Rock Springs Area Attractions
Includes Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop, White Mountain Petroglyph Site
Rock Springs Wyoming is a wonderful western town of about 30,000+ residents that was born from the discovery of coal in the mid 1800s. These coal reserves essentially fueled most of the steam engines for
the Union Pacific Railroad as hundreds of thousands of people moved westward on this new mode of transportation.
Rock Springs has continued to be a classic western "boomtown" through the years due the vast oil and natural gas reserves located throughout the Rock Springs Area.
Of course the town of Rock Springs Wyoming had to endure the "busts" that also comes with being a boomtown, but this colorful and friendly town has endured, and we highly recommend that you spend some time discovering its rich history as well as the great things it offers its visitors today. Beyond the town of Rock Springs is the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop and the White Mountain Petroglyph Site, both of which are amazing attractions that we highly recommend that you explore during your time in the Rock Springs Area. Further down this page we highlight these fascinating places and show you how to get there.
Rock Springs Wyoming is home to 56 Nationalities because of the tremendous influx of immigrants from around the world during the coal boom that began in the late 1860s. Rock Springs coal mines supplied the Union Pacific Railroad with all the coal needed to power their steam engines....so the Rock Springs coal mining operations were vital to keeping America moving westward.
The first documented discussion of coal in the Rock Springs Area was written by a U.S. Army survey crew in 1850. They were seeking a faster way through what is present day Wyoming, as the wagon trains poured onto the Oregon Trail, California Trail
and Mormon Trail. All of them having to cross the Rocky Mountains at South Pass.... which was very gradual and conducive to wagon trains. But of course the faster and easier the better, so survey parties were frantically looking for a better way to cross.
The survey party was lead by Howard Stansbury, and was guided by the famous trapper and mountain man by the name of Jim Bridger.
This survey party found large veins of coal near present day Rock Springs. Stansbury wrote, "We found a bed of bituminous coal cropping out of the north bluff of the valley, with every indication of its being quite abundant." This was an understatement. Millions of years
earlier an inland sea deposited organic materials that in time became a huge deposit of coal in what is known as the Rock Springs Dome.
Oil and natural gas was also trapped in this rich geological structure, but at the time coal was discovered by Stansbury's party, nothing was done about it as the wagon train routes to the north seemed to be on the best route through Wyoming.
Then a gentleman by the name of Ben Holladay developed a business named the Holladay's Overland Stage Company, which helped develop the Rock Springs Area by creating a stage stop because of the natural springs was a valuable water source for animals and people amidst the high country desert. Then the brothers Archibald and Duncan Blair took over the stage stop and opened the very first coal mine in Rock Springs in 1868.... just as the Union Pacific Railroad arrived.
Union Pacific Railroad and the Need for Coal
When the Union Pacific Railroad arrived at Rock Springs in 1868 as the first transcontinental railroad was unfolding, the economy of Rock Springs sky-rocketed.... all due to the railroad's huge demand for coal to power their steam engines.
This particular coal was very high quality, and was therefore ideal for the Union Pacific Railroad's steam engines, and the company could also profitably sell the coal to the open market.
The coal mines of Rock Springs were so vitally important that the Union Pacific would not have been a success. There were about 130 coal mines operating around the hub of Rock Springs in places such as Reliance, Superior, Dines and Winton. Rock Springs was of course the center of the action, and history unfolded in the classic western style that it does.
Coal was king for many, many years in the Rock Springs Area, and word spread around the world about the incredible financial opportunities that were available to Rock Springs coal miners.
In time, 56 different nationalities called Rock Springs home, and with that came the good times and the bad... as was typically the case in mining towns of the 1800s.
But as time past, the good outweighed the bad, and these 56 nationalities are still represented in Rock Springs, and to celebrate this incredible diversity, each year the town of Rock Springs has International Day. This festival is held each summer, where costumes, food and traditions of the Rock Springs residents' ancestors come to life and are enjoyed by all who attend this incredible event at Bunning Park in downtown Rock Springs.
