Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Jackson Hole and Tetons, Oh my!
I have had a lot of emails, text and private messages about our recent vacation so I thought I would just write a post about it with all the details! This post is NOT SPONSORED, and the opinion is all my own! I did a lot of research prior on where to visit, places to stay, and things to do. I researched restaurants after we got there! I do include affiliate links to Amazon of things I purchased to take on the trip. This is of no cost to YOU, I get a little commission on the back-end for sharing my favorite items!
For those that don't know me, my name is Amanda and we are a family of 6 with not one, but TWO sets of twins, ages 8 and 10 years old when this trip happened [June/July 2020.] We made this a 10 day road trip staying at Lodges/Inns along the route from Texas. No camping for me!
Image of our family while horseback riding in the Tetons...more details below about this ride!
This was a last minute trip we planned with about a 2 week notice, as our original summer vacation was to go to London, then when international travel was out, then Disney, then when they closed we decided on a Family Road Trip! I read lots of other Mom blogs on traveling to all our stops and that is where I found all our places we stayed! Then used the national park pages and All Trails App (my husband downloaded it!) for recommended trails for distance and difficulty level that was just right for my family!
We took 2 days to travel to and from our main destinations, going we stayed at my sister-in-laws and coming home we just picked a good halfway point (Pueblo, CO.)
FIRST STOP: Mount Rushmore, Keystone, SD
Did you know there is so much more to the area than just the President's heads carved into a mountain??? I had no idea till I started researching the area! We had 1.5 days to squeeze in all this! We stayed at K Bar S Lodge (www.kbarslodge.com/en-us), and I loved that it was tucked away in the Black Hills, but still centrally located.
Crazy Horse was a must for me and I highly recommend the bus ride, it is only $4 per person and 25 minutes, but it took you to the bottom of the mountain and our driver was a character with lots of great history! We also returned that evening to watch the Laser Light show, my kids thought it was pretty cool!
Needles Highway - While waiting for the laser light show at Crazy Horse we decided to drive the Needles Highway. It is known for the needle like rock formations, sharp turns, narrow tunnels and amazing views. Not suitable for RVs/Campers (just my opinion.) We drive a suburban and I was concerned on some of the tunnels (9 ft width clearance)
Mount Rushmore was just what I expected and MORE! Definitely go to the Sculptor's Studio for the history behind the mountain...did you know it technically isn't finished..."frozen in history" I believe was their exact words!
Mountain Iron Road - this road is another one I do not recommend RVs and campers on, but had some AMAZING views of Mount Rushmore especially looking through some of the tunnels.
Custer State Park - This was recommend from a dear friend of mine and I wished we had more time at this little gem. We did the Sunday Gulch Trail. www.alltrails.com/trail/us/south-dakota/sunday-gulch-trail This is a moderate to difficult hike, make sure your kids are above average hikers. It was almost 4 miles, with steep terrain, but worth it for the waterfalls and views! We parked at Sylvan Lake, and walked around the lake to the trail head, then we hiked clockwise around the loop ending with walking up hill on the heavy rock terrain. Lots of kids (adults too!) jumping off the BIG boulders into the Sylvan Lake, pack a swimsuit and towels!
SMALL DETOUR: Devils Tower in WY
Did you know it is America's first National Monument in 1906??? This was on my husband's must see list, but check their website for park status.
During the time we were visiting (end of June 2020) the Visitor Center and campground was closed. In order to hike up to the lower base of the tower it would have been a 5 mile round trip, and unfortunately we did not have the time for that, as we had an 8 hour drive to Yellowstone, our next stop!
SECOND STOP: Yellowstone National Park
This stop was what our entire trip was created around. We stayed on the west side of Yellowstone at Kelly Inn (www.yellowstonekellyinn.com) and it was perfect for our family...TWO King size beds! Be prepared for all weather, I triple checked the weather for our entire trip and it was suppose to be lows 60s during the day, our first full day in Yellowstone it was a high of 42 and rain....bring warm clothes and rain jackets! Thank goodness I had these Rain Ponchos from their summer camps...purchased from Amazon: https://amzn.to/38EsyZ1
Day 1: Old Faithful
Grand Prismatic Spring (great boardwalk path to walk around!)
Old Faithful (went off right on time!) Allow plenty of time for getting in and out of the parking lot.
We walked around the Upper Geyer Basin (Castle was one of our favs!)
Yellowstone's Natural Bridge - this was great path to get out and stretch your legs on...nice wide path and only a short hike up rocks to the waterfall and closer view of the natural bridge. There are bears in the area, so don't forget your BEAR SPRAY. We bought ours in a local gas station, but paid $$$$$. Similar one on Amazon: https://amzn.to/38E2InH
Mud Volcano Trail - Nice path to finish the day, our favs where at the end: Mud Pot and Dragon's Mouth Spring.
Day 2: Grand Canyon of Yellowstone ( A MUST!)
North Rim Drive & Trails - Lots to do here! Lookout Point has an unbelievable view of the Falls, but it is a steep hike up and down. Grand View is a short and easy hike for some great views of the Grand Canyon, and Inspiration Point is a great way to burn the kids energy.
South Rim Drive & Artist Point - Artist Point is an easier walk (paved path) to see the Falls if the above Lookout Point hike is not your jam. On the drive out of the South Rim we got our first view of a black bear!🐻
We grabbed lunch at Canyon Village General Store. Due to COVID-19 all food services in Yellowstone National Park were take-out only, but they had picnic tables around you could sit at and eat.
Hayden Valley is a must to drive through and see herds and herds of Buffalo. Have your camera ready and be prepared to pull over (in designated spots, although you will see people stopped right on the road...don't be that person!)
After lunch we headed up to Mammoth Hot Springs, unfortunately due to heavy rain and light hail we did not get to hike the Lower Terrace of the Springs. Be prepared for all weather, we drove back down south and west side of Yellowstone just to sign see and it was sunny and gorgeous.
Day 3: Mammoth Hot Springs
Last day in Yellowstone and we headed back to Mammoth Hot Springs to do the hike that was rained out the day before. I was a bit shocked that many of the springs was dry, but still definitely worth the hike to see the every changing hot springs. This is also a great view in the evenings to drive by!
Always keep your eyes open for wild life...we had a small black bear🐻 run one in front of our SUV on the way to Mammoth Hot Springs. Last pic above!
One last visit to Old Faithful before we head south to the Tetons.
READ ABOUT MASK: Day 1 at Old Faithful it was not mandatory, Day 3 it was! Some places handed out disposable mask if you needed (some did not!), but I would just get in a habit of carrying (or wearing😷) your own with you everywhere. Almost all general stores, food services, and gift shops required you to wear them to enter, they also had lines and only allowed a certain number of guest in at a time, so be prepared to stand in line sometimes.
THIRD STOP: Tetons National Park and Jackson Hole
WOW! Be prepared for AMAZING views of the mountains on your drive, I was in awwwe the entire drive through the Tetons. We stayed in Jackson Hole for our last 3 days of vacation before heading home, and just made daily drives into Tetons. We stayed at the Modern Mountain Motel (https://mountainmodernmotel.com.) Don't let motel in the name scare you off, it was cute little place and I would definitely stay there again! We at breakfast at Bubba's Bar-B-Que and Cafe Genevieve, they were both delicious and I recommend! Don't forget each National Park has a Junior Ranger program and the kids can earn badges! My kids got one from Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone (we have to mail in), and Tetons. And this goes for any National Park in the USA too!
Day 1: Horseback Riding & Hidden Falls
Remember my pic from the top...this was first on our agenda in the TETONS! We went with Tetons Horseback Adventurers (www.horsebackadv.com/about-us/). They have 100 horses and you do not need to make a reservation unless you are a large group. We were lucky to only have our family in our group, but my kids all have horseback riding experience for the last 4 summers! The horses were super gentle, well behaved, and knew exactly what to do. Our guide was very knowledgeable of the area.
Hidden Falls at the Jenny Lake Trailhead - This hike can be as long (over 6 miles) or short (1.3 miles) as you want it. We hiked around Jenny Lake (approx 2.5 miles) and then up to Hidden Falls (so worth it, we just love waterfalls though) and chose to take the shuttle boat back. Be prepared to spend a small fortune on it, family of 6, one way costed $50!
We were very lucky our vacation time in the Teton's overlapped with my husband's older brothers & family. A home cooked dinner at their campground was just what we needed after eating out the last 7 days.***Last pic below is my oldest two working on their Junior Ranger badges!
Day 2: Snow King Mountain & Phelps Lake
This morning was all about the kids - Snow King Mountain was just what they wanted to do. They recommend Alpine Slide (this includes a chairlift ride) and Cowboy Coaster. Definitely check height requirements for younger kids on all rides. https://snowkingmountain.com/things-to-do-in-jackson-hole-wyoming/
We had lunch at Dornan's Chuckwagon at Moose Junction in Teton's. Gorgeous views at lunch, doesn't get much better!
Phelps Lake Trail head was the perfect hike for this afternoon. We started hiking at the Rockefeller Preserve Center, then continue to Phelps Lake, one of my favorite views. The lake is small enough to see from right to left and see the mountain behind it. We then finished our loop following the Woodlands Trail back. It was almost 4 miles, but an easy hike, but it is rocky in some parts.
Consisted of Souvenir shopping in Jackson Hole. My T-shirt shop of choice was Shirt Off My Back. Had breakfast at Bubba's Bar-B-Que again, then hit the road south to Texas!
Things from Amazon to make your trip easier:
Kids Rain Ponchos - https://amzn.to/38EsyZ1
Bear Spray - https://amzn.to/38E2InH
Kids Hiking Shoes - https://amzn.to/31ZOtZ5
Hiking Backpack - https://amzn.to/320kyAb
I hope you all enjoyed reading my blog, and comment below with any questions!
Mrs B Cookie School