After leaving Jackson, WY and passing the Grand Tetons and Boysen State Park our next stop was Thermopolis, WY, a little tourist town of just over 3,000 people.
We arrived with no real plans. We had read some pamphlets on Thermopolis on the way there, and it seemed like a really nice place with lots to offer. The thermal springs in the area made it ideal for pools and parks, and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center is located there.
So as we dragged main street looking for hotel options we were surprised to see that Thermopolis looked kind of… dumpy. I’m not even exactly sure what that word means, but that’s exactly the word that came to mind as we first arrived in town, from the south.
But as we continued down the curves of Highway 20 things started to look nicer as we got closer to Thermopolis’ main tourist attraction, Hot Springs Park. In addition to the thermal springs, Hot Springs Park is also the location of two pools fed by the springs, Tepee Pools and Star Plunge, and 2 hotels, Best Western & Days Inn. I can’t recall why, but we decided on Best Western, which we really enjoyed.
This Best Western Plus used to be The Plaza Hotel, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s an elegant 2 story brick building with a pool, and a hot tub fed by the natural thermal springs. Completely modernized, our suite had an office space, couch, wifi, flat screens and even a nice fireplace, which we cranked up upon returning to our room wet and cold, after an evening of enjoying the hot tub.
While traveling we usually try to find a local greasy spoon or classy joint, something we can’t find anywhere else, but after getting checked in we decided on a quick meal at Taco John’s so that we’d have time to make it to one of the pools before they closed. If you are unfamiliar with TJ’s, it originated in Wyoming, so it was very surprising that our dining experiences was one of the worst TJ meals we’ve ever had. Haha. Oh, well, you’ve got to set the bar low for fast food, right?
After eating, we went back to the hotel to change and headed a short jog down the road to the pools. They are almost literally right next to each other, with the State Bath House between, so we sat in the Jeep, wondering which is better, we didn’t have time for both. A large, creepy, goon-like lifeguard walked out of Star Plunge, patrolling the parking lot with his beady eyes. This was the deciding factor, we were going to Tepee Pools.
It was kind of a cooler evening, since it was September, so the big outdoor pool was closed, but the year-round spring-fed indoor pool was open, as well as the three outdoor hot tubs. And boy did it feel great to get into the the warm water after being out in the cool evening breeze. We sat in the outdoor hot tubs and chatted with a nice local lady, who came to soak in the water for her health. After a nice hot soak we went into the big indoor pool for a warm swim. Excellent.
After that we went back to our hotel and got into the hot tub there, you can never have TOO MUCH hot tub, right? (Actually, yes you can. I do not recommend extended periods in hot tubs) We sat around chatting with some of the other guests at the hotel, who all, surprisingly, had some connection to our area of Nebraska. Not bad for being 600 miles away from home!
The next day we got up, ate some breakfast with a smelly foreign biker gang and went out to check out Hot Springs Park. And oh boy, what a beautiful morning, and park. Hot Springs Park is some of nature at it’s most resplendent, with gorgeous formations and mesmeric pools of steaming water. Definitely a must see.
We drove down the trail and checked out some of the other geological sights in Hot Springs Park like White Sulfur Springs and the Devil’s Punch bowl and historic points of interest like Sneider’s Point Overlook & Smokey Row Cemetery. Unfortunately, we missed the buffalo herd.
We continued on down the road to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, on the outskirts of town, just south of Hot Springs Park. Housed in a massive building just off the Bighorn River, the Dinosaur Center takes you on a journey through time, with fossils, replicas & exhibits dating from life’s humble beginnings through the latter years of the prehistoric age. As a kid I was a HUGE dinosaur nerd and while I grew out of it, for the most part, it was a lot of fun to revisit that, especially at such a legitimate source.
But as fun as everything in Thermopolis was, it was time to head home, we had 9 hours of road ahead of us. So we hopped back in the Jeep and headed back down the dusty trail.