September 14, 2023

Sunrise in Sinks Canyon. Photo: Wyoming Office of Tourism

School is back in session, and summer vacation is now just a fond memory. But there are still adventures to be had. Whether it’s a day trip or a weekend excursion, Sinks Canyon State Park has a variety of family friendly activities that will help keep you enjoying the great outdoors year-round.

Before heading out on your adventure, be sure to download the new Sinks Canyon State Park Junior Ranger book. You can find it at This fun booklet is a self-guided activity book that will encourage guests of all ages to explore Sinks Canyon and learn about the amazing natural and cultural history of the area. When you complete the booklet, you can stop by Park Headquarters or the Visitor Center to show off your accomplishments and be sworn in as an official Sinks Canyon State Park Junior Ranger – complete with a Jr. Ranger pin.

The Sinks Cavern in Sinks Canyon State Park. Photo: Wind River Country

A great place to start your day is at the park’s namesake – The Sink. Park at the Visitor Center and walk the pathway to the famed Sink to see where the Popo Agie River “disappears” into the ground. You can see it from the observation deck behind the Visitor Center, or walk the short trail down to get a riverside view from inside the Sinks Cavern. This mysterious phenomenon is actually an interesting geological feature. The river does not disappear, but goes into cracks and fissures in the limestone wall and flows underground through a series of tunnels and channels. After exploring The Sink, make your way across the parking lot and follow the 1/4 mile paved, ADA accessible trail to The Rise. The Rise is where the underground river emerges above ground through a spring and allows the Popo Agie River to continue its journey out of the canyon. Along the way to The Rise, you can explore side trails to the overflow channel where the water barrels down the canyon in the spring when the melting snow and runoff fill the underground cave system and spill over The Sink. Once you get to The Rise, be sure to get some fish food at the dispenser so you can watch the enormous trout race to the surface for the tasty treats.

The Rise at Sinks Canyon State Park. Photo: Randy Wise

Another great family friendly activity is to hike the Popo Agie Nature Trail. This easy one mile loop is a great way to introduce hikers of all skill levels to the great outdoors. While hiking, you can explore the different habitats that are found on the shady side of the canyon. Look around and notice how the landscape changes between the aspen forest, the open meadow and the conifer forest. When hiking with young explorers, ask questions along the way like “can you spot the difference between the Aspen and Douglas Fir trees?”  Or set them on a color scavenger hunt. See how many different shades of green you can find. If you have a camera or phone, take photos of different green colored items and see how many shades you can discover along the way.

The swinging bridge at the Popo Agie Nature Trail. Photo: Wyoming Office of Tourism

As the days get shorter, the opportunities for nighttime adventures come earlier. Sinks Canyon State Park has retrofitted all outdoor lighting to meet the International Dark Sky Association requirements to help reduce light pollution and protect the night sky. This makes Sinks Canyon a great place to stargaze. Many locations, from the Sandstone Buttress parking lot, to the Visitor Center deck, to the Popo Agie Campground offer excellent views of the night sky. In fall and winter, stargazers can look for constellations like the Big Dipper, Orion and Pegasus, as well as the Milky Way. There will also be several meteor shows this fall and winter that will be visible to the naked eye. Before you head into the canyon, download a constellation app, like Night Sky or Sky Map to help you navigate the night sky. 

If darkness is your thing, then you and your family may want to explore the subterranean world that lies below Sinks Canyon State Park. Guests age 10 and up can reserve a spot on a Boulder Choke Cave tour. These 2.5 to three hour tours begin at the Visitor Center where guests will be provided with coveralls, gloves, helmets and headlamps. Then the group will make the short 1/8 mile walk to the cave entrance where they will descend into the channels that carve their way through the underground limestone. Guests will be treated to an “absolute absence of light” experience, and when the headlamps are back on, see the Popo Agie River as it flows underground to The Rise. Reserve today at

No matter the time of day or time of year, Sinks Canyon State Park offers family friendly activities that will create memories to last a lifetime.

Sinks Canyon State Park. Photo: Scott Copeland

Author Bio: Jessica Moore is the Superintendent at Sinks Canyon State Park. Originally from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, she started her career as an Interpretive Ranger with the National Park Service. Jessica moved to Washington State where she spent 18 years working as an educator at a 725-acre wildlife park. She and her family moved to Lander in 2021, and she was hired on with WYO Parks in September of 2022. Jessica and her family enjoy the great outdoors and abundant wildlife that Wind River Country has to offer.

Posted in Notes From the Field