An Epic Itinerary For A Family Road Trip To Some Of America’s Best National Park & Monument Locations

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Family Road Trip To Some Of America’s Best National Park & Monument Locations

We love a good road trip and one to any National Park or Monument is always ideal. Additionally, we were excited to revisit some American favorites across the Great Plains including Mount Rushmore and Devils Tower National Monument. This amazing road trip will be a treat for your family and you’ll make wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. This road trip itinerary packs in a lot so get ready for a family road trip to end all road trips!

Day One Springfield, MO to Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Mileage: 528 miles

PIN FOR LATER!

Where to Stop: Falls Park

Sioux Falls is so much more than just a stop on the way to Mount Rushmore National Monument. With a thriving downtown and exciting arts scene, Sioux Falls is a great place to be.
We decided to go to Falls Park and boy were we glad that we did.  This is a very family friendly park that is just a short two-minute drive from the hotel we recommend and it offers ample, free parking.

"Falls Park

 

road trip to yellowstone national park
The boys enjoying Falls Park

 

Falls Park

 

 

This beautiful park covers 123 acres to walk and explore. You can also go to the Overlook Tower (for free) or grab a snack at the Overlook Cafe. Falls Park was definitely a highlight and we know you will enjoy it as well.

Tip: If it has been raining, the Quartz around the park can get slick so be careful when walking close to the Falls.

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Overnight in Sioux Falls: Holiday Inn Express 240 w. Russell Street

This is a newer Holiday Inn Express. It was clean, the room was large and the bathroom well-equipped. This location also has a very nice indoor pool and hot tub area. Our boys enjoyed an evening swim while we soaked in the hot tub.

holiday inn
Holiday Inn Express in Sioux Falls

Where to Eat: Crooked Pint Ale House 

The great thing about Crooked Pint is that it’s right next to the hotel. This restaurant is fairly priced and offers something for everyone in the family. The boys enjoyed their gigantic pretzel and it holds true to its name – it was GIGANTIC! We ordered poutine for an appetizer and this Canadian staple didn’t disappoint.

Poutine

 

road trip to yellowstone
Starter menu at Crooked Pint

 

restaurant sign

Day Two Sioux Falls, SD to Keystone, SD

Mileage: 366 miles
Stop-offs: Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD ~ Dignity Statue in Chamberlain, SD ~ Badlands National Park in Interior, SD ~ Wall Drug Store in Wall, SD and Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, SD

The Corn Palace

Located in Mitchell, the Corn Palace has a distinctive Russian feel that includes exterior corn murals designed by local artists. Originally built in 1892, I was surprised to learn that several cities throughout the midwest had Corn Palaces. However, Mitchell’s Corn Palace is the only one to survive. The World’s Only Corn Palace of today was built in 1921 and concerts and other events are still held at the Corn Palace. Exhibits inside highlight how important corn is to the area’s economy, plus demonstrates the amazing talent and time that it takes to decorate the Corn Palace every year. The Corn Palace does a great job planning for children by having many of the exhibits interactive.

Corn Palace
The Corn Palace

 

road trip to yellowstone national park
The boys at the Corn Palace

 

Dignity of Earth and Sky

I was very much looking forward to seeing the Dignity of Earth and Sky Statue in Chamberlain, SD. I have to tell you, she did not disappoint! She was a gift to the great state of South Dakota in 2014 to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Completed in 2016, this is a must stop on your way to Keystone! There’s also a free museum on site inside the Welcome Center. The overlook of the Missouri River Valley really can’t be beaten.

Dignity of Earth and Sky

 

Dignity

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park is an amazing cross between being on the surface of Mars and sand castles! From the Lakota for “land bad”, the name stuck due to the arid, dry landscape. Everyone will love this National Park, but kids in particular really seem in awe of its colors and shapes. One of the many great things about the Badlands is that there is a wide variety of overlooks and trails. Door Trail is a great place for the family to hike and walk in this fascinating park. Panorama Point and the Yellow Mounds Overlook provide breathtaking views.

Tip 1:  If you just so happen to have a 4th grader on this trip, make sure to download a free entry pass to all of America’s national parks at the Every Kid in A Park website.  As most entry fees to our National Parks are $20 to $30 per vehicle, this pass will save your family a lot of money.

Tip 2: There are drops and sharp edges at Door Trail. If you have young children, be cautious if choosing to stop here. Also, rattlesnakes inhabit Badland National Park so be aware of your surroundings. Additionally, it can be very hot in the summer – don’t forget sunscreen and water!

Badlands National Park
Nate on top of the world in the Badlands

Badlands National Park

 

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Take time to stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and visit the Fossil Lab area. Also, don’t forget to bring your child’s Park Passport so that you can stamp it.


