Midwest to Dakota Badlands and Yellowstone Road Trip
Start: Chicago, Minneapolis, Des Moines, Milwaukee, or Omaha
Day 1 – Head to Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Yellowstone from the Midwest? The park is surprisingly accessible on a two-week vacation—and the attractions en route make the drive unforgettable. Get your big miles out of the way with today’s route to Sioux Falls. Start anywhere in the Midwest including Chicago, Minneapolis, Des Moines, Milwaukee, or Omaha.
Day 2 – Wall, South Dakota
I-90 West to US 83 North to US 14 West to I-90 West
Drive to Pierre, the state capital. Continue on to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Finish up in Wall (don’t miss a stop at the famous Wall Drug Store).
Day 3 – Badlands National Park, South Dakota
SD 240 South
Kick off the day a trip to Badlands National Park. Extra time? Spend the night at Cedar Pass Lodge.
Day 3 – Hot Springs, South Dakota
SD 44 West to SD 79 South
Cruise on to Rapid City, a launching point for Black Hills exploration that features plenty of kid-friendly attractions and Wild West flair. Hot Springs is just an hour down the road: Check out Ice Age fossils at The Mammoth Site or the waterslides and spring-fed pools at Evans Plunge.
Day 4 – Keystone, South Dakota
US 385 North to US 16 East to US 385 North to US 16A
What’s a trip to South Dakota without a giant historic monument or two? Head north and pass through Custer, another Black Hills hotspot. Then it’s on to Crazy Horse Memorial, a sculpture-in-progress honoring the legendary Oglala Lakota leader, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial for a tour. Head to the restaurants in nearby Keystone for the evening.
Day 5 – Deadwood, South Dakota
US 16 West to US 385 North
Nearby Hill City offers chuckwagon dinners and frontier-era steam engine rides on the 1880 Train. Then witness a staged gunfight or visit an old gold mine in the legendary towns of Deadwood and Lead. Motorcycle fan? Sturgis, home of the mother of all motorcycle rallies, is just 15 miles up the road.
Day 6 – Gillette, Wyoming
US 14 Alternate West to US 85 North to WY 24 West to US 14 West to I-90 West
Cruise between 1,000-foot-high limestone canyon walls and gaze at waterfalls on a premier scenic byway through 19-mile-long Spearfish Canyon. Press on through Belle Forche to cross into Wyoming, then visit the striking, 867-foot-tall rock pillar at Devils Tower National Monument. The butte, sacred to the Lakota and other local tribes, is a rock climbing mecca. Finish in Gillette.
Day 7 – Cody, Wyoming
I-90 West to US 16 West to US 20 East to WY 120 West
Keep heading west through historic Buffalo (home of Paradise Guest Ranch and Bozeman Trail Steakhouse), Ten Sleep, and Worland to Thermopolis. Must-do: Soak in steaming mineral waters at Hot Springs State Park. Drive on to Cody and dive into Yellowstone Country’s past at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West (a complex of five museums covering art, natural history, Native Americans, and more) and the historic Irma Hotel.
Days 8 & 9 – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
US 20 West
Spend a day—or hey, two or three—exploring the scenery, hiking, camping, and watching wildlife at Yellowstone National Park. View our favorite itineraries.
Day 10 – Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
US 212 East to I-94 East
Leave the park via Cooke City and cruise the 68-mile Beartooth Highway, one of America’s most stunning drives, through Red Lodge and on to Billings. Head east en route to the badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Stay at one of the park’s three campgrounds or in Medora.
Days 11 & 12 – Head back home
Take the northern route home through North Dakota.