JOURNEYS

Why Wyoming Road Trips Make the Best Family Memories

This five-day itinerary highlights some of Wyoming’s best family-friendly activities—from paddleboarding on Fremont Lake to fly fishing, sandboarding, and unforgettable wildlife sightings.

nate-foong-q-f4HuBlEMQ-unsplash.jpg

The Grand Tetons

When it comes to family road trips, there’s perhaps no destination filled with as many possibilities as the Cowboy State. The Western region of Wyoming offers a wide range of active pursuits that can be enjoyed by all ages. In this itinerary, you’ll start your adventure in Pinedale, a walkable town known for its mountain biking trails, a museum that showcases the history of the Rocky Mountain fur trade, and its proximity to Fremont Lake, the seventh-deepest lake in the country. Further south, you’ll encounter the Killpecker Sand Dunes, a prehistoric volcano, and the rapids of the Green River. It’s a trip that’s equally busy as it is relaxing—and you’ll leave already planning your next trip back out West.

DJI_0024_R3L.jpg

Trip Highlight

Fremont Lake

At more than 12 miles in length, this glacial lake is Wyoming’s second-largest natural lake. That means there’s lots of space for a variety of aquatic activities. Make sure you have a Wyoming fishing license if you want to cast a line and pack your sunscreen if you plan on kayaking, paddle boarding, or chartering a boat for the day.
Print

Trip Designer

Travel Wyoming

Travel Wyoming welcomes all kinds of travelers to one of the last true American frontiers, a land of uninterrupted natural beauty, friendly people, and rich culture. There are many ways to enjoy the Cowboy State, whether it’s camping in a national park or enjoying Western hospitality in town, and Travel Wyoming is the perfect means to plan it all.
JG_1179110_R3L.jpg

Many of the Wind River Range’s peaks and alpine lakes can be accessed from Pinedale.

Courtesy of Travel Wyoming

Day 1:Get a taste of the West in Pinedale

The dramatic Teton Range greets visitors as they descend upon Jackson Hole Airport, the only commercial airport located within a national park in the United States. These mountain views, however, are just the beginning of a Wyoming road trip defined by spectacular backdrops and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Once you grab your rental car, plug Pinedale into the GPS. A western town located at the base of the Wind River Mountains, Pinedale is about 1.5 hours from the airport. Stop into the Cowboy Shop to try on boots, the Great Outdoor Shop to pick up last-minute fly-fishing equipment, and Nested West to browse its creative selection of home goods, jewelry, and gifts. This part of town is also home to the Museum of the Mountain Man, a visual and interpretive experience with exhibits—including a full-scale tipi and a Hugh Glass diorama (a name you may know from The Revenant)curated to engage everyone in your party.

Before heading to Lakeside Lodge, where you’ll stay for the next three nights, gather around a table at Stockman’s Saloon and Steakhouse for dinner. The kid-friendly menu (think elk corn dogs and popcorn chicken) also caters to those with more mature tastes, with entrees like filet mignon, lamb, and scallops.
DJI_0024_R3L.jpg

Fremont Lake is 12 miles long and one mile wide, but you can only swim in the marked areas.

Courtesy of Travel Wyoming

Day 2:Hiking, fly fishing, and boating around Fremont Lake

Today, embrace the freedom for which the Wild West is known. After waking up in one of Lakeside Lodge’s well-appointed cabins—and admiring the waterfront views—head out on a family hike. Photographer’s Point is a popular out-and-back route, but the entire nine-mile “moderately challenging” trek may not be for everyone.

Upon your return, you’ll be able to choose the water activity that best suits everyone’s preference. Paddleboarding and kayaking are ideal for exploring every nook of the glacial lake, but you may also want to put your Great Outdoor Shop purchases from the day before to use. If that’s the case, consider a guided fly-fishing experience with Two Rivers Fishing. (The 12–4 p.m. half-day float trip would work best for this itinerary.)