Rent Your RV Now!

 

Wall Drug

After visiting Badlands National Park, a stop at Wall Drug is a must. If you stay on the 240 Loop through the park, you’ll go right into the city of Wall and you can’t miss Wall Drug.
Wall was affectionally known as “the geographical center of nowhere” and the owners of Wall Drug decided to offer free ice-water to all the travelers coming through the area. With that, Wall Drug became a must stop. Now, if Wall Drug doesn’t have it, you probably don’t need it (Ha!).  Wall Drug is a great place to stop to refresh, get a drink and pick up souvenirs. Also, you must take a picture on the Jackalope. What?! Yes, Wall Drug has a large Jackalope that your kids can get on while you take a picture. Wall Drug is a such a fun, kitschy place to stop and they still offer free ice-water.

Wall Drug

 

Wall Drug

 

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Growing up, we all see pictures of Mount Rushmore and it’s featured in several movies. Seeing it in person, however, is such a great American experience. The history of Mount Rushmore is a fascinating one and you can watch a short film at the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center. The avenue of flags is impressive and your family will always remember the first time you saw Mount Rushmore together. If you have time, walk the Presidential Trail as it’s relatively short and gives you a different view of Mount Rushmore.

Without doubt, there are endless photo opportunities and this National Memorial has a great gift shop! The evening lighting ceremony is also special and, if you have time, you’ll be glad you stayed for it.

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

Where to Eat: Firehouse Brewing Company

We chose Firehouse Brewing Company located in Downtown Rapid City.  We had read really great reviews and thought it would be a great stop. Overall, the service was good and it’s a neat place for kids. However, we don’t recommend the BBQ, but we’re from the South and maybe we’re biased.  The menu is varied and will have something for everyone. Plus, downtown Rapid City is really pretty and we enjoyed walking around after dinner.
Know that there are a lot of dining options within walking distance from the below-recommended hotel that you may enjoy more.

Firehouse Brewing Company

Overnight in Keystone: Holiday Inn Express 321 Swanzey Street

This Holiday Inn Express is rustic and has a lovely lobby.  Although the rooms are a bit dated, they are spacious. When possible, we choose Holiday Inn Express due to the free breakfast. When traveling as a family, this can save quite a bit of money over the course of a trip. This hotel is a just short drive to Mount Rushmore.

Antler Light
Entrance to Holiday Inn Express in Keystone

 

Holiday Inn Express
Inside the lobby

 



 

Day 3 Keystone, SD to Billings, MT

Mileage: 339

Stop-Offs: Deadwood, SD ~ Devil’s Tower National Monument ~ Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

It’s a short 1-hour drive to Deadwood, South Dakota. If you know your Wild West history, have seen Deadwood on HBO or ever heard of Wild Bill Hickok, then you know how cool of a stop you’re about to encounter. In 1962, the entire town of Deadwood was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Mount Moriah Cemetery

Mount Moriah Cemetery is where Seth Bullock, Wild Bill, and Calamity Jane are buried. Wild Bill Hickok was famously murdered in Deadwood during a game of poker. He was holding what is now known as “Dead Man’s Hand”. The cemetery is a little steep, but the gravesites of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are a pretty easy walk. To see Seth Bullock’s grave is a major hike and you need to be in pretty good shape to do it.

There is a small gift shop on the premises. Inside there is a lot of history of the cemetery and of Deadwood itself.

 

Wild Bill Hickok's Grave
Wild Bill Hickok’s Grave

 

Calamity Jane's grave

 

Deadwood

Deadwood is a great throwback to the days of the Wild West. There are regular re-enactments on Main Street that last 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye out for them, your kids really enjoy it. While in Deadwood, a visit to Saloon 10 is a must. Yes, it’s still an active Saloon, but until 8 pm it’s kid-friendly. Go inside to see the alleged chair where Wild Bill was sitting when he was shot by Jack McCall.

The Historic Adams House and Museum offer tours and scavenger hunts for kids. Adams House is a fun look inside 19th Century life in Deadwood.

Naturally, there are lots of gift shops and there are still casinos. However, it isn’t in your face and the entire town is kid-friendly. In the basement of a souvenir store ( I know that sounds odd, but trust me) is the Deadwood Railway Exhibit. If you or anyone in your family is into trains, it’s pretty cool! This was the largest, most detailed model train set-up we have ever seen. It costs $1 to run the train for 10 minutes. Honestly, we aren’t too into trains, but we were instantly impressed!

