Today I’ll be continuing on with part two of our Summer Road Trip 2019. I wrote all about the first four days of our trip in my Part 1 post. If you missed it, you can go ahead and click the link to get caught up:
This post will cover days 5-7 of our 11 day road trip. Here we go!
We got up and had breakfast in Keystone at The Front Porch. We loved the french toast here- it was seriously amazing! Then we took the short drive over to our first adventure of the day: Rushmore Tramway Adventures!!!
Rushmore Tramway Adventures has a scenic chairlift and an alpine slide that we were very excited to try out! We signed the waiver, and bought our tickets. $14 gets you a ride on the chairlift to the top of the mountain. Then you can either take the chairlift down, or ride down the mountain on the Alpine Slide.
We loved the chairlift ride! We had such a pretty view being up high. It was a nice peaceful ride.
Once we got to the top of the mountain, we spent some time walking around the garden and enjoying the view. There’s a little waterfall, and they even have a restaurant up there.
They also have a little Mount Rushmore board where you can put your face through the opening for a photo. Cooper had the staring-off-into-the-distance pose down perfectly 🙂
After we had explored the garden area, we decided it was time to go down the mountain! The Alpine Slide was SO FUN!! You can control the speed, so you can go slow if you want, or go a bit faster. It’s a long ride down the mountain and there are big dips and curves that make it extra exciting. We liked it so much that we did it twice! If we didn’t have a busy day ahead of us, we probably would have stayed here and rode the chairlift and slide a bunch of times! I highly recommend coming here if you are in the Mount Rushmore area. They also have a zip-line and an aerial obstacle course. Unfortunately Cooper didn’t make the weight requirement to do those things, but it all looked fun!
Seriously guys- this was such a fun morning! Sorry for the bad picture quality, but Cody was racing down the mountain beside us, and these are the clearest pics we could get.
We left Rushmore Tramway Adventures and drove to Custer State Park. The drive was gorgeous. When we got to the entrance of the state park we were given a map. We followed the directions on the map toward the area marked “Wildlife Loop”. I had read online that you have a good chance of seeing animals along this road, and boy were they right! As soon as we turned onto this road we rounded a corner and this was what we saw:
So many Bison!!!! They were everywhere. It was so neat! There were a bunch of babies too, and they were adorable. They were very close to the road so I was able to get really great pictures. When we were beginning to leave, this big guy started to walk onto the road and took his time crossing very slowly. He knew nobody was getting by until he decided! Check out how huge he was:
We drove the entire loop and saw a few Pronghorns, some Prairie Dogs, deer, and more Bison. We also pulled over to pet some wild donkeys. They were very friendly, and someone was feeding them carrots, so they were happy to pose for some photos.
We also let Cooper get a little behind the wheel training 😉 Please note that we were in a very remote area, on a road in a state park, going 5 miles an hour. I can assure you it was very safe.
He’s a good little driver! 🙂
We left Custer State Park and drove on for about 40 minutes until we got to Deadwood, South Dakota.
Deadwood is an old, gold-mining town that was established way back in 1876. There is a lot of history in this old town! It was home to Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. If you like old places and American history, you’d like it here. We walked around for a bit, taking in all the old buildings. The we walked to the upstairs patio of the historic Franklin Hotel. From here we had a great view of Main Street, and it was the perfect spot to watch the shootout they perform every evening.
The shootout was fun to watch! It was really family friendly, and they narrate the entire thing so you know the back story. It only lasted about 10 minutes, but we enjoyed it.
Inside the hotel we noticed a couple famous names on the doors to a few rooms as we walked by:
Babe Ruth and John Wayne are just a couple of the famous people who have been guests at this old hotel.
We had to check out the tourist stops on our way through. I snapped a couple pictures of these guys goofing around:
After we were done window shopping, we drove over to Mount Moriah Cemetery to see the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. It’s obviously a very old cemetery, and some of the dates on the tombstones date back to the late 1800’s which is so crazy. Wild Bill’s burial site is pretty easy to find. It was supposedly Calamity Jane’s dying wish to be buried next to Wild Bill, and so she is. People have left trinkets behind on her tombstone. Some books, and empty bottles of booze. It’s definitely an interesting, yet obviously morbid place to visit. We walked around a bit and then headed back to our hotel in Keystone.
On our drive home we hit some rain and the most non-stop lightning show that I’ve ever seen! It was awesome. I love a good thunderstorm!
The next day we got up, ate the free breakfast at our hotel, and checked out. We were on our way to Billings, Montana. It was about a 5 hour drive, which went by really quickly. We took a break along the way to check out the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. It was literally right off the highway, and I love American history, so we had to stop. We stretched our legs, took some pictures, and learned all about the Battle of Little Bighorn. If you need a refresher on your history lesson from high school: click HERE.
