The Perfect 12-Day Northern USA Road Trip Itinerary for Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas

Hey there, fellow travelers! Are you planning a road trip to explore the beauty of Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas? If so, then you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, I’ll share with you my Perfect 12-Day Northern USA Road Trip Itinerary, which covers some of the most stunning natural landscapes, historical sites, and cultural attractions in these states.

Day 1: Arrival in Montana

  • Fly into Billings, Montana (BZN), and rent a car.
  • Drive to Bozeman and check into your hotel.
  • Explore Bozeman’s Main Street, lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
  • Visit the Montana State Capitol, a beautiful neoclassical building with a gold dome.

Day 2: Yellowstone National Park

  • Drive to Yellowstone National Park and spend the day exploring its geothermal wonders, including the Old Faithful Geyser, Grand Prismatic Spring, and Mammoth Hot Springs.
  • Hike one of the park’s many trails, such as the Riverside Walk or the Lower Falls Trail.
  • Watch for wildlife, including bison, elk, and bears.

Day 3: Grand Teton National Park

  • Head to Grand Teton National Park and take in the breathtaking mountain views.
  • Drive along the Teton Park Road and stop at overlook points to admire the park’s scenery.
  • Hike one of the park’s trails, such as the Jenny Lake Trail or the Cascade Canyon Trail.
  • Optional: Take a boat tour on Jackson Lake or a float trip down the Snake River.

Day 4: Cody, Wyoming

  • Drive to Cody, Wyoming, and explore the town’s Wild West heritage.
  • Visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a museum dedicated to the life and times of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody.
  • Take a tour of the Irma Hotel, a historic hotel built in 1902.
  • Watch a rodeo or cowboy show at the Cody Nite Rodeo.

Day 5: Devils Tower National Monument

  • Head to Devils Tower National Monument, a unique geological formation in the Black Hills of Wyoming.
  • Hike one of the monument’s trails, such as the Tower Loop Trail or the Red Beds Loop Trail.
  • Enjoy the views from the top of the monument or participate in a ranger-led program.

Day 6: Mount Rushmore National Memorial

  • Drive to Mount Rushmore National Memorial and admire the faces of four US presidents carved into the mountain.
  • Take a guided tour to learn about the history and significance of the memorial.
  • Explore the Presidential Trail, which offers views of the monument from different angles.
  • Watch a Native American dance performance at the evening program.

Day 7: Custer State Park

  • Head to Custer State Park, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
  • Explore the park’s and wildlife, including bison, elk, and deer.
  • Visit the Peter Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, a 1,300-acre preserve home to a variety of wildlife.
  • Take a scenic drive along the Needles Highway.

Day 8: Badlands National Park

  • Drive to Badlands National Park and explore its otherworldly landscapes.
  • Hike one of the park’s trails, such as the Notch Trail or the Castle Trail.
  • Watch for wildlife, including bighorn sheep and prairie dogs.
  • Take a sunset drive along the Loop Road.

Day 9: Wall Drug, South Dakota

  • Head to Wall Drug, South Dakota, a quirky roadside attraction known for its collection of oddities and Americana.
  • Explore the town’s shops, museums, and restaurants.
  • Take a photo with the 50-foot-tall (15.24 m) fiberglass dinosaur statue.
  • Enjoy a ride on the 1880s steam train.

Day 10: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

  • Drive to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and explore the city’s downtown area.
  • Visit the Falls Park, a beautiful park with a waterfall and walking trails.
  • Take a tour of the Sioux Falls Art Museum, which features works by local and regional artists.
  • Optional: Attend a concert or performance at the Washington Pavilion.

Day 11: Mitchell, South Dakota

  • Head to Mitchell, South Dakota, and visit the Corn Palace, a unique attraction that showcases the history and importance of corn in South Dakota.
  • Explore the town’s historic downtown area.
  • Take a tour of the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village, a museum that showcases the life of Native Americans in the region.
  • Optional: Watch a baseball game at the Dakota Wizards Stadium.

Day 12: Return Home

  • Return your rental car at the airport and fly home.

Road Trip Tips

  • Make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for the road.
  • Be prepared for changing weather conditions and bring appropriate clothing.
  • Plan your itinerary in advance to make the most of your time.
  • Book your accommodations early to ensure availability and get the best rates.
  • Consider purchasing a National Park Pass to save money on entrance fees.
  • Respect the local culture and wildlife, and follow the Leave No Trace principles.

I hope this itinerary has inspired you to explore the beauty of Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. Remember to take your time, relax, and enjoy the journey. Safe travels!

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