Yellowstone National Park 1

We have made it to Yellowstone National Park, what a trek across Wyoming, I can’t tell you how beautiful this state is, you must see for yourself.

We are staying at Shoshone Lodge and Guest Ranch, this is located about 3-4 miles east of The East Entrance of Yellowstone.  What a great place!!  I honestly think this is a place you just come to and stay put, maybe venture to Yellowstone a few days  during a week long trip but this place has tons of things to do or you could just stay and relax, depending on how you like to travel.  Us?? We put in 2, 14 hour days to get everything we wanted done at Yellowstone, and only used our cabin to sleep and shower.  The first evening we arrived we hung out by the campfire, played some baseball with other guests and chatted with some folks hanging out by the fire, relaxing! This is the way to do it.

The next morning we were up and going by 7 am.  I heard that the park gets busy fast and parking lots are usually full by 10 am.  Our first stop was 4 minutes away at the entrance sign. Luckily another family was right there with us and took our photo. It turned out fantastic! Everybody is awake and ready to go!

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We got our map and park newsletter and were off on our 1st adventure.  When you enter the park from this end, it is quite a drive to any of the frequent tourist stops so be prepared to be in the car for a good 30-60 minutes, depending on how well you manage curves and if you get stuck behind RVs.  It is a beautiful drive so just sit back and enjoy. We drove the East Entrance Road all the way to the T intersection and took a right to follow the Grand Loop Road, this follows the Yellowstone River and there are plenty of wildlife to keep you occupied on the long trip.  Our favorite were the buffalo, it was amazing how big these guys were and you were practically on top of them.  We got some great pictures just sitting in the car!! On the way back that night we even got to watch one swim through the water and get out to cross the road!  This was by far one of the coolest things we saw!

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South Rim Drive

Just up the Grand Loop Road was the South Rim Drive.  We turned here to get some pictures of the Artists Points.  This place was starting to get really packed by 10 am and was almost nearly impossible to get a picture.  Be patient, those pictures here are worth it 🙂 See!!

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Next up was Uncle Tom’s Trail, it was closed for construction 😦  Looks like we will have to come back 🙂  LOL!!!

We headed up a little further to the North Rim Drive.  Here we checked a few things off of our Itinerary!  Lots of great viewpoints along the way and interesting educational signs to go with.

Brink of Lower Falls

We hiked down this trail to see the waterfall from the top.  Pretty, but packed, we expected this.  Yellowstone is not for people who don’t like crowds, esp. in July/August.  Just be prepared and plan well.

Lookout Point

Park your car and walk a few steps to this.  Puts in to perspective how gorgeous and huge this park is.

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Grand Viewpoint

Ever wondered why it’s called Yellowstone.  One glimpse of the Grand Viewpoint and I am betting you figure it out!  The kids loved it here! We got to see a golden eagle flying over this, pretty sweet and a memory we won’t soon forget.

Canyon Visitor Center

This place was fantastic.  We watched the short film, wandered around the exhibits, got our Junior Ranger booklet (here it costs $3 but instead of a pin you get a patch).  Visited the gift shop, purchased a few items, including Yellowstone Passport Stickers and got our Canyon Village Cancellation. There are lots of things to do in this village. Shopping, education, and food.  Great place to stop!! We didn’t take too many pictures here because we were busy enjoying 🙂

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Tower Falls

We did the short hike to the top to get an overview of the Tower Falls.  Beautiful as far as the eye can see.  Our pictures don’t do this justice.  We did not do the lower trail to see the falls, this group was getting hangry!

Next up was our lunch stop!

Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room

We got hungry at a bad time, lunch time.  We had about a 45 minute wait until a table was ready.  We wandered over to the gift shop and looked around, then we found a seat on the porch and worked on our Junior Ranger books.  The time went by fast and we were seated.  The food was really good and the wait staff fabulous,.  This place was gorgeous to look at!  In no time at all we were full and on to our fun-filled afternoon!!

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We took a quick stop off at the Tower Junction Ranger Station for yet another cancellation for our passport!  This one had a Tower Falls stamp as well! Kinda hard to see but I love when there are extra stamps. ❤

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I’m going to end here for the day now and do a separate post on the afternoon, otherwise this post will get very long.  We put in 2 very long days here and there is so much information I don’t want to bog you down with.  Let me know if you have been to Yellowstone and have must do’s that I may have missed! We tried to get everything in on this trip.  Check back for Part 2, and Part 3.  This park is huge it will take awhile to get through everything.  Enjoy!

