Following the Footsteps of Carbon County’s Iconic Women
Adventurer & Photographer
Carbon County Women Itinerary
Start / End
195 mi/ 314 km
Spring, Summer, Fall
Did you know that Wyoming is the home of the women’s vote? In 1869 it became the first state to permanently guarantee women their inherent right to vote and hold office—a full 50 years before the nineteenth amendment. And nowhere in early Wyoming were women more independent than in Carbon County. We celebrate this iconic piece of history with a guided journey through five women’s stories, from the communities of Encampment to Hanna and everywhere in between. You can learn more about the ladies here.
While the following itinerary can be enjoyed year-round, you may consider pairing it with your favorite activities of choice. Prefer to fish, white water raft, and hike? Visit in the summer. Eager to explore Carbon County’s winter activities such as snowmobiling and ice fishing? Come during winter, when several local festivals are also underway. No matter when you decide to learn more about the iconic women of Carbon County, you won’t be disappointed by how much there is to do in this part of Wyoming!
Begin your journey in Encampment, Wyoming. This small town of 500 year-round residents was once a booming copper hub, complete with an astounding tramway that was quite advanced for its time. Today, Encampment offers plenty of outdoor recreation and history, including Laura Webb Nichols’s entire photography collection at the Grand Encampment Museum. Nichols spent the majority of her life capturing moments from early Carbon County with her camera—an unexpected profession for a woman in the 1890s. Spend the morning exploring her work at the museum, and enjoy its other exhibits (including a famous two-story outhouse). Here you can also browse through original copies of the Platte Valley Lyre, owned and edited by the Hungtington Sisters, who you’ll learn more about the following day.
Then, take to the water! The nearby North Platte River offers white whiter and scenic floating, while the Encampment River has some of the best technical kayaking in the state. You may also opt to bring your fishing gear and throw in a line. Afterwards, dig into a plate of spaghetti or a loaded pizza at the local pub: The Divide.
After you’ve reeled in your fair share of rainbows, check into your lodging for the weekend. There are several options and all of them are fantastic. The historic Hotel Wolf features a cozy bar downstairs, while the aptly named Saratoga Hot Springs Resort is always a good choice for chilly winter days.
21 MINUTES – 19.5 MILES / 31 KM
On day two, travel northwards to the bustling town of Saratoga. It’s here that sisters Gertrude Huntington Merrill and Laura Huntington Heath operated the Platte Valley Lyre, a weekly publication that covered a wide variety of topics from the copper boom to a women’s column. Perhaps you’ll even pick up a copy of the current paper over breakfast and ponder what it must have been like to produce a newspaper by hand, each week. After you’ve polished off your coffee, consider heading to the Saratoga Museum, housed in the town’s original Union Pacific Railroad Depot. Then, consider spending the day in one of the local hot springs such as Hobo Hot Pool. You may want to continue fishing in Saratoga Lake or on the North Platte. Or, you can even play a round of golf at the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort.
No matter how you’ve spent your day exploring Saratoga, celebrate with a hearty meal. The Hotel Wolf offers an authentic historic dining experience downtown, while Firewater Public House offers a modern twist on American staples. You may also seek out a local craft beer at the family-friendly Snowy Mountain Brewery just across the river.
40 MINUTES – 42.2 MILES / 67.9 KM
The following day, rise bright and early to enjoy breakfast in Saratoga before heading north to Rawlins. Located on I-80, Rawlins has a modern, industrial feel. But take a look around and you’ll realize that this spot is also filled with many chapters of Carbon County history. After all, this was an original stopping point for the Union Pacific Railroad thanks to the presence of an abundant alkali-free spring. It’s also where Doctor Lillian Heath practiced as the first female physician in Wyoming. Dive into her fascinating story at the Carbon County Museum, located downtown. Spend the remainder of the morning at the Frontier Prison.
That afternoon, you may opt to travel north to Seminoe State Park for a day on the water. Or, continue your travel through history by exploring Rawlins and nearby Fort Steele. Cure your hunger pains with classic Rawlins fare–steak and potatoes–or opt for Thai or Mexican cuisine. There is a lot to choose from in Rawlins and you certainly won’t go hungry!
39 MINUTES – 41 MILES / 66 KM
On your final day following in the footsteps of the historic women of Carbon County, travel eastbound to the small community of Hanna. It’s here you’ll encounter the rich coal mining history of the area, and what lent the county its name. Those who prefer transportation history will enjoy learning that at one time both the Overland Trail and the Union Pacific Railroad passed through Hanna, and the Lincoln Highway lies just a few miles to the south. Explore all of these stories at the Hanna Basin Museum, where you can even go inside an authentic company railroad house. In addition, you’ll discover the fifth and final women on our journey—Edith Birchall. Try to imagine what it would have been like for her to persevere after the coal mining tragedies in Hanna that took the lives of her family members and 55 other men. Could you have done the same?
After your museum visit, either visit the extensive Hanna Recreation Center or opt for more history lessons in neighboring Medicine Bow. A cup of soup and sandwich at the famous Virginian Hotel, followed by an ice cream cone next door are a delicious way to cap off your trip.