20 days/21 nights
4,127 miles (6,642 kilometers)
Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)
20 days/21 nights
4,127 miles (6,642 kilometers)
Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)
Arrival Gateway – Kalispell (FCA)
Day 1: Glacier National Park, Montana
Day 2: Glacier National Park, Montana
Day 3: Nez Perce, Idaho
Day 4: Hells Canyon, Idaho
Day 5: Craters of the Moon, Idaho
Day 6: City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho
Day 7: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Day 8: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Day 9: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Day 10: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Day 11: Beartooth Scenic Highway | Pompeys Pillar National Monument, Montana
Day 12: Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana
Day 13: Deadwood | Spearfish, South Dakota
Day 14: Mount Rushmore National Memorial | Crazy Horse Memorial, South Dakota
Day 15: Badlands | Chamberlain, South Dakota
Day 16: Mitchell | DeSmet | Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Day 17: Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Day 18: Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Day 19: Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Unit), North Dakota
Day 20: Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, North Dakota
Departure Gateway – Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)
Arrival: Glacier Park International Airport (FCA)
Catch a connecting flight into Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) for your arrival day into the region. Relax, catch up on sleep, and prepare for your big adventure through the region!
Day 1: Glacier National Park
Begin your adventure at Glacier National Park, home to one of the most stunning drives in America: the appropriately named Going-to-the-Sun Road, which climbs the Continental Divide to Logan Pass Visitor Center. Spend your day enjoying the “Crown of the Continent” ecosystem, which offers major habitat and especially is known for mountain goats, deer, moose and other species. You can drive the highway yourself, take an interpretive tour in one of the iconic Red Buses that offer a variety of itineraries throughout the park, or join in a Sun Tour led by a Blackfeet guide and learn why the Blackfeet Nation calls this area the Backbone of Mother Earth.
Overnight: Glacier National Park, Whitefish, Kalispell or St. Mary
Day 2: Glacier National Park
One day in the park is just not enough! With more than 700 miles of trails, Glacier National Park is a hiker’s haven. Five self-guided interpretive walks with brochures and signs let visitors experience Glacier’s outdoor wonders at their own pace: Trail of the Cedars, Huckleberry Mountain, Hidden Lake, Sun Point and Swiftcurrent Nature Trail. In addition to these, visitors can find scores of day hikes throughout the park, but the Lake McDonald, Many Glacier, St. Mary/Logan Pass and Two Medicine areas in particular are popular. Other favorites in Glacier include horseback riding, scenic boat tours and cross-country skiing.
Overnight: Glacier National Park, Whitefish, Kalispell or St. Mary
Day 3: Nez Perce National Historic Park
Nez Perce National Historic Park was established in 1965 and stretches across 34 sites in four states. Stop in Spaulding to explore the park’s headquarters and visitor center. Take a journey back in time to follow the story of the Nez Perce Flight of 1877, the 126-day journey across four states, and discover the legends of Nez Perce peoples who were forced to leave their land when their reservation was reduced to one-10th of its original size after the 1863 Treaty. Historic sites, archeological remains, interpretive trails, museum exhibits and films offer a look into the 10,000-year history of the Nimiipuu people. Nez Perce Tourism provides a truly authentic experience to connect with the culture of the Nimiipuu people. Visitors can immerse themselves in the customs of this native culture through interactive storytelling, land and water excursions, food, song, drum and dance. Tours include visits to historical sites, jet boat tours and traditional dinners. Then, visit the Appaloosa Museum & Heritage Center to learn the deep history of the horse breed iconic to Idaho. Make your way through exhibits, hands-on activities and historical archives to see early evidence of spotted horses in art and literature and the connection between Appaloosa and the Nez Perce tribe.
Overnight: Lewiston or Moscow
Day 4: Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
Carved by the powerful Snake River and physically separating the borders of Idaho and Oregon for more than 100 miles, Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America at over 7,000 feet. Access Hells Canyon via Lewiston for a guided jet boating excursion to leisurely cruise through the waves in comfort. Off the water, there’s plenty of outdoor adventure to be had at Hells Canyon National Recreation Area with hiking and mountain biking through dramatic terrain vegetation. No matter which route you chose, you’re sure to be treated to some fantastic canyon views including Nez Perce pictographs, bighorn sheep, black bears, deer, eagles and other wildlife.
Overnight: Riggins or McCall
Day 5: Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
Traverse the unique landscape at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve to experience a true natural curiosity. Navigate through the volcanic remains via a loop drive or by taking the network of trails on foot. Marvel at the expansive lava flows and take an exploratory hike through caves and craters. Come nightfall, cast your eyes to the sky for another astronomical wonder. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a designated International Dark Sky Park, where limited light pollution preserves the night sky for pristine stargazing.
