Geothermal attractions are my among favorite places to visit in the entire world. I’ve experienced both the health benefits and general relaxation a good long soak in mineral water can add to your vacation. Hot springs are located across the Western United States, from Montana to Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico, Montana, and even Alaska. So, when I recently traveled across the great state of Wyoming, I made sure not to miss a stop in the town of Thermopolis.
Considered a gateway community into Yellowstone National Park—a mecca for hot spring fanatics—Thermopolis claims bragging rights to the world’s largest mineral hot springs. As you might suspect, a key attraction in Thermopolis is Hot Springs State Park, a state-owned public recreation along the Big Horn River and just outside of downtown.
Admission to the Hot Springs State Park is free and the “main attraction” is the Big Spring, a mineral spring flowing at a rate of 8,000 gallons per day over the Rainbow Terraces. A paved pedestrian path leads up to the mouth of the spring and includes a one-story viewing platform looking out over the park and river. Note the temperature of the water flowing from the Big Spring is a constant 135 degrees Fahrenheit, so keep a close eye on your pets and kids.
Other points of interest include picnic grounds, a suspension bridge over the Big Horn River, and public roads that loop through the state’s largest bison herd (obviously stay in your car and use common sense if you decide to do this). The park also manages the petroglyph site at Legend Rock located twenty five miles outside of town. If you want to visit Legend Rock you will need to register for a gate key with the ranger on station at the State Bath house desk.
The main purpose for my visit, however, was to experience the free indoor and outdoor mineral pools at the State Bath house building. Like the state park, admission is free (visitors sign in at the front desk so the park can track visitor numbers and demographics). I planned ahead and had my bathing suit and towel handy; if you don’t have either, towels and suits are available to rent at the front desk for a small fee. Note: I have been to some “clothing optional” hot springs in my adventures around the world, and I really feel a mandatory bathing suit policy is good a business strategy anywhere you can swim in America these days.
Both pools are maintained at a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit with the outdoor pool slightly larger than the indoor pool. As you can see from the photo above, the outdoor pool is partially protected from sun and rain. I found the temperature of the indoor pool a consistent 104, but the outdoor pool varied in temperature the closer you walked towards the pipe feeding a constant stream of mineral water into the pool. According to the ranger I spoke with, both pools are regularly monitored for bacterial contamination and are drained, scrubbed, and re-filled on an alternating every-other-day schedule. The pools are re-filled at night and ready for visitors the following morning.
Alternately, if you have kids and want a more “resort” like experience, consider paying an admission fee for Star Plunge or Hellie’s Teepee Pools. Also within walking distance is a Best Western Plus Plaza Hotel which advertises heated pools and is located on the edge of the Big Horn River.
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