Get on the open road and explore six wild, wild states on this epic U.S. adventure. Take in big cities, deep canyons, lush parklands, and more with the ‘Rocky Mountains And The Great Plains’ road trippin’ journey.
The “Rocky Mountains and The Great Plains” itinerary will have you stepping back in time and reconnecting with the power of the natural world, in all its glory.
This trip will see you taking in the scenery and getting ready for your next national park hike, history lesson, museum experience, or hot springs dip.
Cruise through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska and prepare to be ‘wowed’ by the dramatic landscapes and fascinating stories this part of the world has to offer.
Explore all of Brand USA’s 31 Amazing Self Drive Road Trip itineraries here.
Rocky Mountains and The Great Plains: Route Highlights
1. Denver, Colorado
Start your journey in Denver, a city that boasts a outdoor beauty, big-city charm and all the craft beer you could possibly dream of.
For shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs, head down to Denver’s Larimer Square and for something a little boutiquey and artsy, take a wander to LoDo, where you’ll also find the Colorado Rockies baseball stadium.
Art lovers can explore the Denver Art Museum, Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Golden Triangle Museum District and keep an eye out for the 300 pieces of public art, including sculptures, murals, and sound- and light-based works scattered around the city.
2. Denver > Cañon City, Colorado
Another must-see natural attraction is Seven Falls, which is a series of spectacular waterfalls cascading 181 feet through a box canyon.
In addition to seeing one of the world’s highest suspension bridges (not for the faint-hearted!), take in the stunning scenery and catch a thrill on the Cloudscraper Zip Line or Royal Rush Skycoaster.
- DRIVE TIME: 186kms: 2 hours and 3 mins drive time
3. Cañon City, Colorado > Vail, Colorado
Depart Cañon City via the Gold Belt Byway, and experience spectacular views of deep canyons and lush parklands.
Stop at the charming ski destination of Breckenridge and explore its unique boutiques, restaurants and quaint historic buildings.
Next up, the treat that is Vail. Vail is an upscale city located at the base of Vail Mountain. In the winter, it’s a haven for skiers and snowboarders and in the summer, the city buzzes with mountain bikers, hikers and golfers.
If you’re there for summer, don’t miss the annual Hot Summer Nights Concert.
- DRIVE TIME: 214kms: 2 hours and 39 mins drive time
4. Vail, Colorado > Grand Junction, Colorado
Drive west to scenic Glenwood Springs, known for its hot springs and caves. And who doesn’t love a hot spring and caves?
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, get your adrenaline roaring with a whitewater-rafting trip on the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers, followed by more fun activities at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
Continue west to Grand Junction, where you will overnight and can enjoy a truly immersive food and beverage experience. Stroll through local vineyards and stay for a wine tasting at places such as gorgeous Grande River Vineyards and Plum Creek Winery in Palisade.
Just a few minutes outside the city, take in the stunning, panoramic views of the red rock canyons at Colorado National Monument on the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as desert bighorn sheep or collared lizards.
- DRIVE TIME: 237kms: 2 hours and 20 minutes drive time
5. Grand Junction, Colorado > Rock Springs, Wyoming
It’s time to channel your inner Ross Geller at the Dinosaur National Monument, where you can visit the quarry and see dinosaur bones and fossils encased in rock.
Pretend you’re in Jurrasic Park and hike into the mountains and canyons, where you may see elk and mule deer, or view the ancient petroglyphs at McKee Springs.
When you’re done discovering Dinos, stop at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, and marvel at views of its crystal reservoir and red
- DRIVE TIME: 409kms: 4 hours and 43 minutes drive time
6. Rock Springs, Wyoming > Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho
Drive north to the Jackson Hole valley and stop for lunch in the small town of Jackson. The Town Square is famous for four large arches made from elk antlers collected at the nearby National Elk Refuge. In the winter, you can even take a sleigh ride at the refuge to view the majestic elk.
Continue through Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone National Park along the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Highway. No trip out West would be complete without a visit to Yellowstone National Park. This enormous park sits atop a volcanic hot spot that creates impressive geothermal activity.
After a good sleep, take a full day to explore the wonders of Yellowstone National Park. Bring a picnic and eat while you wait for the next eruption of Old Faithful, a geyser that spews hot water high into the sky throughout the day. After lunch, have a ramble and you’ll be treated to many other natural wonders.
A visit to the historic Old Faithful Inn is a must, too. Built in 1904 from local materials, it is believed to be the world’s largest log structure.
Love animals? Yellowstone is home to a large selection of wildlife, including wolves, elk, bison, bear and moose, some of which you are likely to encounter during a day hike or mountain bike ride on one of the park’s many backcountry trails.
Keep an eye out for Yogi and his friends too.
- DRIVE TIME: 415kms: 4 hours and 49 minutes drive time
7. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho > Billings, Montana
Head north out of Yellowstone through Gardiner toward the eclectic railroad town of Livingston. Stop at this picturesque destination, browse art galleries, and go to the Livingston Depot Center, a museum where you can learn about railroad history.
Follow the Yellowstone River Valley east to Billings, the state’s largest city. Surrounded by seven mountain ranges, you can explore the Montana wilderness and discover a wealth of wildlife.
In Billings you can discover the many museums, the Moss Mansion, and experience the excitement of a rodeo.
