Duration

20 days/21 nights

Distance Traveled

4,245 miles (7,250 kilometers)

Gateway Cities

Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)

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  • Maah Daah Hey Trail, North Dakota

  • Glacier National Park, Montana

  • Bruneau Dunes State Park, Idaho

  • Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming

  • Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Overview

Arrival Gateway – Minneapolis-St Paul (MSP)
Day 1: Devils Lake, North Dakota
Day 2: Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota
Day 3: Missouri River | Bismarck-Mandan, North Dakota
Day 4: Theodore Roosevelt National Park | Medora (Maah Daah Hey Trail), North Dakota
Day 5: Great Falls | River’s Edge Trail | Giant Springs, Montana
Day 6: Many Glacier | Glacier National Park, Montana
Day 7: Going-to-the-Sun Road | Whitefish | Kalispell, Montana
Day 8: Flathead Lake | National Bison Range | Missoula, Montana
Day 9: Payette National Forest, Idaho
Day 10: Hells Canyon (southern entrance at Hells Canyon Dam), Idaho
Day 11: Bruneau Dunes State Park | Massacre Rocks State Park, Idaho
Day 12: Mesa Falls, Idaho
Day 13: Grand Teton National Park | Jackson, Wyoming
Day 14: Flaming Gorge, Wyoming
Day 15: Lander | Sinks Canyon, Wyoming
Day 16: Big Horn National Recreation Area, Wyoming
Day 17: Black Hills National Forest | Black Elk Peak | Custer State Park, South Dakota
Day 18: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
Day 19: Spearfish Canyon | Mickelson Trail, South Dakota
Day 20: Badlands National Park | Chamberlain, South Dakota
Departure Gateway – Minneapolis-St Paul (MSP)

Outdoor Adventure

Day-by-day Itinerary

Catch a connecting flight into Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) for your arrival day into the region. Relax, catch up on sleep, and prepare for your big adventure through the region!

Devils Lake; credit North Dakota Tourism

Activities:

As the largest natural body of water in North Dakota and known as one of the best fisheries in this part of the country, Devils Lake covers more than 100,000 acres and has hundreds of miles of shoreline. The city namesake is equally alluring for its small-town charm and friendly people. Fishing, birding and hunting adventures await.

Drive the four-mile auto tour through woodlands and prairies at Sullys Hill National Game Preserve looking for the bison and elk herds. Visitors enjoy watching activities at the prairie dog town or viewing some of the more than 250 species of birds that have been recorded at the Preserve. Hike the two-mile nature trail or the new 1/4-mile paved accessible trail. Climb the stairs to the top of the Sullys Hill overlook for a panoramic view of the surrounding rolling hills and prairie stretching to the south.

Stop by Devils Lake’s only full-service lakeside resort at Woodland Resort or visit the hidden treasure of Grahams Island State Park, heavily wooded and surrounded by miles of lakeshore. Visitors can enjoy a day on the lake, take a stroll on the hiking trails, swimming at the beach or hang out at the visitor’s center.

Established in 1867, Fort Totten State Historic Site was built to protect overland transportation and supply routes, and many of the Lake Region pioneers settled here by way of its military post. The museum is staffed daily from mid-May to mid-September.

Overnight: Devils Lake, Grahams Island State Park, Woodland Resort or Eastbay Campground

Lake Sakakawea; credit North Dakota Tourism

Activities:

Lake Sakakawea is a wonderland for anglers, boaters, campers and swimmers who take advantage of its immense size year-round. With easy access points around the lake, beautiful scenery and many places to drop anchor, there is something there for every outdoor enthusiast.

Lake Sakakawea State Park is home to the Western Terminus of the North Country National Scenic Trail, a multi-use trail stretching 4,600 miles over 7 states from Lake Sakakawea State Park in North Dakota to the Vermont border of New York, passing through Fort Ransom State Park.

Nestled in the bluffs along the north shore of Lake Sakakawea you’ll find Fort Stevenson State Park with miles of trails, a wide outdoor rentals (bike, canoe, kayak cross country skis, boat, paddle boats, snowshoes and standup paddleboards), breath-taking views, and year-round special events. Park visitors can learn about the military past by visiting the park museum or by attending the Frontier Military Days event in June.

