The last two days were filled with driving, food stops, and stops to stretch our legs. Took some more scenery photos as we crossed back through Wyoming and Utah. Then it was Nevada (with an overnight stay) and back home to California and a very, very happy dog! (don’t worry, she wasn’t alone 😉 )
There is a cool rest area – when traveling East it’s on that side of the freeway just inside Wyoming. West bound, you cross under the freeway to get to it, and not only is it a rest area, but also a State Park. There’s a visitor’s center, and bison!
More of the drive
Although it was a great trip (just over 3k miles), it was nice to be back home again …. until next time!!
First stop was a place called Toadstool Geological Park. Warning, to get here, you drive many miles on a dirt road. I believe it was 11 miles of dirt to the park and around 12 to get out on the other side (our direction to continue) to the highway. Fortunately the road is in good shape so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. This is a unique place of rock formations – a vast change from all the green ag lands you may be used to seeing. There is an honor system in place here for the fees. You can camp here as well or use it for day use hiking. There is a box on a post with envelopes to fill out with your dates/fees then you drop it with the money into a post. The day use fee was $3 and I believe it was $15 per vehicle per night to camp. As you move out to the trail, there is another spot at the gate to fill out a slip as to where you plan to go. We opted for the short walk since we had a couple of other stops planned for the day.
Further down the road we stopped at Agate Fossil National Monument and as much as I hate to say it, we found it to be disappointing. There is no charge here. There is a building with some fossils, dino skeletons, and Native American display. As well, there are two trails, but as far as fossils go, there wasn’t much to it. And now we know.
Now it was on to Scotts Bluff National Monument which is on the Old Oregon Trail. There was no charge here either. There is a ranger station when you enter and they asked if we had been there before, gave us a map and suggested if we had time to drive to the summit for the views then come back down and stop at the Visitors Center. We did exactly that. From the summit you can see what’s left of the Chimney. The visitor’s center has a lot of info/pictures etc. of the old trail and info on how long it would have taken pilgrims to get from here to the West. There is a trail from the visitor’s center. I’m not sure how long it was, but it winds up the mountain (and passes through it) up to the summit from what I could see.
And lastly we made our way to Rawlins, WY for the night. Entered back into Wyoming, and saw more antelope on the way.
After a good night’s rest we stopped to top off the fuel and spotted this place right next door so we had to stop and take photos! It was closed of course, but based on the outside of the building/parking lot, it looks like a fun place to dine and we wished we had found it the night before!
We headed out for South Dakota and Mt. Rushmore. I love the red paved roads we came upon. It was nice to have something different in view after so many hours/days on the road.
As we drove through one of the last towns before the park, we stopped to grab a sandwich, and in this town, they had these bison statues on just about every street corner – decorated differently, but I snapped a pic of just this one.
Mount Rushmore is such an amazing thing to see. To know that most of these carvings were done using dynamite is such a wow factor and truly incredible to see. If you haven’t been, I hope you get a chance to go one day! There is a trail from the visitor’s center. Made up of boardwalks and many steps. As you walk around, it takes you to different locations with changing views of the monument. As you walk, you’ll come across plaques with information on a President. If you look up, you’ll see you are in good view of that President’s carving. And this occurs until all 4 have been seen. Continue to walk around and you’ll end up at the Sculpture Studio. The studio houses the smaller version of the memorial which was used by the sculptor to calculate all of the measurements for the full size version. Everything was calculated precisely and then transferred to the mountain. After the studio, you then begin your climb uphill (again, steps) and it will loop you back to the visitor’s center. Entrance is free, but parking was $10 per vehicle.
From here we headed out towards the little town of Keystone. It’s an interesting little place and could be fun to walk around. As you pull into town, there is a place with a lot of foot traffic – a place where there are a lot of wood carvings, some of them quite large. We opted not to stop there, but if we had more time, or if we had younger kids with us, we definitely would have made time to stop and check out the carvings! It looks like a cute little town.
It was starting to get late in the day and we were still headed to Wind Cave National Park. I had read that they often run out of cave tour tickets early so we knew that was a chance, but I was more concerned with what the wait time might be. When we arrived, we were greeted by the majestic bison (we stopped on our way out and took some pictures closer up). We stopped at the center and inquired about the cave tours. They did have a couple of tickets left, but it would have been about a 90 minute wait and so we opted not to wait. If we had it to do over again, we would have gone by earlier and at least gotten tickets, then gone elsewhere and come back. But it’s yet another lovely area to drive around, and the bison were cool to see!
Oh, and prairie dogs sitting popped out of their holes (everywhere!). There was one near the bison and my husband decided to get closer. The prairie dog was not happy about that, climbed the rest of the way out of the hole and started yelling at him lol
Because it was getting late and it had been a long day, we finished up with our pictures and headed to Hot Springs for the night. I realized I forgot to take pictures of the menu, but we had dinner at a restaurant called Woolly’s. Good food and drink and they have both a salad bar and a sides bar. The staff were very friendly. We would go back here again if in the area again!
Day 6 – (sorting pictures now) Hot Springs to Rawlins WY