Trails and parks provide fun all year long for Sweetwater County residents.
Sweetwater County is a place that doubles the fun when it comes to outdoor recreation. The same trails that are used for ATV riding during the summer are perfect for snowmobiling in the winter. The same lakes that are covered with boats when the weather is warm are transformed into ice-fishing spots once the temperature drops. Hiking gives way to snowshoeing, and horseback riding to skiing.
“Pretty much everything around here is usable all year long for a variety of different outdoor activities,â€ says Taylor Jones, president of the Wyoming State Snowmobile Association and an official with the Sweetwater Snowpokes Snowmobile and ATV Club in Rock Springs. “We have outdoor recreation for all the seasons. If there’s an activity that you want to do, we’ll have it at some point during the year.”
And there is plenty of time to enjoy all these endeavors, thanks to an abundant supply of sunshine. The state of Wyoming is bathed in sunlight throughout 75% of the summer, and still 60% of the time during the snowy winter months.
Water activities are among the highlights of the summer season, when the average high temperature reaches well into the 70s and lower 80s. Particularly popular is the Green River, which provides opportunities for kayaking, rafting, canoeing and tubing.
“Our kids really love floating on the river,â€ says Steve Harmon, who runs a dental practice in Rock Springs, where he lives with his wife and their six children. “We’ll make a loop. We’ll float a portion of the river, get out and go back to where we started, and float it again. It’s so beautiful and very relaxing.”
Boating enthusiasts motor over to the 42,000-acre Flaming Gorge Reservoir, with its three full-service marinas. The reservoir is an excellent fishing location, producing trout that can weigh more than 30 pounds. Anglers also frequent Jim Bridger Pond, Fontenelle Reservoir, Hams Fork, LaBarge Creek and the Green River.
Of course, there are activities for those who prefer to stay on land. These include ATV off-roading at Flaming Gorge and Killpecker Sand Dunes; 22 miles of mountain biking trails on the Wilkins Peak Trail System; hiking and biking at Flaming Gorge, Killpecker and the 26,000-acre Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge; and rodeo competitions at the Sweetwater Events Complex and the Green River Rodeo Arena.
Hovering above it all is White Mountain, located barely five miles outside Rock Springs. The area is known for its centuries-old Native American petroglyphs etched into the sandstone walls, and the beautiful waterfalls flowing through the mountains.
“One of our favorite family activities is climbing White Mountain,â€ Harmon says. “We love hiking to these secluded waterfalls and letting our kids play in the water.”
Winter is a Winner
For many outdoor enthusiasts, the recreation scene truly heats up when the weather cools down and snowfall creates new ways to play on the same pieces of ground. Crosscountry skiing and snowshoeing can be enjoyed at numerous local parks throughout Green River and Rock Springs, while the Flaming Gorge area is one of several popular spots for snowmobiling.
“Really, any direction you go from town, you can find someplace to ride your snow machine,â€ Jones says. “Most people around here go north to the Pinedale area. There’s outstanding riding up there. But there’s always good snow someplace.”
More than 200 miles of trail meander across the landscape surrounding Red Canyon Lodge, a resort that Harmon says is an ideal getaway for local families as well as tourists.
“Red Canyon Lodge is probably our top place to go in the winter,â€ Harmon says. “They have open trails with beautiful views. It’s very pretty in the winter because you have the snow but also a lot of evergreen trees in the area. We’ll stay there a day or two and just take in the scenery. Between the nature we’re given and all the events that are held around here, there’s plenty for families to do. There’s this great exploring you can do in the outdoors, but there’s also these wonderful community organized activities. It’s the best of both worlds.”