Winter Weekend in Carbon County, Wyoming
Adventurer & Photographer
Carbon County Winter Itinerary
Start / End
234 mi/ 377 km
The days are growing shorter and temperatures are sinking. Your favorite summer singletrack is now dusted in the first flakes of snow. It’s official—winter is officially on the horizon. But that doesn’t mean you need to dial back your explorations. Instead, head to Carbon County, Wyoming, for a long weekend that will quench your thirst for novelty. We selected one of the area’s most festive winter celebrations–WinterFest in Rawlins, WY–as the cornerstone for this adventure, but it can and should be customized as you like. No matter when you visit Carbon County, you’re sure to have plenty to do.
Wintertime is a wonderful time to experience Wyoming, but traveling this time of year does require a bit more preparation. Please keep an eye on the weather forecast and road conditions before embarking on your trip. In addition, it is always a good idea to travel with an emergency car kit should you require it. We budgeted three nights and three days for the following itinerary, but as always, we encourage you to make it your own and stay as long as you are able!
LAND IN CHEYENNE, DRIVE TO SARATOGA
2 HOURS, 15 MINUTES – 127 MI/204 KM
The small town of Saratoga, population 1,377, is a bustling hub of year-round activity. This makes it the perfect place to base your wintertime escape to Carbon County. Just over two hours from Cheyenne, plan to arrive sometime before lunch to get situated and fuel up for the weekend ahead. We recommend the always bustling Firewater Public House, where hearty burgers meet delicious craft cocktails and mocktails (since it’s only lunchtime). Then, check in with your guide. You might prefer to spend the day casting on the famous Miracle Mile at Seminoe State Park, or prefer to try your hand at good old-fashioned ice fishing on a local lake. Either way, Carbon County is home to a number of highly-rated guiding services that can make your blue-ribbon trout dreams come true. If you happen to be in town in January for the Saratoga Lake Ice Fishing Derby, spectating the event is truly its own pastime.
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.
WINTERFEST IN RAWLINS
40 MINUTES – 42 MI/ 68 KM
The following morning, greet the winter wonderland outside your hotel window with anticipation. It’s time for WinterFest in Rawlins! This cheerful event takes place every December (this year from December 10-12, 2021) and is equally beloved by adults and children alike. The exact activities will depend on the day you attend, but include: ice sculpture carving, storefront decorating, and our favorite, the Ice Cube Hunt. Prizes are frozen within ice cubes and hidden throughout town, creating a hands-on event that works best with a snug pair of mittens.
While you’re in Rawlins, we also recommend stopping by the Carbon County Museum. This is the perfect way to warm up and learn more about this corner of Wyoming, from the pioneers who first settled the area to the outlaws who left their mark. If you’re ready for a more modern take on Rawlins, browse the many galleries and shops in town. For dinner, opt for a classic steakhouse or try some warming Thai food. Be sure to enjoy the Christmas lights downtown after the sun has set, which happens around 4:30 pm this time of year!
40 MINUTES – 42 MI/ 68 KM
The winter fun is anything but winding down on your third and final day in Carbon County. Experience the thrill of snowmobiling (also referred to as sledding) through the landscape with a guided tour. Head to Saratoga Hot Springs Resort, where partner Polaris Adventures is based. Their outfit is fully equipped to ensure you have the best day in the mountains possible. Choose from a half or full day: either way, you’ll be exploring a variety of the 200 plus miles of trails in Saratoga’s backyard. Lunch is included, as is a craft beer from Snowy Mountain Brewery for those old enough to enjoy.
That afternoon, treat yourself to a spa service or simply spend some time rejuvenating weary muscles in nearby Hobo Hot Springs. Dinner at the Wolf Hotel will take care of any rumbling stomachs. Just push through the swinging doors like a local—prime rib, sandwiches, and cheesecake await!
From here you may elect to spend another day cross-country skiing or sightseeing in Carbon County, or return in the summertime to see what makes this such a special destination, year-round.