 

Deadwood Sign
Welcome to Deadwood, South Dakota

 

 

Main Street
Main Street in Deadwood

 

Deadwood

 

 

 

model train
Just part of the massive model train city

 

Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower stands tall at 1,267 feet. It’s an impressive site that you will see long before you arrive. President Teddy Roosevelt made Devils Tower America’s first National Monument in 1906. The history of Devils Tower is interesting and even the name has a bit of intrigue. It’s a sacred place and during your visit, you will see cloth tied to tree branches. Native Americans leave these prayer cloths around the base, and they are not to be touched or disturbed in any way.

During an expedition during the 1870s an Army Commander wrote that the Native Americas called it Bad God Tower, he then changed it to Devil’s Tower. However, when it was declared a National Monument the apostrophe was accidentally left out and it became and still remains – Devils Tower.

Devils Tower is an impressive site that will wow your kids! There are a few trails that you can hike. Tower Trail is the most popular trail, it’s a 1.3-mile paved loop that goes around the base of the tower. On this trail, you get great close up views of Devils Tower. The columns that cover Devils Tower are unique and you might see climbers attempting to ascend Devils Tower, which is fascinating and scary at the same time.

Devils Tower
Seeing Devils Tower from far away

 

Devils Tower
My favorite picture of us at Devils Tower

 

Devils Tower
The interesting columns of Devils Tower

 

Devils Tower

 

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Since we had visited Little Bighorn Battlefield previously, we were able to fit this stop in and make it a shorter visit. On our first visit, our oldest was 3 and I was pregnant with our youngest. We wanted our boys to be able to truly see it and remember it.

The battle took place on June 25 & 26th, 1876. Five of the 7th Cavalry’s twelve companies were annihilated and Custer was killed as were two of his brothers, a nephew, and a brother-in-law. Many were buried where they fell. Finally, in 1991 a Bill authorized an Indian Memorial to be built near Last Stand Hill. The memorial was done by native artist Colleen Cutschall.

Little Bighorn Battlefield is certainly worth a visit. Most people have heard of “Custer’s last stand” and here you will see that place. In the end, there were no winners here. People were killed and land eventually was taken. This is a great place for reflection and discussion.

The visitor’s center is very good and the Rangers have incredible knowledge of Little Bighorn. Again, don’t forget to bring your child’s Park Passport book to be stamped.

Little Bighorn Battlefield

 

Custer's Grave

 

Indian Memorial
Indian Memorial

 

Little Bighorn Battlefield

 

 

Overnight in Billings: Holiday Inn Express 3431 Ember Lane

We can’t say enough good things about this Holiday Inn Express. The rooms were huge, the staff was beyond friendly and the breakfast was top notch! This is a perfect choice for a family.

Holiday Inn Express

 

Holiday Inn Express
Part of the breakfast area

 


Best Price Guaranteed. Don't just stay. Stay Smart.

Where to Eat: Montana’s Rib & Chop House

We knew beforehand that we wanted to eat dinner at Montana’s Rib & Chop House. Luckily, we could walk to the restaurant from the hotel – perfect! Montana’s was absolutely a treat from start to finish. Our server, Nichole was new and was being trained by Ronda. They both were fantastic! Not only was the food delicious, but it was also very well priced. Between 3 steaks,  a glass of wine and an appetizer, our total bill was under $120. I’ll tell you, it was worth every penny.

Some of the hot appetizer options

 

 

Day 4 Billings to West Yellowstone, Montana 

Stop-Offs: Exploring Yellowstone National Park 

Hello Yellowstone!! We have been looking forward to visiting Yellowstone National Park for quite some time. We decided to go in through the Northern Entrance located in Gardiner, Montana. From Billings to Gardiner is 171 miles. We’d been told that the North Entrance is a favorite for many Yellowstone veterans and now I know why. Make sure and get a picture of the  Roosevelt Arch which was the original entrance to Yellowstone. President Roosevelt was visiting Yellowstone during construction and was asked to place the cornerstone for the arch which then took his name.

Tip 1:  Make sure to download the free NPS Yellowstone app.  When given the option to download the app for off-line use, do it as cell phone service within the park is spotty to non-existent.  With off-line access, you will always see exactly where you are within the park, plus upcoming stops.

Tip 2: Lodging within Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area books waaayyy in advance! Plan your trip accordingly and make sure to book your lodging as soon as possible.

Yellowstone National Park

 

Roosevelt Arch
Roosevelt Arch

 

From our first moments in Yellowstone, we knew how special our visit to this park would be. From the Northern entrance, you come upon Yellowstone’s National Park headquarters. There are numerous buildings including a visitor’s center. Interestingly enough, the U.S. Army administered the park from 1886-1918 and today’s visitors center is actually the former Fort Yellowstone. Walking within the grounds are tons of elk which are such beautiful creatures and we felt lucky to see so many.

Visitors Center
North entrance visitors center
photo courtesy of NPS

 

We were stunned to hear of all the stories of tourists taunting wildlife, trying to put their children on the wildlife to take a picture and many other crazy true stories. So, with that being said, please be cognizant of the fact that you are a visitor in their home and that Yellowstone is not a zoo.

Our first day in the park covered quite a bit of ground. We will highlight each stop and include tips and hints for your first visit to Yellowstone National Park.

Mammoth Hot Springs

A very short distance from the visitors center is Mammoth Hot Springs. Mammoth is a large complex of hot springs over travertine. Algae living in the warm spots create beautiful colors on the travertine. The limestone from rock formations creates the calcium carbonate that makes it even more interesting.

Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs

 

Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs

 

Undine Falls

Undine Falls is 4 miles from Mammoth and it’s a quick walk to get to the overlook. The Falls are approximately 60 feet tall and the day we were there it was really flowing. Undine Falls is a great first introduction to the amazing waterfalls you will see in Yellowstone.

 

Undine Falls
Undine Falls

 

Wraith Falls

Wraith Falls is a short drive from Undine Falls and it’s an easy .5 mile hike to see them. While it isn’t truly a waterfall, it’s very pretty and the white water can have the look of an apparition hence the name Wraith.

Wraith Falls

 

After leaving Wraith Falls, we drove a short way and sure enough, we saw a black bear! We couldn’t believe our luck.

Tip: In Yellowstone National Park, only pull over to view wildlife when it is permitted. Also, traffic can and will stop suddenly so make sure that you are paying attention.

 

black bear

 

A little past Phantom Lake, we could see many cars pulled over looking at something. We truly had the best of luck! It was a Mama Grizzly and her two cubs! I got out with the boys and we ran to watch them from the side of the road. It was opposite of the way we were driving, so after watching for a few minutes, I went and switched with the Hubby so he could enjoy the moment.

Grizzly bear and cubs
Mama Grizzly and her cubs

 

From this area, we headed toward Mount Washburn and Dunraven Pass en route to Canyon Village. The scenery on this road is just beautiful. It had snowed just a few days before we arrived and there was still quite a bit on the side of the road and in the mountain. There are several great photo opportunities here so take advantage.

 

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

You will begin to see signs for the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone ( Upper and Lower Falls). We cannot stress enough that this is a MUST STOP and you’ll see a few different lookout points. Stop at them all, but make sure you go to Artist Point! This will give you an incredible view of the Falls and your mouth will drop!

 

Yellowstone

Incredible, right?! The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park was one of our favorite stops!

Yellowstone

 

Hayden Valley

From the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, we headed Southeast along the Grand Loop toward Hayden Valley. We read that Hayden Valley was one of the best spots to find wildlife. Unfortunately, it was early in the afternoon at this point and many animals were sleeping. However, we did get lucky – again – and saw a coyote.

Hayden Valley
Hayden Valley

 

Tip: For the best chances to see wildlife in Hayden Valley, aim for early morning or dusk.

After visiting Hayden Valley, we traversed back toward Canyon Village and turned West toward the Norris Geyser Basin


Norris Geyser Basin

The Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest geyser basin in the entire park and is located on the northwest edge of the Yellowstone caldera. It has three main areas: the Porcelain Basin, One Hundred Years Springs Plain and the Back Basin.

Norris Geyser Basin

 

West Yellowstone, Montana

After leaving the Norris Geyser Basin, we headed toward the Western Entrance/Exit to go into West Yellowstone. West Yellowstone is a really neat town and is incredibly walkable.

Overnight in West Yellowstone:  Holiday Inn 315 Yellowstone Avenue

We stayed at the Holiday Inn and it was a great choice! The rooms were large, and the staff incredibly friendly. Upon check-in, the staff provided us with a map of West Yellowstone, as well as, a list of restaurants within walking distance.