Stop by other nearby attractions like the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery and Aquarium who works to improve recreational fishing opportunities and facilitate recovery of threatened and endangered fishes or the Audubon National Wildlife Refuge where wildlife abounds with than 246 bird, 34 mammal, 5 reptile, 4 amphibian and 37 fish species in the refuge’s gently rolling prairie grasslands and wetlands adjacent o Lake Audubon and Lake Sakakawea.

Overnight: Garrison, Fort Stevenson State Park, Lake Sakakawea State Park or Riverdale

Missouri River; credit North Dakota Tourism

Activities:

The Bismarck-Mandan area has welcomed visitors since Lewis and Clark paddled up the Missouri River in 1804. As the capital of North Dakota and hub of culture, history and shopping, you won’t want to miss attractions like the Dakota Zoo, the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, and the Lewis & Clark Riverboat.

At Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, you’ll find the Custer House, replica of General and Mrs. Custer’s home on the cavalry base, and On-a-Slant Mandan Indian Village, six earthlodge replicas of the Mandan village overlooking the Missouri River and last occupied in the late 1700’s. Enjoy the park’s non-motorized trail system that are open for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

The Lewis & Clark Riverboat continues the proud tradition of the Missouri River steamers at the Port of Bismarck, offering boat tours on the mighty Missouri from May thru September.

Don’t forget to rent a stand-up paddle boards (SUP) or kayak for a water adventure on the serene and unmatched beauty of the Missouri River, small rivers, and lakes nearby.  Or if you prefer land adventures, there are plenty of rentals available for cyclists, swimmers, runners, and all-around adventure seekers.

Overnight: Bismarck

Maah Daah Hey Trail; credit Zachary Hargrove, via North Dakota Tourism

Activities:

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the most beautiful places in North Dakota to witness herds of buffalo, majestic wild horses and a landscape that will take your breath away.

In the South Unit take a relaxing auto tour across the paved, 36-mile Scenic Loop Drive with pullouts and interpretive signs explaining some of the park’s historical and natural features.  Or hike among the 19 available trails to view some of the most iconic animals of the West, including: Bison, mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and wild horses (in the South Unit), longhorns (North Unit), pronghorns, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, beavers, porcupines, prairie dogs, golden eagles, numerous birds and an occasional snake.

Recognized as one of the top mountain biking trails in the U.S, the Maah Daah Hey Trail is a true test of skills in a variety of terrains offering 144 miles of non‐motorized single-track trail through the rugged Badlands. The route takes users past the “Old West” North Dakota town of Medora where you can catch its summer musical and unique places to unwind, have a cold drink and grab a snack for the trail. The trail is open year-round, but it is best to check the weather before heading out. Maps are available from the Forest Service in Dickinson, Bismarck or Watford City.

Overnight: Medora or Watford City

Giant Springs; credit Montana Office of Tourism

Activities:       

Explore Montana’s playground as you travel from North Dakota across Montana to Great Falls.

While in Great Falls be sure to get out on a bicycle or walk along the 60 miles of River’s Edge Trail on both sides of the Missouri River.  The paved and single-track trails encompass spectacular views of the mountains, prairies, river canyons, waterfalls reservoirs, and five hydroelectric dams all connecting to Great Falls’ historic downtown. Giant Springs State Park is home to one of the largest freshwater springs in the US and offers views of Black Eagle Falls, a fish hatchery, fishing ponds and is a wonderful place to relax or stroll along the Missouri River.

Overnight: Great Falls

Glacier National Park; credit Montana Office of Tourism

Activities:

Get an early morning start and travel along the Rocky Mountain Front to Glacier National Park.  Explore the wonders of the Many Glacier Valley.

The Many Glacier Hotel is located along the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake and provides access to numerous hiking trails.  Major sites in the immediate vicinity can be accessed by nearby trails and include Lake Josephine, Grinnell Lake, Grinnell Glacier, Cracker Lake and many more.  Across the park you will find ranger-guided nature hikes, boat tours, kayak or canoe rentals and horseback rides.

Overnight: In the park or communities adjacent to the park on the East or West side

Going to the Sun Road; credit Montana Office of Tourism

Activities:

Take the day to explore the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. The Going-to-the-Sun Road was completed in 1932 and is a spectacular 50 mile, paved two-lane highway that bisects the park east and west. It spans the width of Glacier National Park, crossing the Continental Divide at 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass. It passes through almost every type of terrain in the park, from large glacial lakes and cedar forests in the lower valleys to windswept alpine tundra atop the pass.

