Arrival at Denver
Depart London Heathrow – 16:05
Arrive Denver – 18:45
Journey Time – 9 hours 40 minutes
The largest city in a 1,000-km circle and the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. Denver is the natural starting point to visit the scenic and historic mountain states, filled with national parks, abundant wildlife, ancient Indian rock art and much, much more.
Overnight – Denver
Denver to Cheyenne
The “Magic City of the Plains” is located at the intersection of Interstates 25 and 80 in southeast Wyoming – in the heart of the American West. Cheyenne is approximately 100 miles north of Denver, Colorado. The name itself speaks of colourful legends and abundant history. It’s also the capital of Wyoming. Visit the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum & Store, the Cowgirls of the West Museum. The F.E. Warren Air Force Base Museum or the Wyoming State Capitol Building & Grounds, a National Historic Landmark with gleaming marble floors, beautiful woodwork and lots of stained glass. Take a ride in the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley or go on a Historic Downtown Walking Tour. Cheyenne is Western History at its best.
Overnight – Cheyenne
Cheyenne to Rapid City
Rapid City – South Dakota is the chief town of a wide surrounding area – and lies on the eastern edge of the Black Hills National Forest near Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore National Memorial stands as a powerful symbol of American democracy. It is a monumental granite sculpture of the heads of former United States presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln make up the world-famous “Shrine of Democracy.” The monument represents the first 150 years of history of the United States of America. Not far from Mount Rushmore the Crazy Horse Memorial, a kind of its Indian counterpart is being built, another gigantic piece of rock sculpture where the nine-story-high face of the legendary Lakota leader, Crazy Horse, gazes over the Black Hills. During your visit also consider a trip to Custer State Park – home to a herd of 1,500 free roaming bison. The park boasts scenic drives such as the Needles Highway (SD 87), which twists and turns its way past towering rock formations and through narrow tunnels. At the end of one tunnel stands the Needles Eye, a granite spire with a slit only app. 1 m wide but reaching 10 m in the air As there is so much to see in the area, enjoy two nights’ accommodation in Rapid City.
Overnight – Rapid City
A day to explore the Black Hills area.
Overnight – Rapid City
Rapid City to Deadwood
If you haven’t done so today would be a good day to explore the Badlands National Park. The harsh landscape was created by millions of years of erosion. The Lakota called it “mako sica,” meaning “land bad.” Today, you can view these fantastic formations along scenic roads or hiking trails. Or drive directly to Deadwood, just 45 minutes northwest of Rapid City. It’s tucked in a pine-covered mountain gulch not far from where Kevin Costner filmed “Dances with Wolves”. The Old West town of Deadwood has flourished on gold mining for more than a century. Nearly all attractions are related to gold, or the wild and woolly gold rush heritage of this wonderfully restored community. After the state of Nevada and Atlantic City, NJ, the city became only the third site in the nation to allow gambling in 1989. More than 85 historic Deadwood casinos offer blackjack, poker and slot machines. Playing for money is as much a part of the city’s history as prospecting for gold. Gaming revenues have made Deadwood’s extensive historic preservation possible. The self-guided Deadwood Walking Tour is an amazing lesson in frontier history which is not to be missed.
Overnight – Deadwood
Deadwood to Medora
On your way to Medora you will pass White Butte, the highest peak in North Dakota at an elevation of 1069 m. It is a fairly easy climb to the top and takes about one hour return. If you are travelling in the summer months make time to take in the rootin’ tootin’ Medora Musical and sample the nearby Pitchfork Fondue.
Overnight – Medora
Medora is a good starting point to explore Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The national park is in two ways unique as it doesn’t only protect a unique landscape but also commemorates a remarkable and unique character. Theodore Roosevelt first came to the area in September 1883 on a hunting trip. While here he became interested in the cattle business and invested in the Maltese Cross Ranch. He returned the next year and established the Elkhorn Ranch. Years later he stated several times “I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.”. The history of the Badlands of southwest North Dakota is a little older though: 65 million years ago the western half of North America was buckling and folding to create the Rocky Mountains. Large amounts of sediments were forming as water, wind and freezing, over time, turned into the sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone layers now exposed in the park, while ash layers became bentonite clay. From Medora there is direct access to the South Unit of the park. The Scenic Loop Drive is an excellent way to explore the park in a day. The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora is an interpretive centre for the history of Native Americans, ranching, rodeo, and the western lifestyle of the plains and Badlands. It provides an insight into the culture and legacy that is the character of the Great American West.
