You never know what you’ll find when you exit the interstate. If you find yourself on Interstate 80 in Wyoming, make a stop in Rawlins. It could be one of America’s most underrated interstate attractions for RV road trips. The small community is well hidden from drivers but worth a stay.
America’s Underrated Interstate Attractions for RV Road Trips: Rawlins, Wyoming
This little gem holds plenty of adventure. In a state with just six people per square mile, there’s a surprising amount of things to do here. Rawlins is located about midway between the Utah and Nebraska borders. The small community is stashed among rolling fields of sagebrush and high desert terrain.
Like all frontier towns caught in the crosshairs of America’s interstate travel system, the community’s most attractive features are reserved for intrepid RVers willing to exit the highway for a day or more.
Why Rawlins is Great for RVers
Founded in 1867 by US Army General John A. Rawlins, it’s the county seat with fewer than 10,000 residents. Yet Rawlins has everything RVers need for overnight camping or longer stays. Check into one of the three highly rated Rawlins RV parks. Gather supplies at the many great independently-owned family businesses or stock up at the local big box stores. And plan on staying a while to explore attractions like:
The Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum
Pay a nominal entry fee and take a selfie in a real gas chamber. You can touch the eerie gallows or step inside cell blocks of the Wyoming Frontier Prison. Open for business in 1901, over 13,000 inmates lived there for eighty years. Many served hard time producing goods ranging from brooms, to shirts to blankets in one of the U.S. prison system’s earliest examples of for-profit prison labor.
You’ll get an authentic feel for Wyoming prison life. Tour guides give a terrifying look into the harsh sentences of captive men (and a few women) who endured some of the harshest punishments around. The prison had a dungeon and a “punishment pole” to which men were handcuffed and whipped with rubber hoses, according to the Wyoming Prison Museum website.
The Carbon County Museum
Rawlins is the last place you’d expect to find a pair of dress shoes made from human skin, but that’s exactly what you’ll see at the Carbon County Museum. The small building houses an impressive display of wild west Wyoming artifacts. Nowhere else can you see a pair of infamous shoes custom made from the hanged corpse of a notorious train robber and horse thief, George Francis Warden, a.k.a. “Big Nose George.”
Macabre attractions aside, you’ll also learn about local Native American culture, Thomas Edison’s lightbulb moment while fishing nearby, and see one of the original RVs, an authentic sheep wagon.
Historic Rawlins Architecture
Fans of turn-of-the-century American architecture will appreciate the Rawlins Historic District. Take a stroll through the 15-block neighborhood featuring well-loved historic houses built between 1880 and 1915. You’ll see authentic Queen Anne, cottage and bungalow style homes in pristine shape.
Go Wild in Rawlins’ Scenery
Wyoming’s best outdoor destinations are scattered throughout the state. But one of the best reasons to explore the area lies within thousands of acres of BLM land surrounding Rawlins. The beautiful prairie, desert and mountain terrain is home to mule deer, antelope and bighorn sheep. Look up and you’ll spy golden and bald eagles, pelicans, and ferruginous hawks.
Cast a line in Teton Reservoir a few miles south of town. Take a drive 50 miles north to the Miracle Mile fishing hotspot at Kortes Reservoir.
Hike a segment of the Continental Divide Trail or go on a scenic Sunday drive. The BLM Seminoe-Alcova Back Country Byway from Rawlins to Casper is another epic way to spend an afternoon. There are just too many Carbon County drives and things to do in one visit.
Go Beyond the Intestate for Wyoming Adventure
The stark, empty feel of southern Wyoming terrain can get old when your only connection to it is what you see from Interstate 80. But if you have a day or a week to spend along this stretch, make a pit stop in Rawlins.The unexpected beauty of one of the most underrated interstate attractions for RV road trips through Wyoming will surprise you.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.
Fine writing. Next time I go to Wyoming, I’d like to stop there, spend a little money, visit the locals, and see the sights. Thanks.
Another great stop is 110 miles west of Rawlins, Rock Springs WY This is where wild horses are brought in for adoption and they have a great viewing area. And just south of Rock Springs is an incredible roadway thru the Green River Gorge
Lorraine A Gehring says
We spent a night in one of Rawlins’ just-off-the-highway RV parks. Now I wish we’d stopped for a day to see the town.
jeff conlee says
Just watched an episode on haunted cities and Rawlins was the focus of this episode and it was REALLY spooky. Can’t wait to plan a trip there. Want to see the other things as well.
Al & Fran Temple says
We plan a return trip to Cheyenne to visit Frontier Days. Looks like Rawlins will be included.
Roger Botting says
A great Thai restaurant. Check it out.
Maureen Martens says
Obviously a different Rawlins from the one we have stopped in multiple times on the way from Florida to Yellowstone. It’s flat, ugly, dry and windy, there’s not much there,
and if we could avoid it we would.. That said, we have only ever stayed at the KOA there, which has to be the single worst KOA ever. Didn’t know there were other campgrounds, though, and will definitely seek one of those out next time. Or. Just go on to Rock Springs.
R J says
Great travelog. Not planning a western trip until late next year, but will certainly make room for a week in Rawlins, WY. Thanks for the info.
My wife and I lived in Rawlins from 1982 to 1987. I thoroughly enjoyed it as an avid outdoorsman, my wife less so. We’ve lived all over the country, but no place as friendly as Rawlins. Certainly worth a stop!
Sheryl A. Lawson says
Grew up there. Beautiful in the spring with all the lilacs in town. You’ve got to get off the highway though. Saratoga, Encampment and Snowy Range are worth the 40 minute trip from Rawlins. Gorgeous, green and you can’t beat the Rockies for scenery!!