Big Spring Scenic Backway Story page

Touring the Byway
68 Miles | 3 Days / 2 Nights | Gateway City: Evanston, Wyoming

We recommend starting your journey in Evanston, nestled in the Bear River Valley, where you can explore the Uinta County Museum and view bison in their natural habitat at the Bear River State Park. Spend your first evening relaxing in an inn surrounded by 15 acres of mountain scenery. On Day Two, visit Kemmerer, a coal mining town that was the site of major paleontological finds. Learn the history of the area at the Fossil Country Frontier Museum, visit the home of J.C. Penny department store founder James Cash Penney, try your luck on a fossil dig at American Fossil Quarry, and explore one of the world’s largest collections of freshwater fish fossils at Fossil Butte National Monument.

On Day Three make sure you gas up the car before leaving Kemmerer to drive the Big Spring Scenic Backway heading north on WY-223, through the scenic Tunp Mountain Range. Bear left as WY-223 turns into CR-305/Hams Fork Road and then CR-204/Pine Creek Road, and twist your way around Lake Viva Naughton, 8,890-foot Coke Mountain, passing dozens of pristine mountain creeks and streams. The backway ends in Cokeville, a small town that was once the sheep capital of the world. Pause at the Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, home to one of the highest densities of nesting waterfowl in the state, before making your way back to Evanston. From there, we wish you a safe passage if you’re continuing your journey on another Wyoming Scenic Byway, or a safe and pleasant journey home.

View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping,  and lodging recommendations!

Highlighted Attractions

Fossil Butte National Monument

Fossil Butte National Monument encompasses Fossil Lake, an ancient lake that hosts the largest collection of fish fossils in the world. Watch paleontologists collect fossils from the monument’s dig site and view over 300 fossils, including 10 species of mammals and 15 species of reptiles, at the visitor center. Ranger talks provide a great opportunity to learn more about the area’s history and Fossil Butte’s ecosystem.

Cokeville Meadows

Encompassing a 20-mile stretch of the Bear River Valley’s wetlands and uplands, the Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuge supports one of the highest densities of nesting waterfowl in Wyoming, while providing an excellent habitat for migratory birds. Species at the refuge include white-faced ibis, black tern, sage grouse, mule deer, elk, and pronghorn sheep.

J.C. Penney House and Museum

James Cash Penney, the founder of the J. C. Penney department stores’ lived here between 1904-1909 when he developed a formula for a successful dry goods store. The Kemmerer  J.C. Penney “Golden Rule” Mother Store is still in operation. It is complemented with a museum filled with historical artifacts, including the pulley system used to deliver cash receipts. Curators are generous with their time describing the features and heritage of this National Historic Landmark.

Historic Roundhouse and Railyards

Here you can tour one of the last intact roundhouses in the Union Pacific Railroad Line.  Constructed in 1912, the city adopted the structure, rehabilitated and  renovated it into a public use facility while keeping much of the historic character.  The original Machine Shop still stands across the Plaza.  The turntable, used to change the direction of train engines in the Roundhouse, is still operational, the machine shop still outfitted, a superintendent’s office and washroom, and a renovated visitor center which was previously the Oil House, make up the complex.

Bear River State Park

This 324-acre day-use park with several miles of trails, is home to small herds of bison and elk. The Visitor Center features numerous wildlife displays showcasing a small portion of Wyoming’s impressive array of wildlife. The bison herd can be viewed year round.

To experience all that A Wild Mountain Drive has to offer, download the complete itinerary!

The detailed itinerary includes: