Days 7/8 (Sat/Sun) Road trip: The road home

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!!

Day 5 Road trip: Casper – Mt. Rushmore – Keystone – Wind Cave – Hot Springs

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

Day 3 Road trip: Gardiner – Yellowstone – Grand Teton – Jackson

Day 3 (Tuesday)

We started the day early from our hotel in Gardiner. The view wasn’t too bad, especially when we saw a lady elk across the street! We drove back towards Yellowstone, which was a little slow going as we got behind some large construction trucks. But we weren’t in that big of a hurry, so we just enjoyed the scenery.

As with the afternoon before, we passed back by Mammoth Hot Springs and Lewis Falls. Since we did the geysers the day before, day 3 we were focusing on Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and driving through Hayden Valley on our way to Grand Teton.

As we drove the Grand Loop, we took many of the side roads for views of the Grand Canyon, and various views of the falls.

As we were driving along, I spotted a bison on the opposite side of the road, but based on his stance, my gut said STOP he’s going to cross ….. and he did! So I immediately checked for safety and pulled over and waited, while taking a ton of photos. What an opportunity to see this amazing creature so close up. I was driving, so it pleased me to have to stop so I could catch some shots myself. My husband was equally amazed how close he was!

We took another road to Artist Point, and had opportunity for additional views of the falls, including Upper Falls which puts you at the top of it. Each view of the falls were equally awe inspiring and beautiful!

From here, we continued on the loop through Hayden Valley towards Yellowstone Lake. I will note again, that people will randomly stop to take pictures and many will be part way in the road which obviously is a pain and not safe, so use caution! But more opportunities to see bison and elk. At one point, we saw some folks stopped and my husband looked carefully out the window and thought he saw a bear’s behind in the trees. Other than that, no bear sightings for us but that’s ok. We had another opportunity for traffic to stop as not one, but two bison crossed the road – ah the excitement!

Beautiful scenery everywhere as we continued to drive. We continued on to Colter Bay Village, where we stopped for lunch and some photos of the Tetons from the Marina.

We headed down the road towards Jenny Lake, but our first stop was the long drive up Signal Mountain with a stop near the top for the Jackson Lake Overlook. Phew it was windy up top!! The Jackson Lake Overlook is not far from the top and there is a small parking lot, with a sign to take a trail 200 yards. If you continue a little further on the dirt trail, you’ll get an even better view! Then we continued up to the top for the amazing views of the valley below. The web looking picture is a caterpillar cocoon. They were in several of the bushes, we had never seen anything like this before. No judgement on the picture of me – the wind was howling on top of Signal Mountain so there was no controlling the hair lol.

Back on the road, we made a quick stop at Jenny Lake. I had read many wonderful things about it. We didn’t have time to hike, and it was getting late in the day so we took the quickest route to the water and again snapped a couple of pictures. Then it was back on the road again.

Last stop in Teton for the day was the Teton Glacier Outlook which is just a pull out with some parking spots. It’s not labeled, but it’s just a few miles from Jenny Lake, on the right side (as you’re headed for Jackson).

We ended our day in Jackson where we had our hotel booked. Grabbed a bite to eat at a nearby Mexican food restaurant that was within walking distance to our hotel. Then we called it a night to get an early start back into Teton.

Day 4 coming soon – Jackson to Grand Teton to Casper