If you're still looking for late-summer or fall plans, here's a great American adventure to check out! An itinerary for exploring some of our northern national parks and natural wonders. Since leaving the country is out of the question for the time being, why not explore some of the most beautiful domestic destinations! Check out our suggested stops and route below.
You can easily start this trip from Denver or Salt Lake City, and you can also reverse the order of stops. This post is based on a Denver departure in counter-clockwise direction.
Stop 1: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
75 Miles From Denver
Your first stop is just a short drive from Denver. The third-most-visited national park, it's a climber's paradise, with more than 60 mountains over 12,000 feet tall.
Stop 2: Wind Cave National Park, SD
339 Miles From Rocky Mountain
This unassuming park is actually home to the world's sixth-longest cave system. It got its name from the way the cave "breathes." Above the cave are miles of prairie, home to, among other things, bison and prairie dogs.
Stop 3: Badlands National Park, SD
58 Miles From Wind Cave
If you've ever seen Dances with Wolves, you may recognize the unique buttes and rock formations of Badlands. The area has been the site of many fossil discoveries.
Stop 4: Mount Rushmore National Monument, SD
75 Miles From Badlands
You've seen it in pictures and parodies, and now you'll get to see it in real life. Once you've looked at it, the surrounding Black Hills are also quite scenic.
Stop 5: Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND
263 Miles From Mount Rushmore
Named for the U.S. president who loved North Dakota so much, this park is heaven for wildlife lovers. Look for bison, wild horses, bighorn sheep, and more as you walk along its 100 miles of hiking trails.
Stop 6: Glacier National Park, MT
567 Miles From Theodore Roosevelt
You'll definitely need at least a day to explore Glacier, but there's no way you'll see all 1 million acres of the park. Make sure to drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road—one of the most beautiful drives in America.
Stop 7: Yellowstone National Park, MT/WY
208 Miles From Glacier
It's estimated that Yellowstone, the country's first national park, is home to two-thirds of the world's geysers. Visit Old Faithful and Steamboat Geyser, and marvel at the rainbow-colored Grand Prismatic Spring.
Stop 8: Grand Teton National Park, WY
10 Miles From Yellowstone
Grand Teton National Park is next-door neighbors with Yellowstone, but its snowcapped peaks and stretches of flat prairie lend it a special character of its own.
Stop 9: Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park, CO
484 Miles From Grand Teton
This beautiful and dramatic canyon is often overlooked for bigger, grander canyons. Its steep walls and shadowed interior make it look like a location from a fantasy film.
- Day 1: Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park (1.5 hours); drive to Wind Cave National Park (5.75 hours)
- Day 2: Explore Wind Cave; drive to Badlands National Park (1.25 hours); drive to Mount Rushmore (1.5 hours)
- Day 3: Drive to Theodore Roosevelt National Park (4.5 hours); drive to Great Falls for overnight stop (6.5 hours)
- Day 4: Drive to Glacier National Park (2 hours)
- Day 5: Drive to Yellowstone National Park (4 hours); explore Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park
- Day 6: Drive to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (9 hours)
- Day 7: Explore Black Canyon; drive to Denver (5 hours)
Total Driving Time: 41 hours | Total Distance: 2,327 miles
*We’ve created this sample itinerary based on a weeklong trip; however, you can spend as long as you'd like exploring these fantastic national parks.
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