Road Trip

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Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone Road Trip

Plan your ultimate road trip from Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone with our guide. Explore national parks, historic sites, and breathtaking landscapes across SD, WY, and MT.

Tobi Miles
July 1, 2022
Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone Road Trip

A road trip between Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park will take you through some of the best sights in the west, through states such as South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. You even have the option of exploring Idaho.

This road trip will take you through Americas west, which includes some of the greatest nature in the U.S.A and introduce you to a vast amount of American history. From epic national parks, to historic monuments and even landmarks related to Native American tribes.

Map of Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone:

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How long is the drive between Mount Rushmore & Yellowstone National Park?

The drive between Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park takes approximately 8 hours, 40 mins and covers a whopping 463 miles! With no stops along the way this would be difficult and would mean you would miss out on some of the best landmarks in the U.S.A!

Road Trip Itinerary Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone National Park:

Day 1: Rapid City, South Dakota

Day 2:  Mount Rushmore (Custer State Park)

Day 3:  Badlands National Park

Day 4: Buffalo, Wyoming

Day 5: Billings, Montana (Optional)

Day 6 & 7:  Yellowstone National Park

Day 8:  Grand Teton National Park

Day 1: Rapid City, South Dakota

Rapid city, South Dakota is known as the "Gateway to Mount Rushmore" and the "Gateway to Black Hills National Forest" so it's the ideal place to start your great western road trip!

How to get to Rapid City?

Rapid city offers great flight connections to Rapid City Regional Airport (Code: RAP). Once there Rent a car using our Ultimate Car Rental Travel Hacks! To get the best deal.

[caption id="attachment_10873" align="alignnone" width="720"]

Main Street Square in Downtown Rapid City

Main Street Square in Downtown Rapid City. Source: Getty Images[/caption]

Things to do in Rapid City, SD:

  • Journey Museum:

Journey Museum is a great place to start your Road trip as it will take you back in time through the 2.5 billion year history of the area, which really puts things in perspective! Subject covere include geology, history, art and archaeology. Be sure to check out the Native American artifacts & traditions.

  • Reptile Gardens:

Reptile Gardens takes you into the exciting world of Reptiles! At the gardens you can see some of the rarest reptiles in the U.S.A, including a number of Mammals, and exotic birds in there colorful orchids and jungle areas.

  • Chapel In the Hills:

Chapel in the Hills is a scenic area which is open to the public and offers FREE Entry from May to September.  Here you will discover Scandinavia style picturesque scenery, with a quiant church. It's no wonder the area is really popular with weddings!

  • Wall Drug Store :

Wall Drug is the worlds largest drug store which offers over massive 76,000 square feet and is an ideal place to stop for Souvenirs. You will find Wall Drug, east of Rapid City off I-90.

  • Wa Tiki Waterpark:

If your taking this Road Trip during the summer months then you will definitely want to dive into WaTiki Waterpark. A great place for family fun!

  • Black Hills National Forest

Just 55 mins (35 miles) south of Rapid city is Black Hills National Forest.  With over 1.2 million acres of forested land there is plenty to explore at Black Hills National Forest. Called the "Island in the Plains,” the Forest offers a diverse range of wildlife and plants from the eastern forests to the western plains.

[caption id="attachment_10875" align="alignnone" width="738"]

Black Hills National Forest

Black Hills National Forest. Source: Wiki[/caption]

The landscape offers everything from rugged rock formations to canyons, tumbling streams and deep blue lakes. This is a great place for hiking, camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing and wildlife viewing!

Day 2: Mount Rushmore (Custer State Park)

From Rapid City Take the 25 mile (40 minute) drive via US 16 and SD 244 to Mount Rushmore National Memorial the Iconic 60ft granite faces depict the great U.S presidents of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

On site you will also find museum with interactive exhibits, a gift shop, walking trials and a 2,500 seat amphitheater!

Over 4 million visitors come to Mount Rushmore to learn about the structure, the presidents and how over 400 men carved the monument on a average salary of just $1 per hour.

[caption id="attachment_10876" align="alignnone" width="640"]



Fun Fact: The structure was began by Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum who started it in 1927 at the age of 60 years old, by 1941 he had died and the it was still not complete!

