Provo, UT is a beautiful small city located just south of Salt Lake City, UT. It is the home of Brigham Young University, which has several great museum facilities open to the public including the Brigham Young University Museum of Art, the Brigham Young University Museum of Paleontology, the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, and others. Located just to the north of town is the Sundance Resort. This resort is the primary site of the Sundance Film Festival held here every January. There are also three major National Parks within a three and a half-hour drive. Arches, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands National Parks are all within a long day trip.
Lakeside RV Campground is located on Utah Lake just outside of Provo. It is a highly rated park and makes for a great stay while you are in the area.
The trip to Rapid City is beautiful and pretty easy. From Provo, take US-189 north to I-80 East to Rawlins, WY. From Rawlins, take US-287 north to Muddy Gap where you'll switch to WY-220. Stay on 220 until just west of Casper where you'll turn onto WY-257 which will take you to I-25 north. Next, exit onto WY-259 north to Midwest, WY. There you'll change over to WY-387 East to WY-50 North. This takes you to Gillette, WY where you can pick up I-90 East to Rapid City.
The Flaming Gorge National Recreation area is split between southern Wyoming and northern Utah and is one of Utah's most visited recreation areas. Located south of Green River, Wyoming, this recreation area surrounds the Green River and the Green River Reservoir which is impounded by the Flaming Gorge Dam. The dam is a hydroelectric facility which has its own visitor's center. Here you'll find interesting history and other information about the dam and its construction.
The recreation area is a great place for all sorts of family activities. The reservoir provides for all sorts of watersports including boating, paddling, tubing and water skiing. The waters here tend to be on the cooler side, so expect your water activities to be quite invigorating, but that's the beauty of the high country waterways. The water is always very crisp and clear.
Crisp and clear water also makes great trout habitat and the trout fishing in this area is outstanding. Lake trout over 30 lbs are a common catch here as are other species like rainbows, tigers, and browns. Kokanee salmon and smallmouth bass are also common targets. Finally, white water rafting trips are great fun on the river outside the reservoir.
Off the water, there are great hiking and camping opportunities throughout the region. There is also ample opportunity for wildlife and birdwatching. The gorge itself, as well as the night skies in the area, provide amazing subjects for photography.
Dutch John Resort is a great private campground for a stay in the area. It's close to the dam so you'll have easy access to the dam as well as the activities on the reservoir and the lower Green River.
Not far from the I-80 exit in downtown Rawlins, WY is the Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum. Opened in 1901, this prison was Wyoming's first state penitentiary. The original prison included the 104 cell Cell Block A, which lacked running water, electricity or an adequate heating system. This made life exceptionally tough for the early inmates housed here during the notoriously cold winters this area experiences. By 1966, the prison had added two additional cell blocks, electricity, running water and an upgraded heating system. It also added a solitary confinement area to compliment the standard cells found throughout the prison.
Over its 80 year span of operation, the prison housed over 13,500 inmates in conditions that would be considered brutal by modern standards. The rough nature of the prison was typical for the wild west during that time period. This is further illustrated by the punishment, and capital punishment facilities were located here. Insobordinant prisoners were sent to the dungeon, solitary confinement, or they were strung to the “Punishment Pole” to be whipped with a rubber hose. The capital punishment facilities include traveling and permanent Julien Gallows for execution by hanging in the early days. Those were later replaced by gas chambers.
This facility makes for an interesting visit which provides some historical insight into the area.
If you wish to the area night stop, Western Hills Campground and RV Park is a great place to stay. It is located just off our route in downtown Rawlins which provides convenient access to the prison museum as well the restaurants and other attractions in town.
Historic Trails West is a truly unique western experience out of Casper Wyoming. Here, you can go on an authentic wagon train trip along the Oregon Trail ranging from two hours up to a full five-day excursion. The shorter trips include the wagon or horseback ride with knowledgable guides who provide interesting information and historical perspective along your journey. Longer rides include lunch or a dutch oven dinner. Overnight and multi-day trips allow you to live and experience what it was really like for the pioneers traveling west. This includes hitching and unhitching the horses, setting up the wagons, setting up and breaking down camp each day, sleeping in Tee-Pees which you set up daily, and helping out with all the chores along the trip. The routes follow the old Oregon Trail, which was the major route for pioneers traveling from Missouri to Oregon. The longest trip, five days in length, actually ends in the old Oregon territory and passes by Independence Rock, through old gold mining areas and original pony express stations.
If you want to truly experience western pioneer life, this may be the best way in the US to do it. Truly an incredibly unique experience.
River's Edge RV and Cabins Resort is a great place to stay in the area. It's located right on the North Platte River a couple of miles east of downtown Casper.
