Photo: Sweetwater County Travel & Tourism

Sandboarding, Petroglyphs, and Charming Downtowns: Why You Should Visit Sweetwater County, Wyoming

Insider Guides
by Alyse Tatum Jul 11, 2023

About three hours south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and one hour north of Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, lie Rock Springs and Green River the largest cities in Wyoming’s Sweetwater County. Surrounded by mountains, this region makes for a great getaway to avoid the summer heat.

Sweetwater County is also rich with history due to two natural resources discovered there: coal and trona (which is used to make items like baking soda, glass, and textiles). The draw of mining and the opportunities that all of that mining money brought in drew an interesting group of people, including Butch Cassidy and Calamity Jane. Much has changed over the ensuing 100-plus years. For one, the days of train robberies and Wild West shootouts are over. But the draw to the region, in much different ways, remains.

Things to do in Sweetwater County

Self-guided walking tour in downtown Rock Springs

One of the best ways to learn about a new place is by walking its streets. In Rock Springs, there are pamphlets (as well as an online version linked below) that list all the historical downtown sites — perfect for a self-led tour. Start at Rock Springs Historical Museum, which was originally City Hall and anything else the city needed, like a hospital, a school, and a fire department, for example. On the walk, you can see the meat market that employed Butch Cassidy, which is where the nickname “Butch” derived.

Downtown pocket guide starting at Rock Springs Historical Museum: 201 B St, Rock Springs, WY 82901

Sandboarding and sledding at Killpecker Sand Dunes

Photo: Sweetwater County Travel & Tourism

Scaling the Killpecker Sand Dunes is a feat within itself with the largest reaching 100 feet high, but once at the top (or close to it), you can enjoy the fruits of your labor by sledding down the side of the white sand slopes. On a recent trip, I learned sandboarding is not the easiest form of outdoor recreation. Sledding, however, is a different story. Both sandboards are available to buy from the Explore Rock Springs & Green River Visitor Center, or you can rent a board at Rockin Rollin Rentals & Sales. Another bonus of this site is marveling at the views of White Mountain and Boar’s Tusk from atop the dunes. ATV’s and other off-road vehicles are also allowed here.

Killpecker Sand Dunes: From Rock Springs, take U.S. 191 about 10 miles north and turn right at CR 4-18, then turn left at CR 4-17.

Sweetwater County Historical Museum

sweetwater county historical museum

Photo: Sweetwater County Travel & Tourism

Located in Green River, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum has been preserving the history of this county since 1967. Here, I saw antiques from the former migrant encampments, fossils almost perfectly preserved due to the many trona deposits, the enormous eyes from a Chinese dragon dance costume, and several other items, photos, and clothing that tell the story of Sweetwater County’s interesting past. The museum also employs Aiden, the best tour guide I have ever experienced as he tailored the tour to the topics the group was interested in.

Sweetwater County Historical Museum: 3 E Flaming Gorge Way, Green River, WY 82935

Expedition Island

expedition island green river wyoming

Photo: Sweetwater County Travel & Tourism

Two blocks from the museum is Expedition Island. This small island served as the launchpad of several expeditions down the Green River, including those of Major John Wesley Powell, whose journey from this site to the Colorado River and Grand Canyon is known as the last exploration of unchartered land in the continental United States. Today, the island is used as a park and is still a launchpad, only for more recreational purposes like canoeing and whitewater rafting.

Expedition Island: Head toward Evers Park and cross over on South 2nd Street East

Community Fine Arts Center

Thanks to local contributors, this gallery contains more than 500 original works of art produced in America or by Americans. Among these paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and other pieces are works by Salvador Dali, Norman Rockwell, Grandma Moses, and more. I was especially taken aback by two paintings by a local artist, Darryl Newton. One painting, The Chinese Leave Town, depicts the mostly historically correct events that took place during the Chinese massacre on September 2, 1885, and the other, Worldly Chapel, shows the aftermath of the coal mining boom in Rock Springs, a scene similar to the opening moments of the 2022 movie Babylon.

Community Fine Arts Center: 400 C St, Rock Springs, WY 82901

White Mountain Petroglyphs

Photo: Sweetwater County Travel & Tourism

The most powerful and emotional part of my visit was seeing the petroglyphs at White Mountain that were carved by Plains and Great Basin Native Americans who lived in the area between 200 and 1,000 years ago. Two representatives from the recreation area and one representative from the Sweetwater County Native American tribes led me up the mountain, translating the petroglyphs as we came to them — everything from babies’ feet to livestock to fertility offering symbols to a birthing rock with handprints dug into the stone from mothers using it for strength and stabilization while giving birth. Because of the soft sandstone that forms the mountain, these etchings were very easy to make but are also, unfortunately, very easy to damage with just the oils from your skin.

White Mountain Petroglyphs: Accessible to high-clearance vehicles by driving north on US 191, turning right at CR 4-18, left at CR 4-17, and driving the dirt road 14 miles to the White Mountain Petroglyphs sign. A parking lot can be reached on a rough dirt road two miles to the left.

Flaming Gorge Bus Tour

flaming gorge

Photo: Sweetwater County Travel & Tourism

The Flaming Gorge bus tour goes from Rock Springs down across the Utah border, up to Green River, and back to Rock Springs. This eight-hour bus tour offers beautiful mountainous views and 10 stops, including Firehole Canyon, Red Canyon Visitor Center, Flaming Gorge Dam, and Sheep Creek Bay Overlook..

