Yellowstone Road Trip Itinerary: The Black Hills Route
Adventure & Storyteller
From Denver to Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone
Start / End
Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Wind Cave
2,000 Miles (3,219 KM)
At least 14
Spring, Summer, Fall
This route is perfect for those who want to experience the beauty of the open road and some of America’s most untamed areas. Embark on a Yellowstone road trip that is so much more than just national parks! Experience an epic American road trip complete with old western towns, historic monuments, intriguing culture, and unbelievable scenery. Arrive at Denver International Airport where you can spend some time exploring the Mile High City or immediately get started on your road trip journey. From Denver, head north for a quick stop in the “Craft Beer Capital of Colorado,” in Fort Collins. It’s a fun, happening town that will get you excited to explore everything else to come. Later, head further north to Wyoming. Stop in Cheyenne, one of the most well-known western towns in the world. Afterwards, head towards South Dakota to see the Black Hills. Return to Wyoming and visit Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons, Devils Tower, and more! After all the excitement of Jackson and the parks, slow down and enjoy the small towns of southern Wyoming.
While this is the route we recommend, you can always skip or add days as you see fit. If you don’t have enough time to see it all you may just have to plan another road trip in the future!
ARRIVE IN DENVER AND HEAD TO FORT COLLINS
1.5 HOURS/72 MILES
We suggest arriving early into Denver and renting your car from the airport. Head north on I-25 towards Fort Collins, Colorado. It is the perfect town to get prepared and excited to start your road trip! Don’t worry, you will have a chance to explore the mile high city at the end of your trip if you choose!
Travel Tip: drink tons of water! The elevation in the Rocky Mountain West is real, and if you’re heading from lower elevation, increased hydration will help you stave off altitude sickness.
Fort Collins, Colorado
This vibrant town is full of activities, but offers the tranquility of nature just a few miles away. If you want to walk on cobblestone streets next to historical buildings, you will love Old Town Fort Collins! Boutiques, pubs, galleries, events, local eateries abound in this downtown area.
FORT COLLINS TO CHEYENNE
50 MINUTES/47 MILES
Grab breakfast and get an early start towards your first stop in Wyoming. Cheyenne, Wyoming is the perfect town to get a real feel for the American west. It is famous for its cowboy culture, rodeos, and trains. After you take in all the entertaining events, historic museums, steam engines, and western-themed attractions, take a day trip east on I-80 to nearby outdoor recreation areas like Vedauwoo and Curt Gowdy State Park. Here you will discover beautiful views, world class climbing, mountain biking, and hiking. Cheyenne is also known for its art and the beautiful botanic gardens.
CHEYENNE TO HOT SPRINGS, SOUTH DAKOTA
3 HOURS/240 MILES
To begin a longer travel day, head north on I-25 for a little over an hour until you reach Wheatland. This small Wyoming town is a good rest stop filled with quaint shops and murals. Then head northeast on Highway 26 towards Guernsey. Another very interesting part of American history lies just half a mile south of the town, where some of the best examples of the Oregon Trail ruts are still visible. After a bit of American history and a relaxing picnic in Guernsey State Park, head northeast for about two hours toward Hot Springs, South Dakota. If you make it before nightfall, end your day with a swim at Evans Plunge, the oldest attraction in the Black Hills.
HOT SPRINGS TO RAPID CITY
2.5 HOURS/100 MILES
Next, have an action packed day exploring the gems that surround the Black Hills! If you have time, visit the Mammoth Site, which boasts the largest concentration of mammoth fossils in the world and the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. Afterwards, drive up north toward Wind Cave National Park. After the visiting this unique national park, head up the quintessential old west town of Custer. Grab a bite to eat and then head to Custer State Park to explore granite peaks and rolling hills. After some time in the park, come face to face with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln at Mount Rushmore. This national monument teaches the story of America’s birth, growth, and development. Venture northeast for a night in Rapid City. Here you will find a vibrant town with great places to eat, drink and stay.
RAPID CITY TO GILLETTE WYOMING
3.5 HOURS/220 MILES
Rapid City is a fun bustling town, so wake up to enjoy a walk through downtown with a coffee in hand. Then head up Highway 90 towards Spearfish. It doesn’t matter when you visit, this region has year-round adventure. There is an abundance of hiking, fishing, camping, hunting, climbing, and biking. The art and history surrounding the area is an attraction in and of itself. If you want some final Black Hills views, drive through Spearfish Canyon to Interstate 90 towards Gillette, Wyoming. When you hit Highway 14, go north towards Devil’s Tower National Monument. This landmass is America’s first national monument for a reason: it is one of the most striking, naturally-formed landscapes in the country. After seeing Devil’s Tower, make your way to Gillette. This town will get your taste buds buzzing with all their delicious culinary options.
