Thermopolis in a Day

Exploring the Wonders of Thermopolis in a Day: A Quick Guide

Wondering if you can see Thermopolis in a day? Yes you can! We discovered Thermopolis and added it to our Wyoming road trip and it was definitely worth adding in one of Wyoming’s hidden wonders. This quaint Wyoming town is unique and interesting, with lots of things to do, but most of all it is known for its hot springs, outdoor recreational opportunities, natural beauty and historical significance.

Thermopolis is located near the northern end of the Wind River Canyon, by the Bighorn River and is surrounded by mountains, with the Bridger Mountains to the southeast, the Owl Creek Mountains to the southwest, the Big Horn Mountains to the northeast and the Absaroka Range to the northwest.

Disclaimer: This post may include affiliate links. If you click one of them, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Hot Springs State Park, Thermopolis in a day

Interesting Facts

  • Thermopolis was named for the nearby hot springs by combining the Greek words thermo (hot) and polis (city).
  • Located in Hot Springs County, it has a population of around 3,000 people
  • Elevation is 4331 ft above sea level
  • It claims to have the largest mineral hot spring in the world, “The Big Spring”
  • The Wyoming Dinosaur Center is one of the ten top dinosaur museums in the world

How To See Thermopolis in a Day

Hot Springs State Park

Big Spring, Hot Springs State Park

You could genuinely spend a full day here. It was one of our favorite things to do in Thermopolis, Wyoming.The state park is home to several bathhouses where you can relax in the mineral-rich hot springs, have a picnic, go on a hike, or go for a drive.

The hot springs were formed via geothermal heat. Below the Earth’s surface there is magma which generates heat. Hot Springs State Park  has a network of faults and fractures in the Earth. When rainwater or snow deeps in the Earn through these faults, it comes into contact with the hot rocks and the heated water rises back to the surface through these faults. When it reaches the rock layers on the surface, it is forced to flow laterally until it reaches the surface. At that point is when the hot springs are formed. 

Big Spring is the world’s largest mineral hot spring, discharging over 18,000 gallons of water every 24 hours at a constant temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Hot Springs State Park

You can see the terraces that formed from the cooling of the water as it flowed over the surfaces and these continue to show the geological history in this park.

The Rainbow terraces show an array of colors due to the presence of different types of thermophilic bacteria and algae that thrive in the warm water, creating a visually striking natural phenomenon.

Terraces, Hot Springs State Park

Hot Springs State Park Bath House

Hot Springs State Park Bath House

In 1897, as part of the original agreement with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes, the land was sold to the federal government, and with that, access to the mineral hot springs would remain free. 

Native Americans believed that the water, maintained at 104 degrees, contained therapeutic healing powers. Many visitors and locals soak in these waters as part of their visit to Thermopolis. Guests can soak in either indoor or outdoor springs for 20 minutes at a time, up to three times a day.

The Bath House is open  Monday to Saturday 8:00 – 5:30, Sundays 12:00 – 5:00, and closed on some holidays during the winter. It is free to enter but there is a minimal charge for towel rentals.

TIP: If visiting in the summer, plan to arrive early as the free pools are usually very busy. Luckily the day we went, we lucked out and it wasn’t very busy at all. 

If you want a full day experience and are looking to provide entertainment for kids, or you want to just lay by a pool, visit the Star Plunge for $15.50 general admission for the day. This place includes water slides, caves to explore and more. 

 

Suspension Bridge, Hot Springs State Park

The Swinging Bridge

Take a walk on one of the many easy trails in Hot Springs State Park. The suspension foot bridge across the Bighorn River provides a vantage point where you can see beautiful views of the river as well as of the mineral terrace.

Okay so the bridge didn’t swing as much as I thought it would, but it was enough for my dog to feel it!

Find the Bison Herd

Monarch of the Plains

The Hot Springs State Park bison herd has called this park home since 1916. It was one of the funnest things to do in Thermopolis!

We drove through the “Monarch of the Plains” on the hunt to find the Hot Springs State Park bison herd.

Bison seen during Thermopolis in a day

We found a few that were obliging for us. Remember that these animals are wild, so respect their home and stay in your vehicle.

