This was our first epic trip.
The kids were 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 15 on this trip.
During the winter leading up to this trip, we had watched the mini-series "Centenial" which we bought off the internet.
The kids still talk about "Centinial".
The excitement when you reach South Dakota and see your first buffalo is something you never forget.
We took this trip in September when the weather in the northwest is dry, yes even in Oregon and Washington. They have a rainy season there, but its not
in September. If you are camping, it is best to plan around the rainy season.
We definitely had some cold nights in Yellowstone when the temperature dropped into the low 20s. Good sleeping bags and extra blankets to throw
on top are a must. It was wonderful all the same.
If we had stayed in a lodge, we would not have heard the coyotes howling at night or the mating calls of the elk.
The Badlands is basically a drive through loop running parallel to I-90. There are some easy hikes where you can climb the formations and see some fossles. We were able to break camp in Mitchell South Dakota, go to mass, see the Corn Palace, the Sod House and the Badlands and get to our campground at Custer State Park all in one day.
Do not miss the Needles Highway! It is a very twisty road that travels over a rocky section of Custer State Park in the black hills. The needles are basically magma chimneys that hardened and were exposed by erosion. They are wild looking and beautiful and REALLY fun to climb on. Very grippy. We spent two nights at Silvan Campground in Custer State Park. We managed to drive French Creek, the Needles Highway and visit Mt. Rushmore all in one day.
French Creek is an area within Custer State park where you can see many buffalo, antelope and wild donkeys. It takes a couple of hour to drive the loop. We spent two nights at Silvan Campground in Custer State Park. We managed to drive French Creek, the Needles Highway and visit Mt. Rushmore all in one day.
This was about a 4 hour round trip hike appropriate for any able bodied person. It was really beautiful and I highly recommend it. We got up at dawn and broke camp and did the hike in the morning. We were able to get showered and on the road to North Dakota by 11AM.
Taken on the climb up Harney Peak.
Fire tower at the top of Harney Peak. You can walk around inside this building. Its really cool.
The back of Mount Rushmore as seen from Harney Peak.
Roosevelt National Park is pretty but there is nothing here you won't see at other places on this trip. There are wild animals and "badland" terrain. We really enjoyed the drive from Custer State Park to Roosevelt National Park. Its miles and miles of hay fields. It is so remote that dog-sitters advertise on the radio and the rest of the ads pertain to cattle equipment. There are places where you crest the rolling hills and you can see for 10 miles to the next crest. We got to the park just in time to pitch camp and take a scenic drive. We spent one night, primarily because we wanted to tag North Dakota so we would cover all 48 states. If this is not important to you, you could travel from Custer State Park more directly to Yellowstone and see the Devil's Tower and visit Cody Wyoming which we missed. We plan on seeing those if we repeat part of this trip someday.
The drive from Custer State Park to Roosevelt National Park is miles and miles of hay fields.
Yellowstone is broken up into several sections here for special features. We spent 4 nights at Yellowstone at the campground in the Southeast corner between Old Faithful and the lake. It would have been nice to have more days. We visited the Grand Tetons from our campground in Yellowstone as they are almost twin parks like Sequoia and Kings Canyon. We missed the Lamar Valley where most of the the wolves live and we missed coming in through Cody because we came in through the north. The main roads in Yellowstone are in the shape of a mangled figure 8. If a section is closed, it can take make for a long detour. Traffic moves slowly on the two lane roads, so plan on it taking longer to get where you are going. We were there in September, so the nighttime temperatures were dropping down in the 20s and the days were a little short on sunlight. Summer traffic must be most difficult. Fortunately homeschooling allowed us to take our vactions in the off season. This section includes some minor features of the park. Mammouth Hot Sprints, Old Faithfull, Mount Washburn and Artist Point each have their own section below.
A petrified tree. This is a short walk from the parking area on the north east section of the figure 8. Unlike the ones in the Petrified Forest, this one is actually standing. Somewhere in the park there is supposed to be a whole cops of these.
A coyote hunting field mice. My wife spotted this guy and we stopped. Soon there was a minor traffic jam. What a show!
The hike up Mt. Washburn to the fire tower at the top is about 2 miles each way and climbs from about 8700ft to over 10,243ft. This hike is appropriate for able bodied individuals and it is well worth the 2 or 3 hours. Its good to try to do something other than hop out of your car look at something with the crowd. Our first hike like this was Harney Peak in Custer State Park near Mount Rushmore and we discovered that the kids really liked this kind of thing. We have since climbed Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, Hurricaine Mt. in the Adirondacs, Cadillac Mountain in Acadia, Mt. Kineo in Maine and to the bottom of the Grand Canyon as well as other minor treks.
Yellowbellied Marmott looking for handout. They always tell you never to feed the wildlife and we never do, except for mosquitos and we try to avoid that as well.
A map of the Worlds Largest volcano. Yellowstone park is a super volcano which erupts every 600,000 years or so.
Do not miss Artist Point and the "Grand Canyon of Yellowstone". This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Somehow, when my family visited Yellowstone when I was a kid, we missed this. The canyon walls are yellow with sulfer and the appearance is stunning! You can spend an hour or two viewing the falls from Artist Point and taking Uncle Tom's trail down into the valley for a closer look. Uncle Toms trail is a steep walk with steps. The walk to Artist Point from the parking lot is a piece of cake. If you have more time, you can walk along the rim. We spent about 2 hours here on the way back to camp after visiting Old Faithful in the morning and climbing Mt. Wasburn in the afternoon.
View of the falls from Artist Point.
Looking downstreem from Uncle Tom's trail.
View of the falls from the bottom of Uncle Tom's trail.
Bigham Canyon mine is awsome to see. Its visible from space. You can watch the giant dump trucks hawling rock from the bottom of the mine. Way cool! There is a visitors center too with some good stuff. This only takes about 1 or 2 hours to see all you want to see.
We chose Antelope Island State Park to swim in Salt Lake. You really can float here due to the high salt content in the water which makes the water more dense than the water in your body. There were showers here which is a must. We were here in late September and both the water and air temperature were about 70 degrees fahrenheit. Linda didn't want to get in the cold water, but she was a good sport and did it anyway because it was part of the package. We spent the afternoon here after spending the morning at Bigham Canyon Mine.