Thermopolis

Thermopolis is a central Wyoming town with a unique history. Its name, which means hot city, gives a clue: mineral-rich springs, heated by geothermal energy provide a place to relax here. When you add outdoor recreation and digging for dinosaurs to visits to the Thermopolis hot springs, you have a vacation getaway like no other. If you're looking for a place off the beaten path with experiences that can't easily be duplicated, consider a visit to Thermopolis.

Nestled at the southern edge of the Big Horn Valley, Thermopolis is about a four-hour drive to the northeast of Jackson Hole and two hours west of Casper. The Wind River meanders through town, shortly before turning into the Bighorn River. Everywhere you look in Thermopolis Wyoming, you'll find mountains. To the east lie the Big Horn Mountains, while the Absaroka Range is to the west. Turn south, you'll find the Owl Creek Mountains in the southwest and the Bridger Mountains to the southeast. This dramatic scenery—something for which Wyoming is famous—sets the stage for outdoor adventure and some stunning photographs.

The trip to Wind River Canyon, just a few miles south of Thermopolis Wyoming, is particularly lovely. Once you arrive at the Indian Reservation, an area outfitter can equip you with everything you need to explore, whether it's a license to go fishing, a guide for a float trip, or all the gear for white water rafting adventures. Anglers also will find great fishing opportunities along the Big Horn River; the trout are especially plentiful.

After an early morning of fishing, or a leisurely breakfast with reading the morning paper, the Thermopolis hot springs will feel especially relaxing. These geological wonders long have attracted people to this part of Wyoming. A treaty in 1896, signed with the Arapaho and Shoshone, declared one of the largest hot springs in Thermopolis would be forever free for the public to enjoy.

This tradition continues today with Hot Springs State Park, where the bathhouse does not charge an admission fee. The water, which flows up from the ground at 135 degrees, is cooled before it's pumped into the indoor and outdoor pools, some with water slides. The Thermopolis hot springs are as warm in the winter as they are in the summer. After a plunge, you might want to talk a walk to the Rainbow Terrace, where the mineral water has left colored deposits over time, before flowing into the Big Horn River. The park also is home to a large herd of buffalo and several hiking trails.

Many of the Thermopolis hotels are located right in Hot Springs State Park. The Best Western and the Days Inn take advantage of the Thermopolis hot springs—both pump the water to outdoor pools where nature takes care of warming the water to a cozy temperature. The hotels also offer all the creature comforts, including comfortable rooms and plentiful dining options. Outside of the state park, you'll find even more hotels, lodges, and restaurants to fit into your vacation plans.

Thermopolis Wyoming also captures the interest of budding paleontologists thanks to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. Visitors can step back into time as they explore the museum and watch scientists work on digs. Visitors can join in, provided they've made arrangements in advance to work with the skilled workers. Special dig sites have been set up for interpretive tours for those who want to get their hands dirty and experience a few minutes of the thrill of digging for dinosaurs.

Image: newrambler (flickr)

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