet on the Pumpkin Vine Hill. Several sections of U.S. 287 through here, including near the summit of Pumpkin Vine Hill, are three lanes, with two lanes heading southbound and one lane heading northbound. In this three-lane situation, Wyoming law allows vehicles heading northbound to pass using the left southbound lane, causing some to refer to that lane as a "suicide lane."

U.S. 287 gradually descends into Tie Siding and Laramie, the Gem City. There are several miles of snow fences all along this route, which protect the road from blowing snow and ground blizzards. The drive along U.S. 287 between the state line and Tie Siding is fairly mountainous, with passing lanes available in both directions. Once the highway descends into the Laramie Basin, it is a fairly straight, two-lane road with clearly marked passing zones. The speed limit for this section of U.S. 287 is 65 mph. There are two bridge crossings over the Union Pacific Railroad. This segment of highway has its own set of mileposts unrelated to the whole mileage of U.S. 287 in Wyoming.

In winter, this road is both desolate and dangerous. Ground blizzards are common, as the wind picks up the loose snow and blows it toward Nebraska. During the worst of the ground blizzards, it is impossible to see. We traveled this road one evening in late September, and we encountered a full blizzard. We were lucky to find a truck to follow all the way from the Wyoming-Colorado state line to Laramie. Once we arrived in Laramie, we were stranded, as the highway department closed the road behind us.

Upon reaching Laramie, U.S. 287 becomes Third Street and merges with Bus. Loop Interstate 80 and U.S. 30 near downtown. U.S. 287 provides a pretty good glimpse into Laramie: the south end near the interstate is built for travelers and tourists, the middle runs through downtown and provides access to the University of Wyoming, and the north end hits the grocery stores, K-Marts, and other shops typical of medium-sized Wyoming towns.

Splitting off from Bus. Loop Interstate 80 at the Curtis Street stoplight (the last stoplight you'll see heading northbound for quite a while), U.S. 30-287 goes due north toward Bosler, Rock River, and Medicine Bow. The mileposts on this section follow U.S. 30. The Wyo Tech school is located just north of Laramie, and the tiny town of Bosler is about fifteen miles north of there.

Right after the Wyoming 34 junction, the two-lane road becomes a four-lane freeway. This freeway continues all the way to Rock River. According to the Wyoming Department of Transportation, this section of U.S. 30-287 is the only significant piece of non-interstate four-lane highway in the state. It was built in the early 1960s to be the future Interstate 80, but it was never meant to be.

Politicians wanted Interstate 80 to be routed along the old Overland Trail through Arlington and Elk Mountain so travelers could shave 16 miles off their trans-Wyoming trip. Never mind the fact that the weather is much worse along Interstate 80, and the Arlington section of the interstate is frequently shut down due to inclement weather. Before the interstate opened in 1970, U.S. 30-287 carried 3,600 vehicles per day. In 1995, the interstate carried 7,600 vehicles per day and U.S. 30-287 carried 650 vehicles per day.

U.S. 30-287 turn northwest at Rock River and then due west at the Albany-Carbon County line. At the county line, look for Como Bluff, a large hill that runs in an eas-west direction nearly parallel to the highway. Geologists and paleontologists have found exciting dinosaur remains here, including a stegosaurus. There is a museum here.

At Medicine Bow, there is a large wind turbine left over from a failed experiment. There used to be two turbines, but one was taken down, and the other does not work as it needs repair. However, with the recent increase in the number of wind turbines (especially near Arlington on Interstate 80), additional turbines are planned in this location. Medicine Bow is the town immortalized in Owen Wister's The Virginian. At this point, U.S. 30-287 turn southwest to rejoin the interstate. Near Hanna, the highway passes by several active and inactive coal mines.

Upon rejoining Interstate 80, U.S. 30-287 are absorbed into the massive truck traffic flowing from coast-to-coast. You can see remnants of the original Lincoln Highway along the Interstate near Fort Steele Junction (Interstate 80 Rest Area). Then the old road, unmarked, exits at East Sinclair. Old U.S. 30-287 went through Sinclair (formerly Grenville, later Parco), then provides an alternate route into east Rawlins via Wyoming 76.

At Rawlins, U.S. 287 splits from the interstate and U.S. 30. There is a short bypass that allows travelers to avoid the downtown area and continue on to their destinations. U.S. 287 goes due north from Rawlins to Muddy Gap, then turns northwest from there to Moran Junction.

U.S. 287 is paired with Wyoming 789 from Rawlins north to Lander. Wyoming 789 is a north-south highway that bisects the state. About seven miles north of Rawlins, U.S. 287 and Wyoming 789 cross the Continental Divide at 7,245 feet. The highway stays on the Great Divide Basin side until just north of Lamont, where U.S. 287 and Wyoming 789 reenter the Atlantic Ocean drainage. The mileposts begin at the number "one" in Rawlins and increase northwestward to Moran Junction.

The U.S. 287 and Wyoming 220 route combination is a major route for travellers from Interstate 80 (southwestern Wyoming and Salt Lake City) to Casper and Rapid City. Wyoming DOT has thought about around widening U.S. 287 and Wyoming 220 so it would be safer for the sometimes dangerous mix of tourists and trucks. In fact, some have argued for a complete four-lane highway between Rawlins and Casper. In any case, the U.S. 287 traffic tapers off at Muddy Gap (where Wyoming 220 turns northeast to Casper).

Northwest of Muddy Gap, U.S. 287 and Wyoming 789 go some 20 miles to Jeffrey City and another 20 miles to Sweetwater Station. The portion of U.S. 287 from Muddy Gap to Sweetwater Station is part of the historic Oregon Trail. Then, you drop off the Beaver Rim in a series of easy curves and run about 40 miles over to Lander, providing a gorgeous view of the Wind River Mountains.

