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 National Memorial 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 and Jewel caves.
Head to the Crazy Horse Memorial, the world’s largest monument carving currently in progress. In Sturgis, check out the town’s many festivals and events. Belle Fourche offers a nice rest stop. In Wyoming, Sundance offers easy access to Devils Tower National Monument while farther west, Thermopolis has hot springs and bison. In Cody, you’ll discover Buffalo Bill Center of the West and right before you get to Yellowstone, you’ll find an uncrowded lodging experience. After exploring Yellowstone, head to Billings, Lewistown, Miles City and other Montana towns on your way back to 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.
South Dakota Plains
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.”
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.
Alternative Rapid Route: Fly Into 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.
Wind Cave National Park
Mt. Rushmore National Memorial
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
See the world’s largest monument carving in progress, the Crazy Horse Memorial.
Black Hills Adventures
Top 6 in South Dakota’s Hot Springs
Hot Springs is home to the world-famous Mammoth Site, far-reaching caves and a watery oases.
Find More Than the World’s Largest Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis
Learn the history of the town’s famous motorcycle rally but also explore its outdoor recreation and year-round events.
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.
ATV in the Black Hills National Forest
Ditch the map and follow Black Hills Outdoor Fun on a 4-hour ATV or UTV tour through the national forest. blackhillsoutdoorfun.com
Black Hills Rest stops:
The Lodge at Deadwood
Experience the past in the luxury of today. The Lodge at Deadwood Gaming Resort is one of the newest, most beautiful Deadwood hotels.
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
The Magic of Devils Tower
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.
The Other Black Hills in Sundance
In the heart of the Black Hills but away from the commercialization and traffic, Sundance, Wyo., offers a deep dive into the Old West and is the closest town to Devils Tower.
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.
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.
Find the Wild West in Cody
Locals like to brag Cody and the surrounding area is where your great American adventure begins. Here is our list of the top 10 things to do in this town founded by Buffalo Bill Cody.
Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Smithsonian-Affiliated 5-Museum Complex
Watch your dinner get prepared at a chuckwagon at the Cowboy Chuckwagon Experience at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody. It’s one of many experiences you can have at this Smithsonian-affiliated complex that’s home to world-class art, remarkable Indian artifacts and cultural exhibits.
- Buffalo Bill Dam & Visitor Center
- Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue
- Cody Firearms Experience
- Cody Stampede Rodeo
- Sleeping Giant Zipline
Stay in and near Cody for affordable lodging near Yellowstone’s East Entrance:
Buffalo Bill [Cabin] Village at Buffalo Bill Village Resort in Cody
These 83 historic cabins maintain the exterior historic cowboy hand hewn log; the interior is a complete, full service non-smoking hotel room.
Comfort Inn at Buffalo Bill Village Resort in Cody
The Comfort Inn is located 52 miles from the East Entrance of Yellowstone/Grand Teton National Parks and eight blocks from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Complimentary deluxe continental breakfast.
Holiday Inn Buffalo Bill Village Resort in Cody
Cody’s only full-service hotel is conveniently located downtown, 52 miles from Yellowstone’s east entrance and eight blocks from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
Pahaska Tepee Resort
Originally Buffalo Bill’s hunting lodge, the Pahaska Tepee Resort is the closest lodging to the park’s East Entrance at only 2 miles.
Lodges of East Yellowstone
The Lodges of East Yellowstone offer some of the most beautiful views with the closest access to east Yellowstone. Choose between a variety of lodges, guest ranches, hotels and RV sites.
Elephant Head Lodge
Less than 12 miles from the park, this small resort sits along a national forest. Stay in a log cabin listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Yellowstone National 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.
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.
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.
Exit Northeast Entrance
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.