Flaming Gorge Bus Tour: Tour departs from the Visitor Center at 1641 Elk Street, Rock Springs, WY

Where to eat and drink in Sweetwater County

Hitching Post Restaurant and Saloon

The Hitching Post in Green River reminds me of restaurants back home in Texas and in my hometown in Arkansas. Most meals come with soup and salad, which are self-serve from the salad bar. My chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, corn, and a roll was cooked to perfection, and in what seems to be a theme of the region’s restaurants, the portions are phenomenal.

Hitching Post Restaurant and Saloon: 580 E Flaming Gorge Way, Green River, WY 82935

Sidekicks Book and Wine Bar

sidekicks wine and book bar

Photo: Sweetwater County Travel & Tourism

This independent bookstore has chic decor and a diverse selection of books, along with a manga section for one customer who likes reading them. Wine and other alcoholic beverages are available for purchase with sitting areas throughout the store, so patrons can stay a while reading their new book and enjoying their drink.

Sidekicks Book and Wine Bar: 507 Broadway St, Rock Springs, WY 82901


If you came to the region to learn about the pork chops, you have reached your destination. Eve’s is what I would call a higher end gastropub, just between casual and needing to wear a suit jacket. The food is extraordinarily good with more than generous portions — the pork chop, fills almost the whole plate and stands around two inches thick.

Eve’s: 1501 Clubhouse Dr, Rock Springs, WY 82901

Coal Train Coffee Depot

This quaint coffee shop is inside what used to be the Rock Springs train station (unfortunately, passenger trains no longer serve this region). Coal Train Coffee Depot has all the favorites you would expect from a coffee shop plus some pretty tasty bites. Food menu options include things like lemon pound cake, breakfast burritos, soup, and cranberry pecan chicken sandwichs.

Coal Train Coffee Depot: 501 S Main St, Rock Springs, WY 82901

Broadway Burger Station

Designed like a retro 1950s diner, Broadway Burger Station feels like stepping into a time machine. I had the Leader of the Pack, which is a quarter-pound burger with all the fixings on a cornmeal bun and fries on the side. The old fashioned shakes and malts also bring a huge crowd, with 30 flavors including banana cream, butterfinger, chocolate brownie, marshmallow, piña colada, and raspberry.

Broadway Burger Station: 628 Broadway St, Rock Springs, WY 82901

Bitter Creek Brewing

bitter creek brewing

Photo: Sweetwater County Travel & Tourism

This pub in Rock Springs is named after the creek that previously flowed through downtown before being redirected. The family-friendly microbrewery opened in 1997 and has a wine list and a full food menu with options like burgers, cajun pasta, steaks, salads, and sandwiches.

Bitter Creek Brewing: 604 Broadway St, Rock Springs, WY 82901

Boar’s Tusk Steakhouse

Boar’s Tusk was, in my opinion, the most upscale restaurant we visited, but you don’t have to dress up to dine there; business casual is perfectly fine. We were seated in a private room that used to be a vault in the original use of the building, a mercantile store. The Waygu flank was exceedingly satisfying and filling. Also try the seasonal dessert.

Boar’s Tusk Steakhouse: 404 N St, Rock Springs, WY 82901

Where to Stay in Sweetwater County

We hope you love the spaces we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay.

Hampton Inn and Suites Green River

hampton inn green river

Photo: Expedia

Literally at the foot of The Towers mountain range, Hampton Inn and Suites Green River is similar to its Rock Springs counterpart but with better views (aside from the highway that runs alongside it). This inn is minutes away from the Sweetwater County Historical Museum, the Green River Railways, and Expedition Island.

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Hampton Inn Rock Springs

hampton inn pool rock springs

Photo: Expedia

Situated on Dewar Drive, a major street in Rock Springs, this hotel is not only convenient but also very comfortable and affordable. Some amenities here are an indoor pool, a fitness center, a business center, and Continental breakfast. The rooms are very spacious with in-room microwaves and mini-refrigerators. The hotel’s location also makes it a quick drive from several hot spots around town.

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Comfort Inn and Suites Rock Springs

comfort inn rock springs

Photo: Expedia

This hotel is also located in Rock Springs, at the intersection of Interstate 80 and US-191, making it a great choice for easy access to activities. The accommodations include up to three beds in some rooms as well as suites which feature a sitting area. Guests can also enjoy swimming year-round in the indoor heated swimming pool.

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Travelodge by Wyndham Green River

travelodge green river penny's diner

Photo: Expedia

This hotel has an onsite restaurant called Penny’s Diner, a 24 hour spot offering favorites like cheeseburgers and old fashioned milkshakes in a space designed to look like a 1950s diner. Travelodge has one and two bed rooms with Wi-Fi, mini-frigdes, microwaves, and other amenities.

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How to Get to Sweetwater County

The Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport is 15 miles from Rock Springs. There are only early morning or late night United Airlines flights, which all connect through Denver. Alternatively, Sweetwater County is a two and a half hour drive from Salt Lake City International Airport. For those looking for a road trip, Sweetwater County is easily accessible on I-80.

Once you’ve arrived, know that there’s no public transportation in Sweetwater County. Downtown, the walkability is high, though there are Ubers, taxis, the STAR Transit system, and rental cars at the airport..

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