Fun Fact:  The presidents’ noses are 20-feet long and their mouths are 18-feet wide!

Which movies is Mount Rushmore in?

Mount Rushmore has showcased as a backdrop in a variety of movies here is a short list below:

  • National Treasure: Book of Secrets - Nicholas Cage (2007)
  • Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959)
  • American Dresser (2018)
  • Austin Powers (Mount Rushmore Parody) and many more!

Insider Tip:

Head to see Mount Rushmore during the lighting Ceremony during May to September, it is a captivating sight.

Crazy Horse Memorial

If you continue southwest from Mount Rushmore for another 25 minutes (17 miles) via SD 244, US 16 and US 385 you will another awe inspiring sculpture.

The Crazy Horse Memorial began its construction in 1948 upon request of Lakota elders who wished for the white man to learn about Native American legends. The Native Chief (Henry Standing Bear)  chose Crazy Horse as he symbolised Native America Spirit, pride and courage.

[caption id="attachment_10877" align="alignnone" width="390"]

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial[/caption]

Will the Crazy Horse Memorial be bigger than Mount Rushmore?

YES!! The construction is still not complete but when finished it will stand 563-feet high and 641-feet long! To put things into perspective Mount Rushmores heads are just 60 feet tall each, so together the 4 mount Rushmore presidents will fit in just crazy horses head!

Despite the subject not been fully complete the site still attracts over 1 million visitors each year! The Crazy Horse Memorial also includes a Native American Museum, Education and cultural centre. You can also visit the sculptures studio and check out the presentations and native american cultural shows.

[caption id="attachment_10878" align="alignnone" width="727"]

Crazy Horse Memorial head

Crazy Horse Memorial head: source: Photograph by Charles Bennett / AP/ Getty Images[/caption]

Fun Fact: Some construction works have been working on the site for over 35 years!

Fun Fact: The structure was began by Korczak Ziolkowski, who also worked  on Mount Rushmore.

Where to eat?

If your hungry from all this History head to Laughing Water Restaurant, on site.

Custer State Park

Custer State park is a 71,000 acre area where herds of majestic bison road free. This is the ideal place to stay overnight and many resorts offer cabins, cottages and lodges. To get the best deal check out: How to find the Best Hotel Deals??

Day 3: Badlands National Park & Hot Springs!

Wind Cave National Park

From Crazy Horse, the Hot Springs region lies just 35 miles (1 hour) southeast on Route US 385. Enroute be sure to check out Wind Cave National Park. This is one of the longest cave systems in the world!

A maze of underground tunnels forged from ancient limestone, here you can check out the crystal formations and hear the famous "wind" sound which the caves are named after.

There are many different levels of tours depending upon how deep you want to go!  Above land is 28,000 acres of land which is home to native wildlife such as elks, mule deer and bison.

Wind Cave National Park

Hot Springs Region:

After getting down & dirty in the caves, head to Mammoth Site to see an ongoing archaeological dig which regularly uncovers bones of 26,000 year old woolly mammoths.

Take the half hour guided tour and then spend a couple of hours exploring independently. Afterwards head to Evan’s Plunge for a relaxing soak & some family fun in the healing waters of its natural mineral pools.

[caption id="attachment_10880" align="alignnone" width="550"]

Evan’s Plunge

Evan’s Plunge[/caption]

Badlands National Park:

Badlands National Park may be a little out the way but you should definitely consider it as an option! Located approximately 1.5 hours, 80 miles southeast of Rapid City via I-90, SD 240 and SD 44.

Badlands National Park offers 244,000 acres and its named stems from 19th century fur traders who called it "Bad lands to cross".  Here you will find geological formations which captivate visitors.

[caption id="attachment_10881" align="alignnone" width="560"]

Badlands National Park-

Badlands National Park-[/caption]

Can I bring my Dog to Badlands National Park?

Dogs are allowed everywhere in Badlands National Park except for Sage Creek Wilderness. They must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet or remain otherwise physically restrained. See: 9 Dog Friendly U.S Road trips

Do you love Hiking?

If you love Hiking then your in luck, Badlands National Park offers eight hiking trails which range from a quarter mile to 10 miles long! Where you can see a vast array of wildflowers, fossils and steep canyons!

