Experience the Best of Fall on This Three-State Road Trip

National Parks, National Monuments and Wide-Open Spaces Await in South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana

Fall in Glacier National Park

Fall colors brighten up Glacier National Park, with a view of Wild Horse Island on the east side of the park.
Fall colors brighten up Glacier National Park, with a view of Wild Horse Island on the east side of the park.

Dubois, Wyoming Overlook

Wyoming's Wind River Country is home to diverse landscapes, including badlands the snow-covered mountains.
Wyoming's Wind River Country is home to diverse landscapes, including badlands the snow-covered mountains.

Augusta, Montana, Sept. 27, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- With the arrival of fall, a drop in gas prices and several weeks of gorgeous weather remaining, now is the time to set off on an epic autumn road trip. Cruising the nation’s open roads is a still a popular way to travel, as it allows you to chart your own course, take your time and see some of America’s greatest places. This three-state itinerary includes South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, and is the perfect way to see some of American’s most iconic destinations, like Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.

“Fall is one of the most underrated seasons in the West,” said Tia Troy of Lightning Bug Public Relations. "There is no better way for travelers to see some of the best destinations in this three-state region than by packing up the car, hitting the road and immersing themselves in all these places have to offer.”

While national parks and monuments remain high on the bucket list of many travelers, the route you take to get to each is an important part of the journey. To discover many of the hidden gems along the way – including historic trails, local breweries and some of the last land-locked glaciers in the world – here is how to take the road less traveled.

1. Begin your trip in Rapid City, South Dakota

The gateway to the Black Hills, Rapid City is a thriving community. A destination in its own right, Rapid City is a well-balanced mix of hotels, restaurants, the arts, shopping, museums and the outdoors, with abundant trails, forests and lakes within easy reach. Throughout the year, Rapid City hosts a variety of events, including the Black Hills Powwow, which is set for October 7 – 9, 2022. There are also abundant lodging options in Rapid City that you’ll surely love.

A short drive from Rapid City will take you to numerous national parks, monuments and icons, including Badlands National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial®, Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument and Devils Tower National Monument.

2. Rapid City to Casper, Wyoming

From Rapid City, take the scenic four-hour drive to Casper, Wyoming. The southern route – on U.S. Highway 18 – will take you to Douglas where you can stop and see Ayres Natural Bridge. From there, continue 45 minutes to Casper and stay overnight.

When in Casper, be sure to explore downtown, a walkable neighborhood that is full of darling shops and great locations to taste Wyoming. Must-see places include the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center where you’ll learn about the history of modern-day Casper, including American Indian tribes, early pioneers and the historic trails that pass directly through the area. Additional highlights include Casper Mountain (be sure to take the short hike to Garden Creek Falls), the Nicolaysen Art Museum and the Tate Geological Museum, where you will see the first T-rex found in Wyoming to stay in the state. If you like fly-fishing, the North Platte River is a worthy blue-ribbon location.

3. Casper to Wind River Country

As you leave Casper for Wind River Country, take Highway 220 for the most scenic route. Take the short detour to Alcova Reservoir and Fremont Canyon to see its gorgeous rose-colored cliffs. From here, make your way to Wind River Country, with a stop at and Independence Rock, a behemoth rock outcropping where you’ll find the names of many pioneer travelers who passed through over 150 years ago.

4. Wind River Country to Yellowstone National Park

Wyoming’s Wind River Country is one of the state’s most diverse destinations, with a landscape that includes badlands, the red desert and the Wind River Range, as well as the Wind River Indian Reservation. It’s also home to charming small towns, from Lander to Riverton and Shoshoni to Dubois.

Plan to spend at least two days in Wind River Country, with itinerary stops that include ancient petroglyphs, the gravesites of Sacajawea and Chief Washakie, the Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary and Sinks Canyon State Park. To learn more about the history of the region, listen to audio tours that will teach you more about the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. Additional highlights include the National Museum of Military Vehicles and the National Bighorn Sheep Center, both in Dubois.

From Wind River Country, continue over Togwotee Pass to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

5. Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park

The world’s first national park, Yellowstone is always worth a visit. After exploring its vast landscapes, exit the park from its west entrance in West Yellowstone. From there, head north through Ennis and Helena before routing your car along the Rocky Mountain Front and the small towns of Augusta, Choteau and Dupuyer. Be sure to stretch your legs by strolling through the cowboy town of Augusta – stop into Allen’s Manix Store (a general store built in 1902) and Latigo & Lace before continuing on to Choteau to spend the night.

From Choteau, travel north to Glacier National Park. On the east side, park entrances include Many Glacier, St. Mary (which will give you access to the Going-to-the-Sun Road) and Two Medicine. Fall is stunning in the park and is well worth the visit.

This year, the best way to enter the park during the fall and winter months is through the St. Mary entrance (there is a much-needed construction project taking place on the west side and the Going-to-the-Sun Road will be closed from the four-way stop in Apgar to Logan Pass from October 1, 2022 – May 2023). Keep in mind that some businesses close for the season, so be sure to plan ahead – fill up your car with gas, pack food and water and be aware of your surroundings. An added bonus to a fall visit: you no longer need a vehicle reservation to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

6.  Glacier National Park to Kalispell, Montana

After you visit Glacier National Park, plan to explore Kalispell and spend the night. A short 32 miles from the park’s west entrance, Kalispell is also within easy reach of Flathead Lake and the Flathead National Forest. While you’re in Kalispell, exploring the walkable downtown is a must, as it’s home to cool murals, delicious restaurants, breweries, local shops and museums. The perfect blend of Old West meets new west, Kalispell’s wide avenues and mature trees are stunning in autumn. Within minutes of downtown you’ll find scenic fall drives and abundant trails, all perfect for hiking, mountain biking and horseback trail rides.

Must-do experiences in Kalispell include Lone Pine State Park, Conrad Mansion Museum, Hockaday Museum of Art and the Parkline Trail. Dig into their culinary scene at Alchemy Lounge, Desoto Grill, Mercantile Steak and Ceres Bakery.

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Editor’s Note: For more story ideas or images, email kezia@lightningbugpublicrelations.com.

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CONTACT: Kezia Allen Lightning Bug Public Relations kezia@lightningbugpublicrelations.com