Rocky Mountains & The Great Plains: Denver, Yellowstone, Rapid City & More
- 15 Days
- 15 Days
- Prices From:
- US$ 2,627
MODERATE | SELF DRIVE: Dazzling Mountain scenery and the trail of the Buffalo provide the widescreen panoramas, while visits to Mount Rushmore and the Little Big Horn Battlefield add the special nuances to this trip. Enjoy Denver, Vail, and Grand Junction, wait for Old Faithful to erupt in Yellowstone and take in the spectacular views of the Badlands in South Dakota.
This 15-day tour will have you marvelling at the chiselled peaks and carved terrains of the Western and Midwestern states, looping from Denver to Grand Junction, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Hot Springs, and the Rocky Mountains. This self-driven tour balances the natural beauty of many national parks with the historic centres of cultural hubs across the United States, giving you independence to experience the land as you see fit.
Begin your trip in the “Mile High” city of Denver, taking in the sights at a new altitude as you explore the Denver Beer Trail or Larimer Square, home to a bustling selection of shops and restaurants. In Colorado Springs, experience the otherworldly glory of the Garden of the Gods Park, whose sandstone formations make a stunning contrast to the series of waterfalls you’ll find at Seven Falls.
Winding along the Gold Belt Byway, transport yourself to the gold rush days as you gaze over spectacular canyons and rolling hills, reaching dizzying heights as you cross one of the world’s highest suspension bridges outside Canon City. The resort town of Vail provides charming pedestrian walkways as you explore the town at the base of the looming Vail Mountain.
Pack a bathing suit as you head for Glenwood Springs, where bubbling hot springs and caverns are said to possess healing powers. Emerge rejuvenated to Grand Junction, where fresh fruits and local wines await you, mixing red rock against green fields. The land is plentiful in more ways than could have been predicted, stretching your imagination as you see dinosaur bones and fossils cemented in stone at Dinosaur National Monument. Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area provides you with jaw-dropping panoramas of its crystal reservoir against carved hills, a great stop before the historic mining town of Rock Springs.
There’s little that can prepare you for the wet wonderland of Yellowstone National Park, where you’ll come across a geothermal hotspot of boiling geysers, bubbling hot springs, glacial lakes, and herds of wild animals from buffalo to wolves. On your way out, stop in the railroad town of Livingston before continuing on to Billings with its unique rimrocks.
Moving into North Dakota, you’ll take a Scenic Loop Drive of Theodore Roosevelt National Park to experience the wild interior of the Badlands, whose plains are still inhabited by wild bison. You’ll be in mining town territory, which you can explore in Spearfish Canyon and Rapid City before coming face-to-face with the iconic statues at Mount Rushmore. For the best viewing experience, set your alarm early and catch the sunrise over the historic monument. Carry on to Hot Springs, where you’ll step back thousands of years in time at Mammoth Site, an ancient sinkhole with the fossils of 61 woolly giants.
Crossing the border into Nebraska, your first steps will be at the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron. The Great Plains of the Cornhusker State stretch in all hues of gold and orange, where you may come across a herd of longhorn or buffalo. At Scotts Bluff National Monument, follow the path of the original Oregon Trail and marvel at its rugged badlands.
Moving southwest to Wyoming, don your cowboy boots as you strut through the wild wild west. If you forgot to pack a pair, Cheyenne, the state’s capital, has a number of western stores for you to peruse.
Flat plains will disappear in your rearview mirror as you set your sights for the snow-capped peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park. Take a hiking trail of your choosing and pack a picnic as you lunch in the fresh air alongside Grand Lake. Meadows of flowers will colour your vision as will the sounds of chirping birds, working up another appetite as you return to Denver.
Enjoy a lively night out on the town before returning your rental car to the airport the next morning, unless you’d like to continue exploring Colorado’s mountainous terrain.
- 15 Days
- 15 Days
- Prices From:
- US$ 2,627
Itinerary View Trip Map
Arrive at Denver's International Airport and transfer independently to your hotel. Depending on your time of arrival you might be able to explore a little bit of a city that dates to the Old West era. Today it is an American metropolis that showcases marvellous 19th century buildings next to state-of-the-art museums. Denver's Larimer Square, now a bustling hub of shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs, was the city's first block, founded before Colorado became a territory.