Hell's Half Acre is a geological formation about 45 minutes west of Casper, WY on US-26. Despite the name, this area covers over 325 acres. The terrain here is exceptionally rugged, more reminiscent of the Badlands then the grassy plains surrounding the site. The local native Americans used the sharp cliffs in the area as a hunting tool by driving large herds of bison over the edges to their deaths.
The site has such an alien appearance that it has also been used as a movie set. It appeared as an alien planet backdrop in the 1997 SciFi action adventure movie Starship Troopers. Over the years people have attempted to make it a broader tourist attraction, but most of those attempts have failed.
The land is currently owned by Natrona County and can be visited by the public.
Independence Rock is a Wyoming State Historic Site located about an hour southwest of Casper on US-220. This large sandstone rock measures in at 130 feet high, 1900 feet long and 850 feet wide, protruding from the otherwise flat surrounding prairie. Its immense size contrasted against the relatively barren, flat surroundings made it an important landmark for those headed west during the pioneer days. During those times it was understood that you had to make it to this rock on your way west to California or Oregon by July 4th in order to have any hope of making it over the western mountains before getting snowed in. It was customary to inscribe your name in rock as you passed by and over 5,000 people did so. Many of those names can still be read on the rock today.
The site has hiking trails around the rock that allow you to see the inscribed names. There is also a replica of a covered wagon which is similar to the ones which would have passed by here during the pioneer days.
Devils Tower National Monument is a tall butte made of red igneous rock located in the northern portion of the Black Hills. Located a few miles north of I-90, it is plainly visible from the highway, but to really appreciate its size and unique structure you should take the time to drive up for an up-close visit. From base to summit, it is 867 feet tall. It stands on a small hill, which puts the summit at 1267 feet above the nearby Belle Fourche River. There are a number of things you can do here including hiking the many trails surrounding the tower, joining in on one of the many excellent ranger programs, or even climbing the tower.
Parking here is pretty limited and routinely fills up for hours during the summer months. It is also a very popular destination for motorcyclists during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which is held the first week of August every year.
For an overnighter, try Belle Fourche Campground. It is the park campground so it's very convenient, inexpensive, and you can camp in the shadow of the tower, which is pretty cool.
Sturgis, SD is a small town just off I-90 about 30 minutes west of Rapid City. The town is most famous for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which is held during the first week of August each year. As you might guess, this is not the most family-friendly location during the rally, but for the rest of the year, it makes for a great stop. You can visit many of the familiar sites here and pick up some Sturgis merch, much as you would during the rally without all the headaches. The Sturgis Coffee Company is a great place to stop for premade coffee, prepackaged ground coffee, coffee-related products and gifts to memorialize your trip with. To pay homage to the motorcycle history here a stop at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame is almost a must. On the four-wheeled side of things, you might want to check out the Saab Heritage Car Museum which has excellent examples of Sweden's favorite cars dating back to 1950.
Since this is so close to Rapid City, you can make this a day trip from any campground in that area.
Rapid City, SD is the epicenter of what is perhaps the most interesting area in the United States. Located on I-90, a major trans-American Highway, Rapid City stands on the edge of the beautiful Black Hills. This area is a geological oasis in the middle of the Great Plains which surround it. Here you'll find beautiful granite peaks and spires surrounded by rolling hills blanketed in evergreen forests.
Rapid City itself is a small city that has many great things going for it. The downtown area is clean and walkable. Here you'll find the famous Firehouse Brewing Company which is known for the many fire engines placed along the regional highways as an advertisement. Located in an old renovated firehouse, the beer, food, and service are all excellent. If beer isn't your thing, they also have a winery with some excellent wines. Just to the east of the Firehouse Brewery is the Main Street Square, which is a great local family hangout area. They even have family movie nights and live music, and other events here on many nights throughout the summer season. The downtown area is also known for many other great restaurants, shopping and events like street fairs and car shows. There is always something going on here.
Outside the city, there is even more to do. The local area has some of the biggest tourist attractions in the country. Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located about 30 minutes to the south of the city. Not far from there is the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is an interesting work in progress. A little further south is the Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument. Both are excellent parks with first-rate cave tours. Custer State Park is the largest state park in South Dakota and home to a large buffalo herd, beautiful granite spires and a broad range of outdoor activities.
For a scenic drive, try the Needles Highway. This is Route 87 running from RT-16 just south of Hill City. This drive goes through Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park and passes through several tunnels and past many granite spires. Many of the tunnels are very narrow, so don't take any large vehicles on this trek.
There are many great RV parks to stay at in the area. If you want to stay off of I-90 to visit Rapid City itself, then you can't go wrong with Three Flags RV Park. To stay more in the heart of the Black Hills try the Mount Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gultch or the Rafter J Bar Ranch. Both are near Mt Rushmore and Hill City, two great tourist areas to visit. Because of their location, these tend to book up early. If they are booked up, or if you want to be a little further south yet then try Beaver Lake Campground. This is a great campground that is close to the major attractions, particularly Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, and Custer State Park.