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6 Best Road Trips

Texas to Wyoming Yellowstone Cowboy Road Trip

Get roped into fun as you explore the best cowboy culture on this 2,796-mile, round-trip route through New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming.

From the high plains of New Mexico to horses galloping on Wyoming’s dude ranches, this Lone-Star Cowboy Route takes you to the heart of cowboy country.

From El Paso, Texas, head to New Mexico to explore the mesmerizing landscape of White Sands National Monument and the underbelly of the Earth at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Farther north, spend time in gorgeous Santa Fe County with vibrant art scenes and incredible Southwestern food.

Cross into Colorado and stop at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve before heading north to Denver for art and culture.

From Denver drive north to Cheyenne, Chugwater, Ten Sleep, Greybull and Lovell, a string of authentic western towns that’ll lasso you into outdoor and cultural activities. In Powell, you’ll find Heart Mountain Interpretive Center where thousands of Japanese and Japanese Americans were held during World War II.

Before you reach Yellowstone, stop in Cody, named after the legendary Buffalo Bill Cody. It is the closest town to the park’s East Entrance and home to a world-class museum and fun, authentic cowboy entertainment.

Download Trip PDF [13MB]

Map

Start: El Paso, Texas

White Sands National Park

Park visitors watching the moon rise in White Sands National Park
Park visitors watching the moon rise in White Sands National Park Photo: National Park Service

There are few things as striking as the glistening white sands in southern New Mexico, so stop here to experience this vast field of dunes yourself. 

White Sands National Park is the world’s largest gypsum dune field, which spans 275 square miles. It’s also one of our newest national parks, having transitioned from monument to park in 2019. Start your adventure at the park’s historic visitor center. Housed in the 1930s-era Pueblo Revival building are interactive exhibits, information on daily activities and a great film A Land in Motion to orient you. You’ll find the White Sands Trading Co. in there as well, which sells snacks, sandwiches and drinks.

From the visitor center, take Dunes Drive, an 8-mile one-way ride sprinkled with roadside exhibits, picnic areas, restrooms and trails. The first four miles are paved and the last four are hard-packed. Learn more on our sister website: www.mygrandcanyonpark.com/tag/white-sands-national-park/

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Rock of Ages platform on the Big Room Trail in Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Rock of Ages platform on the Big Room TrailNPS/Public Domain

In 1898, when 16-year-old cowhand Jim White first entered what would become Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the Texas-born teen discovered another world.

Once part of a reef in an inland sea, Carlsbad Caverns has more than 119 limestone caves.

While its disputed whether White was the first Anglo to enter the caves, one thing is clear: this national park is stunning. Explore the Big Room, North America’s largest single-cave chamber that’s as large as six football fields.

To explore other caves, make reservations at least 48 hours in advance for a guided tour that range from easy to very difficult. Each cave has a different minimum age requirement, based on difficulty. To learn more, visit our sister website: www.mygrandcanyonpark.com/tag/carlsbad-caverns-national-park/

True New Mexico in Santa Fe County

Pecos National Historic Park in New Mexico
Pecos National Historic ParkCourtesy Santa Fe County

Looking for adventure that feeds the soul? Check out our top six things to do in Santa Fe County including an adobe built in 1816, a scenic byway, trails through mining history, a national monument and a Japanese spa. Read more on our sister website: www.mycoloradoparks.com/road-trips/road-trip-stops/new-mexico-places/santa-fe-county-nm/

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Medano Creek in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Medano Creek in Great Sand Dunes National ParkSurjanto Suradji

Bring your sled and your beach umbrella to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve 37 miles from Alamosa, Colo, and explore the tallest sand dunes in North America.

Hike the striking High Dune on First Ridge, a 2-hour, 2.5-mile round trip walk up 699 feet of sand to the top. Then sled down with a sand sled rented at Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa for extreme speed. Or beach it along Medano Creek, which flows April through June. Having water is critical to cooling down, so track the current and forecast flow at nps.gov/grsa.

With so much fun to be had, don’t leave your common sense behind. The sand’s surface can reach 150 degrees mid-day in summer, which may be hard to imagine when it’s cooler in the morning. Wear closed-toe shoes and avoid lightning strikes by getting out early in the morning. Blowing sand can be an extremely painful hazard if the wind picks up, so dress in layers. Lastly, the park’s elevation ranges from 7,515 to 13,604. Drink a lot of water.

From Alamosa, take either Hwy. 160 east and Hwy. 150 north, or Hwy. 17 north and County Lane 6 east from Mosca. Great Sand Dunes National Park officials urge visitors to rely on Colorado printed maps rather than digital mapping programs since the online maps have incorrectly led people to hiking paths or remote trailheads. Read more on our sister website: www.mycoloradoparks.com/national-parks/gsdnpp/

Explore the Frontier in Cheyenne

Feeding bison from the train at the Terry Bison Ranch in Cheyenne
Feeding bison from the train at the Terry Bison Ranch in Cheyenne Photo: by Mark Harris courtesy Visit Cheyenne

Enjoy authentic cowboy culture, craft beers and the uncrowded outdoors in Cheyenne, Wyo.

“It’s really the best of both worlds,” says Jim Walter of the Visit Cheyenne Convention & Visitors Bureau. “You’ve got some great historical resources here, whether it’s trains or the West or carriages or the history of rodeo. But then you’ve got the best of what the West is today — craft breweries, rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking.”