Wyoming

The 4th state line signage stop on National Park Trip Season 2. This sign was right across the highway from our South Dakota sign. Hwy 16 headed west from Custer, SD. Big huge pull offs for both signs and little to no traffic! A great spot to cross off all those state line sign pictures you are collecting. 😜

Our Wyoming stops this year include:

Devils Tower National Monument

Yellowstone National Park

Grand Teton National Park

 


Another great stop for a Wyoming state line sign is on Hwy 22/Hwy 33 to the west of Jackson Hole (shown above). This was a huge pull off spot with plenty of people to take your photo! Either spot is great! Do you have any must do stops in Wyoming? We would love to know! We loved Jackson Hole and can’t wait to go back. ❤️❤️❤️

Until the next time!! Enjoy!!

Jewel Cave National Monument

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Jewel Cave, what can I say, this place was a gem! 💎💎 Just minutes outside of Custer, South Dakota, this is a great morning or afternoon stop.

When we got there we grabbed our Junior Ranger books and set off on one of the hikes that Jewel Cave has to offer. They have 3 hikes to choose from.  We chose the Roof Trail because we didn’t want to miss the ranger program that was starting in 30 minutes.  The Roof Trail was extremely easy, it does a loop around the visitor center and has a viewing deck to stop at.  We stopped and took some photos of the overlook, it is quite nice.

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We continued on the trail. They say to set about 30 minutes for the trail but I think that might be if you are crawling or resting every 2 minutes for 5 minutes.  Not sure but it didn’t take us that long at all.  Below are pictures of the boys on the trail.  Easy, smooth and relaxing.  Very peaceful.  This park didn’t have many people at all, less crowds=happy mom!! We skipped doing a cave tour since we had just done Wind Cave.  So I have no comments on cave tours, sorry.

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Once back to the Visitor Center the Ranger program was starting.  This was a cool program on animal hides.  Kids got to touch, feel, smell many animal hides, and learned what animals could be found in different parks.  My kids were very impressed and excited because we had many of these parks left to visit on this trip.  Yeah for excited kids!!! 😍😍

We then went back to the visitor center to finish the Junior Ranger booklet, this one was a little tough.  We really had to search the center for the answers and use our thinker on this one.  In the end they earned those badges 🤓🤓

We went to the gift shop to get our usual passport stickers and cancellations!  Small gift shop, but lots of goodies! We even got ourselves a new friend to take home with us.

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All in all, this is a great place to stop if you are in the area.  Just a few good hours here will be enough.  3 hikes to choose from,  .25 miles, 3.5 miles or 5.5 miles. Also 3 cave tours to choose from as well; Discovery Talk, Scenic Tour and the Historic Lantern Tour (summer only).  I think we might come back to do the Historic Lantern Tour someday.

I hope you enjoyed our visit to Jewel Cave National Monument, have you been there?  I would love to hear your thoughts or experiences!

Until next time, keep collecting those cancellations ❤️❤️

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Devils Tower 

The next stop on National Park Trip Season 2 was Devils Tower National Monument. A perfect stop between all of the South Dakota landmarks and Yellowstone. 


Devils Tower was the first National Monument to become a National Monument! We were just passing by and stopped to visit for an hour or so. We printed the Junior Ranger booklets beforehand and worked on them during the drive over from South Dakota. It was a pretty boring drive so I’m glad we had something to keep us occupied and looking forward to at the next stop.

When we got there, there were a few items that we needed to find in the visitor center. We walked around a little and visited the gift shop. Tiny gift shop but they had everything we needed, so we loaded up! Gunnar managed to find an alien at the store 👽👽 We love aliens!


Stopped over to the information desk and received our Junior Ranger badges and Passport cancellation stamps. Great stop to break up the drive! Neat little visitor center!



I would say plan anywhere from 1-3 hours here. There is a trail around the tower you can walk on. We didn’t do it, it was really crowded there the day we went. We stuck to the visitor center, it seemed less crowded to us. Not much to do here, but it’s a must see, America’s first National Monument. Now on our way to Yellowstone National Park! I can’t wait. Check back for more adventures!!

