22 Jul Weekend Road Trip
By Mark Faldmo, JR
VP-Marketing Columbus Travel
Pre-covid I traveled several times per month. I have been itching to stay at a hotel for several months and had 4 days/3 nights for a road trip. I thought of doing what came to mind first which was taking a road trip to Yellowstone/Jackson or Bryce and Zion. However, I wanted to do something different and go somewhere I had not been to before. The thought came to mind of Mt. Rushmore. Mt. Rushmore always seemed like it was far away and I needed more time than just three nights. After doing some research I decided that this was a road trip that could be done in just 4 days/3 nights.
While Mt. Rushmore is further away than Yellowstone or Zion Nation Park it was a delightful trip and was easily done in 3 nights. Plus, I got to see Devils Tower in Wyoming which is conveniently along the route as well as get a new appreciation for the beauty that northeastern Wyoming and western South Dakota have to offer. I will say after doing this I would probably add an additional night as there were more things to do in the Mt. Rushmore area than I had anticipated.
Here is how I was able to visit Mt. Rushmore in 3 nights:
Before departing find a good audio book to listen to for day 1, parts of day 2 and day 4 or your favorite music. We were able to complete two audio books on this road trip.
Day 1 – (400 Miles/6.5 hours)
We departed Salt Lake at about 10am headed east for Casper, Wyoming on I-80. After a stop in Evanston, WY for a quick stretch and bite to eat then continued on to Rawlins, WY. We took a quick drive around this railroad town and admired some of the old houses and churches, fueled up and headed north towards Casper, Wyoming. On this stretch of our road trip we visited pioneer history sites of Martin’s Cove and Independence Rock. We arrived in Casper approximately 7pm. For accommodations we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott. It’s in a convenient location near restaurants.
Day 2 – (about 280 miles)
After breakfast we departed at 10am for Devils Tower National Monument. This was an interesting drive through the oil fields of eastern Wyoming and the interesting landscape of northeastern Wyoming. The drive to Devils Tower is a little under 3 hours. Devils Tower is the first national monument making Wyoming the state with the first National Park (Yellowstone) and the state with the first national monument. When we arrived, we had lunch at one of the restaurants located near the monument entrance. After lunch we headed to Devils Tower. This is a place I have always wanted to visit after watching the movie, Close Encounters. We spent about 2 hours at the monument and hiked part way up one of the trails. We also stopped a few minutes and watched the prairie dogs in one part of the monument. More information about Devils Tower can be found here: www.nps.gov/deto/index.htm
After visiting Devils Tower, we headed to Deadwood, South Dakota for dinner. The drive took about 1.5 hours. Deadwood is a historical wild west gold mining town. Deadwood’s main street is lined with shops, restaurants and saloons. It is a throwback to the Wild West. View the interesting details of Deadwood here: www.deadwood.com/history. After dinner we headed to Rapid City, South Dakota. The drive is a little under an hour. We arrived at approximately 8pm and stayed at the Fairfield Inn.
Today was the highlight of the road trip – Mt Rushmore. We departed the hotel at 10 am, fueled up and took the short 30-minute drive to Mt. Rushmore. We spent about 3 hours at Mt. Rushmore, hiking the Presidents’ Trail admiring the awe-inspiring monument from several angles. Information about Mt. Rushmore can be found here: www.nps.gov/moru/index.htm
After visiting Mt. Rushmore, we headed to Keystone, SD for lunch. Like Deadwood, Keystone is an old mining town with lots of history and wild west charm. We decided to take an afternoon train ride through the Black Hills of South Dakota. The 1880 train (www.1880train.com) has steam powered engines that take passengers on a 2-hour ride to Hill City and return. The train uses historical passenger cars from old railroads throughout the country. You can choose to ride on the Battle Creek car which is an old restored car from Utah’s Bamberger Railroad.
After the train ride we drove one of the most beautiful and interesting roads on which I have ever traveled. The Needles Highway is amazing. A short drive from Keystone in Custer State Park, this 18-mile drive is a narrow winding road with rock formations that resemble needles and tunnels carved through the mountains. (RV’s are not allowed on this road.) We finished the drive on the Needles Highway at about 7pm. After the drive we headed back to Casper Wy (about 3.5 hours). Information about the Needles drive can be found here: custerresorts.com
As a side note it would be worth spending an extra night in the Mt Rushmore area. There are several things to do in the area or you could take a side trip to the famous Wall Drug and get a free glass of Ice water. www.walldrug.com/about-us
After a good night sleep back at the Courtyard by Marriot in Casper we headed to Salt Lake City (400 miles/6.5 hours).
In all we drove about 1200 miles on this road trip and visited some wonderful new destinations. Find a good audio book or music and hit the road!
If you are interested in this road trip an agent at Columbus Travel can help you with booking the accommodations 800-373-3328.