One of my favorite things to do is visiting National Parks. And to my delight, this is my second time visiting Yellowstone and several national monuments along the way. This adventure trip was organized by our friends in California.
Day 1 (July 2nd 2020 Thu) Salt Lake City – Casper
All twelve of us met in Salt Lake City, Utah and got in a mini bus.
Devil’s Gate is a narrow gorge cut through a ridge of the Granite mountains by the Sweetwater River in Central Wyoming. Early Shoshone and Arapaho people had their own legend of how it was formed. They say that a tusked beast roamed the area to keep hunters away. When hunters attacked the beast with arrows, it gouged a piece out of the rock and disappeared into the gaping hole, never to be seen again.
Independence Rock is located in Central Wyoming and was a famous landmark along the Oregon Trail and other pioneer trails heading west. This granite rock rises about 130 feet above the surrounding landscape. In the middle of the Sweetwater Valley along Highway 220. It is named for a fur trader’s Fourth of July celebration in the year 1830.
There are a couple of stories on how it was named – one is that Independence Rock was named because if the west-bound pioneers reached the rock by Independence Day, July 4, they were on time for reaching Oregon before winter sets in. Others says it got the name from fur traders who set up camp there on July 4, 1824. Before an audience of 80 pioneers, he christened the rock in honor of the birth date of our nation. The landmark was a favorite resting place for travelers along the trail.
Overnight stay in Casper, WY. Hotel: Casper C’mon Inn Hotel & Suites Day 2 (July 3rd Fri) Casper – Mount Rushmore – Gillette
We headed to Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. It is a monumental granite sculpture by Gutzon Borglum, located within the United States Presidential Memorial that represents the first 150 years of the history of the United States of America. The sculptures are the heads of former United States presidents : George Washington , Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
We heard that Mount Rushmore was closed to the public on that weekend due to the President ‘s planned visit for July 4th fireworks. Once we got closed to the entrance, we were turned away due to not having passes that was available online some weeks ago. Nevertheless, we were given the direction to where we can see the statues outside of the entrance.
We drove quite a few miles onto a scenic road on high elevation that gave us a good view of the statues.
Then we headed our way to Crazy Horse.
Crazy Horse Memorial
The Crazy Horse Memorial is larger than Mount Rushmore, but is far from finished. It is the world’s largest mountain carving in progress. The purpose of the Memorial “is to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians”. It is also a sculptured dedication of a Native American warrior riding a horse and pointing in the distance.
Only the face was finished in 1998, 50 years after the start of construction. The rest of the monument is still a work in progress. The monument is not part of the National Parks System and is financed by admission fees and contributions.
Take the $4 per person bus tour to the base of the mountain to give you a closer look. The driver/guide was very knowledgeable and informative. At the compound inside the visitor’s center has the short film that explains everything as well. On my last trip here, I enjoyed the Native American dance and the museum. The staff are very good about taking all the necessary precautions for COVID-19.
Devils Tower National Monument
Devils Tower was the first United States National Monument, established on September 24, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt.
The name Devil’s Tower originated in 1875 during an expedition led by Colonel Richard Irving Dodge, when his interpreter reportedly misinterpreted a native name to mean “Bad God’s Tower”.
Since we went in July, the main entrance was closed. We hiked the trails in the area and it goes all the way around and close to Devil’s Tower.
There are many Native American stories about the tower. One of them is according to the Native American tribes of the Kiowa and Lakota, a group of girls went out to play and were spotted by several giant bears, who began to chase them. In an effort to escape the bears, the girls climbed atop a rock, fell to their knees, and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. Hearing their prayers, the Great Spirit made the rock rise from the ground towards the heavens so that the bears attack the girls. The bears, in an effort to climb the rock, left deep claw marks in the sides, which had become too steep to climb. Those are the marks which appear today on the sides of Devils Tower. The hike was moderate with stunning views. Watch out for deer and we saw prairie dogs.
Night arrives and we stopped at Dewey’s place for dinner and drinks.
Overnight stay in Gillette. Hotel: La Quinta by Wyndham Gillette
Day 3 (July 4th Sat) Gillette – Yellowstone National Park
On our way to Yellowstone, we had lunch in Billings, Montana which was a route on the way there.
Yellowstone National Park was the first National park established in the US. This is one of the most iconic places to visit for all nature, hikers and wildlife lovers. Located in three states – Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.
Mammoth Hot Springs
Made from limestone, thermal water, and a natural procession of chemical reactions, the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces are an incredible series of icy volcanic rock that cascade and flow like a fountain. Notice the vast array of colors because of thermal-vent-loving bacteria living in the water.
There are also various wildlife that inhabits the Park from elk, bison, moose and bear.
Park visitors must stay 25 yards away from all large animals in the park including elk, bison, bighorn sheep, moose, deer and coyotes. If people encounter bears and wolves they should stay 100 yards away.
Most of the best attractions in Mud Volcano are located just outside the parking lot. Dragon’s Mouth Spring is a spot where boiling water has gradually eroded away the hillside, creating a small cavern that resounds constantly with roaring waters—almost like there really is a dragon lurking in there.
Over night stay in West Yellowstone.
Hotel: The Hibernation Station Cabins Day 4 (July 5th Sun) Yellowstone National Park – Grand Teton National Park – Salt Lake City
We continued our visit to Yellowstone National Park the next day.
Fountain Paint Pot
Fountain Paint Pot Trail has several named features. The first you will find is Celestine Spring. This deep blue pool is a relaxing sight. Keep walking and see a collection of geysers or continue straight toward mudpots and fumaroles.
Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring is pretty Grand. Halfway between the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins. It is noted for being the largest hot spring in Yellowstone National Park and third largest in the world. This is one of my favorite stops. There’s so much beauty and colors. The hike to the top view of the spring is short and uphill but totally worth it.
The Old Faithful Geyser
When one thinks of Yellowstone National Park, the Old Faithful Geyser is one of the first things that comes to mind. Old Faithful IS Yellowstone. This is a must see!
Old Faithful is also the busiest place in Yellowstone National Park. For an obvious reason when people think of Yellowstone they picture the beautiful Geyser that is ‘Old Faithful’ shooting up into the sky!
The Old Faithful area has a nice cafeteria, snack shop, souvenirs, a sit down restaurant, general store that sells souvenirs and more.
The geyser erupts roughly every 60 -110 minutes. I was super impressed by the magnitude as well as the force of the water rising.
We continue towards Grand Teton National Park. Unfortunately, the road to the park was closed. We stopped for a few pictures on the way there.
We reached the town of Jackson Hole.
Jackson Hole, WY
Jackson Hole is an outdoor adventurer’s playground. From hiking and biking to fishing and floating, there is so much to do in Jackson Hole. However, we didn’t have time to do a whole lot. The famous Elk Arch can’t be missed. The arches are made of elk antlers and decorates the central plaza with plenty of shops and restaurants around the area.
After dinner we headed back to Salt Lake city.
Over night stay in Salt Lake City. Hotel: Comfort Inn & Suites Salt Lake City Airport
In conclusion, an amazing trip filled with laughter, companionship and awe-inspiring.
Got any stories and tips about Yellowstone you are willing to share? Let me know in the comments below