Bonus: This Holiday Inn has a large game room with large TV’s set up with Netflix, Xbox’s, foosball table and an air hockey table. You must have a room key to enter the game room and, as parents, we appreciated this extra safety feature.

blue bison
This cool bison in front of the Holiday Inn – West Yellowstone

 

game room
Game room inside the Holiday Inn

 

Where to Eat:  Firehole BBQ

We are a BBQ-loving family and we actually watched an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives that featured a BBQ joint in West Yellowstone. So, we knew that is where we would eat dinner that night. Firehole BBQ was as good as it looked on TV. Our oldest son considers himself a bit of a BBQ connoisseur and raved about his meal. The prices are very reasonable and we would definitely recommend Firehole BBQ!

pulled pork meal
Delicious pulled pork dinner

 

Firehole BBQ
Firehole BBQ Menu

 

After dinner, we enjoyed walking around West Yellowstone and there are several great stores here to pick up some extra souvenirs. Before heading to Montana, we knew we had to try some huckleberry and what better way to do that than to have some huckleberry ice cream! Near our hotel was a great place for coffee and ice cream called Espresso West located on Canyon Street ( open until 10 pm). The huckleberry ice cream was really good. To me, huckleberry tasted like a cross between a cherry and a blackberry. Our youngest thought it more akin to a sweeter blueberry. Either way, we all liked it! In this area of the country, you will see huckleberry everywhere. If you’re not an ice cream fan, you could try a huckleberry mojito, syrup, jam or even lip balm!

boy eating ice cream
Nate enjoying his huckleberry ice cream

 

ice cream cone
I’m your huckleberry…..ice cream cone

 

Old Faithful

While at dinner, I looked at the Yellowstone app and checked the geyser prediction times. Low and behold, Old Faithful was scheduled to erupt around 8:51 pm! Since it was Summer, the sunset wasn’t until after 9 pm. We really recommend going to old Faithful in the evening. While everyone else is leaving the park, you get to enjoy the beauty of Yellowstone National Park without the crowds. We made it to Old Faithful about 5 minutes before Old Faithful erupted and there were only about 25 other people there – it was perfect! You see and read about Old Faithful your whole life, but to see it in person is magical.

Old Faithful
Old Faithful

 

Old Faithful
Old Faithful

 

Old Faithful
Us at Old Faithful

 

Tip: Park in the large lot by Old Faithful Lodge. It’s closest to the old Faithful viewing area.

We were all pretty excited after seeing Old Faithful and we just drove around the park and looked at all the stars in the night sky. It’s a pretty amazing feeling being in Yellowstone at night. We pulled over at an outlook and just marveled at how beautiful it was with zero light pollution.

Day 5: Yellowstone & Jackson, Wyoming 

Stops: Driving through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park

We woke up early and headed back into Yellowstone with a first stop at the Lower Geyser Basin.

Fountain Paint Pot

The Fountain Paint Pot is a pretty easy .5 mile loop boardwalk. Your kids will like the mud pots ( although there is a smell) and the steam vents are fascinating. The sounds that come from Yellowstone are mesmerizing.

 

 

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic was a real highlight for me. I have been looking forward to seeing it in person forever! It’s the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world. The incredible colors are from the microbial mats around the hot spring.

Tip 1: The parking lot for Grand Prismatic is very small! Try and get there before 10 am, if possible. If you can’t, just be patient and keep circling until you find a spot.

Grand Prismatic
The Grand Prismatic showing its colors

 

Grand Prismatic

Grand Prismatic
Grand Prismatic

 

Tip 2: To get a better view of Grand Prismatic, you can hike to a viewing area. To access the Grand Prismatic Overlook trail, drive to the Fairy Falls Trailhead parking lot. The hike is on a natural trail and will take an hour or two from start to finish. Be aware that wildlife frequent this trail!

Cliff Geyser

While Cliff Geyser isn’t as well known as other geysers in Yellowstone, it’s one of the most active. It sits on the edge of Iron Spring Creek and erupts every few minutes, sometimes up to 40 feet. There is a pretty large parking lot here and we were surprised that not many people were here. You can get a really up-close view of Cliff Geyser and it erupted many times while we were there.

Cliff Geyser
Cliff Geyser

 

Tip: There are tons of Bison in the park and they may decide to cross the road at any time. Hopefully, they won’t hold you up too long, but be prepared to wait. This only happened to us once and we had to wait about 8 minutes. We’ve heard stories about having to wait an hour or longer when a large heard decides to cross. Again, be patient and enjoy the experience.

Bison

 



Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake is the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America. It’s a gorgeous lake that is the most beautiful shade of blue. Stop at the West Thumb parking area so that you can walk down and get an amazing view of the lake. There are also beautiful springs and paint pots to see on your way down.

 

Yellowstone Lake
Picture courtesy of Brigitte Werner

 

Between Old Faithful and entering Grand Teton National Park, you will see several Continental Divide signs. It’s a must stop to take a picture at one of them.

Continental Divide
Continental Divide

 

 

Grand Teton National Park

The first word to say is WOW! Immediately, the Grand Tetons will take your breath away. Again, this is one of those places that you see pictures of, but once you see them in person it’s amazing.

Tip: Like Yellowstone, cell service is spotty at best throughout Grand Teton National Park. Get the free NPS Grand Teton app and download it for offline use.

Grand Teton National Park
We made it to Grand Teton National Park

 

We wanted to stop at Jackson Lake Overlook, but unfortunately, it wasn’t well marked and we drove past it. 🙁 Hopefully, you won’t make that same mistake. The view there is supposed to be incredible.

Leeks Marina

This is a great, easy stop. There is a pizza restaurant here that we’ve heard good things about. We weren’t ready for lunch so we didn’t stop to eat there, but make a note that you could.

It’s a lovely view of Jackson Lake and there are tons of boats in the water. It’s a great place for pictures and to stretch your legs.

Leeks Marina
Leeks Marina

 

Oxbow Bend

We are more than glad we stopped here. I had marked it as a stop and, at first glance, I was surprised. It didn’t look like what I thought it would, then you step down to the trail, look up and WOW!
Definitely take the time to stop here.

Oxbow bend
View from Oxbow Bend

 

 

Chapel of the Sacred Heart

Our next stop was Chapel of the Sacred Heart. This is a neat stop with a great view and a very quaint chapel.

Chapel of the Sacred Heart
Chapel of the Sacred Heart

 

Chapel of the Sacred Heart

 

View from the overlook at Chapel of the Sacred Heart

 

Cathedral Group Turnout

The Cathedral Group turnout refers to the view of the three peaks: Teewinot Mountain, the Grand Teton and Mount Owen. This is a nice, large turnout with incredible views of the Cathedral Group.

Cathedral Group
Cathedral Group

 

Jenny Lake Overlook

Jenny Lake Overlook is an absolute must stop! The views of Jenny Lake and the mountains are absolutely incredible!  You will see several signs for it as you drive along Teton Park Road.

Jenny Lake Overlook
Jenny Lake Overlook

 

Jenny Lake Overlook
Us at Jenny Lake Overlook

 

From Jenny Lake Overlook, head down to the Jenny Lake Visitor Center. Also, you can take a boat across Jenny Lake and look at the Grand Tetons from Inspiration Point. Unfortunately, we didn’t feel we had time to do this. However, it’s something I regret and I hope that you have the time to do it.

Chapel of the Transfiguration

I will sound like a broken record, but, yes, this is another must stop! The small log chapel was built in 1925. The builders made sure to have a large picture window at the altar that framed the mountains. This is a peaceful, beautiful chapel that is also popular for weddings.

Chapel of the Transfiguration
Chapel of the Transfiguration

 

window with view of grand tetons

Near the Chapel of the Transfiguration is the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. This visitors center is a great place to get your child’s Park Passport book stamped and to pick up some t-shirts and a Christmas ornament for your travel tree.

Note: This visitors center doesn’t sell refreshments. However, there are restrooms and the discovery center is pretty cool for kids.

Mormon Row

Next, we headed over to Antelope Flats Road to see Mormon Row and the Moulton Barn. Added as a National Register of Historic Places in 1997, the buildings are from a time when Mormon settlers came to make a new life for themselves. The T.A. Moulton barn is the most famous and most photographed. With the mountains as a backdrop, you’ll soon see why.

 

T.A. Moulton Barn
T.A. Moulton Barn

 

Jackson, Wyoming

Overnight in Jackson:   The Lexington at Jackson Hole  285 North Cache Street

This hotel’s location is absolutely perfect! You will be within walking distance of the entire downtown area including the famous Antler Arch at George Washington Memorial Park. The Lexington had the perfect mountain feel and the rooms were fantastic. In each room, you’ll also find an adorable stuffed animal named Lexi Wolf. You can adopt her and bring her home or your child can adopt another “member of the pack” for a charge of $25.00. Our youngest loved Lexi and naturally, we had to adopt her and bring her home.

We really enjoyed our stay here and would absolutely stay here again. Breakfast is included with your room rate and it was a pretty good spread that filled us up the next morning.

Tip: Like Yellowstone, lodging in Jackson Hole books way in advance and it can be pricey. Be sure to plan your trip accordingly and book your lodging as soon as possible.

The Lexington at Jackson Hole
The Lexington at Jackson Hole

 

Outside of The Lexington
Outside of The Lexington

 

Where to Eat:  Liberty Burger

There is no shortage of good places to eat in Jackson Hole. We chose to eat at Liberty Burger since it was listed as one of the top places to eat in Jackson Hole.  This restaurant is also easy on the wallet.

