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  1. Default Chicago to Yellowstone (thru SD or Iowa/Nebraska?!)

    I'm planning our summer road trip from Chicago to Yellowstone. Cody, WY is our first stop and then 3 nights at Yellowstone. We have already been to SD and thoroughly enjoyed the sites of The Badlands, Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, 1880s Town, Wall Drug, Custer National Park. It is such a beautiful drive through Minnesota and SD. I'm investigating going through Iowa and Nebraska to Cheyenne up to Casper and then to Cody. Suggestions? I've never been to Nebraska nor spent time in Iowa, what fun sites are there to see?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Welcome to RTA!

    I certainly hope you are not planning on trying to drive from Chicago to Cody straight through in one day!

  3. Default

    Ha ha, not at all! Suggestions of places to stop overnight are welcome!

  4. #4

    Default Traverse the Sandhills!

    By entering Nebraska on I-80 and staying on it until Grand Island, you can ramp up to NE-2 for a long diagonal to the west/northwest and enjoy a part of the US which few people know about and even fewer see: The Nebraska Sandhills. NE-2 is referred to by tourism promoters in NE as the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway. NE-2 follows a main rail corridor most of the way, so while the huge grassed-over sand dunes are in generally isolated territory, there are towns spaced reasonably close together along the highway. By branching off to the north along any of the US or NE highways, you'll experience near total isolation until reaching US 20 along the northern tier of NE counties. Chadron, NE is home to the Museum of the Fur Trade as well as the Sandoz High Plains Center. The latter celebrates the life and times of Mari Sandoz, an accomplished writer who grew up in northwestern NE during the early 20th century, right as homesteading was booming, then "busting" as weather patterns changed and a prolonged drought hit the High Plains. Just a little west of Chadron is Crawford, NE, where Fort Robinson State Park is located. Fort Robinson is a nicely-restored US Army cavalry post. There are smaller museum facilities along NE-2 which are focused on some of the features of the cattle ranch life in that part of Nebraska. And, there's always Carhenge just outside of Alliance, NE, just west of the western border of the "chop hills" as the dunes are called. If you stay on NE-2 all the way to Alliance, take NE-2/71 up to Crawford and Fort Robinson, then US 20 into Wyoming to Douglas and on through on US 20 to Cody. NE-2 is 2-lane, but wide and is mostly posted at 65 mph speed limit, so it's not a slow route, especially given that it "diagonals" rather then mostly N-S or E-W like so many other roads in the Great Plains.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default A Wealth of Opportunities

    There are at least three different basic routes between Chicago and Yellowstone, and I must admit that Foy's suggestion is one that had not occurred to me off the top of my head. Each offers you different perspective on crossing the Plains and a different set of sights to see. The downside is that you can only choose two, one out and one back, on any given round trip. The other two include the obvious: I-90 to Rochester Wyoming followed by US-14 into Yellowstone, and I-94 through Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana to Livingston followed by US-89 into Yellowstone. Along the first some major attractions would include Badlands National Park and Mount Rushmore in western South Dakota along with Devils Tower and the Bighorn Scenic Byway in Wyoming. Along the second route they would inclue Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Little Missouri National Grasslands in western North Dakota as well as the chance to drive the Beartooth Highway (US-212) from Laurel MT into Yellowstone. You should have a look at each of those possible routes and see which ones appeal to you most. Where to stop each night would depend on how early a start you get each day, how many hours you're comfortable driving, and which route(s) you end up driving. But 450-500 mile days (a steady, but not strenuous pace) would put your overnights in roughly

    I-80 route: Lincoln NE and Guernsey WY

    I-90 route: Sioux Falls SD and Gillette WY

    I-94 route: Saulk Center MN and Glendive MT

    Note that the above towns should just be used to give yourself an idea of what a full but easy day of driving can accomplish. If you actually take the time to explore some of the many attractions along any given route, you will not be able to cover quite that much ground.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I-94 can be an iffy option where lodging is concerned in the western half of ND and far eastern MT - because of the oil boom. Hotels are expensive, sell out fast, and are getting pretty beat up. They don't call the oil field workers "roughnecks" for nothing.

  7. #7

    Default See the Beartooth!

    We made this drive last summer as part of an 8000 mile cross country road trip.

    I would highly recommend entering Yellowstone through the Northeast Entrance in order to drive the Beartooth Highway. We traveled US 212 all the way from Minneapolis into Yellowstone. It was a beautiful drive and we were able to make interstate speeds once out of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Lodging wasn't a problem, we camped in the West Whitlock Recreation area on the Missouri river just west of Gettysburg, SD. This beautiful, clean, uncrowded camping area is part of the SD state park system. This was the week before Sturgis bike week, but we had no crowds or traffic. If traveling west on 212, there is no lodging after Gettysburg/West Whitlock until you get to Belle Fourche, as once you cross the Missouri, you will be on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation for much of the rest of SD.

    In Montana, US 212 runs concurrent with I-90 in the Billings area. West of Billings, you can leave I-90, staying on 212 and go through Red Lodge, a really cool if a little over touristy town. From Red Lodge, 212 west will take you over the Beartooth pass. Many say this is the most spectacular drive in the US and I would agree!! This was a detour off our planned route and ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. On the west side of the Beartooth Highway we spent the night in Cooke City, just outside the NE entrance to Yellowstone. A great little town! We are planning to return to the Beartooth/Cooke City area on our trip this year.

    Have a great trip whichever route you decide on!


  8. #8


    Sorry, I just reread your original post and saw you are going first to Cody. If Cody is a must, that doesn't allow for the Beartooth. But you could always see the Beartooth on your way home. Have a great trip!


  9. Default

    Thanks everyone for the great advice! I'm off to look at the atlas now. Cheers!

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