Ever dreamed of swimming in a thermal hot spring? Feel that it’s just too expensive to go to one of the commercial thermal swimming areas? The answer to your dilemma can be found in central Wyoming at Hot Springs State Park. Here, in the State Park Bath House, you can swim in a pool filled with natural spring water without paying a cent. It’s totally free. There are ways for you to support the park, but in general it’s a free service. I’ve done it twice, and it’s a lot of fun to “soak” in the pool, as well as see the other thermal features of the park (a few features such as “the Teepee” near the Bathhouse). There are also trails that can be hiked; this is especially nice if you want to soak more than once: you’re only allowed to soak for 20 minutes (for health reasons), and then you must wait 2 hours before soaking again. Overall, it’s a nice little park that’s well worth stopping at if you’re in the area.
It is my recommendation that you walk into the State Park Bath House like you own the place. If you look the least bit hesitant, the volunteer behind the desk will likely try to convince you to go to the resorts instead (they must be on commission!). The basic rules of the Bath House are that you must shower before and after being in the hot springs. You also need to sign in and sign out. While signing in, you will need to indicate whether you want to be in the inside pool or the outside pool. (Yes, you can even swim here in the middle of the winter!) Both times I’ve gone, we’ve opted to use the outside pool. This pool is about half shaded by a roof, so you can be out of the sun whether you choose to soak inside or outside. Both pools are big enough to hold quite a few people, but it’s never been crowded when I’ve been there. We had the outside pool mostly to ourselves in June, and in August the outside pool didn’t feel crowded with about 20 people in it. The last rule is that you can only stay in the hot water for 20 minutes (for health reasons) and then you must get out for at least 2 hours before soaking again.
There are two clipboards for you to sign in on; one for the men (on the left) and one for the ladies (on the right). Sign in, and then head left (for men) or right (for ladies) into the changing/shower/restroom. There are no real changing rooms, so just do it in one of the stalls, or in the shower area. There are lockers, but it’s recommended that you leave all your valuables in the car or take them with you to the bathing area. Also, don’t wear silver jewelry in the pool, as the minerals in the water will tarnish them. As a word of warning, realize that even after you shower, you’ll likely smell like sulfur for a few days…all the better for keeping the mosquitos away! If you don’t have swimwear, towels and swimwear can be rented for $1 each.
After you’ve changed and showered, go out through the swinging doors into the pool room. If you want to go outside, make your way around the indoor pool and through the doors outside. Then walk down the paved pathway to the pool (the pools and bathhouse are wheelchair accessible). Note if you have young children, they need to be with an adult, and don’t splash too much…a trial for some, but this is supposed to be relaxing, and getting splashed isn’t a very good way for most people to relax! The water in the pool may look a bit murky; this is just the minerals in the water. The spring produces about 8,000 gallons of water each day at a constant 135 degrees F (57 degrees C). This is cooled to 104 degrees F (40 C) for safe bathing. Check the clock on the wall before you get in, and then monitor it to get out 20 minutes later. I understand why this is important; by the end of my “soak”, I knew it was time to get my body into a cooler place!
If you want to soak again, you have to wait 2 hours, but there are a variety of hiking trails in the park through some of the geothermic features and across a suspension bridge. I recommend that you visit the “Teepee”, a feature that was created over a steam vent to create a formation that looked like an Indian teepee. The trouble was, it looks more like a dome than a cone…still, it’s an interesting feature, especially when you see the pictures of what it’s looked like over the years. There is also a very nice park-like area across the street with picnicking facilities. All of this is free for public use.
Enjoy your free dip…it’s an experience that’s a lot of fun!
Key GPS Coordinates for Hot Springs State Park
State Park Bath House: 43.652270N / -108.196975W (43N 39’ 8.172” / -108W 11’ 49.1094”)
Suspension Bridge: 43.655126N / -108.196562W (43N 39’ 18.4536” / -108W 11’ 47.6232”)
Getting to Hot Springs State Park
Hot Springs State Park is in the middle of the town of Thermopolis, WY. To get there, from US 20 turn onto Park Street in the middle of the town. This will be a right turn if you’re coming from the south; left if you’re coming from the north. Note that if you’re coming from the south, you’ll have to pass through Wind River Canyon. This is a very scenic route, so I highly recommend it. But back to Thermopolis: After you turn onto Park Street, you will very quickly pass the Thermopolis Chamber of Commerce and the Hot Springs County High School. Continue on past the Days Inn, and then turn left after 0.7 miles (1.1 km) onto Buffalo Street (I believe this is at a T). After about 500 feet (150 m), take the first left onto Tepee Street. You are now heading directly towards the State Bath House, which is located between two other resorts. It may be difficult to find a parking space, but keep looking and you should eventually find one (we actually parked in the parking lot of one of the resorts). Then walk over to the State Bath House.
Facilities: The bath house has water, literature, showers, restrooms, and a changing area. Park has picnic facilities, hiking trails, etc.
Hours: The Hot Springs State Park Bath House is open 8am to 5:30pm weekdays and Saturdays and noon to 5:30pm Sundays; closed winter holidays and only open noon to 5:30pm summer holidays (outside pool closed October 1 to April 30).
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
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A guide covering where to soak in hot springs in Alaska, British Columbia, Alberta, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, and several other states across the US. This book includes directions, photographs, GPS coordinates, handicap access, and descriptions of both resort and natural pools/tubs.
Wed Jan 24
Sun and clouds mixed. High 33F. Winds SSW at 10 to 20 mph.
Thu Jan 25
Partly cloudy. Windy. High 36F. Winds S at 20 to 30 mph. Winds could occasionally gust over 40 mph.
Fri Jan 26
Except for a few afternoon clouds, mainly sunny. High 31F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph.
Sat Jan 27
Partly cloudy. High 26F. Winds S at 10 to 15 mph.
Sun Jan 28
Partly cloudy. High 34F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.