Menu
Liberty Burger Menu

 

We considered going to Gun Barrel Steak and Game House, but we were enjoying being able to walk everywhere and didn’t feel like driving. However, the reviews are amazing and it looks like it would be a fantastic place to go.

As you walk around Jackson Hole, you will see several ice cream shops, restaurants and coffee shops.

Jackson Hole

We really enjoyed our time in Jackson Hole and hope to go back! Definitely, head to the town square to see the antler arch and the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.

Antler Arch
Antler Arch at the Town Square

 

Law enforcement in Jackson Hole
Law enforcement in Jackson Hole

 

Antler Arch
Antler Arch at night

 

Jackson Hole
Mountains and ski runs around Jackson Hole

 

Million Dollar Cowboy Bar
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar

 

Day 6: Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Denver, Colorado

Mileage: 510 miles

Stop-offs: Laramie, Wyoming

Don’t let this part of the trip scare you. You have come this far – you can do it, plus the drive from Jackson Hole to Denver is beautiful! We even had to stop for a cattle drive on our way out of Wyoming – not something you see every day.  Laramie is a great college town and we made sure to drive by the University of Wyoming.

Where to Eat Lunch:  The Crowbar & Grill in Laramie, Wyoming 

The Crowbar is a chill, laid back kind of place that serves great food. We could see why the college kids flock here. Make sure to order the Poutine Fries – it was delicious!

Poutine Fries
Yummy Poutine Fries

 

Restaurant sign
The Crowbar & Grill

 

We knew that we would be arriving in Denver a little late, but that’s ok. While we would’ve liked to explore Rocky Mountain National Park our itinerary didn’t allow it. Again, that’s ok, we’ll hit it next time.

 

Overnight in Denver: Holiday Inn Express Downtown Denver 401 17th Street

As you know by now we like to stay in HIE properties when possible. We chose this particular Holiday Inn Express due to its downtown location. The hotel itself is beautiful and the location couldn’t be better. However, we felt pretty let down by this Holiday Inn Express. We have stayed in hotels in Chicago and New York City, having a smaller room doesn’t phase us too much. Unfortunately, this room was TINY! Also, it took a solid 10 minutes for the shower to get hot water.

Positives: The breakfast was good and again, the location was perfect for us.

Exploring downtown Denver was a lot of fun. The Denver Pavillions is just a block or two away. Coors Stadium is also in close proximity for all you baseball fans.

Denver Pavilions offers lots of dining and shopping options.

Where to Eat: Hard Rock Cafe

We decided on the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. Our boys haven’t been to one yet and they thought it looked really cool. Hard Rock has a pretty diverse menu that offers something for everyone and our server was fantastic!

Hard Rock Cafe Denver
Hard Rock Cafe

 

Downtown Denver
Downtown Denver

 

Day 7: Denver, Colorado to Dodge City, Kansas

Mileage: 389

Stops: Santa Fe Trail Tracks

While we intended to stop at Pike’s Peak we read that the cog railway to Pike’s Peak will not be in service until 2021. While disappointed, we know that we will be back again and be able to have that experience. Driving to the top of Pike’s Peak is always an option, but since we were in a rental car we decided not to do that.

When coming into Dodge City from the West you will see a large sign that says Santa Fe Trail Tracks. Definitely take the time to see it! We are a history loving family and this certainly fit the bill. For 60 years in the 19th Century, wagons traveled West across this land. The Santa Fe Trail was essentially the superhighway of its day. Fast forward to the 21st Century and you can still see the remnants of the wagon trails and the ruts they left behind.

This stop off has a very nice boardwalk, as well as, informative plaques that detail the history and are very interesting to read.

Santa Fe Trail Tracks

 

 

wagon wheel ruts

 

 Dodge City

Dodge City is famous for the many infamous folks that lived, worked or passed through here. For a time in 1884, Dodge City even had a bullfighting ring where Mexican bullfighters would put on a show with specially chosen Longhorn bulls. Now that’s a crazy Old West town. Of course, many people know about Wyatt Earp’s time here and that Doc Holliday even spent time here.

Dodge City is in the process of building a pretty incredible new museum that will be a big hit with visitors. For the meantime, the current location is housed in the Boot Hill Museum and store. They are well worth a visit and we enjoyed learning even more about the Old West, cattle drives and the Santa Fe trail.

Boot Hill Museum
Boot Hill Museum
Front Street
Front Street
Train
Steam Locomotive on display
Dodge City, Kansas
Dodge City, Kansas

 

Boot Hill Cemetery
Boot Hill Cemetery

 

 

While you are in Dodge City you need to get s picture of El Capitan that is just a couple of minutes from the Boothill Museum. The sculpture is of a Texas longhorn steer, common as the lead in cattle drivers. From 1875 and 1885, over four million longhorns were shipped to eastern markets from the railhead in Dodge City and huge economic impact.