GILLETTE TO CODY
4.5 HOURS/250 MILES
As you leave South Dakota and make your way across eastern Wyoming there are a few stops to choose from before reaching the eastern gateway of Yellowstone National Park. Your first stop is Buffalo, an adorable town nestled in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains. A dozen historical buildings, ice cream shops, art galleries, and restaurants line Main Street. Head towards Ten Sleep, a unique, small western town that hippies, hunters, cowboys, and climbers alike call home. Next, stop in Worland, home of the Washakie Museum. Now it’s time to head for the lively western adventure town of Cody, Wyoming. The best way to get a taste of the Wild West is by watching bucking broncos and fearless cowboys at one of the nightly rodeos. For more country western culture, walk around Sheridan Avenue and follow the noise of live music and two-steppinb boots. Before you leave for your official Yellowstone road trip in the morning, don’t forget to learn about the man that the town is named after, Buffalo Bill Cody, at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
YELLOWSTONE ROAD TRIP
Wake up early and hop on the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway that connects Cody to Yellowstone National Park. Called one of the most beautiful drives in America, the rushing Shoshone River, amazing rock formations, and the mountains views are bountiful. If you want to get out and stretch your legs, there are multiple scenic vista stops along the highway. Once you reach the eastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park, don’t forget to grab a park map! Remember, Yellowstone covers a huge tract of land. If you want to get the best experience without a lot of driving, we suggest staying one night within Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone Road Trip Attractions:
- Lake Butte Overlook
- Fishing Bridge Visitors Center
- Yellowstone Lake
- Mud Volcano
- Sulphur Caldron
- Virginia Cascade
- Beryl Spring
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK AND JACKSON
The next stop on your Yellowstone road trip is the gorgeous natural wonder of Teton National Park. Explore crystal clear lakes, flowing rivers, and incredible photography spots along the rugged Grand Tetons. If you really want to enjoy Grand Teton National Park you can avoid the crowds and bike some of the many trails. (Map attached below!) After experiencing Grand Teton grandeur, head towards Jackson Hole. As you approach the famous Wyoming tourist town, look for the National Elk Refuge, which offers tons of activities. Once you get to Jackson it’s time to enjoy the culture, cowboy bars, and delicious restaurants! If you want to see it all from above we suggest taking a ride up the Aerial Tram.
JACKSON TO LANDER
3 HOURS/160 MILES
Leaving Jackson Hole, as you begin to see the Grand Tetons disappear in your rearview mirror, you will reach the town of Dubois. This charming hidden gem is one of the last real Old West towns. This small town is packed with outdoor adventures like mountain biking, hiking, ATV riding, kayaking, and much more. If you are here in the winter, don’t miss out on snowmobiling! Additionally, get to know the Wind River Mountain Range. Drive along the mountains toward Riverton, one of the most underrated towns in Wyoming. This small mountain town is worth an overnight stay, so you can learn all about the local Native American culture. If you are lucky, you may just be here for one of the many events that take place over summer. For an outdoor adventure, head to the next town over, Lander. Discover the beauty of the untamed Wind River Mountains, starting with the fascinating Sinks Canyon State Park.
LANDER TO DENVER, COLORADO
5.5 HOURS/350 MILES
Continuing on your Yellowstone road trip, get ready to explore some of America’s best kept secrets in Southern Wyoming. Your first stop is the town of Rawlins. History buffs rejoice, as Rawlins is home to the Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum. After you have stretched your legs, it’s time to hit Saratoga. Your drive will feature vast open spaces and the towering peaks of the Snowy Range. Saratoga will be a good stop for lunch before you head west on Highway 130 for Medicine Bow National Forest. This area is full of lakes and peaks with many spots to sit by the water and relax. After you have enjoyed one of the best outdoor areas in Southern Wyoming, head for Laramie. Laramie is an idyllic American town with rich history, fun local happenings, and tons of outdoor recreation. If you didn’t get a chance to visit Vedauwoo the first time, this is your second chance. Take some time to walk around downtown Laramie where you will find great restaurants, art shops, souvenirs and more. For some, this may be the last stop of your trip before heading back to the airport. For others, head to Denver, Colorado, for a taste of the city life.
Exchange your country boots for your city shoes because you are now in the Mile High City. Denver is known for its foodie paradise, vibrant neighborhoods, music scene, thriving beer culture, amazing art, and sporting life. During your visit you may hear many expressions such as “LoDo,” “SoDo,” “RiNo” and many more. These are references to Denver’s is ten diverse neighborhoods. Whatever you are looking for during your vacation, you will find it within one of these eclectic neighborhoods.