At Lander, Wyoming 789 splits to the north and Riverton, while U.S. 287 continues northwest. Sinks Canyon State Park, where the Popo Agie River disappears, is near U.S. 287 via Wyoming 131. From Lander, you have about 75 miles to Dubois. The first third of this route is over some rolling hills, and the rest of U.S. 287 parallels the Wind River. U.S. 287 rides solo from Lander to Diversion Dam Junction, then merges with U.S. 26. U.S. 26-287 goes through the Wind River Indian Reservation to get to Dubois and the Togwotee Pass.

Lost and Party of Five TV star Matthew Fox hails from Crowheart, a tiny town along U.S. 287 in the Wind River Indian Reservation. The town of Dubois looms just ahead. It is properly pronounced "DO-BOYS" in Wyoming, so don't confuse it with the pronunciation of the French word DuBois ("DO-BWAH").

The highway crosses Togwotee Pass (9,658 feet) in the Shoshone National Forest and comes out in Moran Junction. This is beautiful land, just waiting to be hiked. Now U.S. 287 is in the Pacific Ocean watershed, as the Togwotee Pass marks the Continental Divide. U.S. 26 splits off U.S. 287 at Moran Junction, while U.S. 89 and 191 merge with U.S. 287 heading north to Jackson Lake and the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway.

At this point, U.S. 287 enters Yellowstone National Park and comes to an end. It resumes in West Yellowstone, Montana, merged with U.S. 20 and U.S. 191. AASHTO recognizes the Yellowstone National Park section as an "official gap" in U.S. 287.

For more on the undesignated Yellowstone National Park section, go to the Grand Loop Road guide.

U.S. 287 Photo Gallery

U.S. 287 North
Northbound U.S. 287 welcome sign at the Colorado-Wyoming State Line. A three-lane segment exists north of the Colorado State Line near the 8,106-foot summit of Pumpkin Vine Hill. The middle lane is considered a "suicide" lane because it may be used by either direction of traffic legally. A feasibility study released in 2002 determined that U.S. 287 between the Colorado State Line and Laramie should be four lanes with a median. However, the study determined this would be too costly initially, so improvements will start with converting three-lane sections such as this one into four-lane passing zones with no suicide lanes. Photo taken by Mike Ballard, 8/98.
Now in Laramie, northbound U.S. 287 (Third Street) reaches its junction with Interstate 80. Photo taken 8/98.
U.S. 30 West and U.S. 287 North
Interstate 80 West, U.S. 30 West, and U.S. 287 North
U.S. 287 and Wyoming 789 North
U.S. 287 and Wyoming 789 shields on Northbound. Photo taken by Mike Ballard, 8/98.
U.S. 287 North
U.S. 26 West and U.S. 287 North
Much farther to the west, westbound U.S. 26 and northbound U.S. 287 meet U.S. 89 and U.S. 191 at Moran Junction in the heart of Grand Teton National Park. U.S. 26-89-191 turn south toward Jackson, passing through the Antelope Flats on their way to Moose and Gross Ventre Junction. U.S. 287 turns north with U.S. 89 and U.S. 191 toward Yellowstone National Park. Photo taken by Casey Cooper, 07/09/05.
At Moran Junction, the majestic Grand Tetons dominate the skyline, with its jagged peaks backlit by a setting sun in the early evening. Photo taken by Casey Cooper, 07/09/05.
U.S. 89-191-287 North
North of Moran Junction, this view shows the mountains at dusk in Grand Teton National Park. Photo taken by Casey Cooper, 07/09/05.
U.S. 89, U.S. 191 and U.S. 287 leave Grand Teton National Park and enter the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, a brief section of preserved land that separates Grand Teton from Yellowstone. There are no shields for any of the routes north of Moran Junction. Photo taken by Casey Cooper, 07/09/05.
Now in Yellowstone National Park, northbound U.S. 89, U.S. 191 and U.S. 287 approach the turn off for the popular Old Faithful area, which includes the steadfast Old Faithful geyser and the Old Faithful Inn, which is routinely cited as one of the most beautiful lodges within the National Park System. Photo taken by Casey Cooper, 07/16/05.
The two-lane U.S. 89, U.S. 191 and U.S. 287 changes into a four-lane freeway as the highway approaches the turn off for Old Faithful. The freeway ends just after the interchange, and U.S. 89-191-287 reverts to a two-lane highway. The exit is a high speed trumpet interchange. Photo taken by Casey Cooper, 07/16/05.
Remnants of the massive 1988 fires that ravaged Yellowstone National Park are still visible today, especially on the treeless mountains and dead sticks that remain almost 20 years later. Old Faithful Inn survived the fires, but just barely. It was saved by the valiant efforts of firefighters in August 1988. The overpass makes part of the connection in the trumpet interchange. Photo taken by Casey Cooper, 07/16/05.
Use the right lane to exit into Old Faithful. Continue in the left lane to follow northbound U.S. 89, U.S. 191 and U.S. 287 to Madison, where the routes divide. U.S. 191 and U.S. 287 turn west along with U.S. 20 to West Yellowstone, Montana, while U.S. 20 and U.S. 89 continue along the Grand Loop Road to Norris Geyser Basin. Photo taken by Casey Cooper, 07/16/05.
U.S. 20 West and U.S. 191-287 North
U.S. 287 South
Southbound U.S. 287 approaching Junction Interstate 80 and U.S. 30 in Rawlins. This marks the eastern terminus of the Rawlins business loop and the western terminus of Wyoming 76. Photo taken by Rich Piehl, 5/01.

Page Updated October 30 2005.