Scenic viewpoints and pullouts line the road, so motorists can stop for extended views and photo opportunities. The road is well worth traveling in either direction, as the view from one side of the road is much different than from the other.

There are numerous tours that will enhance your understanding of this special park. Take a red bus tour or a tour with a Blackfeet tribal member on Sun Tours. Get onto a lake or trail and take a boat tour or horseback ride. Or explore the Park with a Ranger.

Overnight: Stay in the park, Whitefish, Kalispell or St. Mary area

Flathead Lake; credit Montana Office of Tourism

Activities:

Today enjoy a scenic road trip along Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the western U.S.  The lake is 28 miles long and up to 15 miles wide.  The lake’s pure sparkling waters and miles of tree-lined shore offer unlimited recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat.  For ever-changing views visitors can use Highways 35 and 93 to drive around the lake.

Take a drive through the National Bison Range at Moiese, home to 350-500 American bison.  Other wildlife includes elk, white-tail and mule deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, black bear, coyote and over 200 species of birds.

Continue to Missoula nestled in the Northern Rockies of Montana, surrounded by seven wilderness areas and at the confluence of three rivers. In addition to the boundless opportunities for outdoor recreation, popular sites in Missoula include the Smokejumper Visitor Center, the Montana Natural History Center, Fort Missoula and a stroll downtown.

Overnight: Missoula

Tamarack Resort; credit Idaho Tourism

Activities:

Premier single-track mountain biking can be found across Payette National Forest, near McCall. A multitude of trails are accessible to experience the smooth adrenaline rush of flying the ponderosa pine and douglas fir trees. Bike and equipment rentals are available at a number of resorts and outfitters, including Jug Mountain Ranch, Brundage Mountain Resort and Tamarack Resort.

Venture to Ponderosa State Park for extensive hiking and biking trails through sagebrush flats and dense ponderosa pine canopy. Pristine mountain lake views can be seen from the overlook at Osprey Point. Wildlife in the park is plentiful and you’ll have a chance to see Canadian geese, osprey, bald eagles, wood ducks, mallards, songbirds, deer, moose, beavers, muskrats and bears.

Overnight: McCall or Donnelly

Hells Canyon; credit Idaho Tourism

Activities:

Carved by the powerful Snake River and physically separating the borders of Idaho and Oregon for more than 100 miles, Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America at over 7,000 feet. Access Hells Canyon via the Hells Canyon Dam outside of Cambridge and take your pick of rafting and jet boating guides to match your preferred adrenaline rush and ideal amount of time spent on the water.

For those wanting to feel as connected to the water as possible, whitewater rafting through rapids reaching as high as Class IV is your closest connection to absorbing that energy. If a more leisurely approach is your style, a jet boat cruise will have you comfortably cutting through the waves.

Off the water, there’s plenty of outdoor adventure to be had at Hells Canyon National Recreation Area with hiking and mountain biking through dramatic terrain vegetation of the canyon. No matter which route you chose, you’re sure to be treated to some fantastic canyon views including Nez Perce pictographs, bighorn sheep, black bears, deer, eagles and other wildlife.

Overnight: McCall or Boise

Bruneau Dunes State Park; credit Idaho Tourism

Activities:

What do you do when you come across the tallest freestanding sand dunes in North America? Spend the day climbing the dunes and sled down on a sandboard of course. The dunes at Bruneau Dunes State Park – rising 470 feet at the peak – are unique in the Western Hemisphere where they form at the center rather than the edge of a natural basin. Sandboards are available for rent or you take a hike or go horseback riding around the park to investigate the Idaho desert. When night settles in, visit the Bruneau Dunes Observatory to scope out the stars and moon. The park also offers the longest camping season in the Idaho Parks system, allowing for year-round camping opportunities.

Head east to Massacre Rocks State Park to see where western pioneers traveled on the Oregon Trail as they followed the sweep of the Snake River. See remnants of the Oregon Trail from either end of the park and read emigrant names scratched into Register Rock. In addition to its historical significance, the park is ideal for hiking and observing the plant and bird species that populate Idaho’s high desert landscape.

Overnight: Pocatello, Fort Hall or Idaho Falls

Upper Mesa Falls; credit Idaho Tourism

Activities:

Northwest of Ashton, near Yellowstone National Park, sits Mesa Falls. These twin falls are broken up into two tiers, Upper and Lower Mesa Falls, for double the spectacle. No manmade influences get in the way of this spectacular waterfall. Upper Mesa Falls is a thunderous 10-story tall waterfall that pours into the remnants of an ancient volcanic super-eruption. The perfect vantage point comes from a scenic boardwalk. Starting from the Mesa Falls Visitor Center, hike the Mesa Nature Trail for a tranquil stroll and bird sightings.

For world-class fly-fishing, Henry’s Fork of the Snake River is a must. Henry’s Fork is packed with a variety of trout species, including wild rainbow trout and brown trout.

Overnight: Driggs or Victor

Grand Teton National Park; credit Wyoming Office of Tourism

Activities:

Find lush valley floors, mountain meadows, alpine lakes and the rising peaks of the Teton Range in Grand Teton National Park’s 310,000 acres. Mormon Row and the Moulton Barns are the most photographed destinations in the park, and Grand Teton’s celestial peaks provide the perfect setting for nature lovers, outdoor adventurers and road trippers.

Grand Teton National Park offers 230 miles of hiking trails along with camping, climbing, horseback riding, boating, kayaking numerous photography opportunities and abundant wildlife—including bison, elk, moose, bears and bighorn sheep. Don’t miss scenic drives that include Jenny Lake Scenic Drive and Signal Mountain Summit Road.

Visitors can embark on a scenic trip down the Snake River with a number of float trip opportunities that allow you to marvel at nature and relax on a safe and calm river journey. This gives visitors the opportunity to experience the peaceful and serene trip of Grand Teton National Park and its wildlife views are emphasized.

Overnight: Grand Teton National Park

Flaming Gorge; credit Wyoming Office of Tourism

Activities:

Make your way to southern Wyoming via US-191, taking exit 99 in Rock Springs and heading south on highway 191.

The Flaming Gorge Reservoir is a fisher’s paradise, filled with lake trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, kokanee salmon and smallmouth bass and has several access points to launch a boat on the lake. While the Green River is famous for its abundantly clear water and endless trout supply. Rent a boat from the Buckboard Marina which opens the door to endless water sport opportunities including tubing, water skiing and swimming. Or you can opt for another form of transportation on the water and jet ski or raft the river or lake.

Off the water, soak in the epic scenery and landscape of Flaming Gorge by hiking the many trails consisting of both deserts to forests and range from short jaunts to longer excursions. Or experience the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Tour, a 24-mile 1.5-hour self-guided tour for a chance to see a variety of wild animals, including pronghorn, elk, deer, rabbits, coyotes, hawks, eagles and sage-grouse, among others. Wildlife viewing is best in the early morning and late afternoon hours.

On your route, keep an eye out for the historic Boars Tusk. It’s an isolated butte within the Rock Springs Uplift with a peak elevation of over 2,000 meters.

Overnight: Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Green River, or Rock Springs

Sinks Canyon; credit Wyoming Office of Tourism

Activities:

There is a very rare experience to be had in Lander at a working llama ranch and wilderness outfitter in the Wind River Range, Absaroka Range, and the Red Desert – the Lander Llama Company. They offer guided hiking pack llama supported trips into the wilderness back country of western Wyoming where you can access excellent high mountain trout fishing along with ample opportunities for photography, wildlife watching, and a true wilderness nature experience.

Sinks Canyon State Park, six miles southwest of Lander on Highway 131, features a geologic phenomenon in which the Popo Agie River vanishes into a large cavern (known as the Sinks) but reappears in a trout-filled pool about half a mile down the canyon. Within the canyon you will see massive sandstone cliffs tower above three distinct habitats, including a pine-covered north-facing slope, a juniper-sagebrush south-facing slope and an extensive riparian ecosystem. Stop by the visitor center before hiking its trails, camping, picnicking, rock climbing or fishing. Visitors might see porcupines, black bears, red squirrels, bighorn sheep, mule deer, moose or golden eagles.

Overnight: Sinks Canyon Campground, or Lander

Tongue River Canyon; credit Sheridan Travel & Tourism

Activities:

Diverse landscapes of forest, mountains, upland prairie, deep canyons, broad valleys, high desert, and wetlands all wait to be discovered at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. Set aside time to take in the beauty of this intriguing part of Wyoming’s wild lands. With over 120,000 acres of wilderness that straddle the northern Wyoming and southern Montana borders, Bighorn Canyon offers endless opportunities for adventure.

