Sitting just off Interstate 25 in the middle of Wyoming, Casper is a popular stopping point for travelers visiting Wyoming’s national parks and monuments, like Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and Devils Tower National Monument. And while it’s on The Road to Yellowstone, Casper is a destination that’s known for wide-open spaces, friendly locals and outdoor spaces that are made for hiking, adventures and exploration.
“Casper is one of those places that has the best of both worlds for family travelers,” said Amanda Scherlin with Visit Casper. “We have all the amenities that parents look for when traveling with kids and are within minutes of a waterfall, hiking trails, biking trails and incredible landmarks, as well as family-friendly dining options.”
In Casper, travelers will find a variety of lodging accommodations, from flagship hotels with heated pools (currently open to one family group at a time) to riverside lodges and mountaintop bed-and-breakfasts. Plus, Casper and Natrona County have campgrounds that are open to residents and visitors with sites that look out over Alcova Lake and Pathfinder Reservoir.
“We know that many families are looking to create positive memories this year,” said Brook Kaufman, CEO of Visit Casper. “We want to be part of their experience and make sure that families feel safe and comfortable while they’re here.”
When visiting Casper, here are family-friendly activities and tips for making the most of this year’s summer vacation.
HIT THE WATER
With two reservoirs—Alcova Reservoir and Pathfinder Reservoir—and the North Platte River, it’s easy to play in Casper’s snow-fed waters. Both Alcova and Pathfinder have public access points, campgrounds and marinas. While at Alcova, stop into Alcova Resort and rent a boat, kayak or stand-up paddleboard. You can also take a guided sunset cruise—complete with light appetizers and champagne—through the rose-colored cliffs of Fremont Canyon with Alcova Resort.
Fishing and floating are abundant on the North Platte River. Book a guided fly-fishing trip (they can take up to two fishermen in a drift boat) with one of Casper’s experienced outfitters or guides and try your hand at catching a 4-pound rainbow trout. Named the #1 Big Fish Destination by American Angler Magazine, Casper has grown into one of the best fly-fishing destinations in the world. Fishing is also affordable, with nonresident fishing licenses starting at $14 per day, while nonresident youth under 14 do not need a license to fish if accompanied by an adult with a valid Wyoming fishing license.
HIKE, BIKE + WALK ON CASPER’S TRAILS
Casper sits at the base of Casper Mountain, which is filled with numerous trails of all levels of difficulty, from easy jaunts to hardcore mountain biking routes. The mountain also has numerous campsites that offer unobstructed views of the star-filled sky, with minimal light pollution.
One of the area’s most popular destinations is the Bridle Trail. Consisting of two loops, you can take the shorter 3.2-mile-long Split Rock Trail or the 5-mile-long trail with fairly rugged terrain that can be completed in about 3 hours. If you’re looking for an easier outing, head to the Braille Trail. At .5-miles long, it’s a kid-friendly dirt trail that makes a loop and is ideal for families and the visually impaired, as it features braille interpretive signage and a picnic area.
Beyond hiking and biking trails, take your family back in time with a walk down the Cottonwood Creek Dinosaur Trail where you’ll see dinosaur fossils still in their natural setting. Historic Trails West also offers a chance to cowboy up with a wagon ride or horseback trail ride along the ruts of the Oregon Trail.
EXPLORE KID-FRIENDLY MUSEUMS
For hands-on activities that are sure to entertain family members of all ages, there are a handful of must-see museums in Casper. The Nicolaysen Art Museum is featuring the work of female artists all year long, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
Casper Community College is also home to the Tate Geological Museum and Werner Wildlife Museum. As you head into The Tate, you’ll be greeted by Dee, an 11,600-year-old Columbian Mammoth who roamed this wild landscape during the Ice Age and was found in nearby Glenrock. After strolling through the various fossil displays, ask to see Lee Rex, a tyrannosaur rex found in Wyoming that is thought to be 65 million years old.
STROLL DOWNTOWN CASPER
The heart of the city, Casper’s downtown is home to one-of-a-kind boutiques, thousands of pairs of cowboy boots, candy stores and tasty restaurants. After perusing Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters, taste the spirit of Casper with a visit to Backwards Distilling (available for curbside pickup) and Frontier Brewing Company, where you can find made-in-Casper cocktails and brews. End your day at Yellowstone Garage, Rib & Chop or Gaslight Social for a bite to eat.
STAND IN HISTORY
Casper is one of the only places in the country where historic trails (Oregon, Mormon, California and Pony Express) converge. In Guernsey, visit Register Cliff and stand in ruts left behind by hundreds of thousands of wagons. Take a walk around Independence Rock and tour exhibits at Fort Caspar—a military post built in 1865—that has exhibits on prehistoric people, Plains Indians, ranching and the western emigrant trails. The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center is also free of charge, with hands-on, interactive exhibits that showcase the history of the area, including American Indian history and the Pony Express, Mormon, California and Oregon trails. (See the most current information regarding operating hours for the interpretive center here.)
Learn more about Casper, Wyoming and its family-friendly offerings at VisitCasper.com.
While family vacation plans have changed for many, this summer is slated to be filled with road trips and extended weekend getaways in destinations that have family-friendly offerings and plenty of space.