Travel enlightens us or may bring up our inner talents. So, we decided to set on a summer trip to South Dakota and Wyoming. Though the popular attractions were Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota and Yellowstone in Wyoming, the other attractions along are also great. The entire trip was relaxing with many new experiences and awesome sceneries. Attractions apart just driving and spending time with family is rejuvenating. Here is a typical itinerary.
One may need ten to twelve days in all to visit both the states, though it could be completed in eight. It is suggested to set a limit of 500 miles per day and drive accordingly. The basic rule of the road trip would be take rest for every three to four hours and fill up the gas once the tank is half. Taking home food reduces cost and time for the breaks. Preparing and planning advance meals may be a good idea. Many instant foods and microwaveable dishes can be easily prepared within minutes. Carrying drinks, milk, curd, and other perishable items in coolers is a good idea. Hotels are available throughout the I90 and I80. It is better to pick up a walk in coupon rate and book it in advance. If you are a member of a chain of hotels you can accumulate points by booking through them. Ofcourse, you need a good camera to capture the wonders and smiles.
The travel may be sorted day wise or attraction wise.
Day 1: Drive eight hours to Mitchell, SD. Stop at Sioux Falls, SD to visit the famous falls where the Sioux river takes multiple falls in that area. The falls are not that big but is a good stop. You can stop by the sculpure garden at Montrose to view the giant bronze sculptures in the Porter Sculpture Park. Take a night rest at Mitchell and visit the world’s only corn palace. It is a free attraction open to general public. Corn palace is decorated with over 19 different colors of corn grown in and around the area. It was built to encourage people to come and settle down in South Dakota and that there is a possibility for agriculture.
Every year a different theme for the palace is submitted and selected by the local people. The theme for 2012 was ‘Youth Activities’ showcasing different sports. The annual corn festival also hosts different music and food events. There is a free video show that may be education for all of us. The entire visit to the corn palace takes two to three hours. The surrounding buildings may be visited if you have enough time.
Day 2: Drive about four hours to the Badlands National Park. The stop at Chamberlain, SD where you cross the Missouri river will give a good view of the area. In the drive so far, you may have seen green plains, corn fields, and windmills. But, once you cross the Missouri river, the view is completely different. The giant mountains are so overwhelming and may seem to consume you. 🙂 Be prepared to see the cattle also. You may stop at the 1880s town to see the original buildings restored from 1880s. The museum can be visited for the artifacts of the ancient times.
Badlands National Park is a part of the national parks. The entry fee is $35. The badlands are formed millions of years ago and the Lakota people called the area as ‘bad land’ because it was having no water and no food. The Badlands is formed when sedimentary rocks are eroded over a period of time. The entire drive through the Badlands will take three to four hours. Attend a ranger led program at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center or take a trail in the Badlands or spend a sunrise or sunset. You will be ‘Wow’ed by the area and the hidden landform. There is an active Indian reservation at that area. Camping is allowed at the Badlands at a minimum fees.
When you exit the Badlands make sure you visit the famous Wall Drug store in Wall. The place is famous for the free water early business men offered to encourage visitors. Currently, there is a shopping complex with food and water.
After the Wall Drug, you have two options to stay. If you are a city person, you can drive to Rapid city. Rapid city has good attractions such as the museums and dinosaur park. Its vicinity to airport and Indian restaurants make it a famous stopover. If you are a country person you can stay at the Custer State Park cabins. Custer State park is home for the granite peaks, scenic drives, and wildlife.
Day 3: Explore the Custer State Park and its wildlife. Greet the bisones, zebras, deers, prong horn sheep, and many birds in the park. Do not feed the animals but let the donkey lick your car begging for food. :)Visit the lakes in the area such as the Sylvan lake. You may take up paddle boating or soak up yourself in the mountain lakes. Attend a ranger led program for enhancing the experience. Get acquainted with the wild life and nature in the area and have a peaceful stay. Visit Custer city for other ancient attractions.
Day 4: Visit the Crazy Horse Memorial, the largest mountain carving under construction. It is in honor of the North American Indians. Crazy Horse was a Lakota tribe leader who was killed by the whites. The Lakota tribe has decided to construct a memorial in their land. The construction begain in 1948 by renowned sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. Attend the video presentation and visit the galleries and museum. The mini bronze model and the white marble model are a must visit.
Day 5: Visit the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the black hills which is a famous mountain sculpture created by Gutzon Borglum to honor the four Presidents of the United States. The faces of George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson were carved in the mountains. The wall inscriptions of the different states is a good photo spot. Also, stop before reaching the monument at the Granite point to take a picture of just George Washington in the Needles Highway. It took fourteen years to build it and was named after Charles Rushmore, the business man to visit the place. The memorial has a President’s trail and a museum with the working models.
Visit the President’s wax museum and other centers in Keystone. The famous 1880 train and Alpine slide at the bottom of the hill is fun for the kids.
Day 6: You can visit Hot Springs south of the Custer State Park for the water park and the beach. You can also visit the Devils Tower National Monument on the I90. The drive to Wyoming in the Rocky Mountain range will take you through the prairies, grasslands, and wildlife. The Thunder Basin National Grassland is home to to different wildlife. You will also encounter hundreds of oil rigs along the highway. The Black Thunder thermal coal mine offers free trips throughout the year but you may need an appointment. The drive through Casper will take to the highest elevations and through different kinds of mountains and rock formations. Dubois or Riverton will be the next best stop closest to the Grand Teton National Park.
Day 7: Stay at Jackson or camp at the national parks for a different experience. Visit the Grand Teton National Park and the visitor centers. There are many ranger led programs which can give us some information about the place. The Grand Tetons is the mountain range formed thousands of years ago. Just looking at the mountains and standing there will engulf you in the natural beauty. Take a hike to the Inspiration point at an elevation of 7500 feet and 6.5 miles one way from the park. Do see the Hidden Falls along the way. Take a bear spray with you or keep singing songs to keep the bears away while you are hiking. 🙂 Wildlife viewing along the highway and in the mountains is a good opportunity. The view of the Jackson river from atop the mountains is breathtaking. Capture the mountains during different times of the day and get wowed by the nature.
Day 8: Drive to the Yellowstone National Park which is a home for the active volcano. It has over 500 of the world’s 900 geysers. The bubbling hot springs, evaporating sulfur, reoccurring geysers, bubbling mud volcanoes, and thousands of wildlife make the place most valuable in all seasons. Drive the inner loop along the different visitor centers and geysers.
Hike the trails around the geysers in the geyser basin to get a better idea. The Old Faithful is a reoccurring geyser and shoots hot water up to 150 feet for every one hour. Watch the Old Faithful erupt and predict the next time based on the long, short, or medium duration of the eruption. Take a dip in the hot springs or fish in the Fisherrman’s village. Explore the wildlife during the dusk when they are pretty active. The upper falls and lower falls of the Yellowstone river are a great visit in the grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Take your time in the park and enjoy the nature. If you are lucky, you may encounter a grizzly bear or a black bear. 🙂 There is also a chance of a coyote or fox!
Day 9: Visit the Jackson Hole village and take the cabin ride to the top of the Mt. Rendezvous at an elevation of 10, 000 feet. Whitewater rafting on the Snake river is a good activity if you have enough time. Horseback riding in the mountains is also a good activity. Once you are done with the activities, you can start driving back home. The nearest stop down the mountains is Rock Springs. Encounter the cowboys and cowgirls during your stay in Wyoming. You can see many horses and ranches along the roads for a good picture opportunity.
Day 10: Drive back home is long but gives you a completed and successful feeling for having visited and completed all the planned attractions. You may stop at Cheyenne in Wyoming. You can visit the museums or zoos in the areas. You can continue your drive to Colorado Springs for more mountains or head back home for the plains. 🙂 The next stop options would be North Palatte or Kearney in Nebraska.
Day 11: Drive back home safely. You may stop at Omaha Nebraska for good food or Des Moines for the water activities. Iowa city also has good restaurants. The drive through Nebraska takes us through the plains and plenty of cattle. Modify your trip according to the drive time or time spent at the attractions. Minor adjustments may require depending on the weather.
Overall, the trip to South Dakota and Wyoming would be refreshing to see the pure mountains and lakes. Pick up a hotel with free wi-fi so that you can upload your day pictures to share with your friends. Enjoy your trip and let me know if you have any additional tips. 🙂