Last Updated on February 8, 2022 by Chris and Lindsay
Hot Springs State Park is perhaps the best state park that we have visited in over 4 years and 50,000 miles of traveling across the US, Canada and Mexico! Located in Thermopolis, Wyoming (our favorite small town in America!), the park is host to the world’s largest natural mineral hot springs for which the park (and the town) derives its name.
Unlike most state parks across the US, Hot Spring State Park is 100% free to enter every day of the year and is chock full of great things to see and do. While the town itself is worth a stopover if you are traveling to/from Yellowstone National Park, we think you’ll find you could spend multiple days enjoying all the great things to do in Hot Springs State Park.
Most of the activities are free, and we’ll be sure to point out the ones that aren’t. On that note, let’s get into our list of fun activities to do in Hot Springs State Park!
READ MORE: Looking for other great things to do when you visit Thermopolis? Check out this post and find yourself entertained for days!
Things To Do In Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming (Thermopolis)
Here are our top 14 things to do when you visit Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis, WY.
1. Soak in the Mineral Hot Springs ($$ or FREE option)
The town of Thermopolis is named after the mineral hot springs that are abundant in the area and are known to insure good health. And when you visit Hot Springs State Park you’ll find that you can soak at the free bath house located at the center of the park.
There are two large mineral pools at the Wyoming State Bath House – one inside and one outside. And you can soak in the hot springs at the bath house for free for 20 minutes (though nobody is really counting!). To get into the hot mineral pools you just need to show up at the bath house and sign in.
Be sure to check the bath house hours before visiting as they change by day and season. You can do that here.
If you’d like more than a 20-minute soak at Wyoming State Bath House then you have 2 other options to pay for a full day’s access to other, privately run mineral hot springs. The most popular of the two private hot springs is called Star Plunge.
You’ll know if from the multiple water slides you will see working their way up into the hills behind the hot springs – or from the laughter of kids jumping off the high jump or sliding down the slides! Star plunge offers a variety of ways to enjoy the hot springs.
From several indoor pools and spas to a large outdoor man made swimming pool and water slides, each option takes advantage of the nearby headwaters of the hot spring.
You’ll recognize the other private hot springs from its golden tin dome roof just across the street from Star Plunge. Entrance fees and access are the same at both hot springs.
But the Tee Pee hot spring tends to attract a more mature crowd. Go with that if you don’t have kids and would prefer a quiet place to relax in the hot mineral water.
And if you’re a real champ, you can plan to be an off season visitor and do some late fall or winter soaking. The locals say the best time to soak is when it’s snowing outside.
READ MORE: Learn more about all of the hot springs in Thermopolis in this post!
2. Have a Picnic / Hang Out in the Park (FREE)
We have never seen greener, softer, more lush grass than at Hot Springs State Park. With plenty of shade (or sunshine), proper picnic tables, picnic shelters and charcoal grills, the park is incredibly inviting for picnics.
You can find a place down by the Big Horn River or throw out a blanket and enjoy the day! And there are large group picnic shelters available as well. If you’d like to reserve one of these or obtain a free park liquor permit, you should contact park headquarters.
3. Walk the Colorful Terraces (FREE)
Just like the mineral hot springs in the nearby Yellowstone National Park, the minerals in these springs creates an array of colors from the water that cascades over the edge of a cliff into the Big Horn River.
You can walk on a platform through the mineral terrace from above. Or head down to the boat ramp and check out the terraces from below. This is a remarkable place to see sunrise or sunset.
4. Fish ($$$$ Fishing License and/or Guide Required)
The Wind River/Bighorn River is one of the best trout fishing rivers in the American West. You can either fish from shore or on the river in a boat anywhere from the Wind River Canyon further upstream to Hot Springs State Park, where the river passes by the mineral terrace and boat ramp and continues on its way.
A fishing license is required and there are several places you can buy them in town. And you can also book tours with private guides who will be your “float boat” captain as you fish while floating down the river in a small boat.
5. Swim in the Big Horn River (FREE)
You can actually swim in the Bighorn River as it passes through the park. If you go near the mineral terrace (but not on them) you will find that the cold water from the river is warmed by the hot water flowing out of the springs. Or work your way toward the colder, refreshing river water on a hot summer day!
6. Get Up Close with the Hot Springs State Park Bison (FREE)
Domesticated bison are raised on property inside the State Park, up in the hills behind the private hot springs. The herd varies in size at any given point in time. But you can expect to see any number of a dozen or so bison as you drive through the hills.
Remember that although these park bison are domesticated, they are still wild animals that can pose harm if you are too close. Having the chance to see the bison in the winter months is a magical experience and helps you to understand why bison outerwear is so effective in keeping you warm.
7. Hike (FREE)
Hot Springs County has been quite proactive in creating new hiking trails all throughout Thermopolis and inside the state park. If you drive into the park to see the bison you will notice the narrow, rutty trails that cut through the pasture. Find the nearest parking area and head out on one of the trails.
We recommend climbing to the top of Monument Hill as near as possible to sunrise or sunset for incredible views looking down over the town and toward the Wind River Canyon. There are more than 6 different trails you can hike throughout the park.
8. Happy Hour at Safari Club ($$$)
If you’re starting to become famished but you don’t want to hop in the car and head to town, go check out the Safari Club at the Days Inn hotel in the park along the river.
Grab a happy hour drink, some appetizers or any number of items off the full menu and fill yourself up on energy to go back out into the park.
9. Float or Paddle the Big Horn River ($$$)
The Big Horn River and the Wind River are the same rivers. While nobody really knows why the river has two different names, everybody in town knows about the “Wedding of the Waters.” It is at this point the raging Wind River widens and becomes more gentle.
Get dropped off here and inflate your tube or stand up paddleboard or drop your kayak into the water. Then let the river float you gently through a few miles where you can hop out at the State Park.
While you can float the river for free, you’ll either need 2 cars or to find arrangements in town for dropping you off/picking you up.
10. Catch an event (FREE)
The town of Thermopolis is very active in hosting local events in the State Park. From annual festivals and craft shows to fireworks on the Fourth of July, there is almost always something going on at the state park. You can check out the schedule of events at this site.
11. Swinging Bridge (FREE)
While Hot Springs State Park officially resides on one side of the Bighorn River, there is a suspension foot bridge that crosses the river at the mineral terraces. The bridge offers great views looking in either direction.
As a suspension swinging bridge, it will rock and swing as you step across. Maybe not the best thing to do if you are afraid of heights. But otherwise, the bridge offers a unique vantage point of the park.
12. Visit the headwater spring (FREE)
The main hot spring, or headwater spring, is located away from most of the action in the park. To find it, drive or walk to the far end of the park from either entry point. You’ll pass the goldfish ponds and just beyond there a small river flows beneath the road and to the terraces.
Park nearby and walk to a small platform where you can view the water boiling up from inside the earth. It is here where water is diverted to the other hot springs in the park.
13. Feed the Goldfish ($$)
Just before you reach the headwaters you’ll pass two large ponds where the terrace walkway begins. If you look close, you’ll see goldfish swimming in the water.
As legend has it, goldfish were used in horse and livestock troughs to eat any bug larvae in the water. But in the wintertime, the goldfish would be placed in the warm water of the ponds instead of where they may have frozen to death in the troughs.
Now you can feed the descendants of these legendary fish by dropping a quarter in the feed machine nearby.
14. Check-in on WiFi (FREE)
If you’re looking for a place to hop online for a few minutes there are a few great coffee shops in town that offer free WiFi. But you don’t have to leave the park for mobile internet. You can use the WiFi for free when visiting the state park.