Two summers ago, my family and I took a memorable road trip through Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Oregon with a travel trailer in tow. I can easily remember the day we set out to hit the road for an all-American road trip as if it were just yesterday. When I think back at all the memories we have created on this trip, it brings nothing but a smile to my face.
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We were on the road for eleven days, and each morning we would gather around the table to have breakfast as a family before we started the day. There was no need to rush and get the kids ready to head out somewhere to get breakfast. Instead, I allowed the kids and the husband to sleep in just a little more while I woke early and started breakfast from the convenience of our little kitchen on wheels. When all was ready, I would wake them, and they would greet me with their beautiful morning smiles.
The first destination on our itinerary was Devils Tower, America’s first national monument. Devils Tower/Black Hills KOA was our home base for the night since it’s conveniently located a few miles from the monument. We spent the day exploring what the area had to offer. The campground even played the movie Close Encounters on a big outdoor screen with the monument towering behind as a backdrop. It was such a memorable day.
The next day we headed for South Dakota – Mt. Rushmore National Memorial was next on our itinerary. The drive to Mt. Rushmore was filled with countless sights. We passed through many towns and the Black Hills National Cemetery. Although we did not stop at the Black Hills National Cemetery, we discussed the history of it with our children throughout the drive.
Mt. Rushmore National Memorial was truly an experience. The towering 60-foot carved granite sculpture was breathtaking. I am grateful to have brought my family to experience this beauty first hand.
After exploring, we headed back to our travel trailer that was parked up front and enjoyed a home cooked meal before heading back out. We rested a while in the comfort of our travel trailer before driving to Buffalo KOA Journey in Wyoming, where we would spend the night so that we would have a head start in getting to our next destination – Yellowstone National Park.
The drive to Yellowstone National Park coming in from the north entrance through Gardiner, Montana on US Highway 89 S was just amazing. We had the windows down, You Ku’uipo by Willie K on the stereo, the beautiful mountains and Yellowstone River in our front view, and the smiling faces of our kids in the rear view. To this day, whenever I hear that song, I close my eyes and am instantly transported to that summer drive. I can feel the sunshine on my face, the wind blowing through my hair, and the smell of that clean summer Montana air. It’s amazing how music can do that to a person.
Before entering Yellowstone, we spotted a sign that said river access. We quickly pulled in, parked, went into the trailer to change into our swimsuits and took a dip in that refreshing Yellowstone River. As we entered Yellowstone National Park, we saw the Roosevelt Arch and explored the area of Liberty Cap and Mammoth Hot Springs.
As we made our way to Canyon Campground, we were greeted by a bison approaching us. We were a bit nervous. It was our first encounter with a bison, let alone in a wild setting, as we are islanders from Oahu. The kids rolled up their windows and all I could hear was, “oh, oh” and “oh-my-gosh!” It was quite a funny moment. As the bison inched closer, we got a little brave, rolled down our windows, and just admired him as he walked firmly next to our vehicle.
After setting up camp at Canyon Campground, we headed out to explore. Since we planned to stay in Yellowstone for two days, we split up the areas to explore in each loop by campgrounds (we stayed at Canyon and Fishing Bridge) and went counterclockwise. By doing that, we got to cover most of the main attractions.
Yellowstone was amazing, but there was more to see! We headed to Grand Teton National Park next and stayed at the Colter Bay Village Campground. There we swam at the nearby Jackson Lake and enjoyed a horseback ride with a country steak dinner with Grand Teton Lodge Company outfitters. It was such a wonderful experience!
Next, we visited the famous Moulton Barn and headed for Jackson Hole. We stayed at the nearby Jackson Hole Campground, explored the town square, and had dinner at the Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse. One of THE best steaks I have had in my life!
From Jackson Hole, we slowly started to make our way back west. The Royal Gorge Resort in Ellis, Idaho was our next home base. There we relaxed, swam, and soaked in their natural hot spring along the Salmon River. Amazing!
That evening I prepared a steak and lobster dinner that we enjoyed outside of our travel trailer. Taylor had set the table and decorated it with little flowers and pinecones she gathered from the area. It was truly a memorable evening.
Goldbug Hot Springs was next on our itinerary. The drive there was 20 minutes away from our campsite. We loaded our packs and headed out to the four-mile round trip hike. When we arrived, we could not believe our eyes. The springs were something out of a fairytale. And the view? Wow!
Glacier View Campground in the beautiful town of Stanley, Idaho was our next home base as we continued to make our way west. The drive from Ellis to Stanley through Highway 75 was truly breathtaking. The landscape in Idaho is truly a gem indeed.
Next, we headed through the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway on Highway 21 and made our way towards Boise. The drive through the scenic byway was spectacular. As we were driving, my husband shouted, “Look! White sand!” We quickly pulled over and again went into our trailer for our swimsuits and towels. We could not believe that there was sand just as white as Hawaii’s in Idaho!
After a long drive through Boise and eastern Oregon, we finally made it to Richland, Washington where we spent our last night on the road at the RV Village Resort. The next morning, we had our last morning breakfast before starting the 4-hour drive home.
As I reflect back on this summer road trip, I cannot help but count my lucky stars. We have seen and done a lot in just eleven days, but the memories we have created will last us a lifetime. Traveling in a travel trailer throughout this entire trip made getting from one destination to the other a breeze. Our beds, meals, and necessities were always readily accessible or nearby whenever we needed it. We were far from home, but we had everything we needed from home in tow. Now that’s my way of traveling!
Wife. Mother. Adventurer. Island girl. PNW Transplant.