Overnight – Medora
Medora to Billings
Montana’s largest town, Billings, lies in the south, and is a good base for visits to the Little Bighorn battlefield and the Crow Indian Reservation. In 1823 at the site of present-day Billings, 29 trappers of the American Fur Company were attacked by 400 Blackfeet. Some pelts taken by the Blackfeet were traded to the Hudson’s Bay Company, later appeared on the London market and caused an international incident. Here, in the Crow reservation, the United States Army suffered its greatest defeat, when in 1876 a detachment of the 7th United States Cavalry, commanded by George Armstrong Custer attacked a larger Indian force, led by famous leader Crazy Horse, and was annihilated. On the battlefield are a museum, a military cemetery and a monument commemorating George Armstrong Custer on the spot where he fell.
Overnight – Billings
Billings to Cody
Before you head off towards Cody take a look at The Rimrocks, Billings’ most striking natural feature that rises 122 m above the Yellowstone Valley, running the length of the city and beyond. Make sure you have time left to experience Cody, a picturesque little western town, gateway to Yellowstone National Park. During the summer months, you can enjoy a nightly rodeo, visit the Buffalo Bill Centre of the West which is widely regarded as America’s finest Western museum, get a feel for the Old West while watching a “shoot-out” in front of the historic Irma Hotel or experience “Old Trail Town”.
Overnight – Cody
Cody to Yellowstone National Park
Again – choices, choices, choices! Beartooth Highway Scenic Byway is, perhaps, North America’s most spectacular alpine highway. This above-timberline drive takes travellers among towering peaks and glacier-fed lakes, then into the beautiful Clark’ s Fork Valley, dominated by Pilot and Index Peaks, before reaching Yellowstone’s northeast Silver Gate. Another choice would be Chief Joseph Scenic Highway that leads over Dead Indian Hill, switchbacks down into Sunlight Basin and then follows the Clark’s Fork River to a junction with the Beartooth Scenic Byway. The road follows the escape route used by Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce tribe as the U.S. Army pursued them. The most direct route is the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway which follows the North Fork of the Shoshoni River west from Cody. Buffalo Bill, Cody’s founder and namesake, called this road, “The most beautiful 50 miles in the world.” The highlight of today is of course Yellowstone National Park. The nation’s first National Park still remains primarily a wilderness with 97 percent of the park’s 8,800 km² remaining undeveloped. While Old Faithful, the most widely recognized geyser, serves as the park’s signature steam, there are more than 10,000 other geothermal features in Yellowstone including geysers, hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles.
Overnight – Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
A day to explore the wonders of the park (we recommend pre-booking a guided bus tour of the park).
Overnight – Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone to Helena
Helena owes its existence to the discovery of placer gold, quartz gold, silver, and lead. Helena became the “Queen City of the Rockies” with the boom brought on by the 1864 gold strike. In 1864 a group known as the “Four Georgians” (John Cowan, Daniel Jackson Miller, John Crab, and Reginald, or Robert Stanley) stumbled upon gold in what is now Helena’s main street. The claim was staked and named “Last Chance Gulch.” In 1875, the territorial capital was moved from Virginia City to Helena. When Montana became a state, the fight for the location of the state capital pitted ‘Copper King’ Marcus Daly of Anaconda against rival William A. Clark, who supported Helena. Helena won, and in October 1898, ground was broken for the State Capitol Building. Helena’s glorious past can also be seen in the spectacular 19th-century mansions, historic Last Chance Gulch businesses, and restored pioneer dwellings. Nearby the Missouri River flows with several lakes within a short driving distance. As Lewis and Clark travelled up the Missouri River in this area, Meriwether Lewis was struck by the steep canyon walls and noted ‘The Gates of the Mountains’ in his journal.
Overnight – Helena
Helena to Whitefish
Before reaching Glacier National Park you will travel through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, primarily made up of the Piegan Blackfeet branch . The eastern part of the reservation is mostly open hills of grassland, with the main community of Browning, which is the seat of tribal government. Other towns serve the tourist economy along the edge of the park: St. Mary and East Glacier Park Village, which has an Amtrak station and the historic Glacier Park Lodge. North American Indian Days is an annual festival held on pow wow grounds, near the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning. Weather and time permitting you can travel to Whitefish, your destination for the next two nights, via the “Going-to-the-Sun” Highway, which is the only road that crosses Glacier National Park, going over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. It was completed in 1932. The road, a National Historic Landmark and a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, spans 53 miles (85 km) across the width of the park. Or you can travel along the Southern part of the park, stopping at the Izaak Walton Inn. It was originally built by the Great Northern Railway in 1939 for lodging railway workers. In addition to railway lodging, the hotel was also originally envisioned to perhaps become an official southern gateway to Glacier National Park, but that plan never materialized. Today, the inn is at the only flag stop along the route of Amtrak’s Empire Builder. The Tudor Revival inn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, with some other space available in refurbished cabooses, EMD F45 Diesel Locomotive 441, etc. Then continue to Whitefish, The Great Northern Railway was built through what is now Whitefish in 1904, which sparked development of the town. Early residents of the town worked for the railroad and nearby logging industries. Nowadays it’s a gateway to Glacier National Park.
