Rocky Mountain Road Trip

By: Mark Scriven

Rocky Mountain Road Trip

The Rocky Mountains spectacular mountain scenery, pristine national parks, fascinating old gold mining towns, and authentic wild-west re-creations attract millions of visitors to the region every year.

Rocky Mountain Drive

About The Rocky Mountains, 
Commonly known as the Rockies, it is a major mountain range that stretches more than 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in Western Canada, along Western United States to New Mexico.

  • Within the North American Cordillera, the Rockies are somewhat distinct from the Pacific Coast Ranges and the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada, which all lie further to the west.
  • At 4401.2 m, Mount Elbert is the highest summit while Mount Massive (4,398 m) is the second highest summit of the Rocky Mountains of North America

The Rockies stretch from Canada to New Mexico (more than 3,000 miles) and are perfect for touring, especially during the summer months, when the temperature (during the day) averages a very comfortable 70-80 degrees F. It gets very cold here in winter, so plan your drive for the warmer months, when roads are sure to be open and the attractions are at their best.

Rocky Mountain Road Trip Itinerary
If you're an independent traveler that enjoys touring by car, here's an itinerary that includes some of the regional highlights. Travel time is about two weeks and the total distance about 1500 miles. Be sure to take your rain gear and of course your camera.

1) On your first day,
take a good look around Denver - especially the lower downtown area, with its trendy shops, restaurants and galleries. If you've still got time, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science is worth a visit.

2) Next day,
Head for Cheyenne, just 102 miles to the north. An interesting place to stay is the Nagle Warren B&B (an 1880s cattleman's mansion). Be sure to visit the famous Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, to have a look at their western art exhibitions. Every July, the town celebrates Frontier Days, complete with parade, rodeo and many wild-west themed events.

There's lots to see in South Dakota, so make an early start and head for Custer State Park, about 264 miles to the northeast. Plan to stay at least a couple of nights. The park, located in the Black Hills, has 71,000 acres of spectacular terrain, terrific fishing, jeep tours to see the bison herds, and panoramic hiking trails. You can stay at the State Game Lodge, or pitch your tent in a pine forest alongside a gently flowing stream.

3) Back to Wyoming and beyond
Drive back to Wyoming, northwest to Sheridan (235 miles), where a stay at the Ranch at Ucross, Clearmont, (about 30 miles south of Sheridan) features delicious home cooking, and a sing along in the evening around the piano. It's a great way to get the feel of this ranching area, set between the plains to the east and the Big Horn Mountains to the west.

4) Start out early and head due west, for the 240-mile trip to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. The area is known for its scenic beauty, wildlife, and geothermal activity - two-thirds of the world's geysers are located in the park! Be sure to book your accommodation well ahead and stay for at least two nights. And watch out for the bears!

5) The next leg of your journey is a short drive (80 miles) to the magnificent Grand Teton National Park, with its dramatic, jagged mountains, pristine lakes, and glaciers. Here there's plenty of outdoor activity - boating and fishing, hiking, climbing and horseback riding - so plan on staying for at least a couple of days. For accommodation, you might try the Painted Buffalo in Jackson - a very trendy, friendly town.

Start off early and you'll get to Steamboat Springs for lunch (385 miles). Along the Victorian boardwalk you'll find many western-style restaurants where you can sample the renown Rocky Mountain oysters (bull testicles). In the afternoon, take a look through the antique shops or try a relaxing tube cruise down the Tampa River.

Then early next morning, before the 3-hour drive back to Denver, go for a hot air balloon ride - the perfect finish to a most memorable trip.

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