Audrey Hall
Check out the bison pasture in Hot Springs State Park, where a small herd has called home for the past hundred years.

You’ll find bison, mineral pools, and cool, throwback atmosphere here

Dina Mishev  – June 29, 2011

Why go now: Yellowstone and Grand Teton get all the love, but this throwback town and its state park (Wyoming’s first) are worth a detour on your summer roadtrip.

Where the heck is it? In the rolling red hills of central Wyoming, about 23/4 hours from Yellowstone.

Park perks: Head to Hot Springs State Park, carved out of the northeast section of town, to dip in mineral pools, trek the trails, gawk at bison, raft the river, and find the perfect picnic spot.

A river runs through it: The Big Horn River flows through the east side of town and the park.

Say it like a local: Thermopolis, from the Greek for “hot city,” is known around here as Thermop.

Town hub: Pass by Highway 20’s chain stores and old motor lodges and head to Broadway for cute mom-and-pop shops.

Soaks for all: Entrance to the park’s State Bath House is still free thanks to the Shoshone and Arapaho, who ensured free public access back in 1896. 168 Tepee St.; 307/864-3765. 

Highly sedimental: The mineral Rainbow Terraces above the Big Horn have been a work in progress for thousands of years, and they’re still growing.

Beauty and the beasts: A small bison herd have called Hot Springs State Park home since 1916, when they were on the brink of extinction. Drive through the 600-acre bison pasture on the park’s eastern side, or take the moderate hike along the Spirit Trail to catch a glimpse. Keep your eyes peeled for this year’s babies; they’re 4 months old in August, and the cutest things you’ll ever see.

The best lunch in town: Sink your teeth into a burger from Happy’s BBQ—they raise the grass-fed Red Angus themselves. The BBQ brisket is also hard to pass up, so we say order both. $; 600 Broadway St., 307/864-2321.

Look out for dinos: Glimpse triceratops, velociraptor, and T. rex specimens and replicas at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, or visit an active dig site. $10; 110 Carter Ranch Rd.;

Whitewater! Splash around on a Wind River Canyon Whitewater & Fly Fishing trip. Class III and IV rapids are waiting just a few miles outside of town. From $45; 210 State 20 S.; wind​

Take the plunge: Of the six mineral pools in the state park, we like the two at Star Plunge for summer fun: Catch air on a 60-foot-high tube slide, or splash into the outdoor pool on a 500-​foot-long open slide. $10; 115 Big Springs Dr.;

Keep Reading: