Be a homeschool hero this fall and make Southeastern Wyoming your classroom. Don’t just read about Wyoming state history, take to the road, and experience it firsthand with the family. Get lassoed into learning, and explore the many diverse and experiential historical sites of Platte and Goshen Counties. Kick your trip off at any of these 13 attractions along the sequential learning loop that follows I-25 and the Torrington Highway for hours of immersive and engaging fun. Start planning now and get your kids excited about Wyoming’s history today!
Cheyenne to Hawk Springs Recreation Area:
Located one hour northeast of Cheyenne and about 30 minutes south of Torrington is the Hawk Springs Recreation Area. This state-managed recreation area offers camping, fishing, boating, and picnicking. Enjoy sandy beaches and picturesque views of the bluff across the reservoir. Owned by the Horse Creek Conservation District since 1987, Hawk Springs offers nearly 2,000 acres of fun for the whole family. Take advantage of this small lake and bring the kids out fishing. With walleye and crappies swimming these fertile waterways, anglers of all ages and skillsets are likely to catch their own fish.
Before making your way to your next road trip destination, stop by Table Mountain Vineyards just 35 minutes north of Hawk Springs Recreation Area. Established in 1926, this family-owned vineyard offers a taste of Wyoming’s verdant agricultural history. Enjoy the wide-open beauty of the region, paired with delicious wine, and regional history.
Hawk Springs Reservoir to Empire, Wyoming:
After a day of play, make your way to the former town of Empire, Wyoming. Just eight miles southeast of Torrington, this long-abandoned municipality offers a glimpse into Wyoming’s first racially self-sufficient, and politically autonomous African American community. Founded in 1908, Empire was a byproduct of the upheaval of the Civil War and the Homestead Act of 1862. Lasting for nearly two decades, Empire, at its peak, played host to nearly 50 free African Americans and boasted its own school, post office, church, and farming community. Now, people interested in exploring Empire’s history can do so through the Sheep Creek Presbyterian Church cemetery, where you can visit the graves of former residents and pay respects.
Empire to Homesteaders Museum (Torrington):
Dive into the immersive fun of the Homesteaders Museum in Torrington, Wyoming. Housed in a historic Union Pacific train depot, this attraction boasts Goshen County’s first automobile, as well as an original homestead shack, and a one-room schoolhouse – along with numerous other treasures to explore. Just nine miles northwest of the Sheep Creek Presbyterian Church, this museum offers new, enticing exhibits of homesteading memorabilia. With actual train cars to explore, kids can get a riveting and authentic look into the past. Families can also experience the many archives and interactive displays that showcase the first homesteader settlements in Goshen County. With seasonal attractions like the Terror Train Escape Room, Afternoon at the Boo-seum, the Polar Express, rotating displays, and historian presentations, there’s always something engaging going on at the Homesteaders Museum.
Before leaving Torrington, pay a visit to The Bread Doctor. Open Thursday through Sunday, this bakery is a local staple for handmade loaves, rolls, and pastries. Crafted through traditional methods, with seasonal and local ingredients, The Bread Doctor is a must visit.
Homesteaders Museum to Army Iron Bridge:
From the Homesteaders Museum, you can head 23 miles northwest through Lingle, Wyoming to the Army Iron Bridge. Acting as the gateway to the Fort Laramie National Historic Site, this bridge was built in 1875 and acted as a vital and fortified link between Cheyenne, Fort Laramie, Indian agencies, military outposts, and the goldfields of the Black Hills Dakota region. Situated at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers, the Army Iron Bridge is a peaceful place for your whole family to stretch their legs. Take some time to enjoy the river, and contemplate the many people that used this bridge for safe passage. Follow the 1.6-mile Confluence Trail through the region and gain an immersive look into the landscape and history of the region.
Army Iron Bridge to Fort Laramie National Historic Site:
Once over the Army Iron Bridge, the Fort Laramie National Historic Site is a mere mile away. Here, the family can learn about the western migration of the 1800s to Wyoming. Established in 1849, this historic site boasts 12 restored buildings for guests to explore. In its nearly 50 years of operation, Fort Laramie served as a safe haven for emigrants traveling west. Today, you can take audio tours and interact with onsite staff dressed in period garb. Set aside at least two hours to learn about the region’s fur trading, the Oregon Trail, Indian Wars, and treaties of the region.
The children can participate in a junior ranger program, which includes a scavenger hunt and an educational booklet full of engaging, hands-on activities. Complete the booklet and return it to the Guernsey State Park to receive a commemorative coin!
If you happen to visit Fort Laramie outside of fall and winter, then check out the interpretative talks covering a variety of themes related to Fort Laramie’s cultural and natural history. These talks last approximately 30 minutes each and are offered daily during the summer months. Also open during spring and summer is the 1883 Soldiers Bar, which serves root beer, sarsaparilla, creme soda, and birch beer during special holidays and select weekends.
Fort Laramie to the Oregon Trail State Historic Site:
Following your visit to Fort Laramie, take the US-26 west 16 miles to the Oregon Trail State Historic Site. Here, history literally left its mark on the sandstone ridge south of the North Platte River. Formed during the mass emigration of westward expansion and the Oregon Trail, the nation’s best-preserved iron wagon-wheel ruts are on display for visitors to experience. Left behind by emigrants in the 1800s, these ruts range anywhere from two to six feet deep and represent thousands of emigrants that passed through Platte County. From the parking lot, explore the open-access trails and enjoy views of the North Platte River.
Guernsey Ruts to Register Cliff Monument:
To learn more about the Oregon Trail and westward emigration, bring the kids to explore the Register Cliff Monument. Just two miles east of the Oregon Trail State Historic Site, behold the nearly 100-foot-tall cliff that served as the region’s guestbook in the 1800s. Serving as Platte County’s first night camp west of Fort Laramie and along the Oregon Trail, emigrants would stop here to pasture their animals and rest for the evening. This cliff served as a key navigational marker, with an estimated 500,000 emigrants having passed through this region on their journey west. Today, you can see thousands of names inscribed on the walls of this limestone bluff.
Register Cliff Monument back to Guernsey State Park:
From Register Cliff Monument, head seven miles north to the Guernsey State Park. Thanks to Charles Guernsey and the construction of the hydroelectric dam across the North Platte River in 1927, families can now enjoy the many amenities of the Guernsey Reservoir. Be sure to bring your water gear, as boating, swimming, and fishing are all allowed.
After plunging into refreshing Wyoming waters, take some time to explore the many scenic drives and trails throughout the area. Established as an official state park in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), this area offers a wealth of historical exploration and learning opportunities. Situated along the Oregon Trail, visitors can enjoy camping, hiking, and picnicking throughout old-timey pioneer landmarks. Check out “The Castle,” “The Million Dollar Bivy,” the museum, and many of the other unique structures constructed by the CCC.
Make sure you brought your junior ranger activities book from Fort Laramie to collect your commemorative coin!
Guernsey State Park to Wheatland Irrigation District:
After exploring Guernsey State Park, head 29 miles south to Wheatland, Wyoming. Here, you and your family can tour the United States’ largest irrigation district of the 19th century. Constructed between 1883-86 by over a thousand Chinese workers, the Wheatland Irrigation District is still used to this day. Thanks to the irrigation system laid over 100 years ago, emigrants were able to settle the region and survive drought-stricken times. Today, the Wheatland Irrigation District has grown into 120 miles of canals and 11 reservoirs. Bring the kids to the Wheatland tunnels to experience this historical marvel and how pioneers were able to settle this region through water.
Wheatland Irrigation District to Wheatland, WY for views of Laramie Peak:
Don’t stray far from the Wheatland Irrigation District, because Wheatland is an ideal place to catch views of Laramie Peak. This geographic landmark is known throughout the region and was often used as a navigational beacon for emigrants passing through the Oregon Trail and riders for the Pony Express. This peak represents the convergence of numerous pioneer trails throughout Wyoming, and ultimately, the west. Walk or drive through town and enjoy views of the tallest and most historically prominent peak in the Laramie Range.
Before making your trek home, check out the Chugwater Soda Fountain along I-25. Established in 1914, this historic ice cream and soda parlor is a place to grab a sweet treat and serve the kiddos a scoop of Wyoming history.