1338 Miles of beautiful driving excluding excursions – Beginning in Salt Lake City, Utah, and exploring hugely contrasting landscapes and weather fronts in Wyoming, and a little of Montana, this fly drive adventure has it all!
Before You Go: USA operates a visa waiver system known as Esta – cost is $14 per adult and once approved lasts for 2 years: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ You don’t especially need this with you when you travel as it is on the US authority’s system but I always take it just in case it is requested. It will be supplied to you electronically.
National Parks: The areas covered in this itinerary are rich with National Parks, it is therefore well worth purchasing an annual pass as you will use it several times during the trip (currently costs $80). There is no particular need to purchase ahead of your trip – it may be purchased at any of the major national parks on arrival, but it is possible to buy on line if you prefer, see https://store.usgs.gov/pass
Flights from the UK – We flew from Newcastle Upon Tyne to Salt Lake City, Utah, with Air France, connecting in Paris, arriving in Salt Lake City in the early afternoon. Expect to pay around £650-£900 for your flight depending on dates/airline selected.
Days 1 & 2 Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City – There are many hotels in Salt Lake City to choose from, depending on your tastes and budget. We stayed at Wildflowers Bed and Breakfast: – http://wildflowersbb.com/ 936 East 1700 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84105 Tel: (801) 466-0600, costs under $100 Dollars a night including breakfast and great coffee. It is a little way out of the centre of town but it was good to stretch our legs after the long flight, and guests are welcome to prepare their own food in the evenings if they wish at the B&B, ingredients available at a store a few feet away.
Below is the largest Mormon Church in the world, right in the centre of Salt Lake City on Temple Square (Apologies about the tree getting in the way!). Visitors are warmly welcomed and it is interesting to learn more about the history of Latter Day Saints. Please see https://www.templesquare.com/ for more information.
Friendly city: The Mormon Church is just one example of the friendly and laid back atmosphere that seems to pervade Salt Lake City, which seems to be full of folk willing to share a moment or two with you. We enjoyed watching local families at the Gateway Mall Fountains – a free and cool opportunity for youngsters to splash around whilst their parents/carers chill out in the surrounding and plentiful seating areas. Another reminder that the best things in life are free.
Salt Lake City’s many highlights include:
The Great Salt Lake – although relatively shallow, covers around 1700 square miles. Hiking and water-based activities are possible, or simply a drive and a picnic.
Museums and Galleries – lots to choose from, one which stands out is the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum, located on 300 N Main Street: http://www.dupinternational.org/ dedicated to telling the stories of those pioneers who became the first settlers in Utah and is well worth a visit, open Mondays to Saturdays and has free admission.
Olympic Games – the winter games were held here in 2002, and visitors can engage in a range of activities all year round at the olympic centre.
Planetarium – Clark Planetarium is well worth a visit, https://slco.org/clark-planetarium/ located on 110 S, 400 West –
there are lots of interactive displays and exhibits, which are free of charge to visitors, the only costs would be for the IMAX theatres – mind blowing and well worth $7 per adult per show – open daily.
Salt Lake Connect Pass may be worth purchasing if you are in Salt Lake City for a few days, a 3 day pass giving access to or reduced admission to a wide range of attractions currently costs $66, see https://www.visitsaltlake.com/things-to-do/visit-salt-lake-connect-pass/
Day 3 Rock Springs, Wyoming
Rental Car: We chose Hertz, depot is located at the Marriott Hotel Downtown, 75 South West Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah. This was most helpful because we chose to stay at this hotel for one night at the end of our tour meaning drop off at the end was convenient. Alternatively you could drop the car right at the airport at the end of the road trip. Remember your driving license, they won’t release the car without it.
Drive: The quickest journey to Rock Springs takes around 3 hours going east on the I80 East, about 187 miles – but if you have time there are plenty of scenic drives along the way, Utah is stunning, the colourways, ranging from burnt red, amber and dark emerald, to aged gold and slate will amaze.
Stay: We stayed at the delightful Miner’s Repose Bed and Breakfast, but this has recently ceased to trade – shame as the breakfast and hospitality was amazing. The Hampton Inn though is located less than a mile from the centre of town and is highly rated by visitors: https://www.guestreservations.com/hampton-inn-rock-springs/ Expect to pay about $70 per night including free breakfast which is pretty reasonable.
Rock Springs Historical Museum on 201 B Street is free of charge and provides valuable insights into the mining heritage of the area. Welsh coal mining experts helped to establish the mining industry here based on their experience at home. Below is an image of now abandoned mine works nearby.
Days 4 & 5 Saratoga, Wyoming
Drive 150 miles to Saratoga on the I80 East.
Stay at the historic Hotel Wolf – https://wolfhotel.com/ located on 101 East Bridge Street, Saratoga, WY 82331 – from $85 a night room only. There is a great restaurant, open for dinner but not breakfast – do book as they get busy particularly at weekends. The bar, with complementary smoked monkey nuts, weirdly sold Newcastle Brown Ale, it remains popular at many far flung places despite the original UK brewery ceasing to trade many years ago. For breakfast there’s a nice little cafe right next door serving great pastries.
