10 Days in Wyoming and South Dakota (The Ultimate Travel Guide)
Updated: Nov 24, 2020
This itinerary of 10 days in Wyoming and South Dakota will take you through the journey that I took, which included the major areas of Cody, WY; Gardiner, MT; Yellowstone National Park; Jackson Hole; Devils Tower; and Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Badlands National Park
This trip will require that you rent a car, as there will be a lot of driving necessary to see as much as possible in the time provided.
Be aware that some roads will often be closed during the snowy months so make sure to plan for this.
To begin your 10 day trip in Wyoming and South Dakota, book a one-way ticket to Billings Logan International Airport, in Billings, MT. Make sure to pick a vehicle that best suits your plans and pick it up upon arrival.
Billings/Red Lodge (Day 1)
After arriving in Billings, get on the road and head south, towards where you will stay overnight in Red Lodge, MT. Drive time to Red Lodge from Billings is 1 hour 10 minutes.
There are several hikes that you can do in the area, but not much else. Red Lodge is mostly just acting as home base until you get back from Cody, Wyoming.
Airbnb is my main way of finding a place to stay, so check that out when you begin your search.
Cody (Day 2)
From your place in Red Lodge, Cody is about 1 hour and 10 minutes. You can spend your day here visiting places like:
Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Buffalo Bill Dam & Visitor Center
Old Town Trail
After a full day of sightseeing, spend the night watching the famous Cody Stampede Rodeo. The rodeo only happens from June to August from 8-10 PM. So make sure you have plans to last you through the day.
When your day in Cody has finished, return to your place in Red Lodge.
Yellowstone/Gardiner (Day 3)
From Red Lodge, take the 3-hour ride along Bear Tooth Pass towards Gardiner, MT. On the way there, head south to Canyon Village to check out the magnificent Yellowstone Falls.
Canyon Village includes North Rim Drive where the Lower Falls can be seen and South Rim Drive where the Upper Falls can be seen, each with several different viewpoints. You should have enough time to check out both locations
There are also several hikes in the area that provide different views of the falls most won't see. Yellowstone's website lists three different trails as follows:
Brink of the Lower Falls Trail (moderate): Descend 600 feet on a steep trail to get an up-close and personal view of the Lower Falls in all its thundering power. 0.7 miles, round-trip Seven Mile Hole Trail (strenuous): You’ll want to commit a whole day to this trail – the only one that leads to the canyon bottom. 10.2 miles, round-trip Point Sublime Trail (easy): After visiting the Artist Point overlook, follow the South Rim Trail beyond Artist Point to this less-traveled path, which meanders along the canyon rim to the aptly named Point Sublime. 1.3 miles from Artist Point to Point Sublime
Mammoth Hot Springs is on the way back to Gardiner if you'd like to check it out. It is basically hot spring water that is redirected into a pool, where you could swim in the sulfur-smelling water. This isn't a necessary stop on your trip but is there if you are interested.
Arrive in Gardiner and enjoy the rest of the day. Here's where we stayed!
Yellowstone (Day 4)
On Day 4, we hired a tour guide who drove us all around the park and gave us a bunch of information on what we were seeing. I highly recommend researching some Yellowstone tours as I feel that I learned and saw a lot more than I would have being on my own.
However, if you do enough research and are looking to save some money, you could probably explore the park yourself at your own pace.
This tour was specifically a wildlife tour so we ventured east at the top of Yellowstone. Along the way we stopped at places like Floating Island Lake, Lamar Valley, Trout Lake, and Barronette Peak.
After a 6-hour tour, get dropped off at your place of stay and enjoy the rest of the day in Gardiner.
Gardiner to Jackson Hole (Day 5)
Don't worry, that wasn't the end of Yellowstone! You will be spending all day driving south from Gardiner to Jackson Hole, right through Yellowstone. A non-stop drive to Jackson Hole will be about 4.5 hours total.
Along the way you will have to opportunity to view many more areas that Yellowstone has to offer. Along an incredibly scenic drive, you will be making your way towards the Grand Prismatic Hot Springs and Old Faithful.
Grand Prismatic Hot Springs
Grand Prismatic was really cool, there were a couple hot springs like this one scattered over an area of land. Everybody had to walk on a bridge to see it all so it was fairly tight as you walked through. A must see when driving through Yellowstone!
Old Faithful is another must see if you're in the area. The geyser erupts 20 times per day, meaning about once every 1 hour and 12 minutes. This is usually the wait time in between eruptions, give or take about 10 minutes. The geyser was actually named after it's predictable schedule! The geyser averages around 140 feet in height and can last anywhere from 1.5 minutes to 5 minutes (Kwak-Hefferan).
When finished, drive until you reach Jackson Hole in Grand Teton National Park. Check into the room you have booked in Jackson Hole or Teton Village.
Jackson Hole (Day 6 and 7)
Jackson Hole has so much to offer, so take two days to explore the area
One river tour that we took was with Barker-Ewing Scenic Boat Trips. This trip was a relaxing guided river tour of Snake River, which flowed next to the Grand Tetons. It was a peaceful journey through nature and one of my favorite things we did. Try grabbing a rock from the the bottom of the river! They become crazy smooth after years of rolling along the bottom of the river.
Another river tour we did was not so relaxing. We went white water rafting on Mad River and it was wild. It really was like an extreme sport, trying to stay in the raft while maneuvering it with the currents. So of course it was a lot of fun and you should check out some tours if you're into that
Take a guided tour on horseback through the beautiful countryside that Jackson Hole offers! We took a 3 hour tour with A OK Corral Horseback Riding through the Gros Ventre Wilderness. The views were beautiful and it was a fun way to experience Grand Teton National Park. That was the first time I had ever gone horseback riding and I would do it again no doubt.
Jackson Hole Aerial Tram
Ride the Aerial Tram located in Teton Village. The tram takes you 4,139 vertical feet to a summit with incredible 360-degree views of the Tetons.
Tram tickets are currently $39 for an adult.
Jackson Hole to Buffalo, WY (Day 8)
Get an early start in the morning, as an approximately 6 hour journey will be needed to drive across Wyoming towards South Dakota. You can stop in Buffalo, WY and spend the rest of the day there, and prepare to get up in the morning to continue the drive to SD.
Click HERE for more information on what Buffalo has to offer!
Devils Tower/Deadwood, SD (Day 9)
It's another long drive from Buffalo to Deadwood, so again, be sure to get an early start to the morning. You will be driving approximately 4 hours total.
Along the way, you will stop at Devils Tower, a crazy cool natural rock tower that stands about 867 feet tall. It is named Devil's Tower because Army commander, Col. Richard Dodge wrote, "the Indians called it 'Bad God's Tower,'" which he translated to Devil's Tower.
Here is the National Park Service's web page for Frequently Asked Questions.
After checking out Devil's Tower, finish your drive to Deadwood where you can check into your place and go out and explore the town.
Mount Rushmore/Crazy Horse/Badlands (Day 10)
It's about to be a busy day so be prepared!
In the morning you will visit both Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crazy Horse Memorial. It takes about 1 hour to drive from Deadwood to Mount Rushmore, then an additional 30 minutes to Crazy Horse. After Crazy Horse, you will drive 1.5 hours to Badlands National Park.
Then, if you'd like, you could visit Mount Rushmore once again at nighttime. Whatever you choose, you will still be returning to your place in Deadwood at the end of the day.
Mount Rushmore is easy to get to and you can park in a parking garage that is located at the national memorial. Then walk through then entrance that's lined with flags and a centered Mount Rushmore.
The park has a walk-through where you can view the memorial from several different angles. After spending some time checking out the massive carving, you can stop to get some ice cream that is based on Thomas Jefferson's original recipe from 1780! "President Jefferson is credited with bringing the first written recipe for ice cream to the United States," and you can try it!
Work on the Crazy Horse Memorial began in 1948 and is not even close to completion. It will become the largest sculpture in the world that's dedicated to honoring the Native American Indians. There is an inside tour that tells the fascinating history of Crazy Horse and the process of creating his memorial. Definitely take some time to learn the history behind the sculpture while you're here!
Badlands National Park
Once you finish checking out the memorials, you'll want to head to Badlands National Park. Take Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway (SD 240) through the park for amazing views and pull-offs the whole way. You'll also see a lot of mountain goats and other wildlife close to the roads. Badlands National Park was one of my favorite spots on the entire trip.
Definitely leave enough time in the day to spend about 1.5-2.5 hours there. You can also plan a stop at a famous massive drug store called Wall Drug. There were bill boards for it EVERYWHERE as we got closer to the Badlands. It's essentially a shopping mall with several gift stores and restaurants but instead of individuals owning each store, they are all run as a single entity.
That's a Wrap!
Going Home (Day 11)
You've just completed the last day of your 10 days in Wyoming and South Dakota and now it's time to head home!
You'll want to leave from Rapid City, SD, which is about 1 hour and 10 minutes from Deadwood.
So, to Recap
You're going to spend 10 days in Wyoming and South Dakota
You're going to buy a one way departure ticket to Billings Logan International Airport (BIL)
You're going to buy a one way returning ticket from Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP)
You will visit major locations like: Cody, WY; Gardiner, MT; Yellowstone National Park; Jackson Hole; Devils Tower; Mount Rushmore; Crazy Horse; and Badlands National Park
You are going to need to rent a car for this trip
Make sure you plan for certain roads being closed in the winter
Consider getting a guided tour of Yellowstone
There are many great hikes in most of these locations, so check them out if you're into that
Thanks for Reading
★ If you enjoyed the article or if it helped you plan your trip, I encourage you to drop a like or a comment under the article, it will help a lot. Thanks so much, have a great trip!
Kwak-Hefferan, Elisabeth. “About Old Faithful, Yellowstone's Famous Geyser.” My Yellowstone Park, 27 Apr. 2020, www.yellowstonepark.com/things-to-do/about-old-faithful.
“Memorial Team Ice Cream.” Mount Rushmore National Memorial, www.mtrushmorenationalmemorial.com/dining/memorial-team-ice-cream/.