Wrangling at Cheyenne's Frontier Days Rodeo
Wrangling at Cheyenne’s Frontier Days RodeoCourtesy Visit Cheyenne

Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo
Many of Wyoming’s rodeos are known throughout the world, including Cheyenne Frontier Days, the “Daddy of ‘Em All” held the last week in July. But it’s so much more than a rodeo.

Order brisket, beans, potatoes and cobbler at the Chuckwagon Experience. Stop by Indian Village where Native Americans have been performing since 1898, returning each year to entertain and educate visitors about American Indian heritage and culture with dances, handicrafts and storytelling. Rounding out the festivities is a carnival with rides, an air show, top-name music entertainment and several parades that include antique carriages and automobiles.

 This year’s dates are July 23-Aug. 1, 2021. Get up-to-date information at CFDRodeo.com.

Off the Radar along the Oregon Trail

Chimney Rock in Platte County, Wyoming
Chimney Rock in Platte County, WyomingCourtesy Platte County Chamber

Time to jump in the water and discover American history in these small Wyoming Pony Express towns from Chugwater to Glendo. Here are four sights that can’t be found in any other place including the national park site Fort Laramie, an original Pony Express stop.

Casper’s Top Seven

Stagecoach ride with Historic Trails West in Casper, Wyoming
Stagecoach ride with Historic Trails West in Casper, Wyoming Photo: Courtesy Visit Casper

World-class fly-fishing is not the only game in town. From a rowdy ride on a pioneer wagon to a hike up Casper Mountain, you’ll be doing your own trailblazing in Casper, Wyo. Check out Casper’s Top Seven.

Paradise Awaits on the Ranch in Buffalo

Guided horseback trail rides at Paradise Guest Ranch in Buffalo, Wyo.
Guided horseback trail rides at Paradise Guest Ranch in Buffalo, Wyo. Photo: Grant Ordelheide

Paradise Ranch is the perfect place to disconnect from the grid. With so much to do on the isolated 160 acres, it’s easy to forget during your weeklong stay that the outside world even exists.

Bozeman Trail Steak House
Try a bison steak or the New York Strip at this local restaurant near the historic Bozeman Trail in Buffalo, Wyo.

East Side Stories of Greybull and Ten Sleep

Cloud Peak Wilderness in the Bighorn Mountains in Washakie County
Cloud Peak Wilderness in the Bighorn MountainsPhoto by Emily T courtesy of Washakie County Visitors Council

The Hills are Alive with Music in Bighorn Mountain Country
Stop in the small towns like Worland, Wyo., and Ten Sleep, Wyo., on U.S. Hwy. 16, known as the Sweet 16. It’s touted as the best and safest way over the Bighorn Mountains. Don’t miss two music festivals this summer.

Museum of Flight & Aerial Firefighting in Greybull Wyoming.
Museum of Flight & Aerial Firefighting in Greybull Wyoming. Photo: Photo courtesy of Greybull, Wyo.

From Ancient to Recent History in Greybull
Back in the day, bootleggers stashed liquor in tunnels they built underneath the heart of Greybull’s downtown, or so the legend goes. Today you can see what’s become of the speakeasy and catch a glimpse of other eras of history when you walk among World War II bombers and see dinosaur tracks. See our list of top things to do.

Heart Break on Heart Mountain

Girl and guard tower at Heart Mountain Relocation Center
Girl and guard towerHeart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Okumoto Collection

When President Franklin Roosevelt ordered all people with Japanese ancestry to be removed from the West Coast during World War II, more than 14,000 Japanese Americans ended up behind barbed wire at Heart Mountain Relocation Center.

Learn About Your Food at Powell

Powell farm irrigation
Powell farm – take a tourCourtesy Powell Chamber

In Powell, the miraculous happens. Despite the fact this town of 6,500 only get 6 inches of precipitation per year, it harvests sheer tons of sugar beets, barley and beans from its fertile soils. How does it do it? Join one of Powell’s 3.5-hour agriculture tours to find out where it gets its water, how it grows its crops and raises its livestock, or go on a self-guided tour.

Find the Wild West in Cody’s Yellowstone Country

Old Trail Town in Cody, Wyoming
Old Trail Town in Cody, Wyoming Photo: Depositphotos

Locals like to brag Cody and the surrounding area is where your great American adventure begins. Located near one of Yellowstone’s least-crowded entranced, Cody and the area around it offer great attractions. Here is our list of the top 10 things to do in this town founded by Buffalo Bill Cody.

Audio-visual exhibits in the Plains Indian Museum of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Audio-visual exhibits in the Plains Indian Museum of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Photo: Courtesy Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Don’t miss:

Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Smithsonian-Affiliated 5-Museum Complex
He rode for the Pony Express, entertained Queen Victoria, called Mark Twain a friend. Learn about the legend and the world and culture Buffalo Bill loved. 

Also:

Rest Stops:

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.
Read more.

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.
Read more.

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.
Read more.

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.
Read more.

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.
Read more.

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.
Read more.

End: Yellowstone National Park

Enter the national park’s east entrance.

West Thumb Geyser Basin, Yellowstone Lake
West Thumb Geyser Basin on Yellowstone Lake near the east entranceFlicka via Wikimedia Commons

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

Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the YellowstoneDeposit Photos

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