In the Middle of the West
This tour takes us to seven states, some of which are geographically part of the Southwest, the Northwest and the Midwest. So it’s only logical that we call this route a journey to the Middle of the West. We won’t see any really big cities this time, instead, there are great parks, lots of national monuments and many animals and plants that we will see here for the first time.
As we did a few years ago, we start in Denver, from where we head to Cheyenne, the capital of Wyoming. The charming city of the “Big Boots” is quite nice and invites us to stay for a day. The Scotts Bluff National Monument is already located in Nebraska and was once an important landmark on the way west.
Another landmark is Chimney Rock, practically in the middle of nowhere. The next attraction, Carhenge is an insider tip; cars arranged in a circle like the rocks at Stonehenge. Our final destination in this area is Hot Springs in South Dakota, calling itself the southern gateway to the Black Hills.
Since we prefer to be in the fresh air, we skip Windcave National Park with its 200 km long cave system. Instead, we go to Custer State Park with the world’s largest herd of bison, prairie dogs and many other wild animals. After that, we visit the first really big highlight on this trip, Mount Rushmore. Each of the four presidential heads – Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln – represents a different way of thinking of the American people.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is less exciting; only the head of the huge stone image of the famous Oglala Indian is finished – the rest is supposed to take another 100 years. Things get spectacular once again on the Needles Highway with its pointed granite towers and the rock tunnel, which is only one car wide.
From Rapid City, we take a trip to Badlands National Park. On Badlands Loop, a scenic byway of approximately 30 kilometers, we experience the weird landscape up close. A must-see is the Wall Drug Store on Highway 90, a large souvenir store with a café that has been attracting visitors with a cup of coffee for 5 cents since 1931. In Rapid City, the Berlin Wall Memorial and the Norwegian Stave Church are worth a detour. Spearfish Canyon with the Roughlock Falls can be reached on a short hike, then the next highlight is coming up. Devils Tower is a giant monolithic block and volcano that you can walk around on a trail.
Via Sheridan we reach – now in Montana – the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, where the American army led by General Custer suffered a devastating defeat against the Indians of the region in 1876. In Billings, large city and supply base, be sure to check out the huge snow-white Montana Temple. Crossing Beartooth Pass we head south to our next destination, Yellowstone National Park, without doubt the highlight of this journey. We will stay in central Canyon Village for a total of four nights.
After this great park, its little brother right next door obviously seems a little smaller; we explore Grand Teton National Park with its rugged mountain peaks from Jackson Hole. Then it’s time for the state of Idaho, more specifically Idaho Falls. It is interesting to note that the waterfalls are located in the middle of the city. You should also visit the 8th temple of the Mormons which is gleaming white and impressively tall. After that, it’s back to nature, to the Craters of the Moon National Monument. That is how one imagines the landscape on the moon – lots of lava and pitch-black rocks. Surprisingly, however, there are some little flowers which obviously made it.
After we have visited a few more waterfalls in Twin Falls, we move on to the wasteland of Utah – just prairie, brown hills, rocks. The Rocket Garden of the ATK defense group is a welcome change, even if it’s not exactly our favorite industry. Anyway, it’s absolutely worth taking this route due to the Golden Spike National Historic Site.
In the middle of the desert, two brightly colored locomotives mark the spot where the transcontinental railway of the USA was closed in 1869. Via Ogden we finally reach Salt Lake City, headquarters of the Mormons and largest city between Denver and Las Vegas. The pretty city deserves a full day for sightseeing.
On the way east we pass the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area (you can almost touch deer and mountain sheep) and after a while the Green River Dam. In Vernal at the Dinosaur National Monument you can see lots of bones of the extinct reptiles – if you like it! The wasteland of Utah eventually turns into the wasteland of Colorado; at the edge of the Rocky Mountains we spend another night in Steamboat Springs. Via Winter Park we finally are back in Denver, where the round trip ends.
|01||Denver Airport (DEN)||Cheyenne||105 m / 170 km|
|02||Cheyenne||Cheyenne||000 m / 000 km|
|03||Cheyenne||Hot Springs||360 m / 580 km|
|04||Hot Springs||Rapid City||120 m / 195 km|
|05||Rapid City||Badlands NP||170 m / 275 km|
|06||Rapid City||Sheridan||330 m / 530 km|
|07||Sheridan||Billings||140 m / 225 km|
|08||Billings||Yellowstone NP||250 m / 400 km|
|09||Yellowstone NP||Yellowstone NP||080 m / 130 km|
|10||Yellowstone NP||Yellowstone NP||050 m / 080 km|
|11||Yellowstone NP||Yellowstone NP||080 m / 130 km|
|12||Yellowstone NP||Jackson||130 m / 210 km|
|13||Jackson||Jackson||050 m / 080 km|
|14||Jackson||Idaho Falls||100 m / 160 km|
|15||Idaho Falls||Twin Falls||190 m / 305 km|
|16||Twin Falls||Salt Lake City||245 m / 395 km|
|17||Salt Lake City||Saltair||030 m / 050 km|
|18||Salt Lake City||Vernal||230 m / 370 km|
|19||Vernal||Steamboat Springs||165 m / 265 km|
|20||Steamboat Springs||Denver Airport (DEN)||190 m / 305 km|
|Total||3.015 m / 4.855 km|