El Capitan
El Capitan

 

Overnight in Dodge City: Holiday Inn Express 201 4th Avenue

This Holiday Inn was a great choice! It’s very close to the Boothill Museum and restaurants are close by. Overall, we were very pleased and would easily recommend this hotel when staying in Dodge City.

Where to Eat: Dodge City Brewing Company 

Dodge City Brewing Company was a real surprise. We had been craving pizza for a few days and were pleasantly surprised by how good it was here. There is a pretty good selection of pizzas, we had the Wicked City and it was delicious!

Day 8 Dodge City, Kansas to Home

Mileage: 438 miles

 

Final Thoughts

This incredible road trip covers so many amazing stops! We have been going on road trips for many years and our kids are fantastic travelers. You could tweak this road trip here and there to make it more suitable to you and your family. We hope that this trip will inspire you and your family to a fantastic journey across America.

When you take this road trip with your family, be sure to come back here and tell us how it went!

Travel Well,

Nicole

 

 

 

 

 

This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. This is a ton of amazing information!! Love this travel guide! 🙂 Great job!

    Liz @ thespectacularadventurer.com

    1. Liz, thank you so much for the kind words! We love to hear that our blog is helpful.

  2. What a fabulous roadtrip! I did a roadtrip from Vegas to Yellowstone many years ago … and I can’t believe how many amazing things we missed!! I can’t wait to get back there and will probably replicate your trip to a tee!

    1. Gabby, thank you so much for taking the time to comment! It really is a fantastic road trip. If you decide to do it again, come back here and let us know how it went. 🙂

  3. Amazing and beautiful nature there! Absolutely beautiful mountain view at the lake, I would love to visit these places one day .

  4. We have a good friend who did a tour of all the National parks before he decided to move overseas to spend his retirement. I wish we have done the same. We’d be happy to go to at least 5. I am bookmarking this post for reference if plans push through.

    1. Kristine, I hope plans push through and you are able to visit! It’s definitely worth it and I hope you found our article helpful. Glad you are bookmarking it if you are able to visit some of the National Parks come back here and let us know how it went and what you thought. 🙂

  5. This looks like quite the adventure. I would love to see the hot springs and try some really good looking food! Thanks for sharing this, happy travels!

  6. WOW! You saw a lot and created a bunch of great memories into a short trip.

  7. Beautiful pictures.! I felt like being part of your adventure

  8. I love the diverse landscapes in the USA, a place I would love to trip around. We just don’t have the variety here in the UK.

  9. omg i dont know what to say! This is absolutely beautiful! I would love to go on a tour to all these gorgeous parks, amazing.

    1. Thank you so much, Chad! Hopefully, you’ll be able to see some ( or all) of them in person one day. You can use this as your guide. 🙂

  10. Your overviews of these places are so thorough and they give so much good information.I will def have to add this to my list

    1. Thank you Alexandra! So you liked it 🙂

  11. What an epic road trip. You definitely packed a lot of stuff into a short time. I’ll also second the recommendation for Firehole BBQ in West Yellowstone. OMG so good!

  12. Just why I love road trips!!? Yours was just amazing with so much beautiful things to see. I would definitely go to Mount Rushmore Memorial. It has been featured in a lot of movies and I wouldn’t miss the site at all!

  13. Since I was a kid I dream about taking a road trip in the USA, I love the landscape and all the farwest feelings. Those old towns and beautiful mountains!!

  14. This is such a comprehensive checklist for all of the places to visit throughout the US! Even though I don’t plan on visiting all of these places anytime soon, it is definitely useful to keep in mind for the future! Thanks for sharing all of this and glad you had TONS of fun with your family!!

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

  15. You definitely put South Dakota on the map for me! Ah and I’ve been dying to see Mt Rushmore!

  16. This trip looks amazing. I love that you laid out the whole itinerary for us to follow. Hope to take this trip next summer. Thanks!!

  17. Wildlife is always a highlight to see I feel! What an impressive extensive guide! You should make an ebook! I hope to road trip more in the states in the future!

    1. Thank you so much Lauren! I love the ebook idea, I’m going to look into that.

  18. This is such a great route! We’re really hoping to make it to Badlands National Park next year. 🙂

  19. Wow, SUPER detailed itinerary! Looks like this route takes you through some of the best of the Midwest! I’m originally from Minnesota, so most of these places aren’t too far away!

  20. What an amazing post! I learned so much and will definitely come back to this one!

    THANK YOU!

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