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Roaming Monk Go West!

Ultimate 2 Week Itinerary for Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and South Dakota National Parks

Our big summer plan this year was a trip out west to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and several key sites in South Dakota and Montana.  This was an epic trip that was driven from the desire to have a unique family experience with our kids before they become completely disillusioned and uninterested teenagers. 

The number of things to do and see on this amazing journey was honestly almost too much to capture here, but I will provide our basic plan.  There are also several ways to approach seeing these parks, and no one way is the right way.  Use your location, interests, resources and time to consider what makes the most sense to you.

T.A. Moulton Barn in Moose Wyoming Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park

Our plan was fairly simple:

  • Fly into Jackson Hole WY 
  • Rent a SUV.  Drive to Grand Tetons, and then Yellowstone. 
  • Drive out the east entrance of the Yellowstone to Cody, WY. See a Rodeo!
  • Drive to Buffalo, WY (through Montana)
  • Finally, drive to Rapid City, SD.  Stay and tour this area before flying out to head home. 

This is the CliffsNotes version and was actually a much longer vacation than we had ever taken as a family before now.  We baked in a break day in the middle of the trip in Cody, but we were a little concerned that it was going to be a bit too much.  In the end it all worked out, with one small park stamp issue that was completely my fault.  Remember to always check the operating hours (and days of operation!).  Last day of our trip we missed a park unit because I did not check this thoroughly. Live and learn.

Here is the table of the Stamp units (and other sites) we visited on the trip (and the one we have to revisit. ugh)

#DayPark Unit NameLocation
11-4Grand Tetons National ParkJackson, WY
24John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial ParkwayMoran, WY
34-8Yellowstone National ParkYellowstone, WY/MT/ID
 8Shoshone National ForestCody, SD
8Buffalo Bill DamCody, SD
9Heart Mountain Relocation CenterPowell, Wyoming
410Bighorn National Recreation AreaLovell, Wyoming
10Bighorn National ForestWyoming/Montana
510Little Bighorn National MonumentCrow Agency, MT
611Devils Tower National MonumentDevils Tower, WY
11Sanford Underground Research FacilityLead, SD
711Mount Rushmore National MemorialKeystone, SD
812Wind Cave National ParkHot Springs, SD
912Jewel Cave National MonumentCuster, SD
 12Spearfish Canyon, Custer State ParkCuster, SD
1013Badlands National ParkInterior, SD
1113Minuteman Missile National MonumentCottonwood, SD  (missed)
Stamp unit list visited in order

The route is, of course, one-way which optimized our timing and helped on the distance traveled by not have to double back.  However, obtaining the car rental can be a little pricey.  You will sometimes have to spend a premium to drop off a car in another location vs. at the pickup location.   We got lucky and found a super rate a few weeks before our trip. 

Google map Itinerary for Grand Teton, Yellowstone and South Dakota

The sites were heavy on National Parks, although we had some pretty different things pop up over the two weeks with memorials, monuments, cave tours, a battlefield, a rodeo, horseback riding and allowing the kids to play at an indoor water park.  It is always a good idea to find the thing(s) that gets someone excited and make sure to include that as a focus area.  This helps share the experience and allows everyone to have something to look forward to on a long and diverse trip.  

Another consideration is packing.  We planned an AirBNB with a washer and dryer at the midpoint of our trip, so we could take a rest day and do some laundry!  We did this in Cody, WY and this allowed everyone to have some time to themselves, regroup and decompress.  We made a homemade meal and after some laundry felt rejuvenated to finished up the last week of our trip.

Amazing and tiring!  That kinda summed it up.  Loved all the exploration, but it was long. I think everyone wanted it to continue and to go home at the same time!  As I mentioned in previous route plans, I will write up each of the trip reports as I compile information and pictures, and link them in the table above as they are posted. The trip reports will provide more insight and details into each unit.

Roaming Monk Tip: For our family, the Guide along app for iOS working amazingly well while we were in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons.  Our kids nicknamed the narrator ‘Bob’ and wanted to hear what Bob had to say as we drove through the park.  We liked it so much; we bought the one for Devils tower/Custer State Park/Badlands!

Overall, we had a trip that we will remember as a family for a very long time.  Now we can take time to reflect, write up some trip reports, process some pictures and plan our next big trip!

Delicate Arch on clear day blue sky

Check out original photos in the Roaming Monk gallery!

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