Thermopolis WY: hot springs, dinosaurs, bison, and more

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My mom is here for a visit and we decided to take her to the best-named-town in Wyoming — Thermopolis. There are so many things to do in Thermopolis – it’s a great stop on a road trip to Yellowstone or as a destination on its own.

In Thermopolis, WY, hot springs are the main draw, but there is so much more to do.

It’s like a mini-Yellowstone out here, except way, way less people. And since the blue skies were broken up with rain storms throughout the day, we were happy to have hot spring pools, water slides, dinosaur museums, and a cozy cabin to play in.

Wyoming Road Trip to Thermopolis

Turned out two of the three(ish) routes into Thermopolis were closed. The Wind River Canyon was covered in mud slides from all the rain, and the Big Horn Mountains were so snowy, they closed the road. Luckily, we took a different route and got to see many of the towns listed on public radio: Greybull, Lovell, Worland…. It was five hours of road tripping fun!

See other ideas for a road trip to Yellowstone National Park. Or check out Montana hot springs if you love getting into hot water as much as I do.

Our little cabin, the “Bear’s Den” in the Eagle RV Park. I  recommend the Best Western Plus Plaza Hotel  and there are plenty of other hotels in Thermopolis, Wyoming to choose from.

Hellie’s Teepee Pools

It’s like a trip back in time here. And by that, I mean this place is a little dated. But, I love that about it. The two water slides are really fun once you master your technique (only let the bottom of your feet and shoulder blades touch. Sidenote: this is a great core workout). The boys couldn’t hold themselves up in this fashion, so they didn’t go very fast, but we still had a blast. It’s funky and fun.

Hellie’s Tepee Pools, Thermopolis, Wyoming

  • Hellie’s Tepee hot springs hours: Daily (9 am – 9 pm)
  • Hellie’s Tepee hot springs prices: 3-4 years ($6.50), 5-62 years ($12.50), 63+ ($10.00)
  • Hellie’s Tepee hot springs location: 144 Tepee Street, Thermopolis, Wyoming 82443, United States (307-864-9250)
  • More info: on Hellie’s Tepee Pools.

Hot Springs State Park

The Tepee pools are inside Hot Springs State Park. There are also terraces that look like they belong in Yellowstone, playgrounds, lawns, and picnic tables, trails, a suspension bridge over the Big Horn River, and more. We spent the evening wandering around.

You can see State Bathhouse from the terraces (above). The State Bathhouse is free to use, but it’s just a small pool. With kids or thrill seekers, you are better off at one of the other hot springs with water slides. For a quiet, relaxing soak, the State Bathhouse hot springs might be perfect.

The writing on the hill says, “World’s Largest Mineral Springs.” Classy.
Giant Springs is the centerpiece of Hot Springs State Park.

Crossing the Big Horn on the suspension bridge. It wasn’t as bouncy as I hoped, but the view is great.

Swollen, muddy, Big Horn River.

 

Showing off stickers you can collect at different Chambers around Wyoming as part of their celebration of 125 years of statehood.

Bison Pasture

The Hot Springs State Bison Herd lives in Hot Springs State Park. On our second day in Thermopolis, we drove above the Star Plunge and explored the roads within the pasture.

The Hot Springs State Park herd averages more than 20 animals at the present time. The herd is free roaming within the boundaries of the pasture for the majority of the year. During the months of May and June the herd is confined to the Corral Area to aid the rejuvenation of the pasture. Edible plants are allowed to develop to the proper seed producing stage prior to allowing the animals free graze.

 

We stopped in a couple other places in the State Park to check out active and old hot springs.

After admiring the bison herd, we walked down to the Bighorn River. Since it was still spring, the river was big, muddy, and cold. Too cold for me, but that didn’t stop some teens from jumping off the rocks into the river.

Finn checks out White Sulfur Spring.

Bended rock.

 

Hot Springs State Park, Thermopolis, Wyoming

  • Hot Springs State Park hours: Daily (sunrise – sunset)
  • Hot Springs State Park prices: Free!
  • Hot Springs State Park location: 220 Park Street, Thermopolis, WY 82443, (307) 864-2176
  • More info: Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis, Wyoming.

Wyoming Dinosaur Center

This is not some dinky, small town dinosaur museum–it’s really good. We went to see the Archaeopteryx fossil.

“Only 11 specimens of Archaeopteryx exist in the world today and “The Thermopolis Specimen” is second only to the ‘Berlin’ specimen in terms of completeness, including a well-preserved skull that for the first time gives scientists a “top view” of the head of Archaeopteryx. This scientific icon is the only one on display in North America.”

There is so much more to see than that, though. Many dino skeletons (both replica and actual fossils) fill a big hall. There are also pre-dinosaur displays and replica skulls you can touch.

My only regret is that I didn’t do a little more prep for our visit because we could have signed up for a dig. How fun would that be? The museum also offers a tour of the dig site for folks that can’t commit a whole day to digging in the dirt, but want to see where some specimens are found.

Someone put a lot of thought into naming that.
We were pretty enthralled with all the dinosaur skeletons.

The Thermopolis Archaeopteryx fossil specimen.

 

Wyoming Dinosaur Center, Thermopolis, Wyoming

Wyoming Dinosaur Center hours: Daily (9 am – 9 pm)
Wyoming Dinosaur Center: Museum Admission: Adults ($10.00), Kids 4-12 ($8), Seniors 60+ ($8)
Wyoming Dinosaur Center: 144 Tepee Street, Thermopolis, Wyoming 82443, United States (307-864-9250)

Star Plunge

The Star Plunge is a little more updated than its next door neighbor, the Tepee Pools. It’s still funky, though. The outside water slide, which looks really fun, was closed because of pump problems the day we were there. The indoor slide was fast and fun. And we liked hanging out in the outdoor pool.

I love the retro signs. You can really picture how this whole town must have been a popular stop over in the 50s and 60s. The “Super Star 500” waterslide starts from the tower behind and on the right of the building.

About the water slides at Star Plunge:
“The “Super Star 500” is one of the world’s longest water slides, gushing over 2,400 gallons per minute down a flume that measures over 500 feet. It is open Memorial Day through Labor Day. The “Blue Thunder Run” is a 330 foot all weather hydro-tube that curves around a 60 foot tower.  The “Lil’ Dipper” is a 60 foot warm mineral slide just right for the little tots. It is open year-round on days that the temperature is above freezing.”

Star Plunge, Thermopolis, Wyoming

  • Star Plunge hot springs hours: Daily (9 am – 9 pm)
  • Star Plunge hot springs prices: 3-4 years ($6.50), 5-62 years ($12.50), 63+ ($10.00)
  • Star Plunge hot springs location: 115 Big Springs Drive, Thermopolis, WY 82443, (307) 864-3771
  • More info: Star Plunge hot springs in Wyoming

More Fun Near Thermopolis

How to find petroglyphs

Legend Rock Petroglyphs

One of the highlights on our western Wyoming road trip was a stop at the petroglyphs between Thermopolis and Cody. You can find all the details from our visit to Legend Rock Petroglyphs here.

Legend Rock State Petroglyph Site is a 400 meter long, near vertical cliff with more than 92 prehistoric petroglyph panels and over 300 petroglyph figures. It’s a bit off the beaten path (and paved roads), but well worth a stop.

Cody, Wyoming

There is a lot to do in Cody, Wyoming, about 1.5 hours from Thermopolis.

In Cody, don’t miss the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the nightly shootout in front of the Irma Hotel (not Sundays), chuckwagon dinners, horseback riding, and hiking.

There are lots of restaurants in Cody. I particularly like Juniper for small plates and cocktails.

If you like historic, try the Irma Hotel to spend the night. Otherwise, choose from one of the other hotels in Cody, Wyoming or camp nearby.

Wind River Canyon

The Wind River Canyon is about four miles south of Thermopolis. There is guided fishing, scenic river trips, and white water adventures. It’s on the Wind River Reservation, so you can’t just get on the river. Go with a guide or get a permit.

Just driving through is worth it as it is gorgeous!

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