Wyoming’s Park to Park region is more than just a path between some of the West’s greatest national parks. It’s also a great place for families to road trip. From dusty dinosaur bones to sparkling waterfalls, there are many great places where kids can be kids.
TOTAL MILES: 372
SUGGESTED TIME: 4 days
Day 1: Vedauwoo Recreation Area and Curt Gowdy State Park
Start your family-friendly Park to Park trip at the Vedauwoo Recreation Area and scramble around on the area’s giant rocky formations that balance in stacks that seem to defy gravity. Next make your way to Curt Gowdy State Park, which offers hiking, reservoirs and wildlife viewing. Many families like to hike to the Hidden Falls where kids can splash in the water. Ask for a map to the falls at the visitor center.
You will want to pack a picnic lunch for your Day 1 outing, but food seems to taste better outdoors. You will have a hard time finding a more beautiful place to eat a sandwich than Wyoming’s outdoor spaces.
After a full day of soaking up the outdoors, head to Cheyenne for dinner and a hotel.
Day 2: Cheyenne
With beautiful parks, kid-friendly locations and plenty of places to grab a snack, families will feel right at home in Cheyenne and find a full day’s worth of activities.
Terry Bison Ranch, just south of Cheyenne, has a train tour of their bison herd which riders get to feed. Families can take a horseback ride to see animals ranging from cats to camels. Nearby, the Wyoming Welcome Center lets kids get face to face with a Wooly Mammoth fossil. Children also love to take their picture in “jail” with Butch Cassidy and then escape through a “Hole in the Wall” in a nod to the famous outlaw’s Wyoming hideout.
Head back to town for lunch and then stop at the Wyoming State Museum, which has a room just for kids where they can learn about wildlife, camping, fossils and plants. Specialized lighting in this room makes the sun seem to rise and set as the stars come out over a little campfire.
The downtown area is also home to the state capitol building, Historic Governor’s Mansion and Historic Union Pacific Depot, all of which are free to visit and within walking distance of each other. Pick the ones that sound most interesting to your children and have fun.
Finish up your afternoon at the Children’s Village at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, which has wading streams, sandboxes, a puppet stage and an explosion of beautiful flowers for children to frolic through.
Day 3: Chugwater to Casper
Leaving Cheyenne in the rear-view, head north along I-25 and stop for a treat at the Chugwater Soda Fountain, the oldest in the state. Next is Jackalope Square in Douglas, where you can see an eight-foot jackalope, the Wyoming creature that is part jack rabbit, part antelope and all towering mythological creature.
Eat another picnic lunch at Ayres Natural Bridge, a natural wonder where a creek flows beneath a stone arch. Once visited by weary Oregon Trail travelers, it is considered one of the state’s first tourist attractions.
Casper’s Tate Geological Museum is a favorite of dinosaur-loving children who enjoy the Dino Den, where they can learn more about dinosaurs as they play with toys, do puzzles, color pictures and handle fossil castings.
Finish your day at Casper’s Rotary Park where an easy path ends at a cascading waterfall.
Day 4: Casper to Thermopolis
Make Thermopolis the last day of your family-friendly Park to Park road trip. Start at the world-famous Wyoming Dinosaur Center. Named one of the world’s coolest places by TIME Magazine for Kids, the center lets kids dig for fossils in an active dig site. Finish the day and your trip soaking in one of the collection of natural hot springs Thermopolis is known for, including Hot Springs State Park, which has a free bath house.