Yellowstone, Badlands & Grand Teton National Parks
14 Nights From €1549 (Per Person)
Fly Drive Holidays
Denver (Colorado) - Cheyenne (Wyoming) - Rapid City (South Dakota) - Buffalo (Wyoming) - Billings (Montana) - Yellowstone (Wyoming) - Jackson (Wyoming)- Rock Springs (Wyoming) - Laramie (Wyoming) - Denver (Colorado)
America’s Northern Rockies may strike most as the road less traveled. A remote place filled with images of the untamed West, cattle drives and rugged mountains. All these reflections are indeed true, yet out there in the serene quiet lies an incredible landscape filled with rich history and gorgeous scenery. Lush forests, dramatic waterfalls, clear fast flowing rivers and unspoiled vistas. Couple these natural treasures with the authentic hospitality of the residents and you will experience a holiday in true Americana style that is likely to be completely unique from anywhere you have traveled before.
For those who want to get off the beaten path and explore the real American West, this is your trip. Instead of designing a trip during which you make a mad dash to Mount Rushmore and the South Dakota Badlands, we’ve included stops that let you explore and enjoy places along the way. Beyond Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park, the region boasts Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave, Black Hills National Forest, Mammoth Hot Springs (different than the one in Yellowstone National Park) and the Old West town of Deadwood. We allow enough time for these to be more than a “drive-by.”
The same is true for Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. By the time you follow the directions we provide, you will have reached all eight unique areas of Yellowstone National Park. At The Grand Tetons, we allow one day for you to get out into the back country, not accessible by automobile, to see wildlife in a pristine environment. These are places where you will get away from the masses and out into the forest, able to take a deep breath of fresh, clean air.
In between these fascinating environments, Old West towns like Laramie, Cheyenne and
Sheridan Wyoming welcome you and let you taste life that has not changed much in more than a century. People still engage you and proudly explain what is special about their home town. The culture you’ll find out here lends itself to a timeless way of life and fits seamlessly into the landscape. Enjoy your journey. Not many travelers take the opportunity to explore these authentic places.
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Day One – Denver
Once home to gunslingers, gamblers, miners and cattlemen, Denver is a great place to begin your exploration of America’s northern Rocky Mountains. When you learn the history, you’ll find it amazing that the hard hitting culture of the Old West eventually evolved into one of the most sophisticated, educated, prosperous and ecologically minded places in the world. The 16th Street Mall and LoDo (the Lower Downtown Historical District), which once witnessed Calamity Jane and other frontier icons is now home to the Colorado State History Museum, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and the Molly Brown House. Not to worry, there are also great bars, clubs and restaurants. A walking tour takes you through Denver’s distinctive architecture constructed at the turn of the last century to be permanent. You’ll find the art galleries in the Santa Fe Arts District and fabulous shopping in Cherry Creek.
Day Two – Cheyenne, Wyoming
Think Cheyenne, Wyoming and you likely bring up images of the Wild, Wild West. You’ll be intrigued by the idea that two years after its founding, Cheyenne had access to the railroad, which brought culture from the east directly to the fledgling city. By 1875, a population of 5,000 enjoyed the social life of cities the same size located in the East. Start exploring the historic district at the Historic Plains Hotel, flanked on one side by the gold-domed Wyoming capitol building and on the other by the restored Union Pacific Depot. The Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley takes you on a 90-minute tour past the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, the Nelson Museum of the West, Wyoming State Museum, Historic Governors' Mansion, Wyoming Capitol or the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. Get off wherever you like and re-board any trolley when you’re ready. Try the Terry Bison Ranch for a horseback ride. University of Wyoming Archeological Dig Sites have produced extensive Native American artifacts. In the evening, catch a live theatre performance that’s right out of the old West.
Days Three, Four & Five – Custer, South Dakota
Accommodations in Custer, South Dakota place you right in the center of some of the most unusual scenery in America. Above ground the sandstone desert and twisted rocks of Badlands National Park hug right up to the Black Hills National Forest, which does indeed, look nearly black from a distance. Below ground, you have Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, the second longest cave in the world and Mammoth Hot Springs, where the remains of wooly mammoths are still being discovered in a “sink-hole” that turned into a steeply sided pond. In between 37 million year old Oligocene fossils are juxtaposed with buttes, spires and pinnacles. The Badlands Loop National Scenic Byway features 14 designated overlooks that let you enjoy the dramatic landforms sprouting out of the mixed grass prairie. The Journey Museum illustrates 2.5 million years of geologic history of the region.
Custer State Park is one of the remaining truly wild places in America. Nearly 1,500 buffalo roam the prairies and hills along with pronghorn, elk, sure-footed mountain goats and curious burros. Take the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road through the park for an up close and personal encounter. The Needles Highway (SD Highway 87 between Sylvan Lake and Legion Lake) with sheer walled rock formations thrusting up, is not only stunning, but fun to drive.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is connected to the other Black Hills attractions by the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway, home to Crazy Horse Memorial, the largest sculptural project in the world. Plan to visit Mount Rushmore in the evening when it is illuminated.
Day Six – Sheridan, Wyoming
On the way between the Badlands and Sheridan, Devil’s Tower, America’s first National Monument, “Bear’s Lodge” to Native Americans, was considered sacred by more than 20 tribes.