Finally we arrived in Billings. We stopped for a quick, early dinner before checking in to our hotel: The Big Horn Resort.
I booked this hotel specifically because it has an indoor water park attached to it, and let me tell you- it did NOT disappoint! The hotel itself is pretty typical. It’s comparable to your average Holiday Inn or whatnot. We got what seemed to be a newly renovated room and it was perfect for us. We basically dropped our luggage, changed into our swim suits and headed straight for the water park.
The water park is called The Reef. Apparently it’s the largest indoor water park in Montana. We thought it looked like a slightly smaller version of Great Wolf Lodge- only for a much cheaper price! It was only $5 for each of us to enter the water park since we were hotel guests. Oh, and did I mention that out hotel room for the night was only $139?? That’s a whole lot cheaper than Great Wolf Lodge!
We had a blast! The wave pool was awesome, the water slides were SO fun, and Cooper spent hours racing some kids on the little obstacle course thing. We had a great time! If you are in the area, check out this hotel and the water park. We really enjoyed it!
We woke up early, ate the free breakfast at our hotel, and hit the road towards Yellowstone National Park! We were going to be entering Yellowstone through the North-Eastern entrance, which meant we would be traveling on the Beartooth Highway.
Before planning this trip I had never heard of the Beartooth Highway, but I quickly learned that it is regarded as one of the most scenic drives in the country! We were excited to check it out.
To say that this drive is incredibly beautiful would be a huge understatement! It’s beyond incredible! If you want to plan an epic road trip- this is it. Go now. The road climbs high up into the mountains with breathtaking views from the top. There were snow covered plateaus, forests, glacial lakes, waterfalls, and valleys dotted with trickling streams. The air was so amazingly fresh and clean, it smelled like what all the pine-forest-scented candles try to smell like. Only way better!
When we got the highest elevation point that the road touches, we had to get out and walk on the snow:
This summit point is the highest elevation in Wyoming! It was windy, and a bit chilly…and it was the first week of August! So imagine the type of weather this highway gets. It does close for the winter, so I would definitely suggest researching a bit before planning any trips through here. It’s an incredible drive- I wish my pictures did the views justice!
When we made it to Cooke City, we stopped at a deli to grab some sandwiches. We knew we were nearing the entrance to Yellowstone and we wanted to grab food for a little picnic. Cooke City was a cute little spot with a few restaurants and shops.
We were so excited when we finally saw the entrance to Yellowstone!!
We had just driven through the gate, and within the first five minutes of being in the park we saw our first Bison:
He was just hanging out in a field right near the road. It was almost like he was there to greet us :o)
We drove a bit until we found a spot with some picnic tables near a little stream. We got out of the car and ate our sandwiches and watched the fat little squirrels run around.
Then we got on the road and continued our drive through the park. We drove through Lamar Valley and saw so many Bison! They weren’t close to the road, but there were a ton. Then we drove on to Mammoth Hot Springs. This is where you find the Travertine Terrace-one of the many hot-spring basins within Yellowstone. This one is really neat looking because of the limestone. I thought it looked like melted candle wax dripping down:
Mammoth Springs has a few shops and spots to eat. We found a place that had ice cream, grabbed a few scoops, ate it outside at a picnic table, and got back on the road. We continued our drive through the park. We stopped when we saw this steam coming out of the hillside along the road:
The smell of rotten eggs was so strong here! It was cool to see the steam billowing out of the earth, and to hear the sort of hissing sound the steam made as it came out.
We made it to out hotel in West Yellowstone around 7pm. We stayed at the Best Western Desert Inn(for FREE- thank you hotel points!). It was centrally located to everything in town and our room was perfect for us. I would stay here again for sure.
West Yellowstone is a very busy little town. It’s right outside of the western entrance to Yellowstone. There are a bunch of hotels, tourist shops, and restaurants here. It’s definitely convenient in regards to location, but it doesn’t have a National Park feel to it. If you’re looking for that you’ll have to find lodging in the park- which means booking your trip far in advance and paying a lot more for it. Having said that, since we were only staying one night, and really just using the room to sleep and shower, I thought it was great staying here.
We dropped our stuff off in our room and walked to the Red Lotus for dinner. It was a very busy Chinese restaurant, but service was prompt and the food was good. After dinner we went back to our hotel, swam in the indoor pool, and went to bed SO tired! We had a very fun, very busy day.
That’s going to be all for now- I’ll continue on with our trip re-cap in my next post.
Thank you for reading!