Overnight: Burley or Twin Falls
Day 6: City of Rocks National Reserve
City of Rocks National Reserve is a 14,407-acre paradise of pure Idaho wilderness perfect for world-class rock climbing and backcountry adventure. Views of sage meadows and aspen groves amidst the reserve’s defining granite sculptures grant non-stop exploration and scenery for hiking, biking, climbing, bird watching and photography. A variety of trails for hikers of all skill levels intersect through the central area of the granite formations known as the Inner City. The reserve is also home to historical trails, replica wagons and markings from pioneers traveling the California Trail during the Gold Rush.
Overnight: Pocatello or Idaho Falls
Day 7: Grand Teton National Park
Located south of Yellowstone National Park and north of the town of Jackson, Grand Teton National Park’s 310,000 acres include lush valley floors, mountain meadows, alpine lakes and the rising peaks of the Teton Range. While iconic locations like Mormon Row and the Moulton Barns may be the most photographed destinations in the park, Grand Teton’s celestial peaks also provide the perfect setting for nature lovers, outdoor adventurers and road trippers who are looking to explore the park’s incredible landscapes. The park offers hiking, camping, climbing, boating, kayaking and numerous photography opportunities. A road winds through the park, but the best way to experience it is by taking one of its shorter hiking or biking trails. Visitors can watch wildlife, including bison, elk, moose, bears and bighorn sheep; explore 230 miles of hiking trails; cast a fishing line on the Snake River; bike along the multi-use path that connects nearby Jackson to South Jenny Lake; and climb impressive mountain peaks. In addition, Jenny Lake Scenic Drive and Signal Mountain Summit Road are two not-to-be-missed scenic drives.
Overnight: Grand Teton National Park
Day 8: Grand Teton National Park
Modern-day Grand Teton National Park has a diverse and long-standing history that includes evidence of human use from more than 11,000 years ago. The nomadic Indians who summered in this valley left behind physical evidence that includes tipi rings, firepits and stone tools. Following use by American Indian tribes, early American explorers came to the area and included John Colter, as well as fur trappers and mountain men, followed by permanent settlers in 1884. Additional historical highlights include the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, the Chapel of Transfiguration and Cunningham Cabin Historic Site. Today, the park’s extensive history and culture can be seen through ranger-led interpretive programs and visitor centers, as well as numerous historic points of interest.
Overnight: Grand Teton National Park
Day 9: Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park’s 2 million acres are home to an incomparable combination of natural beauty, rugged wilderness, majestic peaks and abundant wildlife, as well as the world’s largest concentration of geysers and thermal features. The iconic spots – Old Faithful, Lower Falls and Yellowstone Lake – may be familiar from paintings and photographs, but seeing them in person is a humbling, enthralling experience that visitors can enjoy year-round. Whether you delight in the challenge of a strenuous hike or prefer to sit quietly and watch the sunset, the park offers a great diversity of activities for all to enjoy. Popular activities include camping, hiking, boating, bicycling, fishing, wildlife viewing, guided tours and horseback riding.
Overnight: Yellowstone National Park
Day 10: Yellowstone National Park
As the park welcomes a majority of its travelers during summer, be sure to get off the beaten path by taking a hike and plan to depart for your day’s adventures early. Fall brings comfortable days, chilly evenings, crisp mountain air, elk bugling and an array of colorful foliage to Yellowstone National Park. Wildlife are active in the park during autumn, especially as grizzly and black bears fill their bellies to prepare for the upcoming winter hibernation. Elk are also in rut, and visitors will hear bugling in the park, especially in the early morning and at dusk. If you’re looking for an uncrowded trip to Yellowstone National Park, spring is an ideal time to plan your trip, with activities that include hiking on lower-elevation trails, wildlife watching (bison and elk calve during April and May) and biking.
Overnight: Yellowstone National Park
Day 11: Beartooth Scenic Highway | Pompey’s Pillar National Monument
Take a scenic morning drive on the 68-mile Beartooth Scenic Highway, often regarded as the most beautiful drive in America. It is one of the highest and most rugged areas in the lower 48 states, with 20 peaks reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation. Continue into Red Lodge and enjoy some lunch in the charming downtown before continuing to Billings and beyond. Spend the afternoon at Pompey’s Pillar National Monument and see evidence of Native Americans, early explorers, fur trappers, the U.S. Cavalry, railroad development and early homesteaders, many of whom left their history embedded in this sandstone pillar. Return to Billings, the largest city in Montana. Settled on the banks of the Yellowstone River, Billings boasts a bustling historic downtown with several delicious eateries and microbreweries all within walking distance.
