About a year ago, I found out a friend of mine was taking off on a road trip that would last all summer long. She and her two kids were going to spend the entire summer driving all over the western United States. After hearing about her trip, I found myself on Roadtrippers.com about 2 weeks later planning out my dream trip. I picked out a few places that we wanted to go, and started planning it out. I got a lot of ideas and tons of tips and advice - excursions like ATV rentals and rafting trips, offbeat places, restaurants, and places to stay.
The trip we planned out is actually pretty similar to a trip my family did the summer after my 5th grade year. On that trip, we took 2 weeks and drove out to Colorado, up to Yellowstone, back down through Utah to the Grand Canyon, and back across the US to Atlanta. I remember driving through endless corn fields, feeding chipmunks in Rocky Mountain National Park, seeing Old Faithful in Yellowstone, and renting a motel room in Jackson MS that was already occupied - we opened the door and all I remember was arms and legs. That trip really is one of my favorite memories. No matter what happens, I know it will be an adventure and I'm ready!
We started in the Black Hills of SD. There was so much to see there... Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Iron Mountain Rd, The Needles, Sylvan Lake, Jewel Cave, Sturgis, Deadwood, and a short drive to Badlands National Park. We stayed in Custer State Park in a camping cabin in the Bluebell Campground. I loved this cabin! There was lots of wildlife and we even had to stop the car for a buffalo stampede. I would love to go back and stay a lot longer.
After leaving the Black Hills, we made our way across Wyoming through Cody and Yellowstone. They were both awesome as you can imagine, but the one place that really sticks out in my mind is the Grand Teton National Park. This place is absolutely beautiful. We crossed the lake on the shuttle boat, and hiked up to Inspiration point. The hike up was beside rushing waters and through the greenest forest. The air just feels so clean. We tried to get there as early as possible to beat the rush of people and have it more to ourselves. Once we reached Inspiration Point, the view was gorgeous. Lots of people just turn around at this point and hike back down, but we hiked a little farther back into Cascade Canyon where the crowds dropped off. Ever since I've been here, I just cannot forget this particular place. It's really that special.
We LOVED this hike! We made reservations through the NPS as soon as they were available to make sure we got tickets. Otherwise, the price for a private guide is a lot more expensive. We were there in July and the temperatures were in the 100's. We did this hike in the afternoon and it was actually much cooler once we got down in the canyon. I was actually glad we went in the afternoon. The colors were beautiful and there was something interesting around every corner. It was moderately strenuous and it took about 4 hours to complete. We did have to jump across some ledges and scramble up some rocks, but the ranger was there to help if needed. This was my son's favorite thing we did on our whole road trip and definitely a "must-do" for anyone!
We had so much fun here! We rented a sandboard and a sled and stayed out until it was completely dark. I wish I had brought goggles because the sand kept blowing into my eyes. The dunes are HUGE and you can't imagine the size until you are out there. Once the sun went down, it was a lot cooler out there and more enjoyable. We stayed in a camping cabin at the Great Sand Dunes Oasis, but I would probably just tent camp next time.
This is one of the most beautiful places and I'm completely in love with this park. We were there over July 4th and it was pretty crowded. We wanted to do the hike to Bear Lake, but the shuttles were full and the wait times were so long. Still, there were plenty of other trails to hike and things to see and now I have a reason to go back!
If you haven't seen these places and want to.... Go!!! Start planning right now... planning is half the fun. I started planning a year ago and got some good deals and the exact cabins and other accommodations we wanted by making reservations so early. Most places have cancellation policies where you don’t lose a thing if something comes up and you have to cancel. There is so much to see right here in this country within driving distance. Even a full day of driving through really monotonous scenery doesn't have to be boring... those were some of the days we laughed the most. There are so many little odd things and places, so much diversity, so many great and simple free things to do, and so many places that I didn't even know existed. I took at least a thousand pictures. I can't tell you how many times I looked at something just absolutely beautiful and then looked at the picture I just took... just to see that it didn't even come close to doing it justice. We have a ton of great memories to last a lifetime just from these three weeks. I had an INSANE amount of fun, saw so many incredibly beautiful places, saw a lot of crazy things, experienced a lot of new things, was glad I didn’t die a few times, did things that scared me, crossed off a lot of things on my bucket list, learned a lot, laughed – a LOT, and loved EVERY SINGLE MINUTE. I cannot wait to start planning another trip. Ready for more adventures already, so BRING IT Roadtrippers.com! See you guys on the road!!