Hot Springs State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities, from splashing in mineral water to picnicking on the lawn. South and upstream on the Bighorn River is twisting Wind River Canyon, a tricky but bountiful fishing and floating section (you'll need permits from the Wind River Indian Reservation), topped by 19,000-acre Boysen Reservoir, about 20 minutes from Thermopolis on U.S. 20. The campgrounds ($17 a site, which includes the requisite $6 day-use fee for nonresidents) on the largely treeless shore of this state park can be a bit buggy and hot in August, but the water attracts boaters to sail, fish, and water-ski. There are three small public beach areas on the reservoir's northeastern and western shores. For more information on the park, contact Boysen State Park, Boysen Route, Shoshoni, WY 82649 (tel. 307/876-2796; wyoparks.state.wy.us), or call Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites headquarters in Cheyenne at tel. 307/777-6323.
Whether you like fishing lakes or streams, this area has trophy-size opportunities -- Boysen grows record-setting walleye, as well as trout and perch, while the Bighorn River grows some fat brown and cutthroat trout. Check locally to be sure you've got the right fishing license: The canyon requires a tribal permit; the reservoir and other stretches of river require a state license -- both available at local sporting-goods stores. If you have your own boat, or hire an outfitter, you can float and fish from the bottom of the canyon at the Wedding of the Waters (where there's a wheelchair-accessible boat ramp) to Thermopolis. During the warmest part of summer, algae can darken the river and hamper fishing, but spring and fall are anglers' dreams.
The Legion Town and Country Golf Course is a 9-hole course that overlooks the city from Airport Hill. Call tel. 307/864-5294 to book a tee time at affordable prices -- 9 holes for $16 to $18. The pro shop offers cart rentals, a driving range, and lessons.
A boardwalk allows you to explore the bulbous travertine terraces without scalding your soles in the hot-spring water that flows over them. The paths extend to a suspended footbridge across the Bighorn River and a riverside walkway below. For more earnest hikers, there is the approximately 6-mile Volksmarch Trail, one of several around the state that are marked with a trademark brown-and-yellow insignia. This one loops through the park and downtown Thermopolis. Just north of town off U.S. 20 you can hike T Hill for a bird's-eye view of Thermopolis, the Wind River Canyon, and the Owl Creek Mountains. The 2-mile round-trip up Roundtop Mountain is another rewarding hike, culminating in spectacular views of the Hot Springs and Thermopolis, with the trail head beginning near the Monument Hill Cemetery on Airport Road.
The tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation virtually gave away the hot springs, but not the canyon upstream, through which the Wind River tumbles and twists (for reasons no one can explain, the Wind River becomes the Bighorn River as it leaves the canyon). A Shoshone-owned company now takes rafters through rapids named after historic tribal figures like Chief Washakie and Sharp Nose. "Sphincter Rapid" is not an Indian name, but it descriptively tells you that there are some Class III to IV white-water thrills ahead. You can run half the canyon or the entire thing, take a more leisurely fishing trip, or camp overnight with Wind River Canyon Whitewater, 210 Hwy. 20 S., Thermopolis (tel. 888/246-9343 or 307/864-9343 in season, 307/486-2253 during off season; www.windrivercanyonraft.com). White-water trips run $30 to $45 for a half-day or $90 for a full day.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.