On my mission to travel to all 50 USA States before 12/31/18, I recently went on a wild west road trip through 9 states with my college BFF Lacey! We traveled for 6 days, from Sunday 9/2 through Friday 9/8, covering over 2,000* miles. *All miles approximate because we didn't track the exact #s on our trip, and got lost a bunch. #badblogger :)
This trip came together last minute in August, and I'm so grateful we pulled it off! Lacey is also on a mission to explore all 50 states, and we were pumped to tackle this north central part of the USA together. We have so many stories and lessons learned to share from the trip, but to kick things off, below is how our daily itinerary turned out while we were on the road. (I say 'turned out' because of course most things didn't go as planned!)
More to come on how we planned for the road trip, but our biggest #protip for planning out your trip route is using the Roadtrippers website and app. I'm based in NYC and Lacey is based in Virginia, so we were able to plan remotely and use Roadtrippers to pick out our main road trip stops and determine what was possible to do each day (it automatically calculates your route as you brainstorm your stops on the map!).
The 9 US States we covered:
Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Utah
Daily Total Miles: 241
Daily Total Driving Hours: 5 hours
Start Location & Time: Omaha, Nebraska @ 4:30PM
End Location & Time: Sioux Falls, South Dakota @ 2:30AM
States: Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota
Overnight: Red Roof Inn in Sioux Falls - cheap last minute hotel find! #roadtriplife
#FuckUp1 - this one wasn't our fault, but we stayed in Omaha 5 hours later than originally planned to wait for Lacey's bag. We met at Omaha airport at 4:30PM, but Southwest had flown Lacey's bag to Seattle by mistake, so we chilled in Omaha until it arrived at 9:30PM! We kept calm, relaxed, ate ice cream, and made the most out of it. #thebestlaidplans #gowiththeflow
We then left Omaha and drove up through Iowa to the border of Minnesota... got lost on dirt roads somewhere in Iowa and/or Minnesota trying to find the Minnesota State sign, and started running around the moonlit road to stay awake for the last hours of the trip. Wish we could have seen more of Iowa and Minnesota, but certainly have fond memories of both states!
Daily Total Miles: 468
Daily Total Driving Hours: 6.5 hours
Start Location & Time: Sioux Falls, South Dakota @ 8:30AM
End Location & Time: Devil's Tower, Wyoming @ 6:30PM (changed timezone to MT - so we gained an hour!)
States: South Dakota and Wyoming
Overnight: Tipi Camping at Devil's Tower - awesome last minute AirBnB find!
#FuckUp2 - We drove across South Dakota and the plan was to see the Badlands National Park and the Mount Rushmore Memorial. Together, in one road stop trip. Turns out, they're an hour and a half away from each other! We just about died laughing when we finally realized that standing in the Badlands.
Badlands National Park in South Dakota was surreal and stunning and has been on my bucket list for a while now!
Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming was magical and super cool to see in person. Camping in a tipi under an almost full moon just a few fields away from Devil's Tower was my favorite night of the trip.
#HonorableMentionFuckUp - This was unprepared camping, it got down to 36*, and I didn't bring a fleece or thick socks. (We were able to rent a mat and blankets and all was well, but next time I'll make sure to be better prepared for anything.)
States: Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota
Overnight: Dude Rancher Lodge in Billings, Montana - thank you to the kind folks at Visit Montana for the stay in Billings! We were overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone we came across in Montana, from a ranch family to the tourism board. :)
Waking up at 4:30AM in the tipi with the moon and stars still shining bright was incredible (and the best port-a-potty trip ever!).
The 5:30AM - 7AM Devil's Tower sunrise was legendary - I'll never forget seeing the colors of the sunrise dance their way up the tower that morning.
Fuck Up #2 led to us backtracking to Mt. Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota first thing in the morning - but it was so worth it! I was giddy with excitement to see those boys in person - something I've dreamed about since 4th grade.
EPIC MONTANA ADVENTURE - this needs a full blog post but long story short: We were on a mission to find the tri-state corner marker for the state borders of Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota ... discovered that it was on a ranch in Montana, we managed to get their phone # to get permission to access their land ... they were incredibly kind, gave us their address and told us to come over ... took us 6+ hours driving from Mt Rushmore, getting lost on dirt roads with no cell reception ... eventually met the ranch family, the Rancher and his 2 granddaughters took us out on their property, and we got to explore the most beautiful wide open spaces that I've ever seen, and stand in 3 states at once!
#FuckUp3 - Getting lost on the dirt roads somewhere in Montana or North Dakota was a lot of fun, but we should have taken screenshots of the directions before we lost reception. ~ Luckily, my Mom knows my travel habits very well, and she had given me state maps (like, real paper maps) which came in handy when I convinced Lacey to drive down a closed road. :)
Daily Total Miles: 338
Daily Total Driving Hours: 7.5 hours (+ time driving through Yellowstone)
Start Location & Time: Billings, Montana @ 9:00AM
End Location & Time: Victor, Idaho @ 11:30PM
States: Montana, Wyoming, Idaho
Overnight: AirBnB Camping in Victor, Idaho!
Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming - Another USA bucket list moment getting to seeing this huge, gorgeous park with our own eyes! We found a safe spot to swim along the Firehole River and relaxed in the cold river. Much needed time to CTFO after our crazy 21 hour day yesterday!
#FuckUp4 - Was all on me forgetting my Teva sandals! I lived in them during my Antarctica / Argentina trip and definitely could have used them swimming and climbing around in the river. Luckily I didn't cut my feet up, but I should have been prepared with my Tevas!
Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park - it erupts every hour or so, so you have to get your timing right. We waited around 40 minutes, and it was so cool to see the massive eruption!
Camping in Idaho - another great last minute AirBnB find where we got to camp (this time in a tent on planks, but still no heat, running water or electricity) on a ranch.
Daily Total Miles: 230
Daily Total Driving Hours: 5 hours
Start Location & Time: Victor, Idaho @ 6:00AM
End Location & Time: Pocatello, Idaho @ 8:30PM
States: Idaho, Wyoming
Overnight: Rodeway Inn in Pocatello - we chose because it was just a few hours away from our last stop in Utah
Loved waking up on the ranch in Victor, Idaho! The wildfires made it too hazy to see much, but the sounds of the cows roaming around and their warm barn to eat breakfast in made it an awesome road trip morning.
Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming - we did an incredible hike around Jenny Lake. There weren't many folks on the trail, the scenery was untouched and beautiful, and it provided a much needed calm and sunny outdoors day.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming - I had always heard about Jackson Hole during the winter, and was excited to see this cute town for myself in the summertime. We had a late lunch of elk at the Silver Dollar Bar, walked around town, and got to see their town square with huge antler arches.
Daily Total Miles: 165
Daily Total Driving Hours: 3 hours
Start Location & Time: Pocatello, Idaho @ 8:30PM
End Location & Time: Salt Lake City, Utah @ 11:00AM
States: Idaho, Utah
Overnight: n/a - we both flew home that night out of SLC
Salt Lake City, Utah was the last stop on our road trip! We had a delicious pizza lunch at Rusted Sun Pizza.
Hydra Tattoo in Salt Lake City - how else could we close out an epic road trip like this!? We had this idea from the beginning of our trip, and April fit us in last minute to get matching evil eye tattoos.
You can check out more photos from the trip on my Facebook, on Lacey’s Instagram, on my personal and on my travel Instagram! Have any road trip questions or suggestions? Did we miss an amazing town or unique stop that you love along our route? Let me know in the comments, via email, or on Insta ― looking forward to hearing your opinions!