Sure, National Parks like Yellowstone and Grand Teton are great ways to get the family to experience the unique landscape and culture of the Wild West, but nothing can beat actually exploring the charming towns, peaceful lakes, somber mountains, and sweeping prairies just outside the parks. This trip runs through an authentic slice of Americana that will give everyone, from the kids to the adults, a taste of what makes this part of the country so special. You'll learn about when dinosaurs roamed the land, see unique wildlife that lives here today, and get outside as you fully appreciate this little corner of the country.
Seeing wildlife up close and personal in a natural habitat is always a special experience. The individual ecosystem of a place really plays a huge role in its culture and atmosphere, and Sweetwater County is no exception. Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge is preserving a wondrous slice of wilderness along the Green River, which gives visitors an opportunity to meet some of its native residents. Animals like moose, elk, wild horses, swans, pelicans, antelope, and more can be sighted year-round, and the river itself provides world-class fly fishing. Whether you just want a spot to have a peaceful encounter of nature or you want to immerse yourself fully, Seedskadee is pure, wild magic.
The history in Sweetwater County is just as fascinating at its wildlife. From the region's prehistoric days below an ancient lake to the Shoshone and Ute tribes who first populated the area to the Oregon, California, Mormon, Overland, Cherokee, and Pony Express Trails that brought thousands of intrepid pioneers through, there is a ton to learn about. Hands-on activities for kids, endless information for adults, cool artifacts, and rotating exhibits combine to make a visit here well worth your while.
Another way to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air is to head to Expedition Island Park. Here you can fish for trout, take a walk around the Greenbelt Pathway and admire the landscaping, kayak, raft or tube at the Whitewater Park, picnic, and more. Kids especially will love the splash park and playground. It's a great way to burn off some energy, or cool off and get refreshed!
If you're a cyclist or you're traveling with any, then the Green River Bike Park is a great stop. Coast across log bridges, tackle jumps, get some air against the walls, and truck through exciting rough terrain on your bike. If you're a beginner when it comes to mountain biking, there's a skills zone where you can ease into the excitement of the more challenging obstacles, or watch the pros do their thing as you circle the smooth loop trail around the park via the Wilkin’s Peak Trail System, the #1 singletrack trails system in the state, according to Singletracks.com.
For an authentically Wyoming experience, you can check out a herd of wild horses on the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop. Scenic overlooks make for great breaks from the road, interpretive signs add context to the route, and, of course, the wild horses are an incredible sight to see. There are more than 1,000 of them in this area, and you have the best chance to see them in the morning and late afternoon. The sunset is fantastic from atop White Mountain on this route, so plan accordingly if time allows! This scenic loop is best experienced from a high-clearance 4 wheel-drive vehicle.
Before there were wild horses in Wyoming, there were dinosaurs! Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs is right off the highway and contains five massive dino skeleton casts that are on display for the public. Many of the fossils were found in the state, and include the remains of a Plesiosaur, a T-Rex, a Camptosaurus and a Stegosaurus. The casts are free to visit, and the WWCC has a neat campus that's worth checking out. Or, just grab a bite to eat at the T-Rex Grill, located in the shadow of the beast's bones.
Another great option for lunch is the retro diner-style Remedies Grill. The storefront is actually part gift shop, part home medical supply company (which explains the name "Remedies"!) and part soda shop, but it's loaded with local charm. The menu isn't too big, with mostly burgers, salads, fish and chips and grilled cheeses, but everything is prepared to old-fashioned perfection. Finish it all off with a drink from the soda fountain and enjoy the quirky, friendly atmosphere!
Head back to the Western Wyoming Community College to check out another interesting display, the Weidner Wildlife Museum. The exhibit, open Monday through Thursday, features nearly 125 taxidermied specimens from around the globe. From bears and elephants to lions and rhinos to cheetahs and crocs, there are loads of specimens to examine at the free museum. Walking into a room stuffed to the gills with mounted creatures is not something you get to experience every day, and it's worth a quick stop!
Between marveling at dinosaurs, watching wild horses run free, enjoying a root beer float at a vintage diner, and fishing in the Green River, there's something for everyone to love in Sweetwater County. This hidden gem in the corner of Wyoming is loaded with enough to keep the family busy for days!
Exploring 8,200 square miles of public land. Catching the “Big One” on Lake Flaming Gorge. Mountain Biking through the high desert. Kayaking on the Green River. Riding the second largest moving Sand Dunes. The only question is how long should you stay in Sweetwater County to fit it all in?