One of Wyoming’s most well-known attractions is Yellowstone National Park. Millions of visitors travel to the national park each year, intrigued by its geothermal features. About 150 miles away from Yellowstone is the lesser-known destination of Thermopolis, WY, which is home to another geothermal attraction—Hot Springs State Park.
Many years before the settling of what is now Thermopolis (Greek for ‘Hot City’), the Native Americans discovered the hot springs and recognized the healing properties of the mineral water. Still today, many people seek out hot springs for their therapeutic benefits. But, even beyond wellness, hot springs are a popular attraction, especially during the winter.
This story was created in partnership with Visit USA Parks.
So, when the weather gets a bit chillier and snow begins to fall, head to the ‘Hot City’ for a relaxing and rejuvenating getaway! Enjoy some of the best hot springs in Wyoming, and explore Hot Springs State Park, Thermopolis, and the surrounding area!
Hot Springs State Park
Hot Springs State Park is one of Wyoming’s most popular state parks. But, especially during the winter months, it’s rare to see crowds of people there. The park’s peaceful and relaxing atmosphere is enhanced by snow-blanketed landscapes and steam gently rising from the hot springs. Although the hot springs pools are the top attraction in Hot Springs State Park, you’ll want to take time to explore the park beyond its pleasantly warm pool waters.
For those hoping to get multiple soaking sessions in during a visit to the area, lodging inside the state park provides easy and convenient access to the hot springs pools. Thermopolis also has several other lodging options, including a variety of vacation rentals.
Hot Springs Pools
State Bath House
The State Bath House in Hot Springs State Park is where visitors can soak in the hot springs free of charge. The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes sold the land where Hot Springs State Park is located to the federal government in 1896, and part of the deal was that there would always be a place where people could enjoy the hot springs at no cost. The State Bath House honors that agreement yet today.
This facility has both indoor and outdoor pools, where the mineral water is maintained at about 104 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just about the perfect temperature, especially when there’s a bit of a chill in the air!
Hellie’s Tepee and Star Plunge
In addition to the State Bath House, Hot Springs State Park also has two commercial hot springs pool areas—Hellie’s Tepee and Star Plunge. Both facilities have indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, baby pools, waterslides, and steam rooms.
Bison, Scenery & More
Before, after, or in between soaks, take the short drive through the park down Buffalo Pasture Road and Big Spring Drive and enjoy the scenery. Along this drive is where you’ll usually find the bison freely roaming about. Reminder—make sure you admire these majestic creatures from a distance because even though they may be casually sauntering around, they are still wild animals!
A couple historic points of interest along this drive include Smokey Row Cemetery and Sneider’s Point Overlook. You can stretch your legs on a few short trails just off the road as well.
To get a closer look at some of the geothermal features in Hot Springs State Park, stroll along the boardwalks of Terrace Walk and take in the view of the Bighorn River and mineral terraces from Swinging Bridge.
Visiting the fish pond is a fun activity, especially for kids and the young at heart. Bring a quarter and you can get a handful of fish food to toss in the pond. Then, watch as the huge goldfish rise to the surface to gobble up the food!
Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway & Boysen State Park
Just south of Thermopolis on US Highway 20 you’ll discover one of the most scenic drives in Wyoming, Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway. This stretch of highway between Thermopolis and Shoshoni winds along the Bighorn River through the canyon. In the summer, it’s a popular place for fishing, rafting, and camping. During the winter, Wind River Canyon is peaceful and especially stunning, with snow-dusted canyon walls and the occasional frozen waterfall.
On the south edge of Wind River Canyon lies Boysen State Park. The expansive waters of Boysen Reservoir are the focal point of this park. In the winter, stop and enjoy the park’s quietness and incredible views.
When visiting Thermopolis and Hot Springs State Park, a trip along Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway should certainly be on your itinerary!
The small town of Thermopolis is big on Old West charm. Strolling the streets of the historic downtown area, you get a glimpse of what the town’s early years were like. To get an in-depth look into the area’s past, visit the Hot Springs County Museum & Cultural Center. This impressive museum has curated thousands of items that tell the stories of centuries past, with collections including fossils, artwork, and Native American and pioneer artifacts. One remarkable piece of Wild West history that can be seen at the Hot Springs County Museum is the original bar from the Hole in the Wall Saloon. This was the bar that the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, of which Butch Cassidy was a member, frequented in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Thermopolis also has a fascinating prehistoric past. At Wyoming Dinosaur Center, you can see thousands of bones and fossils that were unearthed in the area. With one of the largest and most unique fossil collections in the world, this museum is well worth a visit, especially for kids and paleontology enthusiasts!
While in town, don’t miss the unique shopping opportunities! Ava’s Silver and Rock Shop sells beautiful jewelry, rocks, and fossils. If furs and hides are your thing, be sure to stop at Merlin’s Hide Out.
If you need to refuel after exploring the town, grab a local brew at Jackrabbit Java or One-Eyed Buffalo Brewing Company. Or, enjoy some delicious pizza at P6 Station. For breakfast, Black Bear Cafe is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
Just Down the Road
For those interested in ancient history and archaeology, Legend Rock State Petroglyph Site is a must-see. It’s out of town about 30 miles, but the drive is beautiful, and you’ll get to experience the tranquility of rural Wyoming. At the site, a walking path leads you by hundreds of different petroglyphs which date back 10,000 years!
When visiting Legend Rock during the offseason, there are a couple things to be aware of. October through April, a key is required to open the gate at the petroglyph site. Keys can be picked up at the State Bath House, Hot Springs County Museum, or the Chamber of Commerce. Also, the site is located off the main highway a few miles on gravel roads. Road conditions may be variable, especially in the winter months, so please use caution.
Interested in warming up with a little whiskey? Make the short drive over to Wyoming Whiskey, a distillery in Kirby, WY. Located about 15 minutes from Thermopolis, the distillery offers tours and tastings in addition to its whiskey shop.
Start planning a winter getaway to Wyoming’s favorite hot springs!