Updated: Apr 8
During August of 2020, in light of all the COVID shenanigans that year, we decided to drive from Tahoe to the Midwest to visit family, camping along the way. Our return roadtrip back to Tahoe would include a few key stops. Yellowstone National Park was one of them. But before we could get there, we had to drive through South Dakota first.
While in South Dakota, we stopped at Badlands National Park for some sightseeing and a (very short) hike in the August heat. From there we headed to Custer State Park for a (hot) 4-mile hike on Lover's Leap Trail. Then we headed to Mount Rushmore National Monument. To say the least, the drive there was unique, memorable, and a bit sketchy in its own right.
After leaving South Dakota, it was on to camping alongside the Buffalo Bill Reservoir at Buffalo Bill State Park North Fork Campground in Wyoming – the park named after the famous Colonel William F. Buffalo Bill Cody of the Wild West.
As dusk approached we arrived at our campsite and these were the views of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir from our site.
The next day would be our exploration of the majestic Yellowstone National Park.
My husband had been to Yellowstone as a kid on a family vacation, but it was my first time in the park.
It's huge. We barely scratched the surface.
To maximize our time and hopefully beat some of the crowds, we got an early start and tried to see as many things as we could during the first hours of the day. But we are definitely looking forward to another trip to Yellowstone when we have more time to plan actual hikes and not just sightseeing.
Bison, mud pits, and geothermal activity.
What would a trip to Yellowstone be without bison obstructing the roadway?
We took a stroll along the boardwalk of Mud Volcano Trail.
A gushing Yellowstone River.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
To close out our visit to Yellowstone, I've always wanted to see "Old Faithful," so we braved the crowds and anxiously awaited the timely eruption.
We look forward to a second visit to Yellowstone National Park in the near future, but for now, we are on our way to see the Grand Tetons.
Due to time constraints, we didn't spend too much time at the Grand Tetons, but we stopped for some photos at Jackson Lake, which was incredibly beautiful.
Then we got back into the Land Cruiser and headed towards Jackson, Wyoming, enjoying breathtaking views of the Tetons along the way.
Just outside of Jackson was Station Creek Campground along the Snake River. The grounds and surrounding setting were beautiful. This is where we camped for the night, enjoying some dinner on the picnic table at our campsite, as well as the first campfire we've had in many years.
Our site was right on Snake River. It was amazing.
A cozy campfire to close out the evening.
The next morning, we packed up our site and got back on the road, heading into Eastern Idaho, eventually up to part of Montana.
Why did we loop the extra route up to Montana? Because it was a state I had not been yet, of course!
Sadly, the skies started to get perpetually smokier (from area wildfires) the farther west we traveled.
In the middle-of-nowhere Idaho on State Hwy 28, we nearly ran out of gas. One of the most stressful things for me on any road trip is the prospect of running out of gas when we are on long stretches of road where gas stations are few and far between. And when you're towing a travel trailer, driving through varying terrain through the mountains, the MPGs can be unpredictable. This generally stresses me out much more than it does my husband, but even this was too close for comfort for him. In Leadore, Idaho, we were blessed with "Fred's Place."
"Uhhhh, are you sure it's open?"
(Does this look open to you??)
We were skeptical, but we pulled in and gave the lone gas pump a whirl.
So, we made it up to Missoula, Montana, and then double-backed down to the picturesque US Hwy 12 toward Kooskia, Idaho. This apropos road sign marked the beginning of this route.
We can't say we weren't warned...
Following the scenic and windy US Hwy 12 is the Lochsa River. One of the highlights of this whole trip, at least for me, was when my husband got the spontaneous idea to make an unplanned roadside stop to wade in this beautiful river in Eastern Idaho. Carpe diem!
Once we reached Kooskia, Idaho, we camped in a super sketchy RV park that we would likely not recommend or stay at again, but it was a place to catch some zzz's and get refreshed before making the final stretch home through Oregon and into Nevada the following day. The best part that night were the beautiful stars above us.
Hwy 95 out of Kooskia is paralleled by the Salmon River for many miles and was very scenic, as well, as we made our way down into Oregon. I love roadside views like this.
Our trip was fairly uneventful. I would be remiss, however, if I didn't mention the comical mishap on our final stretch. I was driving the Land Cruiser and I checked my side mirror to glance at the travel trailer while I was cruising down the highway, not expecting to see anything out of the ordinary.
Well, I saw something flapping.
I alerted my husband and we decided it was best to pull off at the next exit ramp and investigate. It turns out that the rubber weather-stripping at the seam of the travel trailer had mysteriously come loose. Possibly the hot sun compromised the adhesive? We're not exactly sure.
But our roadside fix required me to sit atop my husband's shoulders and apply duct tape to hold the weather-stripping in place until we got home. I'm sure it was quite a sight to passersby. I wish we'd gotten a photo or video of our little two-person operation. But all we have is evidence of the end result.
Overall, it was a really enjoyable road trip and a great way to take in some amazing sights. Even though we were a bit rushed through Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks on this trip, we made a commitment to return to both parks in the future. We definitely want to plan a few hikes in Yellowstone, as well as hike Jenny Lake and Hidden Falls in Grand Teton. We are so thankful there is always more to explore!
Road Trip Return Route: