Road Trip to Yellowstone from Wisconsin & Back

Our two week adventure to Yellowstone and back.

Day 1

Day one we left home near Oshkosh to Palisades State Park South Dakota. We leafy about 6:15am and arrived about 2:30pm. It’s about a 7 hour drive without stopped but we had two stops and a lunch at Subway in a town on the way. Dinner we had tacos at the campsite.

Palisades has mostly pit toilets but one with flush and hot showers. Overall nice and the hikes and geographical features were great.

Went to bed around 9 to get up fairly early for day two.

Day 2

Got up around 5:30 and on the road by 6:30. Ate cliff bars oranges apples and bananas and boiled eggs on the way. First stop was Badlands National Park. Park is $25 but since we have more national parks to visit we bought the $80 annual pass. Lots of great overlooks and places to stop while driving. We did the notch hike. Best to wear better shoes as I had flip flops and stubbed my toe. There are some heights and gravely trails so it’s a little near enough racking for me with kids too but we all made the little less than a mile both ways. It’s not a flat easy hike.

After doing a little hiking in the sun and heat we drove to Rapid City for dinner. We went to Sickies Dinner, it’s probably a chain out here. It’s burgers of all crazy kinds and mostly fried food not much for vegetarian or vegan options.

From there we buzzed past Mount Rushmore. There are a few places to stop and see it from the road. Parking is $10 if you go up closer. Crazy Horse was the next stop and would have been $30 for our carload. Six and under are free. Looked like they have an extensive place for gifts and maybe museum and you can hike up weather permitting. We just didn’t have time for all that. We then made it to our HipCamp destination Called Plenty Star Ranch around 6:30pm. We’ll plan what we’ll do tomorrow because we’re staying here two nights.

Day 3

We hopped out of bed a little after 7. Kiddos took bag showers at the ranch and we had cereal and fruit that we brought to the ranch. They also offered free hot chocolate and coffee. We sat and had a nice breakfast with the owners. Another beautiful day. We’re starting out on our way to Custer State Park and wild life loop followed by the Mammoth Site and swimming by Cascade falls.

Custer was a lot of grasslands and we did see some buffalo but they were pretty far away. Needles highway was amazing and I highly recommend not missing it.

We stopped for lunch in Custer at Sage Creek Grill and it had great food including some vegan options which I loved. A lovely place for the family. We also stopped at the candy shop – it was very over priced and not as awesome inside as it looked outside.

Mammoth site was pretty cool to see the Fossils. Almost $40 for our family of 4 to enter.

Cascade Falls seems like the middle of nowhere and is in a drying creek bed. It’s a unique spot to swim. Free! We arrived right before a thunderstorm so we waited for it to pass and then went for a dip.

Good thing we were taking it easy today in the Black hills because Our little one sprained her ankle last night climbing trees and this morning we found out Sol is allergic to cats – he rubbed his eyes after petting some and looks pretty rough.

If your looking for buffalo the drive back from Cascade Falls at sundown there were a lot of buffalo on our drive back through Wind Cave Park.

Day 4

Up to head out to Yellowstone at 8am. We expect about a 10 hour drive today. The longest driving day. We stopped at noon for lunch Sheridan. Lunch was at Qudoba there, fresh and yummy!

Beautiful driving seeing the mountains.

back on the road after food and gas up about 1pm. Driving through the Big Horn mountains even more impressive! Rocks canyons and amazing display of how the earth upheaved the hills.

We stopped in Cody at the grocery store for some fruits. From there we entered Yellowstone on the east entrance- grand drive through the mountains by springs and a high overlook including the Tetons in the background.

Tried to fit in Old Faithful on the way at about 8:30 but we wanted to get to the campsite by dark so we continued on. We arrived at camp. Madison Campground is nice they have flush toilets and sinks.

Day 5

First stop Old Faithful. We left our campsite about 8am headed to Old Faithful. We picked up some breakfast there and browsed the gift shop before sitting and waiting for the finally. We then walked some of the boardwalks behind Old Faithful which was worth the sites of bubbling pools and thermal features. On our way out they had a family plein air painting activity so we stayed and painted and watched one more eruption. We headed out of there about 12:30. From there we drove to the Grand Prismatic Spring which is on the way to our campsite at Madison. Beautiful. The steam coming off the spring was also different colors.

We went back to the campsite and cooked lunch relaxed before heading OT to the fire hole canyon to go swimming. There’s a nice place for swimming. I recommend going earlier we went around 4:30 or so and I feel like it gets a little cooler with the sun going down but it was also getting a little cloudy.

After swimming we headed back to camp for some snacks firewood and a fire with some s’mores. We do traditional or with Reese’s peanut butter cups or substitute Oreos for the gram crackers.

At 930 at our camp there also was a astronomy talk with telescopes as star gazing. We stayed for the star talk but by 10:30 the kids were mostly passed out so we didn’t stay for the star gazing and it was a bit cloudy.

Day 6

Out the door by 8:00 on our way to Mammoth Hot Springs. Most of the Hot springs area was white and not very eventful for me. There was some with orange and flowing water. We stopped at the visitor and ranger station there to pick up books for the kids program so they can work though the books to earn patches. There’s is a three dollar fee for the book/patches.

From the Mammoth Hot springs we headed to the Canyon to hike for some waterfall views. I wish we stopped at Boiling river but maybe we’ll get to go back.

We hiked down to the top of the lower falls it’s a thigh burner on the way back up but great views of the canyon and top of the falls.

We went back to the Fire canyon swimming and arrived at our campsite a little before a small thunder cloud went by so instead of eating at camp we drove to West Yellowstone for dinner at Bullwinkle’s. Advertised as a packer bar in my Frodors travel book but not many packer things.

Day 7

Slept in till 10. Got in the car to Norris. First stop was the Artist paint pots. At first looked disappointing walking through a driftwood forest, I’d call it but the kids loved the mud pot, so it was worth it.

From there we drove to the Norris geyser basin to hike the Porcelain Basin and the Back basin. If your short on time I’d recommend seeing the steamboat geyser in the Back basin. It is quite active, we didn’t see an eruption but still cool.

We went back to camp to gather swimming stuff for the fire canyon again. Swam for about 39 min before heading over to the Old Faithful Inn to see the architecture and stop at the visitors center to have the kids ranger books checked and pick up Yellowstone patches. We showered and ate there as well. Showers included soaps and shampoo. Dinner was average not amazing buffet. Good enough options but just average in flavor/quality.

On the drive back it was about 10:30 and we had a clear moonless sky besides the lightning in the horizon. We stopped at a pullout to see the starts and milky way. Amazing.

Day 8

Set the alarm for 6am. We decided to bail it on our Madison campsite for the next two nights and take a chance at a campsite in the Tetons.

We found a nice site in Signal Mountain campground with electricity for $55 a night. We rested for a bit before heading to Phelps lake for a hike and for Sol to jump off ‘the rock’ there!

After hiking we went to check out a bakery a bit south of there Persephone’s but it was late in the day and they didn’t have many things so we stopped at the Alpine supermarket for some very pricey groceries.

From there we headed south around a loop to Jackson and back to the campsite – note for future do grocery shopping in Jackson if needed plus many eateries. We found dinner at Hand Fired Pizza in Jackson it was good, took about 20 min wait plus 45 min after ordering to get pizza. We really liked the pizza and different options.

We tried to spot some wildlife driving antelope flats back to signal campsite but it was raining and pretty dark by 8:30pm with the covered skies. We saw one lonely elk.

Day 9

We made eggs broccoli and sausage breakfast at the site then moseyed over to the chapel and mentors fairy district for some historical info for the kids free wooden park badges. From there to the visitor center to collect badges. Then across the street we mailed out our plain air paintings of Old Faithful as postcards to family members.

Next we were discussing where to hike to swim. Jenny lake or Leigh lake, taggard lake or back at our campground. We made our way to Leigh lake but learned on the way there was swimming in String lake which was hardly a hike and warmer than Leigh so we spent our time at String Lake which was a little cool but a nice close spot by the mountains.

We made hotdogs and salad for dinner at the campsite and just chilled for the remainder of the night.

Day 10

Packed up the camper and headed off towards Bozeman to see a friend of mine. We met at the Madison river outside of Norris Springs and rafted a few hours followed by hanging out at her at their place for the night!

Day 11

Headed out a little after 9 stopped at the local grocery store which as nice and had reasonable prices and some organic selection. We’re on our way to Theodore Rosevelt National Park for the next two nights. About a 6.5 hour drive from Bozeman area.

We arrived at Medora Campground at 5:45. They have a city pool near by and tennis courts and showers. We spent the rest of the night relaxing in the campsite and planning what to do The next day. ate spaghetti at our campsite and roasted marshmallows at their community fire pit – fire supplied by us.

Day 12

We relaxed getting up and headed for a hike to the petrified forest. Hike was about 45 min from the parking lot to the stumps. It was hot in the sun when we got out there about 10:30. After our hike we headed to Medora for some ice cream and just check out the town and shop around. We then went back to camp for lunch and to take a dip in the city pool.

After the pool we showered up and went back to Medora for wine at the wine bar then dinner at Little Missouri. Bar food and took a bit long because of the theatre goers. We were a little later than we like for the scenic drive- just missing sun set but still light enough to catch the buffalo and prairie dogs for a shortened drive around the park. Another star filled night if you are a night owl great views of the night sky.

Day 13

Headed or if the campsite at 9 am to our next destination St. Cloud Minnesota.

Stopped in Bismarck for lunch at Noodlezip. With the time change we loose an hour today.

We stopped in St Cloud for dinner at a Mexican place in a little strip mall called Giliberto’s. We then decided to skip our campsite for the night and make the rest of he 5 hour drive home to Butte Des Morts Wi.

Day 14 Home

Wonderful family vacation 💕


Published by Stoney Tree

I'm a Wisconsin Artist, mainly working in Ceramics creating mugs for Better Way Designs but I also have been doing more painting recently. If interested in anything send me a line! This site is to help market my artwork mainly ceramics, but also will include daily tokens of wisdom about faith, nature or artwork.

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