Given the day’s events, you can guarantee everyone will be ready for dinner. Fill up at Wind River Brewing Company in downtown Pinedale with brisket nachos, burgers, and barbecue mac and cheese.
7-25AM_MtnBiking_0726.jpg

Don’t forget to pack your mountain biking gear for the Pinedale portion of the road trip.

Courtesy of Travel Wyoming

Day 3:Mountain bike through the Bridger-Teton National Forest

Yesterday may have been all about the water, but today is all about one of Pinedale’s best land activities: mountain biking. The town itself has more than 15 miles of paved bike paths, but a more exhilarating ride will be found further out into the backcountry. The bicycle shop Geared Up provides rentals as well as guided tours through the Bridger-Teton National Forest. You can choose either a half-day or a full-day adventure (the latter includes lunch) and they also offer family rates.

If you opt for a non-guided mountain biking day, check out the Wyoming Range. This region is known for its more forgiving landscape and easier paths. Middle Piney, Horse Creek, and the Greys River Valley are all recommended areas for scenic bike rides.

After a long day of pedaling, you’re going to be tired—in the best way possible—and you’ll want dinner to be conveniently close to your bed. Lakeside Lodge’s restaurant is a perfect spot to celebrate this chapter of your Wyoming road trip. Chicken Parm and pasta overlooking the lake and the mountains? There’s nothing better after a long day of outdoor adventure.
dsc07403.jpg

Sandboards, skis, or sleds can be used to slide down the dunes.

Courtesy of Travel Wyoming

Day 4:Sandboarding in Killpecker Sand Dunes

You’re in for another active day (this time on a sandboard), so grab a big breakfast. Pinedale’s Wrangler Cafe should do the trick, followed by a boost of energy from Pine Coffee Supply. From there, you’re in the car for about 1.5 hours, with Explore Rock Springs & Green River Visitor Center as your next point of interest. Here, the local experts will arm you with everything you need to know about Killpecker Sand Dunes and you’ll have the opportunity to purchase a sandboard. (Or you can rent one from Rockin Rollin Rentals & Sales.)

The dunes themselves are one of the most visually interesting landscapes in Wyoming and can be jumped, surfed, and slid down at your leisure. Once you’ve taken your last ride down, don your hiking boots and check out the 400-foot-tall Boar’s Tusk. Located on the South side of the dunes, the geological landmark is the remaining structure of a prehistoric volcano.

Drive south for less than an hour to Rock Springs to Broadway Burger Station for dinner. The old-school diner checks all the boxes with its family-friendly atmosphere and selection of burgers, sandwiches, and milkshakes. As far as accommodations in Rock Springs, there’s the Best Western Outlaw Inn or Homewood Suites by Hilton Rock Springs—whichever one you choose will be your base camp for the next two nights.
JG_1187883_R3L.jpg

Southwest Wyoming is one of the best places to see the state’s population of wild horses.

Courtesy of Travel Wyoming

Days 5-6:Spot the wild horses of Wyoming and float the Green River

Pick up a few different flavors from Cowboy Donuts in Rock Springs before beginning the next portion of the road trip. The 24-mile Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop can be accessed from either Rock Springs or Green River, and the self-guided tour is about 1.5 hours. Most of the route is on a gravel road so a four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended.

As the name implies, wild horses are one of the most notable sightings, but you’ll also want to keep an eye out for pronghorns, rabbits, hawks, and elk, among other wildlife. To help protect and preserve the majestic and incredible horses, check Bureau of Land Management guidelines, which typically suggest staying 300 feet away. Touching or feeding the horses is unlawful due to the negative effects human contact can have, especially important during foaling season (February-July) since it can result in abandoned foals. Learn more at Wyoming Responsibly.

Next, Expedition Island Park in Green River serves as a jumping-off point for a variety of water activities including rafting, tubing, and kayaking, and there’s access to rapids and shallow wading pools. There’s even a playground and plenty of walking paths and nature trails to explore before a final dinner at Gudino’s Cafe—where savoring the homemade pie is highly encouraged.

The next morning marks the end of your family road trip through Wyoming, and you’ll fly home from Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport with a week’s work of enchanting memories from the Cowboy State.
More From This Author
National Parks
National Parks