Wind Cave National Park

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The next stop on National Park Trip Season 2 is Wind Cave.  Wind Cave is one of the oldest national parks in the U.S. it was the 8th National Park and the 1st National Park to protect a cave.  With 143 miles of caves explored and found here, you can’t go wrong.  We spent about 5 hours at Wind Cave.  When we arrived we signed up for The Natural Entrance Cave Tour.  Gunnar’s 4th grade pass got all of us in for free (except Grandma but she had her senior pass with her).  Good thing we brought him 😉  We only had to wait about 20 minutes until our tour started.  Gave us plenty of time to take our packs back to the car because they aren’t allowed in the cave, and visit the bookstore.  Bookstore/gift shop is small but excellent, we bought our Passport stickers and got our cancellations.

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The Natural Entrance tour was perfect for us.  It lasted about 1.5 hours and our Ranger was very patient and funny.  She let Gunnar lead us down into the cave and took turns assigning kids as mini-ranger guides.  We picked up an extra kid along the way, apparently he grew tired of his own family and attached himself to us.  Him and Grandma hit it off!!

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We saw lots of cave formations: Boxwork, dripstone and popcorn were the most abundant on this tour.  Wind cave has more boxwork than all other caves combined, it holds the record with having 95% of all known boxwork in the world found here.  In South Dakota, can you believe that??  Who knew South Dakota held a record. LOL.

We enjoyed our tour, went to the picnic area and enjoyed a picnic lunch.  I suggest bringing food, Wind Cave is in the middle of nowhere, no food close by that we saw.  We worked on our Junior Rangers while we ate and then headed back to the Visitor Center for our badges.

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This Ranger was rough!  He wasn’t going to give out these badges to just anyone. He grilled these kids like it was the MCATs.  He even asked Gunnar if he opened the book when Gunnar couldn’t tell him how limestone was made.  😂😂😂 After much lecturing he finally let them pass and we were off to Jewel Cave.🤓🤓

We really tried not to have a good time here but in the end, we caved.

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I hope you enjoyed Wind Cave National Park with us.  Check back for our next stop!

 

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

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Next stop, Mount Rushmore!!  This is the first visit I have ever made here.  I am 41 years old and I think that it pretty darn pathetic!!  I didn’t want the kids to be like that, so when planning this trip, this stop was a must.  We headed over here from the South Unit of The Badlands National Park.  Keystone, SD was packed to the gills with tourists, bikes and people.  The first thing I thought was Thank God we aren’t staying here!!  I wondered if Mount Rushmore was going to be elbow to elbow like this.  To our surprise it wasn’t that bad.  Parking was really easy and not far from the entrance. Everything went very smooth.

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Once we got inside we headed straight for the Information Center for our Passport Stamp and Stickers.  Park Rangers were very helpful and gave us a map of the property.  We headed into the avenue of flags, which was pretty sweet to see all of them in a pathway leading up to Mount Rushmore.

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Once we got through the flags, then came the wait in line for your perfect picture in the front of Mount Rushmore.  We waited a few minutes, everyone was really nice and courteous which is fantastic, I love the Midwest!!! Here is what we got for a picture!

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Not very impressive?? LOL!!  Love when the kids have their darn eyes closed.  I’m going to buy them sunglasses for next year so they can knock themselves out with the closed eyes thing and nobody will know! After this fantastic photo shoot, we headed down the stairs to the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center to work on our Junior Rangers. Talk about information!  This place was awesome!  We learned so much here.  Did you know that the Hall of Records is found behind Teddy Roosevelt?  Did you know that there once was a Mount Rushmore baseball team??  Did you know that the rock is Harney Peak Granite?  Do you know why these presidents were portrayed?  Birth, Expansion, Development and Preservation.  Man I love learning.  I had no idea we would enjoy this place as much as we did!

The Junior Ranger booklet was so much fun and so was the Park Ranger that gave the boys their badges and made them take the pledge. What a hoot! It was hard to leave!

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We wandered out and decided to go to the sculpture’s studio for another Passport Cancellation.  We ended up with this beautiful view of the Memorial!  I would suggest taking your family photo from here. Better picture and less crowds.  This one turned out pretty good 🙂

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The Sculptor’s Studio was neat.  I had no clue that they were suppose to be carved in suits.  Obviously I have not done my research on this place.  Cute little gift shop here but not very big.  Off on the Presidential Trail we went.  This hike was beautiful, especially through all the Ponderosa Pine trees!  Lots of steps so be prepared, relatively easy, of course my kids ran it.  Good photo ops along the way.

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Back to the main area and we were craving ice cream!  Probably because everyone within 40 feet of us had ice cream in their hands.  We strolled over to Carver’s Cafe and Ice Cream to get the scoop (get it, the scoop??).  It was absolutely delicious!  While kids were enjoying their ice cream I ran over to the main gift shop, Holy Moly this place was huge and had just about anything you would want!!  Gifts galore!  I picked up what I needed and left before I found other crap that I really don’t need (I’m really good at finding crap I don’t need).  Boys finished up and we were off.  Mixed with a half day at Badlands and a half day at Mount Rushmore, we decided to go check in at our hotel in Custer.  Boy am I glad this is where we decided to stay.  I highly recommend staying in Custer if you are doing Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave or Jewel Cave, what a great town.  Low crowds and excellent choices of hotels and restaurants.

We stayed at The Bavarian Inn.  Kids loved it, pool, tennis courts, lots of games to borrow and a life size connect 4.  Rooms were big and our neighbors were fantastic.  I will be back to visit this place again. I can’t recommend it enough!

4th stop on National Park Trip Season 2 and we aren’t anywhere close to stopping.  Come back and check out our next stops soon!! Gotta fill up our National Park Passport Book. 🙂IMG_1310[1]

Badlands National Park

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This was the first National Park on our National Park Trip Season 2.  No disappointment here at all.  From the time you pull up to the entrance sign until the time you leave, there is 360 degrees of beauty all around. Pinnacles, spires, canyons, prairies and grasslands. This place has it all.  The layers of depositing sediments have created a natural beauty that you need to see for yourself, just amazing.  It is so peaceful and serene, this is why we loved this park.

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Prairie and Grasslands butted up against a beautiful back drop of geological formations.

Another reason to love Badlands, Wildlife galore!  We saw bighorn sheep, a porcupine, prairie dogs and much much more.  We kept our eyes out for the black footed ferret but unfortunately didn’t get to see any.  What really impressed us was the Fossil Museum and Paleontology lab at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.  You could sit and watch the paleontologist work on fossils.  The fossils they have on display blew us away as well!

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Here is a bighorn sheep on the side of the road, photo courtesy of my 10 year old!

We always try to attend a ranger program at every National Park we visit.  This time we went with the Night Sky Viewing Program at the Amphitheatre behind the visitor center.  We actually lucked out and got a Geology talk all about how the Badlands formed (I won’t ruin it here, you will need to go and find out for yourself), and the sea that covered the area millions of years ago which explains all of the cool fossils they have found there.  When that program was done it was dark enough to get out the telescopes, I have never seen a telescope like these before!  Absolutely amazing!  The kids and I were able to see the moon, Jupiter, Saturn and The International Space Station as it went by.  Totally impressed with this program, and the kids talked about Jupiter and Saturn all the way back to the hotel. I suggest hitting this program if it works into your schedule. Awesome!

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Another reason to love the Badlands is that there are very few hiking trails to overwhelm you and you do have time for all of them.  We went on a few, most are on boardwalks to where you can then get off on foot paths and explore the formations on your own.  Here are a few pics of The Door Trail to give you an idea and feel for the trail system. Perfect for day explorers to the park.

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Kids earned their Junior Rangers while we were here and we got our cancellations in our Passport books.  The Rangers at the Visitor Center were all really helpful and full of information.  Great little gift shop here, where we picked up a few items and then we were off to the next stop. We did swing by the South Unit visitor center.  Spent about 30 minutes there.  A few neat exhibits but if you are short on time I would skip.

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Passport Book – Badlands Cancellations

I allocated about 1 1/2 days here and intermixed with Minuteman Missile (see blog for that here).  That gave us plenty of time to hike, drive through, attend a ranger program, get our Jr. Rangers and visit both of the visitor centers.   After much thought and research we decided not to stay in the lodging inside of the park.  We chose Frontier Cabins, located just North of the North Entrance to the park in Wall, South Dakota.  We were able to get our own cabin and the kids slept in their own tee pee.  Also able to enjoy a hot tub, free breakfast and it was minutes from Wall Drug.  I would recommend this hotel, very quiet and peaceful hard to believe it is right off the Interstate.  It worked perfect for us to commute between Wall, The Badlands, Minuteman Missile and the Delta 01 Launch site.

That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed my post on Badlands National Park. Let me know if you have any questions!  National Park Trip Season 2 is off to a great start.

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The South Entrance Sign

 

 

 

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