Denver - Cañon City
Driving south toward Cañon City plan for a stop in Colorado Springs at Garden of the Gods Park, which features dramatic sandstone formations set against the breathtaking backdrop of Pikes Peak. Another must-see stop is Seven Falls, a series of waterfalls cascading 181 feet through a box canyon. Go to the fabulous Broadmoor luxury resort for lunch before continuing to Royal Gorge Bridge & Park just outside Canon City. See one of the world's highest suspension bridges, take in the stunning scenery and experience some amazing thrill rides.
Overnight Canon City
Canon City - Vail
Depart Canon City via the Gold Belt Byway and enjoy spectacular views of deep canyons and lush parklands. Stop for lunch in the charming ski destination of Breckenridge, once a mining town and now home to unique boutiques and restaurants in quaint historic buildings. Continue to Vail to overnight in the upscale resort town at the base of Vail Mountain. Get ready to browse hundreds of boutiques and galleries in this pedestrian-friendly city. World-renowned for skiing, it is a superb summer destination for golfing, hiking and a myriad of other outdoor activities.
Vail - Grand Junction
Drive an hour west to scenic Glenwood Springs, known for its hot springs and caves, with Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and Iron Mountain Hot Springs said to have healing powers. Find even more fun activities at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, that include cave tours, thrill rides and numerous restaurants. Drive an hour west to Grand Junction for your overnight and enjoy a truly immersive food and beverage experience. Grand Junction has been Colorado's fruit-growing hub since the late 1800s. Stroll through local vineyards and stay for a wine tasting. Outside the city, take in the stunning, panoramic views of the red rock canyons at Colorado National Monument on the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive.
Overnight Grand Junction
Grand Junction - Rock Springs
Head north on Dinosaur Prehistoric Highway and stop at Dinosaur National Monument to visit the quarry and see dinosaur bones and fossils encased in rock. Continue northwest with a stop at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, with many lookout points providing spectacular views of its crystal reservoir and red rocks, before reaching the historic mining town of Rock Springs. Its downtown area has an award-winning main street with plenty of interesting but, time permitting, you might want to check out Killpecker Sand Dunes, the second largest sand dunes in the world, under an hour’s drive away.
Overnight Rock Springs
Rock Springs - Yellowstone
Continue north to the Jackson Hole valley and stop for lunch in the small town of Jackson, which embraces a pioneer sensibility, evident in stagecoach tours, rodeos, and heritage tours. The Town Square is famous for four large arches made from elk antlers collected at the nearby National Elk Refuge. Continue through Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone National Park along the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Highway.
Overnight West Yellowstone
Stretching more than 3,500 square miles (9,605 square km) and three states, Yellowstone National Park is the USA's first national park. It sits atop a volcanic hot spot that creates impressive geothermal activity. Bring a picnic and eat while you wait for the next eruption of Old Faithful, a geyser that spews hot water high into the sky throughout the day. Do not miss a visit to the historic Old Faithful Inn, believed to be the world's largest log structure. Experience the many other natural wonders Yellowstone has to offer and spot great wildlife in the park.
Overnight West Yellowstone
Yellowstone - Billings
Head north out of Yellowstone, through Gardiner toward the eclectic railroad town of Livingston. Stop at this picturesque destination for lunch, browse art galleries and visit Livingston Depot Center to learn about railroad history. Follow the Yellowstone River Valley east to Billings, the state's largest city. Surrounded by seven mountain ranges, you can explore the Montana wilderness and discover a wealth of wildlife. Do not miss a chance to visit the Moss Mansion; the architect also designed the Waldorf Astoria and Plaza hotels in New York City.
Billings - Medora
On the way east to Medora, take a slight detour to visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, site of the famous 1876 battle. Explore the visitor center and Custer National Cemetery before continuing the journey northeast into North Dakota to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Take the Scenic Loop Drive to experience the Northern Great Plains and the Badlands, where bison still roam.
Medora - Rapid City
Drive east to the Painted Canyon Visitors Center to take in spectacular views of the Badlands from its scenic overlook before traveling south into South Dakota. Go through Spearfish Canyon, then head to the historic mining town of Deadwood, site of one of the Old West's most famous gold rushes. Stop at Mount Moriah Cemetery before continuing through the stunning scenery of the Black Hills to Sturgis, home of the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame. In Rapid City visit Main Street Square, view life-size bronze statues of past U.S. presidents, and enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants.