- DRIVE TIME: 323kms: 4 hours and 17 minutes drive time
8. Billings, Montana > Medora, North Dakota
- DRIVE TIME: 452kms: 4 hours and 9 minutes drive time
9. Medora, North Dakota > Rapid City, South Dakota
Start your day at Painted Canyon Visitors Center, taking in spectacular views of the Badlands from its scenic overlook before traveling south into South Dakota.
A stop at Mount Moriah Cemetery, the final resting place of Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok, is a must.
Ironically, take time to chill at Rapid City. While you’re there, check out Main Street Square, for life-size bronze statues of past U.S. presidents, as well as many galleries, museums and restaurants.
- DRIVE TIME: 378kms: 3 hours and 55 minutes drive time
10. Rapid City, South Dakota > Hot Springs, South Dakota
Get an early start for Keystone, avoid the rush and marvel at the sunrise over Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
The famous hand-carved monument, jutting from the granite of the Black Hills of South Dakota, depicts the faces of U.S. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.
While there, stop in the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center to learn more about the monument’s creation.
The next destination is Hot Springs, where you’ll adore taking some R&R soaking time in the Evans Plunge Mineral Springs.
If you’d like to reconnect with your caveman roots, don’t miss the Mammoth Site, an ancient sinkhole, where the fossilised remains of more than 61 mammoths have been discovered. Pretty cool.
- DRIVE TIME: 92kms: 59 minutes drive time
11. Hot Springs, South Dakota > Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska
Continue to Fort Robinson State Park, where Crazy Horse died in 1877 and the Cheyenne Outbreak happened in 1879.
Next, visit Scotts Bluff National Monument, take steps on parts of the original Oregon Trail and then end your day with a drive to the summit of the bluff for AH-MAZING valley views of the North Platte River.
- DRIVE TIME: 234kms: 2 hours and 28 minutes drive time
12. Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska > Estes Park, Colorado
Get ready to experience Old West charm in Wyoming’s capital, Cheyenne. Here, you can visit the Cheyenne Depot, a 19th-century railroad station that now houses a visitor centre and interactive museum.
Take a walking tour of downtown, making sure to stop at one of the many western wear shops to make your childhood dreams come true, because who hasn’t dreamed of being a cowboy/girl in the American frontier?
Fill your tums before departing for Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.
- DRIVE TIME: 294kms: 3 hours and 7 minutes drive time
13. Estes Park, Colorado > Denver, Colorado
Save the best until last. Here’s what you came for and what the itinerary name is inspired by.
Enter Rocky Mountain National Park and explore the wilderness.
In the summer months, take the Trail Ridge Road. Start at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and follow the trail to the Alpine Visitor Center; see spectacular views of Sundance Mountain and Tombstone Ridge along the way.
The Grand Lake is a great spot for lunch. Then, your journey will continue along the shores of Lake Granby.
Travel to the beautiful Winter Park Resort, and hike trails through meadows bursting with flowers. Make sure you bring a couple of extra memory cards for your camera!
When you’re legs have turned to jelly and you have a big goofy grin of amazement, return to Denver to discover anything you missed at the start of your journey.
And hey, why not just do it all again?!
- DRIVE TIME: 103kms: 1 hours and 21 minutes drive time
Download the complete ‘Rocky Mountains and The Great Plains‘ itinerary here!
Get the Road Trip Playlist
This playlist will have you rockin’, roaming and Wyoming your way through those dusty desert roads.
Groove to tracks such as North Dakota, Colorado Trail, Little Nebraska Town, and more as you step back in time and journey through the wild, wild west.
Agents: Download, Escape and Explore GoUSA TV
GoUSA TV is a free premier travel entertainment channel. Watch full episodes, documentaries and films, told from the diverse perspectives of real people across America.
Discover the Queens area of New York City through the diversity of the Latinx diaspora in the series, Americanos, available on GoUSA TV. Explore how Latinx culture brings American cities to life through the stories of those who embrace their roots and shape the future.
With more than 400 authentic and short format videos featuring destinations from all 50 states, 5 territories, and the District of Columbia, there’s never been a better time to get online and enjoy some incredible travel entertainment!
Available for download in the App or Play store and on Apple TV.
More info here.
Agents: Join the USA Discovery Program
The USA Discovery Program is Brand USA’s official trade training platform for the USA. The Rocky Mountains and The Great Plains itinerary features six destinations with training badges.
Get clicking and complete your Colorado, Denver, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota badges and skill up in a fun and interactive way.
Click here to register and get all the knowledge for the USA.
PLUS! Design your own Road Trip with the USA TRIP PLANNER
The Visit USA Trip Planner is an amazing (and free!) tool that matches your personal travel preferences and style.
With over 230 million data points including the best places & times to visit, reviews and hidden gems, this is one smart piece of travel tech.
This little travel genius optimises your itinerary to minimise travel time, checks when attractions are open and even recommends how much time to spend at each stop off. Brilliant!
Finally, it lets you share & collaborate with your fellow road trippers and is easy to add or revise points of interest as you go.
Find out more: Trip-Planner.VisitTheUSA.com
Get all the tools on Brand USA’s TRAVEL TRADE SITE
From Trip Planners to Itineraries and the USA Discovery Program and Destination information, Brand USA’s Travel Trade Site for agents has you covered.
This article was brought to you by:
Share this story