Chicago to Dakota Black Hills to Yellowstone Road Trip

See the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, Yellowstone and more on this 2,800 mile all-American road trip.
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Mountain Goat at Mount Rushmore

Mountain goat at Mt. Rushmore

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Start in Chicago on this incredible route through some of the nation's most stunning prairies, wide-open skies and gorgeous mountain peaks.

From Chicago head west, stopping at the Akta Lakota Museum to discover northern Plains Indian history. Then head to South Dakota's Badlands National Park. Beyond lies Mount Rushmore in Keystone, S.D., hot springs in Hot Springs, S.D., and two national park sites that give you a rare glimpse into the Earth's underbelly: Wind Cave and Jewel.

Don't miss the charming town of Custer for fun and wildlife viewing at Custer State Park. Then head to the Crazy Horse Memorial, the world's largest monument carving. In Hill City, ride the 1880 Train and in Deadwood see Wild West reenactments. In Belle Fourche, relax under the shade of trees. In Wyoming, Thermopolis offers hot springs and dinosaur digs and the 50 miles east of Yellowstone offer an uncrowded lodging experience. After exploring Yellowstone, head to Billings, Miles City and other southeast Montana sights on your way back to Chicago. 

Map

Start: Chicago

Cloud Gate, a kidney-bean-shaped sculpture in Chicago

Cloud Gate, a kidney-bean-shaped sculpture in Chicago

In Chicago, join locals and travelers alike at Millennium Park downtown. A showcase of who's who in architecture, this interactive park is an adult playground. Check out these three architectural gems, Cloud Gate, the kidney-bean-shaped stainless steel sculpture, Jay Pritzker Pavilion designed by architect Frank Gehry, and Crown Fountain which features the faces of 1,000 Chicago residents on two 250-foot glass towers.

Central South Dakota

Exhibit at the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center in Chamberlain, S.D.

Exhibit at the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center in Chamberlain, S.D.

Go Full Circle at the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center
Move clockwise through the museum from pre-European to "Two Worlds Meet" to "Broken Promises" and finally "Continuity and Change."

Alternative Rapid Route: Fly Into Rapid City

Abraham Lincoln, one of 42 bronze statues scattered on street corners throughout Rapid City, S.D.

President Abraham Lincoln, one of 42 bronze statues throughout Rapid City

For an alternative launch point to your road trip, fly into the Rapid City Regional Airport. It's the most direct route to the Black Hills, Badlands National Park and Mt. Rushmore. While your main destinations may be the national parks, make sure your travel plans include spending time in Rapid City itself.

Badlands National Park

A grassy trail through Badlands National Park

A grassy trail through Badlands National Park

48 Hours in the Badlands and Black Hills
Hit the best of the South Dakota parks with these top spots including national parks, steam trains, wild bison and a legendary store.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Explore nuclear weapon history near the northeast Pinnacles Entrance to Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

Wind Cave National Park

Boxwork on a cave's ceiling at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota

Boxwork on a cave's ceiling at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota

Journey deep into the Earth on a tour of one of the world’s most complex cave systems. Want more? Visit Jewel Cave National Monument nearby.

Mt. Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore at sunset

Constructed from 1927-41, the memorial features the faces of four U.S. presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Korczak Ziolkowski with Oglala Lakota chief Henry Standing Bear in 1948 in front of a scale model of the Crazy Horse Memorial

Korczak Ziolkowski with Oglala Lakota chief Henry Standing Bear in 1948 in front of a scale model of the Crazy Horse Memorial

See the world's largest monument carving in progress, the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Black Hills Adventures

Wild bison in Custer State Park

Wild bison in Custer State Park

Custer is South Dakota's Yellowstone
Basecamp in Custer for incredible access to these 7 legendary Black Hills sites including a park where 1,300 bison roam free.

8 Places Custer Hospitality Makes You Feel Welcome
Stay in a teepee, treehouse, campsite or hotel near Mt. Rushmore and rent an ATV or kayak for your adventure.

Evan's Plunge

Evan's Plunge

Top 6 in South Dakota's Hot Springs Mammoth Country
Hot Springs is home to the world-famous Mammoth Site, a Wild Horse Sanctuary, far-reaching caves, and a watery oases.

The 1880 Train in Hill City, SD.

The 1880 Train in Hill City

Ride the 1880 Train through the Heart of the Hills
All aboard! Enjoy a 2-hour, 20-mile ride aboard an authentic steam train between Hill City and Keystone.

