After we left Mount Rushmore we headed north through Rapid City and onwards to Wyoming. Our first stop was to see Devil’s Tower. Devil’s Tower is 867 feet (base to summit) limestone rock structure that protrudes seemingly out of nowhere in Northeast Wyoming. As you get close you start to wonder where the heck it would be because all you see is rolling plains then all of a sudden...boom, there it is!
While the tower is impressive to see up close, it is almost more impressive to view it from a distance because you realize not only how tall it is but how it stands out against the rest of the landscape. After getting to experience The Badlands it was fun to see another rock structure in our backyard that seems like it belongs in a Sci-Fi movie.
Grand Teton National Park
Ahh where to begin?! So much to say, so hard to say it. Grand Teton National Park is incredible. When we travelled through Europe, Switzerland was one country that truly captivated us. The landscapes, the tranquility, the views were all just amazing. We never thought places like that existed, and certainly never thought our own country could compete! Yet, the Tetons proved to us that our country does contain some absolutely stunning landscapes. But before we get to that, let’s go to the beginning…
For those who didn’t see it, we will refer you to our Instagram post on the lengths we took to secure a campsite in Grand Teton National Park. After we finished in South Dakota we wanted to head to the Tetons, but we also realized the “Great American Eclipse” was in five days. Everything we read had noted what a nightmare it would be traveling around the path of totality and it just so happened that the Tetons were one of the most popular places in the country to try and view it. In fact, the park expected visitors to shatter records on eclipse day! We certainly didn’t mean to be in the mix, but since we were in town we figured we would try our luck.
After a ton of research, we knew landing a campsite would be a total shot in the dark, especially since all the park’s campsites were either totally booked or first come first served (meaning wait in line and hope for the best). But, after seeing Devil’s Tower, we decided to take that shot and drove through the night across the entire state of Wyoming and landed at Colter Bay Campground at 12:30am to wait in line for a camping site and there was already one car ahead of us.
After sleeping for a few hours in the car we woke up to find at least 40 cars and campers waiting for a campsite. Since we were second in line our gamble paid off and we got in to secure a site throughout the whole week, including the eclipse. We saw a ton of people get turned away and realized quickly how lucky we were! So we hunkered down and planned to see as much of the park as we could while we were there.
In the days leading up to the eclipse we explored the Jenny and Leigh Lake area hiking trails, the Colter Bay area via the Hermitage Point Hike and were even able to get into in downtown Jackson to check it out. In fact, we were able to meet up with some great friends who cooked us dinner one night in their place, which was a huge huge bonus for us!
The best part of our time here though was of course getting to see the eclipse. This experience was so special to us that we decided to dedicate an entire blog post to it. It was one of those moments we both knew we would remember for the rest of our lives. Not only that, but we got to experience it with Kirby’s Dad, who flew in to Denver to see it and decided to do his own drive through the night to meet us in the Tetons. It was awesome! Check out that post here:
All in all, the Tetons have been our favorite stop so far. The mountains are stunning and once you get in the backcountry, all the things to experience truly cannot be captured in pictures or words. Beauty surrounds you in this place. We know we will be back!
Yellowstone National Park
Literally right next door to Grand Teton is our country’s most storied park: Yellowstone. Obviously we have heard about Yellowstone our entire lives, so to get to actually see it in person was pretty cool. If we could describe Yellowstone in one word it would be: diverse. Within a few hours you can see deep pine forests, highly volatile thermal areas, colorful canyons and more wildlife than you knew our country even had. It’s pretty insane. We were only able to spend two full days in the park (which is definitely not enough), but we were able to get a sense of all the park has to offer. We broke our days up into two separate ideas: touristy and off-the-beaten-path.
On day one we attempted to check off the touristy stuff. We spent half a day experiencing Old Faithful and the surrounding geyser area (including the Morning Glory Pool) and then drove up to see the Grand Prismatic Spring. Let us tell you, maybe it was summer, maybe it was the eclipse but those two stops took a lot out of us. It was hot and there were people everywhere! Clearly we came during a peak time, which is not our favorite, but it was very cool to get to experience these iconic American treasures in the flesh. The park makes you realize it really is sitting on some highly active land!
On day two we explored the various mud pits, Yellowstone Lake, the park’s “Grand Canyon”, various incredible waterfalls, the great plains and the Mammoth Hot Springs. This was a long day, but it truly gave us a sense of the park’s vast and diverse landscapes. We could have easily spent a day just exploring the canyon! We even saw hordes of bison, deer and even a coyote on the drive. If there was ever a place in our country that resembled an African safari, it would be the plains of Yellowstone. It was very cool to see and experience.
We only had two days, but you could easily spend a week in this park and still not have enough time. This really is a park that every American should experience at least once in their lifetime.