Rock Springs and Sweetwater County offer a robust menu of outdoor adventure ideal for social distancing. Whether you crave the adrenaline rush of OHVing on sand dunes or a peaceful night of camping, you’ll find something to suit your tastes.
Here are eight ideas for socially distanced experiences that’ll have you coming back for seconds — along with ideas for lodging and dining in Rock Springs and Sweetwater County.
Tip: Many of these experiences are truly off-grid. Cell service is limited, so maps or GPS are the way to go if you need to navigate. Always tell someone where you’re heading and when you’ll return, and pack plenty of water. Additionally, check the weather to make sure you’re geared up properly.
The southwest corner of the state is a must-visit if you prefer keeping your feet off dry land. Weather-hewn red cliffs dotted with scrubby vegetation cradle the deep-blue waters of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, where you can rent a boat or launch your own. Zip that life jacket up and have a blast tubing, water skiing and swimming. Or, cast a line and get ready to land massive lake trout (we’re talking 30 pounders) along with rainbows, browns and Kokanee salmon.
A short desert hike leads to a sheer 300-foot sandstone cliff that serves as record keeper for the area’s first inhabitants. Here the ancestors of the Plains and Great Basin Native Americans carved their stories into the rough sedimentary stone centuries ago. Today, you can marvel at remarkably well-preserved etchings of bison, elk and hunters on horseback. Look and snap pictures as much as you like, but don’t touch the rock. This area is considered sacred and should be treated with respect.
Brace yourself for some trivia: Wyoming is home to the world’s second-largest active sand dune field. Even better, 11,000 acres of that sandy space is open for you to play in. Bring your ATV and climb the windswept dunes — some topping out at 100 feet — as you get lost in the spectacular scenery around you. In addition to whoop-inducing rides, expect stunning sights like glittering ponds, glimpses of rare desert elk and the jagged peak of Boar’s Tusk — the core of an ancient volcano.
Tucked in the Shoshone National Forest, you’ll find the South Pass Historic Mining Area. Snowshoe miles of trails as you explore the former boomtowns of South Pass City and Atlantic City. Both saw their heydays in the Gold Rush during the late 1800s and played a role in the settlement of Wyoming. Gaze at the snow-dusted ghost towns and imagine them in their prime as you trek through the serene Sweetwater County winter.
Saddle up a high-clearance 4×4 and prepare to be blown away by some of the Cowboy State’s most scenic vistas. Striped, multihued buttes erupt from flowering, blue-skied prairies on this 24-mile drive. With every hill you crest comes the thrill of knowing a herd of wild horses and their shaggy colts might be thundering across golden grasses on the other side. For the best chance of spotting these spectacular steeds — along with pronghorns, eagles and sage grouse — head out at dawn or dusk.
Green River’s namesake waterway courses straight through the heart of town, carrying family fun and excitement on its currents. Laze on the terraced beach of Expedition Island or wade in the shallow pools along the shore of the North Channel. The 1,200-foot stretch also delights tubers with gently tumbling rapids and short three- to four-foot drops. On the other side of the island, advanced kayakers will find South Channel’s Castle Falls — a high-speed whitewater playground whose churning rapids offer an exhilarating ride.
Believe it or not, some of the country’s best cold-water fishing is found in the arid desert environment of southwest Wyoming. Winter anglers venture to Lake Flaming Gorge for burbot and rainbows, sometimes landing a surprise lake trout. Locals will tell you the catches tend to be larger to the south of the reservoir, with hot spots including Firehole, Halfway Hollow and the Confluence area. For something extra special, try nighttime ice fishing, when lanterns and headlamps illuminate the surface of the frozen water, bringing with them an air of magic.
Wilkins Peak Biking Trail System is ranked some of the best singletrack in Wyoming. With 14 trails and 20 miles of varied terrain, there’s a sweet spot for every level of mountain biker here. Pump up TNT trail for an explosive descent filled with sharp turns, drops and gaps. Or, flow along Nomojo for awesome vistas of Green River. Connect with the more difficult Pick Your Poison where the trail gets technical with ledge drops, hairpin turns and dried river beds that are perfect for shredding.
For tips on traveling mindfully and responsibly through Wyoming’s big, open spaces, visit WY Responsibly. Just remember: Leave natural spaces cleaner than you found them, keep a safe distance from wildlife and respect the health and safety of everyone you encounter by social distancing and wearing a mask.