The Old West meets the modern era in Sheridan, Wyoming nestled beneath the Big Horn Mountains. Sheridan’s historic buildings include the Sheridan Inn, where Buffalo Bill Cody auditioned acts for his famous Wild West Show. More than 30 buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places delightfully coexist with unique shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants. To get a real taste of the Old West, take the Bozeman Trail Tour, the roadway on which Fort Kearney, Fort Reno and Fort F.C. Smith were established to protect travelers moving west. About 90 miles north of Sheridan, the Little Bighorn Battlefield was the site of Custer’s Last Stand, which effectively ended the Indian Wars in America in 1876.
Day Seven – Billings, Montana
When you reach Billings, head for the Western Heritage Center, which features over 17,000 objects, photographs, American Indian beadwork and artifacts, western art, including the James Kenneth Ralston Collection, architectural drawings, furniture, clothing, textiles, weapons and oral histories. Pompey’s Pillar a sandstone butte outside of Billings bears the only remaining physical evidence from the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1806. Captain William Clark carved his name here during his return trip through the Yellowstone Valley. Just southeast of Billings, Pictograph Cave State Park was home to generations of prehistoric hunters 4,500 years ago. Rock paintings left behind by these ancient peoples are more than 2,000 years old. A short paved trail allows you to view the images that are visible in Pictograph Cave.
Day Eight – Cody, Wyoming
Cody was founded by “Buffalo Bill” Cody in 1896 and served as the home base of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show for over 30 years. Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel has western style entertainment on hand nearly every night. The Cody Nite Rodeo, the longest running rodeo in the United States starts promptly at 8PM from June 1 to August 31.
Plan to visit the Buffalo Bill Historical Center with five separate museums: Buffalo Bill Museum, Whitney Gallery of Western Art, Plains Indian Museum, Cody Firearms Museum, Draper Museum of Natural History, and Harold McCracken Research Library. A combination Cody Trolley and Buffalo Bill Historical Center ticket includes a one-hour interpretive trolley ride that takes in Cody’s historic sites and beautiful vistas to provide a greater appreciation of the accomplishments of Buffalo Bill Cody
Days Nine & Ten – Yellowstone National Park
As large as Rhode Island, Yellowstone National Park features an incredible array of over 10,000 hydrothermal features, including 300 geysers. The geography of Yellowstone is made up of eight distinct areas. At Mammoth Hot Springs, the bubbling, boiling springs appear to be covered with white chalk. Norris Geyser Basin recorded a temperature of 459F 1,000 feet below the surface. The thermal action of the Madison Natural Area bubbles up in many colors. Trails take you through colorful hot springs and Artist Paint Pots just south of Norris Junction.
The famous Old Faithful Area is actually made up of four different geyser basins where 60% of the world’s geysers share a very small space. Grant Village and the Lake Area are both near Yellowstone Lake. The deepest portion at West Thumb has the same terrain of geysers and hot springs at the bottom. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone runs 20 miles long with falls along the river ranging from short to 300 feet. Tower Creek is framed by eroded volcanic pinnacles. There are also a number of museums in which to explore the cultural heritage of the Yellowstone area.
Days Eleven & Twelve – Grand Teton National Park
As you are cruising down the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway that connects Yellowstone to Grand Teton National Park, get prepared for grandeur. Meandering on Teton Park Road at the base of the mountains, it becomes immediately obvious why this is a National Park. Plant your gaze on the 40-mile long mountain range, rising nearly 14,000 feet straight out of the plain. Even around Jenny Lake, one of the most pristine lakes in North America, they loom overhead. All three Scenic Drives, Teton Park Road, Jenny Lake Scenic Drive, and Signal Mountain Summit Road are all must-dos. You’ll have panoramic views of the Teton Range, Jackson Lake and the Jackson Hole valley. We highly recommend taking a Wildlife Expedition which takes you into the back country not accessible to auto traffic. .
Day Thirteen – Rock Springs
You’ll have another day of awesome scenery as you travel through Bridger-Teton National Forest on the way to Rock Springs. The Museum of the Mountain Man in Pinedale features the West through the lens of the Mountain Man. When you reach Rock Springs, plan to enjoy the 91-mile long Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Flanked by nearly 375 miles of dramatic shoreline of varying elevations in a kaleidoscope of colors, the reservoir is well known for fantastic trout fishing. Perched atop a cliff, the Red Canyon Vista and Visitor Center has huge windows for viewing. A scenic loop road off Interstate 80 connects WY 530, US 191 and Utah 44. Be sure to visit Firehole Canyon, just south of Rock Springs, for the spectacular sight of chimneys and pinnacles reflecting in the river.
Day Fourteen – Laramie
Talk about Western heritage – what a perfect ending for your expedition through the American West. Like so many Western towns, Laramie was at the “end of the tracks.” The first train arrived in 1868, carrying the Ivinson family, who came to build the town. Tour the 1892 Victorian Queen-Anne style family mansion, considered to be one of the finest historic homes in the region. Among the 14 museums and historic sites in Laramie, the Wyoming House for Historical Women stands out. It is dedicated to Louisa Swain, an elderly Quaker woman who became the first woman in the world to cast a ballot. The Wyoming Territorial Prison, constructed in 1872, held none other than Butch Cassidy himself. If you want to get out of town, head to the top of Vedauwoo. The fantastic rock formations and views from this 8,000 foot “rocky oasis” are stunning.
As you depart from Denver, rest assured that you have seen and savored some of America’s best unspoiled landscapes.
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