Spend a Weekend in Hot Springs State Park
No one should miss the experience of soaking and splashing in the hot mineral waters at Hot Springs State park, but the activities inside Wyoming’s very first state park go way beyond the fun to be had at the State Bath House. From wildlife watching to historic and geological sites, you can easily fill up a weekend’s itinerary. And, you might want to extend your trip because the adjacent town of Thermopolis offers even more things to see and do. Start planning your next vacation with these Hot Springs State Park highlights:
Inside the Park
Kick off your visit by slipping into the hot and soothing waters of the largest mineral spring in the world. Head to the State Bath House inside the park, where admission is, and always will be, free — thanks to Chief Washakie, who insisted that visitors never be charged when he granted ownership of the park to the state. You can also rent towels, swimsuits and lockers on the cheap. Take your time enjoying both the indoor and outdoor pools, which are big enough for dozens of swimmers.
The State Park’s central herd of bison calls Hot Springs State Park home. The free-roaming bunch varies in numbers, but can get up to 30 adults plus a few youngsters. The morning is the ideal time to go view the humongous animals because park staff feed them a nutrition-rich “cake” to make sure they stay healthy. Keep in mind that bison and other park wildlife should be viewed only from a safe distance.
Get out and stretch your legs while you explore more than six miles of nature trails that crisscross the park. Special sights to add to your must-see list include: Big Spring, the Technicolor turquoise and green pool that pumps out 3.6 million gallons of 127-degree water every single day; the mineral terraces, or sulfuric mineral cliffs; and Teepee fountain, a photogenic mineral formation. Wooden boardwalks spanning the shallow pools offer great vantage points for viewing the interesting landscape.
One of the most fascinating things to see is the Legend Rock State Petroglyph Site. Prehistoric Native American drawings have been preserved in the cliff face, and the area has been developed for modern viewing. The site has a majestic feeling and is about 30 miles northwest of the park. You can arrange a trip to see it and pick up a key from the ranger’s office in Hot Springs State Park. There is a modern road as well as picnic tables and restrooms at the site.
Thermopolis and Surrounding Area
You can also test those famous hot mineral waters at several commercial pools located near the park. Many have amenities like slides and spas. The Wyoming Dinosaur Center has been voted No. 1 Dinosaur Museum in the U.S. by America’s Best, and it’s a must-see for families and Jurassic fans alike. At the center you can meet Stan, the resident 35-foot-tall T.rex, watch professional paleontologists at work and even join in on a dig. The Cultural Center in town is a wonderful small museum with stories of early history, Indian artifacts, the Hole-in-the-Wall saloon, geological displays and more. Several wilderness outfitters in town can get you on track to explore the outdoors with equipment rentals and guide services.
If you're up for a gorgeous drive, don't miss the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway. The road (U.S. 20) follows the snaking Wind River through the colorful canyon all the way to Shoshoni, about 40 minutes from Thermopolis. Learn more about Thermopolis here.