Overnight Rapid City
Rapid City - Hot Springs
We recommend an early start to Keystone today to experience the sun rising over Mount Rushmore National Memorial. It’s well worth the effort. The hand-carved monument depicts the faces of four past U.S. Presidents. Continue to Crazy Horse Memorial, before visiting Custer State Park, near scenic highways, which is a refuge to one of the largest American bison herds in the world. After you arrive in Hot Springs, a must-stop place is Evans Plunge Mineral Springs, the town's oldest attraction and do not miss the Mammoth Site, an ancient sinkhole, featuring the fossilized remains of more than 61 mammoths.
Overnight Hot Springs
Hot Springs - Scottsbluff
Travel south to Nebraska, where your first stop is Chadron to tour the Museum of the Fur Trade at the James Bordeaux Trading Post. Continue to Fort Robinson State Park, where Crazy Horse died in 1877 and the Cheyenne Outbreak happened in 1879. Enjoy the spectacular scenery and herds of longhorn and buffalo. At Scotts Bluff National Monument walk on parts of the original Oregon Trail. Drive to the summit of the bluff for breathtaking valley views of the North Platte River.
Scottsbluff - Estes Park
Today, you travel southwest to Cheyenne, Wyoming's capital, which is filled with Old West character. Visit the Cheyenne Depot, a 19th century railroad station that now houses a visitor center and interactive museum. Continue with a walking tour of downtown, making sure to stop at one of the many western wear shops to try on cowboy boots and hats. Have lunch before departing for Estes Park, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Overnight Estes Park
Estes Park - Denver
Enter Rocky Mountain National Park and explore its craggy peaks, forests, tundra, and miles of lovely trails. Start at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and follow the trail to the Alpine Visitor Center; see spectacular views of Sundance Mountain and Tombstone Ridge along the way. Depending on seasonality and driving restrictions, you would want to travel on Trail Ridge Road to Grand Lake. It’s an amazing drive if open for traffic. Otherwise continue your drive to Denver with a stop in Boulder, which can also offer great outdoor experiences, a bustling downtown with funky eateries and a thriving arts scene.
Depending on your time, you might have a Mile High experience going up the gold-domed Colorado State Capitol with its ‘Mile High’ marker on the 13th step overlooking downtown. Afterwards make your way to Denver International Airport for your flight home unless you plan to extend your stay in Colorado
Daily departures: April 1 - October 31, 2023
- 15 days Intermediate Car Rental with unlimited mileage (Mazda 3 or similar)
- Detailed day by day itinerary
- 1 night moderate accommodations in Denver
- 1 night moderate accommodations in Cañon City
- 1 night moderate accommodations in Vail
- 1 night moderate accommodations in Grand Junction
- 1 night moderate accommodations in Rock Springs
- 2 nights moderate accommodations in West Yellowstone
- 1 night moderate accommodations in Billings
- 1 night moderate accommodations in Medora
- 1 night moderate accommodations in Rapid City
- 1 night moderate accommodations in Hot Springs
- 1 night moderate accommodations in Scottsbluff
- 1 night moderate accommodations in Estes Park
- 1 night moderate accommodations in Denver
- Car rental insurance
- Travel insurance
- International and domestic airfare & airfare taxes
- Entrances fees to sites not explicitly listed as included
- Meals and beverages not mentioned
- Road tolls
- Items of a personal nature
- Visa fees if applicable
- Get to know the Mile High City of Denver
- Visit Garden of the Gods Park and Seven Falls (optional)
- Drive the Gold Belt Byway
- Explore Grand Junction and the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive
- Drive Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway
- Experience Grand Teton National Park
- Drive John D. Rockefeller Memorial Highway
- Explore the wonders of Yellowstone National Park
- Visit the Moss Mansion in Billings (optional)
- Discover the historic mining town of Deadwood
- Enjoy sunrise over Mount Rushmore National Memorial
- Explore Rocky Mountain National Park
TERMS AND CONDITIONS:
Prices are "from" per person based on twin/double share accommodation and for travel in low season. Seasonal surcharges and blackout dates may apply. Limited seat/spaces and all pricing is subject to change and availability. Rates for single or triple travellers are available on request. Additional terms and conditions apply for car rental - please inquire.
1 Oct 2023