Rock Springs Historical Museum
We of course did not even scratch the surface of the fascinating history of the Rock Springs Area...but when you visit the Rock Springs Area, the incredible Rock Springs Historical Museum will help you take a fascinating trip through time and will show you all the remarkable things that occurred in this remarkable place through the last 150+ years. The Rock Springs Historical Museum is found in the original Rock Springs City Hall that was build in 1894, and we strongly feel it is a "must see" for anyone visiting the Rock Springs Area.
WWCC Natural History Museum
Dinosaurs once roamed this area tens of millions of years ago, and archaeologists have found fossils of these huge creatures all across Wyoming. At the Western Wyoming Community College of Rock Springs, visitors can learn about the Wyoming dinosaur age, and see incredible dinosaur displays. This is another "must see" attraction in our opinion while exploring the Rock Springs Area.
Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop
One of the best places in Wyoming to see wild horses is on the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop. Visitors can start at either Green River or Rock Springs, but regardless of where your adventure begins, this incredible scenic loop takes you through remarkable wild horse country.
The road is a very well maintained gravel-based road that takes its travelers to the mesa-like summit of White Mountain. Along this route, there are several opportunities to see gorgeous wild horses that included spotted-paint, appaloosa, black and sorrel breeds. The Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop also provides visitors with stunning panoramic views of the Wyoming Range to the east, the Uinta Range to the south, the the Wind River Mountain Range to the northeast.
Pilot Butte Wild Horses are absolutely breathtaking to watch as they run across the prairie.
How To Get There
From Rock Springs, take exit 104 off Interstate 80 to U.S. 191 and head north for about 14 miles to County Road 14. Turn left and head 2.5 miles to County Road 53, also to your left.
From Green River, exit Interstate 80 at what is known as Flaming Gorge Way, then turn lest onto Trona Drive at the next intersection and go north as it turns into a gravel road. The Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop is about 50 miles in length, and will probably take half a day to enjoy...so bring a lunch as well as binoculars!
Black Stallion along the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop.
There are a number of kiosks located along the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop that educate visitors as to the origin of the horses, as well as the area's history and geography.
There are approximately 800 to 1,000 horses in this 392,000 acre White Mountain Management Area, and even though early mornings from sunrise to 10 am might be the best time to see the horses, any time of day you can get lucky... so keep a watchful eye, and have your binoculars and cameras ready!
Wild Horses running in the evening sun along the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop.
White Mountain Petroglyph Site
The White Mountain Petroglyphs are among Wyoming's best rock art sites. Located in the Red Desert of Wyoming, these fascinating petroglyphs were etched into the stone by Native Americans from 200 years to 1,000 years ago. The Plains and Great Basin Indians left these petroglyphs as lasting legacies of their way of life. Visitors will see petroglyphs depicting elk hunts, bison hunts, hand prints, footprints and geometric shapes. A 300 foot cliff served as the Native Americans' "canvass", as they told their stories for the ages.
White Mountain Petroglyph Site, Wyoming.
Hikes - H4 Title
From Rock Springs, drive about 10 miles north on U.S. Highway 191. Turn right at CR 4-18 (there is sign that says "Petroglyphs, Boar's Tusk and Sand Dunes").
Then take a left at CR 4-17, and drive along this dirt road for about 14 miles. When you reach the White Mountain Petroglyph sign, turn left onto a bumpier dirt road and slowly drive for about 2 miles until you reach the parking lot.
Then take the foot trail for another quarter mile to get to the petroglyphs. Note: The BLM recommends that you take a four wheel drive vehicle, and make sure you tell someone where you are going and when they should expect you back. DO NOT drive on these dirt roads when wet from rain or snow, or you will risk getting stuck. We took a regular car, but went very slow and had some clearance issues.
Flaming Gorge Recreation Area
Just down the road from Rock Springs is the gateway to the world famous Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. This magnificent area contains 207,363 acres of water, and is surrounded by red cliffs in the southern section of the reservoir. Formed by damming the Green River, Flaming Gorge is an extremely popular place for all types of outdoor activities, including boating, fishing, swimming, windsurfing, canoeing, hiking, rock climbing and camping. This 91 mile long Gorge is one of our "Top Wyoming Attractions", and we highly recommend that you check it out during your Wyoming vacation.