Overnight – Whitefish
Full day to explore Glacier National Park. The park encompasses over 1 million acres (4,000 km2) and includes parts of two mountain ranges (sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains), over 130 named lakes, more than 1,000 different species of plants, and hundreds of species of animals. This vast pristine ecosystem is the centrepiece of what has been referred to as the “Crown of the Continent Ecosystem”. The mountains of Glacier National Park began forming 170 million years ago when ancient rocks were forced eastward up and over much younger rock strata. The current shapes of the Lewis and Livingston mountain ranges and positioning and size of the lakes show the tell-tale evidence of massive glacial action, which carved U-shaped valleys and left behind moraines which impounded water, creating lakes. Of the estimated 150 glaciers which existed in the park in the mid-19th century, only 25 active glaciers remained by 2010.Scientists studying the glaciers in the park have estimated that all the glaciers may disappear by 2020 if the current climate patterns persist. Large mammals such as the grizzly, moose, and mountain goat, as well as rare or endangered species like the wolverine and Canadian lynx, inhabit the park. Glacier National Park borders Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada – the two parks are known as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and were designated as the world’s first International Peace Park in 1932. The scenery and wildlife in Glacier National Park provides constant amazement and inspiration, for young and old alike. A fun way to reveal the deeper significance and meanings of the park is to spend time on an interpretive tour. The famous Red Buses serve as an ideal way to see and learn more about Glacier National Park. In fact, the vintage 1930’s buses are part of the human history and heritage of the park. As much of the park’s scenery is vertically oriented, the roll-back tops are perfect for providing full views of the stunning mountains, and the area’s signature Big Sky (must be pre-booked)
Overnight – Whitefish
Whitefish to Missoula
Today you will travel along a scenic highway winding along the curving shoreline of beautiful Flathead Lake, bordered on its eastern shore by the Mission Mountains and on the west by the Salish Mountains. The mild climate allows for cherry orchards on the east shore and vineyards for wine production on the west shore. Your day ends in Missoula, located along the Clark Fork River near its confluence with the Bitterroot River in western Montana and at the convergence of five mountain ranges, thus is often described as the “Hub of Five Valleys”. Spend a few hours wandering downtown, the heart of the city, where independent merchants, junk shops and bars haven’t changed much in half a century!
Overnight – Missoula
Missoula to West Yellowstone
Many choices today! You can “hit the highway”, which will take you to Butte, which in its heyday between the late 19th century and about 1920, was one of the largest and most notorious copper boomtowns in the American West, home to hundreds of saloons and a famous red-light district. The small town was often called “the Richest Hill on Earth”, attracting workers from as far away as Cornwall, Ireland, and Wales, just to name a few. Over a dozen of the head frames still stand over the mine shafts, and the city still contains thousands of historic commercial and residential buildings from the boom times, which, especially in the Uptown section, give it a very old-fashioned appearance. Next stop: Nevada City. Nevada City was one of the two major centres of Commerce in what was known as one of the “Richest Gold Strikes in the Rocky Mountain West”, it shared that role with its sister city Virginia City. The town has been restored as an outdoor living history historical museum, linked by railroad to the Virginia City Historic District with numerous historic buildings, artefacts, and furnishings. It is owned by the State of Montana and operated by the Montana Heritage Commission, with 108 historic buildings from various places around Montana and 14 original Nevada City structures. Nevada City is also home to North America’s largest collection of automated music machines which can be found in the Nevada City Music Hall. Virginia City still has approximately 200 residents. After the boom and bust of the Gold Rush days, the ghost town of Virginia City began to be restored for tourism in the 1950s. Most of the city is now owned by the state government and is a National Historic Landmark operated as an open air museum. Of the nearly three hundred structures in town, almost half were built prior to 1900. Buildings in their original condition with Old West period displays and information plaques stand next to thoroughly modern diners and other amenities. It also has a Boothill Cemetery. Then continue to West Yellowstone, Montana’s gateway to Yellowstone National Park, at almost 7,000 feet above sea level and almost exactly halfway between the equator and north pole.
