Most Scenic Route From Black Hills, South Dakota, to Yellowstone National Park
You may glimpse a moose as you drive through Bighorn National Forest. (Photo: Western Photographs/iStock/Getty Images )
While both Yellowstone National Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota have unforgettable scenery, there’s plenty between the two you won’t want to miss. The fastest way to get to Yellowstone from the Black Hills area is along Interstate 90, a journey of 474 miles and seven and a half driving hours. By adding just 50 miles and three hours to your drive, you can take in a number of scenic byways, monuments and park lands along the way.
Through Black Hills and Palisades
After making memories at Black Hills attractions like Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore and Deadwood, make your exit equally memorable with a scenic drive up Spearfish Canyon. Head south out of Deadwood on U.S. Highway 85 and turn onto the U.S. 14 Scenic Byway to take in the views of Spearfish Canyon. Towering limestone palisades, dramatic waterfalls and vivid autumn foliage are just a few of the sights you’ll see along the 28-mile drive from Deadwood to Spearfish.
Where the Deer and the Antelope Play
Bypass I-90 in Spearfish, and continue up Highway 85, also known as the Canam Highway, for about 10 miles. Turn west on Highway 34 to journey into the wide open grasslands. The road follows a meandering stream punctuated with tree-topped bluffs. You’ll enter Wyoming, slicing through the Beartooth Mountains and the Wyoming part of Black Hills National Forest. The road takes you to Devils Tower National Monument, where the stump-shaped granite monolith rises more than 1,200 feet above the valley below. Continue south onto Highway 14, and set up camp on the shores of Keyhole Reservoir at a state park by the same name. This part of the scenic drive covers just over 100 miles in South Dakota and Wyoming.
Drive Across the Sky
Take I-90 west 113 miles across the grasslands to the city of Buffalo to see the Great Medicine Man Museum and catch the Cloud Peak Skyway Scenic Byway. The road slices through the southern part of Bighorn National Forest and the Bighorn Mountains on its 63-mile journey to Ten Sleep, topping out at more than 9,000 feet. Snow-capped mountains, rolling wildflower meadows and towering palisades make up some of the scenery along the way. Continue on Highway 16 to Cody, 113 miles northwest of Ten Sleep. The route meanders north along the Bighorn River to the tiny town of Greybull before heading west across the plains to Cody.
Scenic Byways to the Northeast Entrance
Head out of Cody on Highway 296, the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. The road journeys 47 miles through Shoshone National Forest over the Absaroa Mountains. The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway ends at the Beartooth All-American Road, considered by some to be the most scenic roadway in the country. It passes between the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness and the North Absaroka Wilderness. Crazy Creek Falls tumbles down the mountainside in a zigzag flow. A half-mile hike along the trail brings you to a bridge overlooking the cascades. As the road crosses into Montana, you’ll find a mile-long recreation area with trail heads and picnic areas. The scenic drive dips back down into Wyoming, ending at the park’s northeast entrance and intersecting with Yellowstone’s Grand Loop Road.
About the Author
A former world-class swimmer, J.T. O Connell shares her love of adventure travel, extreme sports and pets through thousands of published articles. O Connell studied journalism at Grand Canyon University, and brings professional experience as a tour guide and travel consultant. She authors the blog, Traveling With Large Dogs.
- Western Photographs/iStock/Getty Images