My children weren’t exactly thrilled when we announced that we were taking a road trip to Rock Springs, Wyoming. Fortunately there was no mutiny.
They became a little interested when we crossed the border into Wyoming and began seeing “Little America” road signs advertising ice cream cones. Since 1934, Little America has been an oasis in the middle of Wyoming that offers a fuel center, hotel, and restaurant. Their marketing was genius, and we felt compelled to stop there. We would have made a pit stop there again on the way back—were it not for the even more famous ice cream cones in Farson. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Following the Little America refreshment, we traveled a little further and were just about to the city limits of Rock Springs when we took a detour south. The kids were unimpressed with the lazy landscape—until the stunning Flaming Gorge burst into view. In 1869, when he saw it for the first time, Major John Wesley Powell described it as “flaring, brilliant, and red.” My kids, when they saw it for the first time, described it as “cool” and “awesome.”
We finally made our entrance into Rock Springs which was founded as a mining town in Sweetwater County in 1888. We stayed two evenings at the Holiday Inn Express–a great little property. Dinner was out on the town, and we enjoyed the charming ambience and the delicious fare at the Coyote Creek Steakhouse. The sirloin was excellent, but if you’re feeling a little adventurous you might try the Four Pepper Sirloin or the Buffalo Burger (made from 100% bison).
After the meal, we enjoyed a couple of local activities: the Natural History Museum (at the Western Wyoming Community College) and the City of Rock Springs Museum. Both were interesting and educational.
The next morning we headed slightly northeast for some activities including the Killpecker Sand Dunes (touted as “one of nature’s largest sand boxes”), Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop Tour (home to a large population of Sweetwater County wild horses), and White Mountain Petroglyphs (where hundreds of ancient Native American figures are etched into the sandstone bedrock). A few miles more, and we were in Farson—home of the “world’s largest ice cream cone.” My kids are still talking about that highlight.
We went back to the hotel at Rock Springs (where we all crashed from our Farson-induced sugar high) and awakened the next morning for an adventure to the east. Wyoming is a state rich in pioneer history, and there are a number of related trails and monuments to these brave men, women, and children. According to tourwyoming.com, “no other place in the United States has more miles of still-visible pioneer trails than Sweetwater County.” The Historic Trails Driving Tour (along Highway 28) gives you access to the Oregon Trail, Pony Express Route, Mormon Trail, Overland Trail, Cherokee Trail, and Outland Trail. Just outside Sweetwater County (in neighboring Carbon County) is Martin’s Cove where two groups of ill-fated Mormon pioneer companies suffered through a bitter winter. This historic site has a great museum, informed guides, and actual handcarts for visitors to pull—all of which give a feel for what the pioneers might have endured 150 years ago. From this location, you can also see two natural landmarks of the pioneer days—Devil’s Gate and Independence Rock.
An old-timer from Sweetwater County said, “The best view of Rock Springs is from your rear view mirror.” My family and I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, we wouldn’t mind seeing Rock Springs from the front windshield of our car again real soon.