Overnight – West Yellowstone
West Yellowstone to Jackson
Again – many choices! If you still want to pay another visit to Yellowstone National Park you can do with a stop at Old Faithful Geyser or take the scenic route along the western edge of Yellowstone N.P. Either route will take you to Grand Teton National Park, an ethereal mountain landscape where jagged peaks tower more than a mile above the Jackson Hole valley. Jackson Hole is surrounded by lakes, some of them of considerable size, and traversed by the beautiful Snake River. Popular leisure activities are hiking, fishing, canoeing and for the experienced some challenging climbing routes. In winter there is a wide variety of sports including downhill and cross-country skiing, skating, dog-sledding, ice fishing etc. This well watered mountain valley is the home of elk, wapiti and mule deer; on the lakes and rivers there are beavers, trumpeter swans, white pelicans, wild ducks, wild geese and ospreys; and a heard of bison is usually to be seen grazing to the east of the Oxbow Bend on the Snake River. Black bears are now rare. End the day in Jackson, a quaint Western town surrounded by beautiful scenery. A visit to Jackson is not complete without a stop in the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar!
Overnight – Jackson
Jackson to Togwotee
Today take your time to explore Grand Teton National Park, one of the 10 most visited national parks in the U.S. Most of the lakes in the park were formed by glaciers and the largest of these lakes are located at the base of the Teton Range. In the northern section of the park lies Jackson Lake, the largest lake in the park at 15 mi (24 km) in length, 5 mi (8.0 km) wide and 438 ft. (134 m) deep. Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding region host over 1000 species of vascular plants. With an altitude variance of over 7,000 ft. (2,100 m), the park has a number of different ecological zones including alpine tundra, the Rocky Mountains subalpine zone where spruce-fir forests are dominant, and the valley floor, where a mixed conifer and deciduous forest zone occupies regions with better soils intermixed with sagebrush plains atop alluvial deposits. Sixty-one species of mammals have been recorded in Grand Teton National Park. This includes the grey wolf, which had been extirpated from the region by the early 1900s but migrated into Grand Teton National Park from adjacent Yellowstone National Park after the species were reintroduced there.
Overnight – Togwotee
Togwotee to Riverton
Take your time today (a late start will be fine!), while you travel towards tonight’s destination. Riverton, part of the Wind River Indian Reservation, shared by the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes of Native Americans, the seventh-largest Indian reservation by area in the United States.
Overnight – Riverton
Riverton to Buffalo
After a stop at Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming’s first State Park and famous for its hot springs, you can pick from equally scenic routes that will lead you to Cody. Big Horn Scenic Byway passes geological formations named Buffalo Tongue, the Fallen City and Steamboat Point before reaching Burgess Junction and 9,000′ Granite Pass. The spectacular drive down Shell Canyon is highlighted by a stop at Shell Falls. Medicine Wheel Passage begins at Burgess Junction and follows the Tongue River to its headwaters before crossing to the west side of the Big Horns at near-timberline elevations. The road passes within a few miles of the Medicine Wheel, built in prehistoric time by unknown people who departed the scene long before the first Plains Indian Tribes arrived. The Sioux, Crow, and Cheyenne Indians have long considered the Bighorns sacred mountains. Enjoy the quaint little Wyoming town of Buffalo with its many historic buildings. If you want to get a feeling about the “Old West” read local best-selling author Craig Johnson’s “Walt Longmire Mysteries” series of mystery novels, now made into a TV show cantered on Walt Longmire, a Wyoming county sheriff who returns to work after his wife’s death. Assisted by his friends and his daughter, Longmire investigates major crimes within his jurisdiction, while campaigning for re-election. Buffalo celebrates “Longmire Days” in mid-July every year! And should you happen to be in Buffalo on a Thursday night, you might be treated to a “jam session” at the Occidental’s historic saloon. That’s when local musicians gather to play music “on the spot” – just because they can!
Overnight – Buffalo
Buffalo to Denver
On your way to Denver plan a visit to Boulder which at an elevation of 1,650 m is located in a beautiful setting between the mountains to the north and the flatland below to the south. Enjoy the neat downtown streets for some great shopping in this intriguing town before you head towards Denver. Make sure you leave some time for Denver’s Larimer Square, a restored section of Denver’s oldest street, with great restaurants and pubs, to bring this trip to a fitting end!
Overnight – Denver
Enjoy a day in Denver before you fly home in the evening.
Depart Denver – 20:50
Arrive London Heathrow – 12:30 (Next Day)
Journey Time – 8 hours 40 minutes