The southern portion of Bighorn Canyon offers 12 hiking trails, ranging in length and difficulty. Those who decide to explore the trails will be rewarded with open vistas offering spectacular views that overlook the canyon and its surroundings. Bighorn Lake extends approximately 71 miles through Wyoming and Montana, 55 miles of which are held within spectacular Bighorn Canyon. The lake gives boaters a chance to see the colorful canyon walls up close with either a motorized or non-motorized vessel. Bighorn Lake can be accessed by watersport enthusiasts at Horseshoe Bend Marina near Lovell, Wyoming.

Anglers can take in the canyon’s beautiful scenery while fishing Bighorn Lake or Bighorn River. With a variety of fish living in this pristine setting, taking time to cast a line in Bighorn Canyon’s waters is a must.

Indulge your curiosity and discover the history behind ranches and ghost towns near Bighorn Canyon on one of the many tours that feature a handful of local ranches and the legendary Western figures behind them.

Overnight: Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Lovell, or Bighorn Lake

Black Elk Peak; credit South Dakota Tourism

Activities:

Known to rock climbers as the ‘Needles of South Dakota’, the Southern Black Hills area is a perfect place to enjoy your first day on the rock. The beautiful granite spires thrust up out of the ground and provide exciting summits for climbers of all ages and abilities. The maze of rocks in this area has a long proud history of ascents by many of the world’s best climbers.

At 7,242 feet, Black Elk Peak stands prominently as the highest point in the Black Hills of western South Dakota. Standing sentinel over the Black Hills, Black Elk Peak is topped by a stone fire tower providing a magnificent view of the surrounding landscape. Nestled in a designated wilderness area, and surrounded by the Black Hills National Forest, it is accessible by hiking a 3.5-mile trail starting from Custer State Park.

Overnight: Keystone

Mount Rushmore National Memorial; credit South Dakota Tourism

Activities:       

Known as America’s Shrine of Democracy, Mount Rushmore National Memorial features the 60-foot faces of four great American presidents who represent the birth, growth, development and preservation of this country. Hike the Presidential Trail 1.6 miles long, 422 stairs, to get up close and personal with the mountain sculpture and perhaps glimpse some of the area wildlife.

Black Hills Aerial Adventures offers flightseeing tours over the breathtaking Black Hills and Badlands. Or visitors can enjoy a trail ride on gentle horses, with expert guides and wranglers, and great scenery. This is a great way for amateur (even never-ever) riders to enjoy being a cowboy in the great outdoors. Check out one of the local outfitters and take a half day or full day trail ride throughout the Black Hills.

Overnight: Hill City

Mickelson Trail; credit South Dakota Tourism

Activities:

Rent an ATV/UTV and hit the trails throughout the Black Hills. Along the trail stop to explore impressive rock formations, canyons, gulches, plains and lakes. There are many companies that will rent all the equipment you will need for an exciting day.

Use one of many guide and rental services for trout fly fishing in Black Hills area streams including Spearfish Canyon, Rapid Creek and Custer State Park.

The premier mountain biking trail within the South Dakota State Park system, is a 109-mile trail that stretches the length of the Black Hills. It follows an abandoned railroad bed and climbs gently into jagged cliffs and pine forests. The Mickelson Trail has a crushed limestone surface and wide path. It tops out at 6,100 feet but rarely exceeds a 4-percent grade (making it perfect for leisure riders). Trestle bridges and railroad tunnels add to the charm of the trail. Start your adventure at any of 15 trailheads.

Overnight: Spearfish

Badlands National Park; credit South Dakota Tourism

Activities:

When visiting South Dakota, an absolute must-see is the 244,000 acres of Badlands National Park, a striking landscape boasting a maze of buttes, canyons, pinnacles and spires. Hike one of the many trails throughout the Badlands including Window & Door Trail, Notch Trail, Castle Trail, Medicine Root Loop and more!  There are also beautiful stargazing opportunities throughout the Badlands for evening outdoor adventure.

Spend some time near the town of Chamberlain in the mighty Missouri river which runs down the center of South Dakota. Outdoor adventures include guided fishing, boating, paddle board and kayak rentals and more!

Overnight: Wall or Chamberlain

Drop off your rental car and make your way to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to head back home with a new set of memories to take with you!