Where to get great Hiking Gear?

Losing your footing while hiking can mean a best a twisted ankle and at worse a broken ankle which could ruin your entire vacation and potentially leave you stranded! I am an avid hiker and have hiking all over the world over the past decade. I recently reviewed the best hiking boots for a variety of budgets, check out the reviews here:

Recommended Hiking Gear

Day 4: Buffalo, Wyoming

As you head to Yellowstone National Park along the fastest route you will cross Buffalo, Wymoing, which is located 269 miles (3 hr 50 mins) from Badlands National Park, via I-90 west.

Buffalo and Johnson County are nestled between the rolling plains of the Old West and the towering peaks of the Bighorn Mountains! Here you can discover  breath taking scenery, a variety of attractions and of course some of that western hospitality.

[caption id="attachment_10882" align="alignnone" width="900"]

Buffalo Wyoming

Buffalo Wyoming. [/caption]

Things to do in Buffalo:

  • The Historic Occidental Hotel Museum

Wild Wild West?? If you wish to delve back in time to the 1880s old west, with cowboy shootouts and rustic saloons galore then you have to check out Historic Occidental Hotel Museum. As you walk round you can see bullet holes still in the walls from where they had shootouts!

Fun Fact: Many famous legends stayed here including Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Butch Cassidy Calamity Jane, and of course the Sundance Kid!

Address: 10 N Main St, Buffalo, WY 82834, United States

Tel:  +1 307-684-0451

  • Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum

The Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum is a regional history museum which give you an intriguing insight into Native American, Natural history, the wild Frontier abd early life in Buffalo.

Here you will find a carriage house with multiple wagons including a 1916 homestead cabin and museum store which offers high quality hand made items.

Address: 100 Fort St, Buffalo, WY 82834-1801

Tel: +1 307-684-9331

  • Dry Creek Petrified Forest

At Dry Creek Petrified Forest, you will discover majestic wild horses and some nice hiking routes. The scenery is peaceful and the wildlife is spectacular.

Insider Tip:

Many people get lost using the stated address for Dry Creek Petrified Forest! But don't despair one of our Town and Tourist community found it and wrote down the exact coordinates to help you guys out!

Here you go:  44.35147, -106.53048 (Just plug these into you GPS or use our Map at the beginning of this article with all the attractions on!)

  • Cowboy Ranches!

Taking a Ranch vacation is a bucket list experience and ideal way to immerse yourself in the "Cowboy" lifestyle, yeehawww!

At these luxury ranches you can take horse treks & horse riding lessons during the day, before heading to the Spa & pool to relax after. During the evening, slip on your cowboy boots for some authentic square dancing and local cuisine.

[caption id="attachment_7918" align="alignnone" width="1181"]

A ranch vacation should be on everyones bucket list!

A ranch vacation should be on everyones bucket list![/caption]

For more info checkout: 10 Epic Ranch Holidays in the U.S.A

Best Driving Road: U.S highway 16!

As you head west from Buffalo you MUST DRIVE over U.S highway 16, its is one of our 25 Most Epic Driving Roads in the U.S.A and takes you over the scenic Big Horn Mountains. This road will take you by Ten Sleep canyon and some spectacular peaks and overhangs.

As you drive east towards Yellowstone entrance at Cody, you will drive past Buffalo Bill Center of the West and Buffalo Bill State Park , great places for a cowboy adventure.

Day 5: Billings, Montana (Optional)

From Buffalo, Wyoming or Badlands you can take an optional detour through Billings, Montana. This will take you through the Crow Indian Reservation and give you the opportunity to explore some interesting sights at Montanas Little Big Horn. These include:

This is the site of General Custer’s Last Stand, where his troops were crushed by Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors! There is a museum, memorial and guided tours by Native Americans & Park rangers, which focus on the Military history.

  • Pictograph Cave State Park

Pictograph Cave State Park is a 23 acre park which takes you back in time to Native American culture! Taking the walking trail you will see ancient pictographs and some breath taking scenery. There is also a visitors centre, picnic grounds & museum displays.

Location: 3401 Coburn Rd, Billings, MT 59101-6420

  • Moss Mansion Museum

The Moss Mansion Historic House Museum is located  on 914 Division St. It is a red-stoned mansion built in 1903 by Preston Boyd Moss and his wife, Martha Ursula Woodson Moss.