Outdoor concert at Kool Deadwood Nites

Outdoor Concert at Kool Deadwood Nites

Let Good Times Roll in Deadwood
Listen to live music, walk in the footsteps of Wild West legends, watch re-enactments and try your luck in gaming halls in this town full of wild history.

Johnny Spaulding Cabin

Johnny Spaulding Cabin

The Tri-State Museum is near the Geographic Center of the Nation
See silver spoons that traveled on the Mayflower in 1620 and antique saddles at the Tri-State Museum. Then take a selfie at the Geo-Center monument.

Black Hills Rest stops:

The Lodge at Deadwood
The Lodge is one of the newest, most beautiful Deadwood hotels. When you arrive, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the breathtaking panoramic view of the Black Hills and the high plains.

Executive Lodging of the Black Hills in Sturgis & Deadwood
Rustic homes, log cabins, luxury accommodations, a clubhouse with a swimming pool, and everything in between.

Super 8 Belle Fourche
Situated on Route 85, our Super 8 Belle Fourche hotel is just minutes from popular attractions like the Center of the Nation Monument and Tri-State Museum.

Devils Tower National Monument

Devil's Tower near Gillette in eastern Wyoming

Devil's Tower in eastern Wyoming

Devils Tower National Monument
Travelers roaming through the northeastern Wyoming prairie will be treated to a strange and wonderful sight: a striking stone column rising seemingly out of nowhere.

Thermopolis, Wyo.

Thermopolis Hot Springs

Thermopolis Hot Springs

The World’s Largest Mineral Hot Spring is in Thermopolis
It's a small, picturesque town where the elevation is higher than the population. Come soak in the famous mineral hot springs.

Digging for fossils at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center

Digging for fossils 

Dig This at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center
At one of the best dinosaur museums in the world, locate the prehistoric dinosaurs beneath Thermopolis on a Dig for a Day adventure.

Yellowstone National Park

Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on the east side of the park

Enter East Entrance

48 Hours in Yellowstone
Only have 48 hours? Make the most of your time by visiting some of our favorite spots in the park.
Read more.

GyPSy Guide's Yellowstone Audio Tour App
Download the Yellowstone audio tour app that’s like having a tour guide in your car. GyPSy Guide automatically plays interesting and entertaining commentary as you go. 

Bison along Rose Creek in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone.

Bison along Rose Creek in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone

Watch Wildlife in Yellowstone's Lamar and Hayden Valleys
Yellowstone’s huge, wide valleys make excellent habitat for wildlife. For your best chance of spotting them, point your compass toward the Lamar and Hayden.
Read more.

Exit Northeast Entrance

Southeast Montana

Rest Stop:
Silver Gate Lodging Has the Closest Cabins to Yellowstone
A 1/2 mile from Yellowstone's northeast entrance, this quiet cabin resort is surrounded by snowcapped mountains and wildlife. silvergatelodging.com

Driving over Beartooth Pass, northeast of Yellowstone National Park

Driving over Beartooth Pass

Drive the Dramatic Beartooth Highway Northeast of Yellowstone
One of the most breathtaking routes to Yellowstone is the 68-mile stretch of the Beartooth Highway - named a National Scenic Byway’s “All-American Road.”

Swords Rimrock Park near Billings, Montana

Swords Rimrock Park

Top 7 Places to Find Food and Lore in Billings, Montana
Northeast of Yellowstone, find a brewery district, gluten-free pancakes and Old West charm in this city of 110,000.

Montana elk grazing in early summer

Montana elk grazing in early summer

Lewistown, The Heart of Montana
From big game hunting to fishing, camping, biking, hiking and skiing, take advantage of the outdoor recreation opportunities in the beautiful Judith Basin.

The Calvert Hotel in Lewistown, Montana

The Calvert Hotel

Have an Historic Stay at The Calvert Hotel
This historic building is beautifully remodeled to retain the classic design of the past while adding luxury amenities to provide the utmost in comfort.

The Montana Bar in Miles City, Montana

The Montana Bar in Miles City, Montana

Southeast Montana is Cowboy Country
In search of the West before mocha lattes invaded corner cafes? You'll find it in these authentic towns.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Badlands Formations in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Badlands Formations

This 3-unit park is known for amazing wildlife (bison and elk), 95 miles of hiking trails, horseback riding, water sports, and inspiring a president.

End: Chicago

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