Day 12: Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Today’s drive takes you an hour from Billings to the Crow Reservation and the site of the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. The monument memorializes the site of the battle that took place June 25-26, 1876, between the United States Seventh Cavalry Regiment, led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, and the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes, under the political and spiritual leadership of Sitting Bull. The museum features exhibits of the history of the battle, Custer, weapons, archaeology, Plains Indian life and a walking tour with interpretive markers. A 4.5-mile self-guided tour road connects the Custer Battlefield and the Reno-Benteen Battlefield. Ranger programs are scheduled throughout the summer, and bus tours of the battlefield operate from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
Day 13: Deadwood | Spearfish
Built on top of an ancient rail bed, Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway affords visitors views of towering limestone cliffs and pine trees. Thousand-foot pink, brown and gray limestone palisades surround you on either side of the 22-mile section of U.S. Highway 14A. Bridal Veil Falls and Roughlock Falls are must-see short hikes along the route. Then head on to historic Deadwood, known for its rough and tumble past, when gamblers and gunslingers like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane made legends of themselves on the tough and dusty streets. The entire town is a registered national historic landmark, and you’re sure to find plenty of Wild West fun. Make sure to enjoy the Days of 76 Museum, Broken Boot Gold Mine, stagecoach rides, Deadwood Alive shootout re-enactments and Saloon #10. Nearby Rapid City boasts one-of-a-kind shops and galleries, eateries and pubs from elegant to eclectic, presidential statues and turn-of-the-century buildings. Check out Main Street Square, City of Presidents, Prairie Edge Native American Gallery, Black Hills Reptile Gardens and the Journey Museum.
Overnight: Rapid City or Deadwood
Once known as Hay Camp in 1876, Rapid City served as a convenient transportation hub due to its prime location on the eastern edge of the Black Hills. Today, it continues to provide immediate access to explore surrounding parks and communities, but the city has also found a deeper purpose. Rapid City welcomes visitors to explore a charming downtown, turn-of-the-century buildings, and local arts and culture. Visitors can dine at a variety of unique restaurants including South Dakota’s oldest brewery, Firehouse Brewing Co., located in an original firehouse. The city is also home to various attractions. Pay a visit to Chapel in the Hills – an exact replica of the famous Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway. The Journey Museum & Learning Center is also one not to miss. This museum takes you on a storytelling journey of 2.5 billion years, including the formation of the Black Hills, Native American Culture and Pioneer History. Lakota culture can also be experienced at Prairie Edge Trading Co. & Galleries – a Native American art gallery committed to showcasing and selling quality Native American products and preserving the Native American tribal culture. Make time for the City of Presidents walking tour and explore life-sized bronze statues of America’s past presidents lining street corners downtown. Each president’s pose is significant to his time in office or his personality. Check out Main Street Square, the heart of the city and a fun public space often home to events and entertainment, dancing fountains and a skating rink in the colder months. The region’s best street art can be found on the ever-changing walls of Art Alley. Drive through Bear Country USA a free-roaming North American wildlife park and venture down Wildlife Walk. More wildlife can be seen at Reptile Gardens – the world’s largest reptile zoo with giant Aldabra tortoises, a botanical gardens, and more.
Overnight: Rapid City
Day 14: Mount Rushmore National Memorial | Crazy Horse Memorial
Located in the heart of the Black Hills of western South Dakota, Crazy Horse Memorial is the world’s largest in-progress mountain carving. Stop by the Laughing Water Restaurant and try some bison stew or an Indian taco. Then, on to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, known as America’s Shrine of Democracy. This massive work features the 60-foot faces of four great American presidents who represent the birth, growth, development and preservation of this country. Located nearby in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Custer State Park is home to a variety of wildlife and magnificent scenery spanning 71,000 acres. Enjoy a Buffalo Jeep Safari Tour, drive the Wildlife Loop and the Needles Highway, and visit the State Game Lodge and Sylvan Lake. At the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, travel back to the time when Ice Age mammoth, camel and giant short-faced bear roamed the Great Plains of North America. The site is the world’s largest mammoth research facility, and you can tour an active paleontological dig site and view Ice Age fossils exhibited as they are found.
Overnight: Keystone, Custer or Hill City
Day 15: Badlands National Park | Chamberlain
Badlands National Park contains 244,000 acres of a striking landscape and boasts a maze of buttes, canyons, pinnacles and spires. Make sure to travel the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway and stop into the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Travel on to Wall Drug, which has evolved into a 76,000-square-foot wonderland of free attractions, including the Western Art Gallery Restaurant that seats 520. For a more historic stop, try the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. It consists of three sites along a 15-mile stretch of Interstate 90: the Delta-09 missile silo, the Delta-01 Launch Control Facility and a visitor center. Then, immerse yourself in Native American history with a stop at Dignity, a 50-foot-tall stainless-steel sculpture of a Native American woman with a star quilt designed to honor the cultures of the Lakota and Dakota people. And don’t miss the Akta Lakota Museum. With a mini-theater, interactive displays, English-Lakota descriptions and the outdoor Medicine Wheel Garden, this provides visitors with a living lesson on the Native American way of life both past and present.
Day 16: Mitchell | Desmet | Sioux Falls
Start your day at the Mitchell Corn Palace. This American icon is redecorated annually with native corn, grain and grass and is a delightful bucket-list item day or night. At the Ingalls Homestead, take a covered wagon ride, participate in an 1880s one-room school session, take pony cart rides, make ropes and corncob dolls, and see hay twisting and wheat grinding demonstrations from “The Long Winter.” As the namesake of South Dakota’s largest city, Falls Park is a popular location for both locals and incoming visitors. Enjoy more than 55 unique and changing sculptures at the Sculpture Walk, which has provided visitors to downtown Sioux Falls with the opportunity to take a self-guided tour of beautiful and unique art in an outdoor setting. Good Earth State Park southeast of Sioux Falls is an important cultural and historical site as well as a unique nature retreat adjacent to the most developed and populated part of the state. The most recent addition the state park system, Good Earth offers prime opportunities for birding and hiking.
Overnight: Sioux Falls
Day 17: Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the most beautiful places in North Dakota, with herds of bison, majestic wild horses and a landscape that will take your breath away. Here, you will find great scenery, unique wildlife, relaxing auto tours and quiet areas to hike or have a picnic dinner. A major feature of the South Unit is the paved, 36-mile Scenic Loop Drive with pullouts and interpretive signs that explain some of the park’s historical and natural features. TRNP is one of the best places to readily view the most iconic animals of the West, including bison, mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and wild horses (in the South Unit), longhorns (North Unit), pronghorns, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, beavers, porcupines, prairie dogs, golden eagles, numerous birds and an occasional snake. Bikers will love the Maah Daah Hey trail, a single-track dirt bike trail that runs through the South Unit and up to the North Unit. The park roads follow the contours of the Badlands, allowing riders to fully experience the scenery.
Day 18: Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Day two in Medora could start with a light breakfast before playing 18 holes on one of the more scenic golf courses in the country, Bully Pulpit Golf Course. Whether you shoot 72 or 100, you’re going to build up an appetite, so head over to Tjaden Terrace adjacent to the Burning Hills Amphitheatre for a pitchfork steak dinner with all the trimmings on the bluffs overlooking Medora, then settle in for the nightly Medora Musical. Or tour the Chateau de Mores, a 26-room, two-story frame building that was built in 1883 as the summer residence of the Marquis de Mores’ family. The Chateau is now a historic house museum and contains many of the original furnishings and personal effects of the de Mores family. Activities for the family include the Medora Children’s Park, Medora Mini Golf, and Perception, an exhibit of optical illusions and magic that challenge your mind. Visitor tours include guided interactive educational tours through the Illusion exhibits and the Slant House on the hills of Medora.
Day 19: Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Unit)
Referred to as the Grand Canyon of the North, the pristine North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park offers some of the best views of the North Dakota Badlands as well as superb wildlife watching with bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer and prairie dogs. And keep an eye out for the longhorn cattle! The Maah Daah Hey trail starts in the North Unit of the Park but travels through the official wilderness area and is only open to hikers and horseback riders. There are also numerous other hiking and horseback trails throughout the park. Get the true Native American experience in New Town, just 45 minutes east of Watford City, home to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people who make up the MHA Nation. Here you can visit Earth Lodge Village, Three Tribes Museum, 4 Bears Casino and the MHA Heritage Center, and experience outdoor recreation, rodeos and powwows. Four Bears/Killdeer Mountain Scenic Byway runs from near New Town to Killdeer through scenic views of the North Dakota Badlands and Lake Sakakawea.
Overnight: Watford City
Day 20: Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
The capital of North Dakota, Bismarck is a hub of culture, history and shopping. Don’t miss attractions like the Dakota Zoo, the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum, and Fort Abraham Lincoln, home to a replica of General and Mrs. George Armstrong Custer’s home on the cavalry base. The fort also is home to On-a-Slant Mandan Indian Village, with six earth lodge replicas of the Mandan village last occupied in the late 1700s. Located on the State Capital grounds in Bismarck, the North Dakota Heritage Center is the headquarters of the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the largest museum in the state. The Lewis & Clark Riverboat continues the proud tradition of the Missouri River steamers at the Port of Bismarck, offering an adventure on the mighty Missouri from May through September. And the Mandan Rodeo is legendary, beginning as a Fourth of July event in 1879 with a baseball game and pony races. Don’t miss an authentic Native American celebration in the United Tribes Powwow, held during the second weekend of September each year.
Departure: Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
Drop off your rental car and make your way to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to head back home with a new set of memories to take with you!