Thermopolis? Sounds like a place where The Flintstones might go on vacation! I’m sure if Betty, Barney, Fred and Wilma did visit, they’d have lots of fun. And so will you. Where else can you swim in a mineral hot springs, explore dinosaur remains, and witness ancient Indian petroglyphs, all in the same day?
Where In The World Is Thermopolis Wyoming?
Thermopolis, Wyoming is less than three hours’ drive from Yellowstone National Park, making it an easy add-on to a Yellowstone Vacation. It’s well worth the three hour drive.
Thermopolis is exactly where we found ourselves while on a family vacation driving across Wyoming, our young dinosaur fanatic son in tow. We spent three days exploring the area and loved every minute of it.You probably could visit Thermopolis in one day, though I’d suggest you spend two or three days.
To get you thinking about creating your own Thermopolis adventure, here are our five favorite Thermopolis activities. Oh, and Thermopolis is also budget friendly. Each of these activities is either low cost, or better yet, free.
Wyoming Dinosaur Center
The Wyoming Dinosaur Center is a Thermopolis must-visit. Not only is there a world class museum, there’s also an active dinosaur dig site, fossil preparation laboratory, and my kids’ favorite, a large, well stocked gift shop. It’s also where you will find the only Archaeopteryx in North America, “Jimbo,” the Supersaurus, “Stan,” the 35-foot T-Rex and a huge Triceratops, which just happens to be Wyoming’s state dinosaur.
The Wyoming Dinosaur Center was the primary reason for our three day side adventure from Yellowstone. If someone in your family is a dino-lover, then the Center is reason enough to spend a day or two in Thermopolis.
Plan a half day to thoroughly explore the museum. If the weather cooperates, and time permits, schedule an actual dig site tour. Sadly, we arrived just after several rain storms and the Center was not allowing site tours. The fields were too muddy 🙁
If you or your kids really dig dinosaurs, consider one of the site dig programs – Dig For A Day, Kids’ Dig or Shovel Ready Dig. Get out in the field and dig your own fossils. You never know what you’ll find. We didn’t dig here – we were on our way to a dino dig site in North Dakota. And yes, we found fossils there. Fossilized poo! Yep, gotta love that. The site archaeologists sure did. But more about that adventure in another blog.
TripAdvisor ranks the Wyoming Dinosaur Center the #1 attraction in Thermopolis. I would agree, though a close second is our next family favorite, the Legend Rock Petroglyphs, which is also TripAdvisor’s #2 attraction.
Legend Rock Petroglyphs
Step back in time at Legend Rock Petroglyphs. Find yourself transported to a time long ago, walking alongside thunderbirds, elk and strange figures wearing horned headdresses. Off in the distance might just be a herd of horses. One could almost imagine the Native Americans who carved these images, riding on the backs of those horses, or stepping out from behind the cliffs. Yep, even our youngest was in awe.
Legend Rock is a truly special experience. The site contains over 300 petroglyphs spanning across 92 individual sandstone panels, and it is thought that at least three different Native American Indians carved them. Get up close and personal with ancient petroglyphs, some as old as 10,000 years. So close you could almost reach out and touch them. But please don’t do that. We want to preserve the glyphs, and human touch can damage them.
Legend Rock is about 23 miles west of town. Don’t forget to stop at the Hot Springs State Parks headquarters, the State Bath House or the Thermopolis Chamber of Commerce before you head out. You need a key to open the gate. Yes, really! You unlock the gate and let yourself into the petrogplyphs site.
Are the Legend Rock Petroglyphs now on your Thermopolis to-do list? They should be.
Hot Springs State Park
What to see and do at Hot Springs State Park? Here’s a few ideas. Stand tall above the Big Horn River and soak in the sites from the Swinging Bridge, be amazed by the Rainbow Terraces, hike a trail to The Big Spring, take a dip in the State Bath House. End the evening relaxing in a hot mineral pool, rejuvenating for the next day’s adventure. More on the pools in the next section.
A family favorite was running across the Swinging Bridge. And believe me, it really can swing! Especially when your youngest makes sure it does. We also hunted down several geocaches. Exploration fun with a reward at the end. A perfect afternoon for one and all.
Swim In The Thermopolis Mineral Hot Springs
You are in for a treat! Spend a late afternoon cooling off, swimming, sliding or just relaxing in one of Thermopolis’s mineral hot springs pools. Soak away the day’s hectic explorations. The Thermopolis hot springs are considered the world’s largest mineral hot springs, and definitely not something to be missed. The slides were an especially fun adventure. Loved the hot springs!
You can experience the mineral hot springs at one of two private pools, the Star Plunge or the TePee Pool and Spa. Each pool is fed by Hot Springs State Park’s Big Spring and each has it’s own unique flavor. You can also swim for free at the State Bath House in the park, but if you’ve got kids, one of the private pools might be a better option. Lots more to keep them entertained, leaving you to relax and enjoy.
Geocaching Around Thermopolis
Is it in here? Maybe – or maybe not. The hunt is half the fun of a geocaching adventure! It’s also a great way to wear off some energy after the drive to Thermopolis or after an early morning breakfast. Our family’s favorite Thermopolis geocache adventures? Hunting for caches right in the middle of town. And once located, attempting to retrieve it without anyone seeing what we were doing. Remember, you don’t want any muggles catching you! Don’t forget to bring trading swag.
Check out the Geocaching.com website for the most recent list of active Thermopolis geocaches. Learn more about Geocaching and how it can make for a great, inexpensive family fun activity at Geocaching – Your Family’s Weekend Fun?
Planning Your Own Thermopolis Experience?
So there it is. This family’s top five reasons why you might want to add Thermopolis to your next Wyoming vacation. Want to learn more about other activities? Check out the Thermopolis Wyoming website for a complete list of things to do, lodging options, and events. Don’t forget to request a Visitor’s Guide to help you plan your own Thermopolis adventure.
Piqued your interest? Think you might include Thermopolis on your next vacation to the Wild West? Have you already been to Thermopolis? What was your favorite activity? Let us know in the Comments below.
First and last images from Thermopolis.com, the pool image from StarPlunge. All other images from C.Biederman.