How much does it cost?

Admission to the Moss Mansion Museum is $12 for Adults, $10 for Senior Citizens and Military, and $8 for children ages 6 to 17. Guided tours are available.

Day 6 & 7: Yellowstone National Park

From Montana’s Little Big Horn, its around 130 miles (2 ½ hours) to  Yellowstone National Park . You can enter through the North, Northeast or eastern entrances.

Insider Tip:

The North Entrance at Gardiner is the only one open all year round. During the winter, the west, south and east entrances are open only to tracked over-snow vehicles such as snowcoaches and snowmobiles.

Yellowstone National Park has to be one of the greatest National Parks in the USA.

Here you will discover over 2 million acres of vast wilderness, from forested areas to hot springs! Check out these 5 reasons to visit Yellowstone in September.

[caption id="attachment_10884" align="alignnone" width="640"]

yellowstone national park sunset

yellowstone national park sunset[/caption]

The wildlife is curious and abundant, making it a great place for wildlife spotting.

Activities here include hiking, horseback riding and during the winter months Snow shoeing and cross country skiing!

See 23 Awesome Cross Country Skiing Resorts|U.S.A

[caption id="attachment_8864" align="alignnone" width="900"]



Yellowstone National Park Regions:

Yellowstone National Park has 5 regions, these include:

  1. Mammoth Country, North West Region: Site of the Mammoth Hot Springs and home to many elk & bison.
  2. Geyser Country, South West Region:  Home to "Old Faithful" and many geothermal features such as fumaroles, mud pots and hotpools!
  3. Lake Country, South East Region:  Bird watching heaven, where osprey and bald eagles roam. There is also blue Yellowstone Lake located at an altitude of 7,735 feet!
  4. Roosevelt Country, North Eastern Region:  An area which reminds me of the old west,  with many deer, bison and wolves. These roam through a landscape of sagebrush, fir, aspen trees and a petrified forest.
  5. Canyon Country, East Central Region:  Home to the “Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone,” the Hidden Valley and Lower Falls, which is twice as high as Niagara Falls!  Elk, bison and deer roam this area.

[caption id="attachment_1196" align="alignnone" width="1024"]

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY | By Brocken Inaglory, via Wikimedia Commons.[/caption]

Where to Stay at Yellow Stone National Park?

There are a few authentic lodges I recommended, we stayed at Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Cabins, but the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is also good.


Many sightseeing tours are on offer, for more info see: Unique Experiences

Yellow Stone National Park is also a great place to try a Dog Sled Ride: 16 Awesome Dog Sledding Tours/Trips: U.S.A

[caption id="attachment_8596" align="alignnone" width="900"]



Day 8: Grand Teton National Park

Just 7 miles south via route 89/191 you will find Grand Teton National Park . which offers a pleathora of wildlife and theatrical scenery.

The Mountain range stands, 12,000 feet above sea level and makes the ideal habitat for the famous Trumpeter Swan!

  • Fun Fact: The Trumpeter swan is heaviest living bird native to North America!
  • Fun Fact: The Trumpeter Swan is also the largest species of waterfowl with a wingspan that may exceed 10 ft!

Head to National Elk Refuge where you can hike to a mountain lake, waterfall and even take a Packraft down Snake River.

Grand Teton National Park 1

Where to Stay?

We stayed at Jackson Lake Lodge a full service resort, but Jenny Lake Lodge is also epic! It was actually named one of our top 500 hotels in the world!

If you would rather be in the a more built up area, then staying in Jackson is a great option. I recommend Spring Creek Ranch for ultimate luxury surrounded by scenic wilderness.

Want to discover some savvy Hotel Hacks?

Check out: How to find the Best Hotel Deals??

Do you want secret car rental deals?

Check out: Ultimate Car Rental Travel Hacks!

[caption id="attachment_10522" align="alignnone" width="900"]

car rental travel hacks

car rental travel hacks[/caption]

Want to capture instagrammable RoadTrip photos?

Travel Photography Gear Reviews!

Got everything you need?

Check out our  Travel Essentials .  (Things You can’t travel without!)

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
Find me on Twitter

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