Wyoming Dinosaur Center

If you have time, one of the coolest things to do in Thermopolis is visit he Wyoming Dinosaur Center. The Center was opened in 1995, when a fossil collector Burkhard Pohl vacationed in Wyoming and discovered dinosaur bones in the area. The museum features over 30 mounted skeletons, information about the rise and fall of dinosaurs and a unique opportunity to tour a nearby live dig site, where they are still uncovering bones today.

The center is open 8:00 – 6:00 during the summer, 10:00 – 5:00 during the winter, and closed on major holidays. There are several ways to visit the center. General admission is $12.00 for adults, $10.00 for children, seniors or veterans.

If you want to experience a dig site tour, then on it’s own it costs $14.50 for adults and $12.50 for children, seniors and veterans. The dig site tours are only available mid May to September 15th. If you purchase a combination of both, you can save $4.00 per person.

If you want to extend your stay in the area, then you can participate in the Dig For A Day program where you get to dig for bones in an active dinosaur dig site during the summer months. 

Wyoming Dinosaur Center
Source: Wyoming Dinosaur Center

Legend Rock Petroglyph Historic Site

Petroglyph Site Close Up

If time allows, one of the off the beaten things to do in Thermopolis, WY is to visit this historic site. Located 30 miles out of Thermopolis, be prepared by wearing covered shoes or hiking boots and bring your sense of intrigue and adventure. This site features 55 separate rock panels with several hundred petroglyphs (images pecked or carved into rock) and a few pictographs (drawn or painted on the rock), dating back over 10,000 years ago.

The grounds are open from sunrise to sunset, weather permitting. From October to April, a key is required to enter the site and can be picked up at the State Bath House or the Thermopolis Chamber of Commerce.

Petroglyph Site
Source: Wyoming State Park

Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway

If you want to take a scenic drive, then venture south on US Highway 20. After four miles you will enter into the canyon, which some believe is the prettiest drive in Wyoming. As you head south towards Shoshoni, admire your drive between ancient rock cliffs of the Wind River Canyon.

There are pullouts and overlooks along the way for photo opportunities. You may be lucky enough to spot some bighorn sheep.

Wind River Canyon, part of Thermopolis in a day
Source: Travel Wyoming

 Downtown

If time prevails when visting Thermopolis in a day, you can visit many of the old buildings in downtown Thermopolis. The saloons that were once frequented by outlaws such as Butch Cassidy, Elsy Lay, the Sundance Kid and early western movie star, Tim McCoy, have been replaced with bakeries, breweries, coffee shops, restaurants and Wyoming themed stores.

Broadway used to be used to transport goods and was laid out to be 150 feet wide to allow for freight teams to be able to turn around. It holds this and in 1983, the Downtown Thermopolis Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Explore the town’s shops and restaurants, with a variety of dining options and unique shops where you can find local crafts and souvenirs.

If you have time, you can visit the Hot Springs County Museum and Culture Center, which showcases the history of the area, including exhibits on Native American culture, early settlers, and the town’s development.

Thermopolis Downtown Historic District
Source: Historical Marker Database

If you are planning a road trip through Wyoming, make sure you get a road trip packing list and check out some more great places to stay in Wyoming.

Looking for some help planning your road trip? Check out the planning services we offer.

If you enjoyed my post, follow me on social media or subscribe to my newsletter below, so you can stay connected.

Whether you’re interested in soaking in hot springs, exploring dinosaur history, or enjoying outdoor activities there are lots of things to do in Thermopolis in a day. There are many opportunities to connect with nature and experience these geological wonders in this unique part of Wyoming.

Like this post? Share it with others!

7 Comments

  1. Looks like such a nice visit with a lot of history and scenic viewpoints. I’ve never even heard about that place before so thanks for sharing!

  2. I have only driven through Wyoming once. Didn’t realize they had hot springs. I went to a hot springs once in Arkansas and love it. Thanks for putting this together

  3. I definitely thought this was in Greece when I first read Thermopolis haha. I’ll have to add the bath house to my US bucket list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *