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It’s easy to social distance in Carbon County, Wyoming!

Coloradoans like myself are seeking the outdoors more than ever. An unprecedented number of people are playing outside, occupying trails, and seeking fresh air. Though I have always considered myself sociable and courteous on trails, having to step off constantly and let others pass by while friendly trail banter is murmured under face coverings is somewhat tiring. Fortunately, our neighbor to the north is not only full of stunning countryside, but is also the least populated state in the USA. Just over the Colorado border, Carbon County, Wyoming has all the travel amenities one could need, plus a vast outdoor landscape to explore.

This story was created in partnership with Carbon County, Wyoming Visitors Council.

Find quiet on the trails

Empty two track at sunset in Carbon County, Wyoming

Photo: Andrew Morgan via Carbon County Visitors Council, Wyoming

The Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest straddles the Colorado-Wyoming border and features loads of alpine lakes and towering granite peaks. My favorite way to escape in the Medicine Bow mountains is via a hike to a high alpine lake where my husband and I can throw a few casts. In previous years we have spent some winter nights cozied up in Saratoga and found plenty of solitude on our cross-country skis. I expect we’ll be doing more of that this coming winter!

Man walks down a trail through Carbon County Spring Wildflowers

Photo: Carbon County Visitors Council, Wyoming

Catch fish and fresh air

Man flyfishing in Carbon County, Wyoming

Photo: John Blough via Carbon County Visitors Council, Wyoming

Aside from pristine, alpine lake fishing, there are streams and rivers where the (affectionately named) hogs hang out–big fish that is. Actually, I nabbed one of my biggest catches ever on the North Platte River! North French Creek, which parallels the scenic highway 130, is chock-full of brook trout, making for a fun afternoon.

Scenery from behind the wheel

View from passenger seat on road trip in Carbon County, WY

Photo: Emily Sierra Photography

I have come to appreciate the beauty in vast, open prairies and simply the feeling of wide landscapes. Approaching and driving through the hills of Carbon County really allows my mind to wander and feel free. Leaving the prairies in the rear view mirror and heading up the mountains toward the Snowy Range is always a treat. Striking mountain peaks and magnificent lakes are right off the highway, making for always-memorable journeys.

Carbon County, Wyoming safe travel pin

Businesses are open!

Shops, bars, restaurants, and museums—they’re ready to see your face! Dine-in is allowed at restaurants (indoors and out), plus you’ll find plenty of parks nearby where you can bring your take-out for a picnic. Every business may have different regulations though, so it’s always important to check in for specific hotel, restaurant or business guidelines.

Woman holding ice cream cone

A few reminders for safe travel during COVID-19

Remember that visiting a small town during a pandemic is beneficial to the local economy but make sure you visit in a safe and respectful way. If you, or anyone in your party has symptoms of Covid-19, you should stay home until you feel better. To help control the spread of the virus during your travels, wear a mask when social distancing isn’t possible, wash your hand often, and remember that kindness is the key. Taking these simple steps shows respect to other travelers and the locals working hard to help you enjoy your stay.

With that, enjoy this wildlife photo of some baby foxes. Wishing you happy, safe travels!

Three fox kits playing near their den in Carbon County, Wyoming

Photo: Calvin Hazlewood via Carbon County Visitors Council, Wyoming




Treat Yourself on this National Parks Road Trip

Treat Yourself on this National Parks Road Trip

Nothing is more enticing in the middle of an extended road trip than a long soak in some natural hot springs. Fortunately, the hot springs of Thermopolis are right in the middle of what may be one of the most beautiful road trip itineraries in the Rocky Mountain West. Hop on this route from any point—be it Bozeman, Jackson, or Rapid City—and enjoy the open road with the promise of soothing hot springs.


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
Casey

State:
Wyoming, South Dakota

Start/End:
Jackson/Rapid City

Total miles:
770 miles (1,240 km)

Suggested days:
8–10 days

Suggested season: 
Spring, fall

GETTING STARTED

You can start this route at either end or join it at the nearest point to you. We’ll start in South Dakota and work our way through the bucket list destinations through Wyoming to Montana.

Day 1 Badlands to Crazy Horse

Mount Rushmore on national parks road trip with hot springs

Kick off your vacation in Badlands National Park, where horses and rhinos once roamed and bison and bighorn sheep live today. The dramatic and curious geology and paleontology of the park will have you staring at the landscape in awe. Start at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to learn about the fossils, wildlife, rock formations, and more. Then drive the Badlands Loop Road (Highway 240) to watch for wildlife and breathtaking landscapes.

Highway 240 will take you in the direction of your next stop: Mount Rushmore. Spend the night in or near Rapid City before checking out this massive national monument.

Day 2 CARVED ROCKS AND BLACK HILLS

Black Hills Road trip

2 hours, 12 minutes – 65 miles/105 km

Rise early to get some morning views of Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. The memorials are remarkable structures and worth spending some time to learn about, so take your time. Both enormous sculptural works are located in Black Hills National Forest, which is worth exploring after you witness and learn about the memorials. We recommend putting on some hiking shoes to see the Cathedral Spires.

Hot springs are probably sounding pretty nice right about now, and the wait will be worth it! For now, rest your tired feet in Custer to maximize your time adventuring in the Black Hills before you continue to Wyoming.

Day 3 America’s First National Monument

Devil's Tower during our Yellowstone Road trip

3 hours – 170 miles/274 km

A two-hour drive will take you to Devil’s Tower, a fascinating and bizarre natural landmark that is also the nation’s first national monument. Nearly 900 feet tall, the looming butte is a geologic wonder. Learn about America’s conservation history, the unusual rock formation that comprises the tower, Native American heritage connected to the area, and the wildlife that live here.

When you’re ready to get back on the road, head into Gillette to enjoy a surprising local foodie scene and a welcoming town in which to rest your head.

Day 4 R&R in Thermopolis

Hot springs in Thermopolis, Wyoming on National Parks road trip itinerary

3 hours, 15 minutes – 193 MILES/311 KM

You’ve been on the road for three long days, so you’ll probably hit snooze on your alarm once, but just know that you’re going to get some time for slow travel and R&R today. The less-than-four-hour drive to Thermpolis includes some highly scenic stretches, so take time to stop, stretch, and take photos.

When you arrive in Thermopolis, take your pick of lodging, but we recommend finding a place with easy access to hot springs—you deserve it!

Before you settle into a pool, get to know the area. Hot Springs State Park is the heart of Thermopolis. Take a short, leisurely stroll from the park entrance to the Swinging Bridge over the Bighorn River, where you can see the Rainbow Terraces. This is a beautiful geological formation where hot mineral water cascades down over colorful rock. Check out the Big Spring, where the turquoise and green spring bubbles up at a piping hot 127 degrees Fahrenheit. This water is what feeds all the other pools and attractions in the park, and interpretive displays nearby will give you a better understanding of the area.

Hot Springs pool in Thermopolis, Wyoming

Now that you know all about the geology, culture, history, and wellness benefits of the hot springs, it’s time to slip into the waters and just relax. You can soak for free at the State Bath House in the heart of the state park. The Star Plunge nearby has a water slide and more pools to choose from, and Hellie’s Tepee Pools has a spa in addition to pools and water slides. Take your pick, or try one of each throughout your time in Thermopolis.

Top your day off with a meal at the local brewery, the One Eyed Buffalo.

Day 5 Enjoy Wyoming’s HOt Springs

0 hours – 0 miles/0 km

Today, you won’t drive much at all. Since you’ll be sticking close to town, you can hop back into the hot springs at any time between activities!

Start the day off with a float down the Bighorn River. Hire a local guide or raft company to either paddle for you or shuttle you for a peaceful float past dramatic red cliffs, wildlife, and beautiful views. We recommend getting a fishing license and bringing your fly rod with you as you drift downriver. Your chosen rafting or floating experience will likely end right in town, so grab lunch at Nature’s Corner and stroll around Broadway and downtown after lunch.

Whether you’re a kid or a kid-at-heart, the Wyoming Dinosaur Center is something to get excited about. Walk through more than 58 mounted skeletons and hundreds of displays, and picture them walking through this very area. You can even take a 90-minute trip to an active dinosaur dig site or spend a full day digging alongside museum staff!

Before you know it, it will be time for dinner at Las Fuentes or the Safari Club and another dip in the springs.

Day 6 Petroglyphs and scenic drives

1 hour, 35 minutes – 68 miles/110 km

As you relax into your time in Thermopolis, sleep in and linger over breakfast at the Black Bear Cafe. Today will include a short driving loop to warm you up for the rest of your road trip. The first stop is Legend Rock Petroglyph Site. About 20 miles west of town, the site has at least 283 petroglyphs on 92 different sandstone panels. Be sure to get the directions and, depending on the time of year, a key to this remote site.

From Legend Rock, you’ll point your car in the direction of the town of Kirby. This is where Wyoming Whiskey is made. Take a tour of the distillery, followed by a tasting with a knowledgeable staff member. Hot tip: This may be the perfect souvenir to take home for yourself and friends.

As you make your way back into Thermopolis, take Buffalo Pasture Road to see the Hot Springs State Park bison herd. Remember, only view the bison from inside your vehicle at a respectful and safe distance. This is for your safety and theirs.

Grab dinner at your new favorite restaurant, and get in one last soak in the healing waters, because tomorrow morning you’ll be on your way to Yellowstone National Park.

Day 7 Scenic Route to Yellowstone

3 hours, 45 minutes – 215 miles/345 km

Almost the moment you leave the town of Thermopolis, you’ll enter Wind River Canyon, a Scenic Byway that follows the Bighorn River upstream as it changes names to the Wind River and flows from Boysen Reservoir. Keep an eye out for new views at every single turn and signs about the geology you’re driving right through!

After driving through Riverton, you may get the chance to spot one of the bison herds recently reintroduced on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Dubois is a great town to stop and stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat. It’s also your launching point for the second Scenic Byway you’ll drive today. Togwotee Pass over the Continental Divide to the south gate of Yellowstone National Park has numerous trailheads (like the Falls Campground and Turpin Meadows), high likelihood of spotting wildlife, and absolutely stunning views, including your first look at the Teton Mountains.

Make your way into Jackson to get checked into lovely lodging, like the Wort Hotel, then go play in Grand Teton National Park! After you snap pictures of the Tetons, head to Jenny Lake, where you can play on the water or hike right below the park’s namesake.

Overnight in Jackson (don’t miss the Cowboy Bar!) with plans to hit the road early for a full day in Yellowstone National Park.

Day 8 America’s First national park

A colorful hot spring in Yellowstone National Park

1 hour, 15 minutes – 60 MILES/97 KM

Rise early, grab breakfast and snacks at The Bunnery, and point the car north to Yellowstone National Park.

Plan for a full day in the park, as this is the grand finale of your travels. Enjoy the wildlife and geothermal attractions from a safe distance, carve out some time for fishing or a picnic, and take a hike to stretch your legs and enjoy the wonders of the nation’s first national park at your own pace. There are plenty of hot springs to see, but none you can soak in, so you may find yourself circling back to Thermopolis before you head home!




Family Fun and Hot Springs in Wyoming

Who else feels like it’s high time for a vacation? For those of us traveling with the kiddos, what’s better than a place that caters to the relaxation needs of the adults, and the fun, playful spirits of the kids? Immerse yourself in the healing waters of the world’s largest mineral hot springs Wyoming, where family fun meets ultimate relaxation: Thermopolis.

This story was created in partnership with Hot Springs Travel & Tourism.

Collage of images of sunsets, landscapes, and wildflowers in Hot Springs County, Wyoming

Family Fun at Hot Springs State Park

Thermopolis is known for Hot Springs State Park, where many other Wyomingites come to play and relax. Along the Big Horn River, more than 8,000 gallons of water flow over the rainbow-colored terraces every day at a constant temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Walk along the terraces, or swim in the water beneath them. The park has a free bath house where the water is maintained at a soothing 104 degrees Fahrenheit. And you won’t want to miss the “Big Spring”, where the natural spring contains 27 different minerals, making the water a beautiful turquoise and green color.

Thermopolis has rainbow terraces and hot springs in Wyoming

Don’t feel like driving all the way to Yellowstone on your trip? No worries, you can still see a herd of bison within our park. The park’s bison herd resides in a few pastures on the north and east sides of town. A public loop road allows visitors to get a closer view of the animal. Remember though, they’re wild and can be very dangerous, so stay in your vehicle.

Three images of bison in Thermopolis, Hot Springs County, Wyoming

Dig for Dinosaur Bones

Another family fun activity is to take a trip to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. The center includes a world-class museum, working dig sites, and a preparation laboratory. It was named one of the World’s Coolest Places for Kids by TIME Magazine in 2019. Yes, it’s that good. Spend a day digging for real fossils with the professionals, or simply explore the museum and live dig sites.

Fish or Raft the Big Horn River through Wind River Canyon

Just four miles south of Thermopolis is Wind River Canyon, which is one of the most scenic drives in Wyoming. The river cuts through gorgeous, lush terrain and offers stunning views, exciting whitewater rafting, and world-class fishing. The canyon is part of the Wind River Indian Reservation, so visitors will need an additional license to fish the river, and cannot float the river within the canyon unless guided. We recommend booking a whitewater trip in the canyon one day, and a fishing trip that takes you all the way to the state park for another day.

Collage of fishing and water sports pictures in Hot Springs County, Wyoming

Explore the Wild West at the Historical Museum

Sometimes it can be hard to convince children that a history museum will be a fun time—the Hot Springs County Museum is different. Rather than walking around just reading blurbs of information on a sign, this museum makes visitors feel like they’ve just stepped back into a different time period. Climb aboard a railroad caboose, sit at the original bar where local gang members used to hangout, and walk through the old town setting peering through windows of a dentist office and newspaper shop.

Hot Springs County Museum exhibit

Discover Ancient Art at the Legend Rock Petroglyphs

While you’re feeling excited about history, why not drive out of town a bit to see the Legend Rock petroglyphs. Only 23 miles west of town, there are at least 283 different petroglyphs on 92 individual sandstone “panels.” This is a great place for adults and kids alike to enjoy the beauty of ancient art.

Petroglyphs near Thermopolis in Hot Springs County, Wyoming

Enjoy the family fun activities, small-town hospitality, and unique outdoor adventure that Thermopolis has to offer. Whether Hot Springs County was your destination, or it’s a stop en route to Yellowstone, make the most of your Wyoming family trip!




Where to Find the Best Hot Springs in South Dakota

If you’re in search of the best hot springs in South Dakota, they aren’t too hard to track down. The town of Hot Springs didn’t get its name for nothing! Not only will you find incredible natural springs in this all-American town, but you’ll be close to outdoor adventure, a world-class museum, relaxing spas, exciting water slides, and so much more.

This article was created in partnership with the Hot Springs Area Chamber of Commerce. All photos provided by Hot Springs Area Chamber of Commerce.

Hot Springs in South Dakota

Soak in the Springs

As the name suggests, there is an abundance of warm, natural, mineral spring water in Hot Springs. Some are more developed than others or have more amenities for children to enjoy.

Pin for Hot Springs, SD 

For everyone

Moccasin Springs

Most recently built, Moccasin Springs Natural Mineral Spa is a cozy, rustic dream no matter the season. There are multiple outdoor pools that range from 88 to over 102 degrees Fahrenheit (31-39 Celsius). Indoors, they offer a pool house with a fireplace to stay warm when you’re out of the water, an on-site restaurant, yoga classes, a sauna, massages, and more. Moccasin Springs also offers accommodations for people to stay for a few nights and enjoy many warm soaks and the whole experience for days.

collage of moccasin springs photos

Cascade Falls

While many of today’s hot springs have developed into spas or bath houses, there are still undeveloped natural springs in South Dakota. About 15 minutes south of town, there are warm springs that feed into Cascade Creek. A few miles downstream is a popular swimming hole called Cascade Falls, which stays at an average temperature of 67 degrees Fahrenheit (19 Celsius). The water doesn’t move very fast here, and this is is the only recommended spot to swim in the creek, making it an ideal spot for families. Though it looks like a perfect fairytale, visitors must watch out for poison ivy and rattlesnakes. 

jumping into the water at Cascade Falls

For the kids

Evan’s Plunge

Evan’s Plunge Mineral Springs was established in 1890 and is a huge wellness center with everything from a sauna and steam room to water volleyball and a jet slide. This facility is great for families who are looking for the whole package. There are pools indoors and outdoors, workout rooms with equipment, multiple slides, swing rings, food, and more. The water is kept at an average of 87 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius), and there are also two hot tubs kept at warmer temperatures. 

Evan's Plunge mineral spring in Hot Springs

Fall River 

One of the best parts about the town of Hot Springs is that the Fall River, which is fed by thermal warm springs, runs directly through the entire length of town. The mile-long paved Freedom Trail runs alongside the river and connects two city parks: Centennial Park and Brookside Park. Exploring the warmer, deeper spots in the river is a favorite pastime of locals. Fall River is great for kids because it’s shallow in many sections. 

Fall River

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

The Parks: Wind Cave National Park & Custer State Park 

Just north of Hot Springs is Wind Cave National Park, where visitors can experience extraordinary landscapes above and below ground. Above ground, bison, elk, and other wildlife roam the grasslands of the Black Hills. Below ground, park service rangers offer tours of one of the longest and most complex caves in the world. Tours are required to see the cave and are offered 362 days of the year.

Just north of Wind Caves is Custer State Park. Granite cliffs shoot out of the water in the five lakes in this park. Custer State Park is great for swimming, boating, biking, camping, and paddling. 

Wind Cave National Park

Closer to Town: Angostura State Recreation Area & Golfing

Lucky for the people—and guests—of Hot Springs, there is no shortage of water around the town. To the south is Angostura State Recreation Area, a reservoir established in the 1950s. The water is clear, the beaches are sandy, and the views are expansive. This is a great local spot for water sports, camping, and fishing.

If you like to golf, you don’t want to miss Southern Hills Golf Course, rated by Golf Week as the #1 Golf Resort in South Dakota.

Golfing in Hot Springs

Be Inquisitive

Mammoth Site

Just another incredible fact about Hot Springs, South Dakota: It’s home to the world’s largest mammoth research center, The Mammoth Site. Tour this indoor active dig site view Ice Age fossils of woolly mammoths. 

Searching for fossils at the Mammoth Site

Town Architecture

Construction in Hot Springs began in the late 1890s, and the town was built to be a destination, so it sure looks like one. The historic downtown area was constructed from locally quarried sandstone and many of buildings have not since been changed. The town was named a ‘Distinctive Destination’ by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is worth walking through to learn more about the unique architecture. 

Sandstone architecture of Hot Springs

While this quaint town does have some of the best hot springs in South Dakota, it’s easy to tell that there is more to do in Hot Springs than just soak in the natural waters. If you plan on stopping here on the classic Black Hills route to Yellowstone, check out our itinerary here.




Alamosa: An oasis in Southern Colorado

We looked over at each other through our car windows and mutually nodded. It was the coldest part of night, right before the sun peaks over the horizon and begins warming everything up. I was up early on my way to Alamosa and had pulled into a parking lot at the base of The Great Sand Dunes alongside two other vehicles.

This article was created in partnership with the Alamosa Convention and Visitors Bureau 

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

The temperature was below freezing. Reluctantly, we were all layering up to begin the hike up to what are the highest sand dunes in North America. Going at our own pace and on our own paths, we trudged up the dunes to await the sunrise with our cameras

Hours later, after the sun had come up, a couple of us coincidentally arrived back at our vehicles at the same time. We nodded to each other again—this time with more warmth, fewer layers, and a greater appreciation for the outdoors.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

A Sense of Alamosa Community

Continuing on from the dunes and the Sangre de Cristo Range I drove into Alamosa itself. It was now late morning and there was an excited energy in the air. It was homecoming weekend.

The homecoming parade hadn’t started, but the community was preparing. Families and individuals alike were making their way toward the main street. They walked wearing the local colors of the school, bringing blankets and fold-out chairs ready to show support for the students.

Starving from the hike, I watched from behind the window of a local restaurant as I mapped out the rest of the day. It was clear that for a small community, Alamosa had a lot to offer.

I then decided to walk around town and soak up the energy. Alamosa is filled with many mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, gift shops, and even a couple of breweries. I made mental notes about which I would be returning to during my stay.

Hot Springs for the Alamosa Alligators

colorado alligator farm

Finishing my stroll, I drove out to Colorado Gators Reptile Park. The area in and around Alamosa is abundant in geothermal springs. This tilapia farm turned reptile refuge utilizes the hot springs as a way to keep alligators (and many other species) year-round. Truly an oasis, the warm waters provide life and make for a fascinating stop.

Beautiful views from the railroad

The Rio Grand Scenic Railroad is located behind the building and was where I had a reservation for a wine tasting and dinner. The two-hour ride aligned with sunset. Golden colors lit up the landscape while dinner and wine rounded out the experience. 

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad

Zapata Falls and Trail

The next day, I found myself wrestling my car up towards Zapata Falls. There was a longer trail to the lake which I explored for some time, but the falls themselves were less than a mile in and back.

As I approached Zapata Falls, I found it odd to encounter some hikers coming back bundled and shivering as they hiked down to the lot. Since the falls are fed by snowmelt, and the stream below the falls crosses the trail, you have to wade through the shallow stream to see the falls. Pack an extra pair of shoes and socks (since it’s such a short hike) so you don’t end up shivering like I did! And even if you forget, it was worth it!

Since I didn’t have fresh shoes, it was certainly time for me to take advantage of the geothermal springs in the area. I drove back down the dirt road towards what the locals called Hooper Hot Springs.

The recreation center is split into different sections that are fed by the springs. In the front are family friendly pools with concessions and a gift shop. In the back is The Greenhouse, which is filled with tropical plants, hotter pools and a fantastic food and beverage selection. This 21+ serene oasis is where I found myself. I didn’t want to leave.

Nonetheless, the sun was starting to go down and I had one more place in mind for sunset.

Beautiful sunset to end my Alamosa Adventure

The Alamosa Wildlife Refuge has options for both walking and driving. Since I had hiked earlier in the day, I decided I’d take my car on the dirt trail through the refuge. The wildlife isn’t as prolific as the autumn cold sets in, but the views are unmatched. Birds flew out from hidden places as the sun gave the Sangre de Cristo Mountains their name.

I didn’t want to leave, but this was the perfect way to end my autumn Alamosa adventure: The sun setting with warm embracing colors illuminating the land and roadway back out.

More About the Alamosa Experience




Our weekend escape to Saratoga, Wyoming

When it comes to vacation, I love a place that combines the outdoors with relaxation. I had driven the scenic byway between Laramie and Rawlins, Wyoming before and knew that spending a few nights somewhere in between was a must. Surrounded by the Medicine Bow National Forest, I knew that an escape to Saratoga would be the perfect weekend. Eliza and I headed out early, left the traffic and city behind for the mountains with our swimsuits and fly rods in tow.

Saratoga Wyoming Pin

carbon-county-saratoga-wyoming-escape-medicine-bow-mountains-scenic-drive

This article was created in partnership with Carbon County Visitors Council, Wyoming.

That drive, though

Heading northwest from Colorado, we found ourselves winding along the Snowy Range Scenic Byway. We couldn’t help but pull off a few times and take in the beauty along the highway, and once to watch a moose wandering through a meadow! Spotting wildlife was such an incredible treat. Eventually we made it to Saratoga and checked into our digs for the weekend at the historic Hotel Wolf.

Escape to Saratoga and stay in Hotel Wolf

Photo by Emily Sierra Photography

Downtown: it’s small-town and super friendly

From our hotel, we could easily hit shops and restaurants around town. Across the street was a vast collection of authentic turquoise jewelry and vintage cowboy hats. On our walk to dinner, we passed a few different art galleries featuring local works.

Our escape to Saratoga included adorable downtown shopping

Photo by Brigid Daly

We approached Firewater Public House for dinner, and people were hanging out on their lawn playing games and sipping beverages. Eliza and I sat on the porch and listened to the river pass gently. A man grabbed the guitar inside and started strumming tunes. We were surprised with the diverse menu, offering scratch-made dishes and high quality food. The best part? Everyone we chatted with was super friendly and welcoming. They were excited to hear where we planned to fly fish and offered more recommendations than we could fit into a weekend.

Firewater Public House is a great escape from reality, especially with yard games!

Photo by Brigid Daly

Hot Springs

Saratoga is a destination for many things, but namely its hot springs. Hobo Hot Springs is conveniently located downtown, open 24 hours and completely free to use! We stepped into our swimsuits, and though the main pool was a bit too hot for us on a summer day, we loved playing in the river where the hot and cold water meet. Eliza and I returned to the hot springs a few times throughout the weekend to relax after fishing—it was absolutely perfect!

Escape to Saratoga's hobo hot springs (they're free)

We caught fish!

Eliza and I are admittedly novice flyfisherwomen, so we hired Merry and Jane from Wyoming Women Anglers to show us the ropes. We were able to fish a variety of water, and we learned so much about the sport. We started at a scenic high alpine lake with the Medicine Bow Mountains as the backdrop. Next we moved onto a few small creeks before finally fishing the North Platte River from a boat. Each body of water presented a variety of exciting challenges and kept us on our toes. We caught beautiful brook trout in the small streams, and I even landed a large rainbow trout from the boat on our final day of fishing.

carbon-county-saratoga-wyoming-north-platte-river

Photo by Emily Sierra Photography

carbon-county-saratoga-wyoming-fly-fishing

Photos (left) by Casey Adams (right) by Brigid Daly

Saratoga is a gem in southern Wyoming! Eliza and I were immediately plotting our next trip to the area on the drive home, perhaps with our families on the next go-around. When we do return, we would love to stay at the Medicine Bow Lodge and Adventure Guest Ranch on National Forest land, which would put us even closer to our new favorite fishing holes. We visited the property after a morning of casting and were blown away by the beautiful lodge, the creek and forest that lie just outside the back door, and the appeal of a guided horseback ride into the pine trees and wildflowers. It seemed like the ideal home base for a family Saratoga vacation.

carbon-county-saratoga-wyoming-medicine-bow-national-forest-wildflowers

Photo by Brigid Daly

Want to learn more about adventures to be had in Carbon County, Wyoming? Read about history and culture, follow a loose itinerary on your escape to Saratoga, and learn about the incredible wildflowers in the area.




Southeast Idaho: Road Trip on the Water

Technically I drove my way through Southeast Idaho, but I connected all points of interest following the allure of the state’s fresh, natural waters. I found turquoise blue water, naturally carbonated water, and even natural hot springs that seemed to cure every ail imaginable. With a swimsuit and a pair of water-ready sandals, I hit the road.

This article was created in partnership with Southeast Idaho High Country Tourism, Idaho.

Bear Lake

On the lake

I was so excited to explore this bear of a lake by kayak (pun intended!). Seriously, the lake is massive, measuring in at 109 square miles! The water shimmers a turquoise blue thanks to the refraction of limestone deposits in the lake. Bear Lake is commonly referred to as the “Caribbean of the Rockies” for the color. Back to kayaking, I was determined! It was a bit windy the afternoon I chose, but that didn’t stop the kind folks at Epic Rentals from outfitting me for the afternoon. They warned about staying close to shore, and I quickly understood why. Even with the breeze, I loved floating over the crystal blue water, mesmerized by the snowy mountains in the distance.

Kayaking on Bear Lake, Utah, near the Idaho Border

Off the lake

Be sure to grab a raspberry shake in Garden City, then head north to visit the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge. In the evening, the birds were quite active. I was lucky enough to see baby geese swimming alongside their mothers, caught glimpses of the Yellow-headed Blackbird, and I even spotted an owl! Detouring to this wildlife refuge was a bit spur-of-the-moment, but I’d highly recommend a visit.

Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Idaho

Soda Springs & Hooper Springs

The world’s only “captive geyser” (Guinness Book of World Records, legit) is in the middle of town in Soda Springs. Geyser eruptions take place every hour, on the hour, shooting carbonated water 100 feet into the sky! Just up the road from downtown is Hooper Springs, another fascinating water stop. There, naturally carbonated water bubbles up from a spring. You could actually mix your own soda if you want! Visiting these sights are a super easy stop on a road trip through southeast Idaho, and totally worth it.

Soda Springs Geyser, Idaho just before eruptionSampling naturally carbonated water at Hooper Springs, Idaho

The Snake River

Wow, this river is simply one of the most scenic rivers that I have been to. Fish, float, or just get near the water to appreciate it. Massacre Rocks State Park near Pocatello is a great place to take in the views of the river, and you can even rent a stand up paddle board (SUP) to take out from there!

Snake River at Massacre Rocks State Park - Near Pocatello, Idaho

Lava Hot Springs

The picturesque downtown of Lava (locals pronounce it LAH-va, as in “LAVender”) has been welcoming visitors for years. On one end of town, super-soakers can indulge in the variety of hot pools. Temperatures in the hot pools range from 104° to 112°F. A few blocks away, Lava claims the only facility of its kind in the Intermountain West, the Olympic Swimming Complex. Swimming lanes, a diving tower, and slides galore will bring enjoyment for the whole family.

Lava Hot Springs, Idaho - Hot Pools Lava Hot Springs, Idaho - Olympic Swimming Complex

While there are several boutique hotels in Lava, I opted for a stay in a yurt down the road at Downata Hot Springs (pronounced “down-at-a”). There are also hot and cool pools there to enjoy, and I loved the down-home, family atmosphere. New in 2019, the resort will be offering covered wagons that you can sleep in. With tipis and a variety of other lodging, Downata is bringing “glamping” to a whole new level!

Downata Hot Springs, Idaho - Glamping, TipiDownata Hot Springs Resort, Idaho - Hot Pools

At the end of my trip I felt rejuvenated, yet still wishing I had more time to explore southeast Idaho. Beyond the dreamy waters I encountered, there were so many other points of interest I couldn’t see. Until next time!

All photos by Emily Sierra Photography.

Southeast Idaho




Two Days of R&R in Hot Springs, South Dakota

If there was ever a town where you could check off a full American experience, Hot Springs, South Dakota would be it. Founded on historic discoveries and built on leisure this small town has it all. Let’s get down to it and carve out the ideal weekend experiencing the American West!

 

This article was created in partnership with the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, South Dakota. Photos courtesy of Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce.

 

Day One Morning

 

Start out by diving into the history and exploring the millions of years old mammoth site the town was founded on. Having unearthed 61 mammoths, both Woolly and Columbian, this site is known for having the greatest concentration of mammoth remains. Still an active site, this is possibly one of the oldest such ruins in the U.S. and brings in over 100,000 people each year.

 

two kids dig up fossils in Hot Springs, South Dakota

 

Day One Afternoon

 

Follow the first half of the day with a little exploration of the town itself. Let the Freedom Trail guide you a little over a mile to discover downtown Hot Springs. Along the way, you’ll pass a couple of parks as well as some fantastic art work. While walking the town, take note that many of the buildings were constructed of a beautiful local pink sandstone by pioneers in the late 1900s.

 

Downtown Hot Springs

 

This gem of a community has many shops, restaurants, museums, and galleries to enjoy. You may even consider a quick game of mini golf or bowling. After discovering what the unique downtown community offers make sure to get a good night’s rest. Day two will really display why pioneers settled and frequented this area.

 

Day Two Morning

 

 

Evans Plunge, Hot Springs

 

Start the day by visiting the Evans Plunge mineral springs. The waters feeding into the pools stay at a consistent and warm 87 degrees year round and are a true mineral spring without the sulphur smell. During the summer—and especially in the winter, everybody can appreciate Evans Plunge in an indoor or outdoor pool. Children have slides and areas where they can play, while adults can choose to relax with access to a spa, health club and sauna.

 

As an alternative to Evan’s Plunge don’t be afraid to get away from the crowd and appreciate other outdoor attractions. The local golf course offers some spectacular views of the surrounding Seven Sisters Mountain Range and is a wonderful way to spend the morning.

 

Day Two Afternoon

 

 

Cascade Falls, South Dakota

 

This friendly community truly appeals to people of all ages. After a hearty lunch you can continue and get more immersed in the endless outdoor activities. Plenty of water and surrounding trails offer a different perspective from the pool. Nearby springs and lakes give way to water activities such as paddle boarding, boating, and fishing.

 

 

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary

 

Another way to enjoy the outdoors is to observe and connect with wildlife by visiting Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. Here, wild mustangs roam free on 11,000 acres of open land. Book your tour in advance to experience the wild west of South Dakota.

 

Not to be forgotten are the parks nearby. Hot Springs is only 10 minutes away from Wind Cave National Park and a short distance from Custer State Park. The southern Black Hills still offer more with Crazy Horse Memorial and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation all within short road trip distance.

 

Hot Springs truly has it all. This resort town may be small, but you can find more than enough to do and immerse yourself in a truly American experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Springs South Dakota Pin