Saratoga is famous for providing free public access to its natural springs, located on Walnut Street. The natural temperature of the water is typically 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The springs were originally used as a source of healing waters by the native American indians. Nearby is the fantastic Medicine Bow National Forest, with its many hiking possibilities. For more information about Saratoga click https://www.travelwyoming.com/cities/saratoga
Excursion from Saratoga to Wyoming Territorial Prison, via a scenic drive taking in the Medicine Bow National Forest. Drive South on the ultra scenic 130 Highway to Laramie for the prison. This wonderful scenic drive is known as the Snow Range, where the highest mountain peak reaches over 12,000 feet – therefore often impassable in the winter. We were there in June and there was still plenty of snow around as we ascended the mountain road. We also took in a hike at the lower end before reaching the snow.
Butch Cassidy was here! Wyoming Territorial Prison was built in 1872. Famous inmates include the notorious Butch Cassidy who served 18 months in 1894, for stealing horses, before he met the Sundance Kid and formed the Wild Bunch. The Prison museum includes several restored historic buildings and many interesting artifacts. It is well-worth a visit and quite a contrast after the scenic drive on the 130 Highway.
Days 6, 7 & 8 Buffalo, Wyoming
Drive: 258 miles on the I-25 South and WY-487 South to Buffalow
Stay: Hotel Occidental, 10 North Main Street, Buffalo, Wyoming 82834
Telephone: (307) 684-0451, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org This is another historic, and very charming hotel, dating to 1880, which hosts its own on-site museum – famous guests include Teddy Roosevelt (we stayed in the suite named after him – currently $185 a night room only), Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill Cody and many others stayed here too. The hotel’s lively Saloon hosts frequent live music, great beer and conversation. The Virginian restaurant (remember to book) serves excellent food including, given you are in Buffalo – buffalo steaks and sweet potatoes!
Little Bighorn Battle field located in Montana is about 88 miles drive via I-90 West from Buffalo. Visitors can learn of the tragic battle between the US Army, led by George Custer (known as yellow hair by the Indians given his blonde locks), that took place in 1876, and American indians from the Lakota and Cheyenne tribes who refused to be compartmentalised through living on the designated Sioux reservation. Custer as well as many other US Army soldiers, alongside many indians, lost their lives here. The poignant museum and its surroundings have been designated as a national monument: https://www.nationalparks.org/explore-parks/little-bighorn-battlefield-national-monument
Excursion: Drive 180 miles east on the 90 from Buffalo to Devil’s Tower.
There are several theories around how Devil’s Tower came to be so named as can be discovered in the visitor centre. I liked the indigenous American tribe’s explanation. They believe that children playing nearby were chased by giant bears. To escape they climbed a rock and prayed to the Indian spirits for help. According to the legend the spirits answered the children’s prayers and made the rock so huge that the bears couldn’t reach them. The bear’s attempts to climb the massive rock formation are said to have left the huge ridges that can be seen on the tower sides, believed to be their claw marks. See https://www.nps.gov/deto/index.htm for more information.
Day 9: Thermopolis
Drive 122 miles to Thermopolis via US-16 West and Highway 20 East
Thermopolis, also famous for its healing waters, is extremely pretty although accommodation can be a little pricey, hence we chose the above Motel as it was more reasonably priced. The local swimming baths are sourced by natural spring water, and when the indians handed over the land, this was done on the condition that the healing waters would always be available to visitors and residents free of charge. We spoke with an elderly local lady who was convinced that the waters, which she visits at least 3 times a week, had helped to heal her skin cancers.
Days 9 & 10 Cody
Drive: 84 miles on the 120 Highway West
Stay: We stayed at the Irma Hotel, Cody at 1192 Sheridan Avenue
Cody, WY 82414, Tel: 307-587-4221. A little basic but Cody is well-placed for driving into Yellowstone national park.
Buffalo Bill: Cody was named after the famous buffalo hunter and showman Colonel William Frederick (nickname Buffalo Bill) who helped found Cody in 1896
Yellowstone Park: to reach Yellowstone from Cody, drive the extremely scenic 52 miles on the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway, accessible from the US 14, taking you through Wapiti Valley and the Shoshone forest to the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The drive is extremely scenic and you will definitely see a wide range of wildlife. Once you are inside the park, depending on traffic as this is one of the busiest National Parks, driving the scenic loops alone can take over 4 hours apart from any hikes you might do. There are always plenty of places to pause for photographs and picnics – the waterfalls, geysers, rock formations and wildlife to name but a few of the wonderful sights here.
Day 13 Pinedale
Drive: 295 miles via the highway 120 East, to Pinedale, leave plenty of time as this is over 4 hours drive.
Stay: We stayed at The Lodge at Pinedale, 1054 W Pine Street, Pinedale, WY 82941 Tel: 1-866-995-6343 – well situated for the Teton National Park with great mountain views.
Day 14: Back to Salt Lake City
Drive: 241 miles via the US-189 and I-80 West
Stay: We stayed at the Marriott Downtown, 75 South West Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101 Phone: 1-801-531-0800 Fax: 1-801-532-4127, where we also deposited the rental car. This is a very comfortable hotel and well-located for the downtown area. A taxi back to the airport costs about $25, or less if you choose a shuttle service (not provided through the hotel).
Eat: We only had time for one dinner back in Salt Lake City before flying back to the UK, had a very interesting and memorable meal at The Melting Pot restaurant, where you choose your own ingredients and cook them at your table, https://www.meltingpot.com/salt-lake-city-ut/ not cheap but a nice treat after our long but fascinating adventure.
For Wyoming information – posted free of charge, click https://www.travelwyoming.com
For Montana information – please click www.visitmt.com/
For Utah, please click https://www.visitutah.com/
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