Explore Fossil Butte National Monument and its fossil quarries

Located in beautiful southwest Wyoming, Fossil Butte National Monument is one of the largest deposits of freshwater fish fossils in the world. In prehistoric times, this part of Wyoming was a sub-tropical lake ecosystem. The area’s calm water, lack of scavengers and fine sediment all worked together to create the perfect conditions for preserving fossils. Fossil Butte quarry program participants meet at the Nature Trail and hike a half-mile to the quarry, where they learn about ongoing research at the site and help rangers search for fossils. All fossils found during the program are collected by Fossil Butte and contributed to the site’s scientific research. Anyone planning to attend a quarry program should wear hiking shoes, pack water and sun protection, and expect the program to last for about an hour and a half. Fossil Butte’s visitor center acts as a museum for this ancient site, featuring a number of exhibits that display over 300 fossils. In addition to the fossils and rich history of the butte, visitors can take a ride along the site’s Scenic Drive, stop for lunch at a designated picnic area or attend a ranger program.

Fossil Butte National Monument. Courtesy Wyoming Office of Tourism

Local Sweet Spot – Star Valley Chocolate Cafe

Located in the growing rural community of Afton along the banks of Swift Creek, Star Valley Chocolate Cafe is a local favorite and a must-see (and eat) for any traveler with a sweet tooth. These handmade gourmet chocolates and caramels are all made on-premises, and visitors have the opportunity to taste wonderful espresso drinks made from beans ground right in front of them. Locals often crave the famous hot chocolate, which is made with homemade chocolate syrup and served with foaming, piping hot milk and a whipped cream topping that cradles chocolate and cinnamon sprinkles. There are a variety of syrups from which to select for any latte or steamer, along with muffins, cookies and truffles to die for. All chocolates and candies are made by the beloved owner chocolatiers and are just waiting to be enjoyed.

Star Valley Chocolate Cafe. Courtesy Wyoming Office of Tourism

Experience the Historical Atlantic City – Atlantic City Mercantile

This incredible town transports you back to the 1800s, when the West was wild and hard work was fueled by aspirations of a better life. Near South Pass City, this booming mining town enjoyed short-lived prosperity starting in the late 1860s. Atlantic City had nearly 2,000 miners, many of whom were vacationers or part-time prospectors looking to score gold, so the town had many options for leisure and entertainment. During its heyday, the town reportedly had a brewery, dance hall and opera house. Many original log homes and structures still remain, including a church and general store. Be sure to stop by the Atlantic City Mercantile, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to grab a drink and a bite to eat.

Atlantic City. Courtesy @sloandickey

For more information on Wyoming, visit TravelWyoming.com.


Explore wooded trails, climb rugged peaks or walk through native prairie grasses. Countless trails lead to scenic landscapes, thundering waterfalls and invigorating overlooks. Conquer a hiking trail in South Dakota and the journey stays with you forever!

Situated behind a lake of the same name, the Horsethief Lake Trail is a genuine mountain wonderland. A hike back here makes you feel like you’re in the Pacific Northwest. Along this 3.5-mile trail, you will discover waterfalls, granite spires, mossy boulders and Old Man’s Beard dripping off some of the largest trees in the Black Hills. Horsethief Lake can be found on Highway 244 west of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Palisades State Park is one of the most unique areas in South Dakota. Split Rock Creek, which flows through the park, is lined with Sioux quartzite formations varying from shelves several feet above the water to 50-foot vertical cliffs. Scenic overlooks and rushing water make Palisades a popular area for hikers to explore this unique landscape.

Sica Hollow State Park is a place filled with rugged beauty and ancient mysteries. The park, part of the Prairie Coteau Hills, offers a wide variety of year-round activities. Hiking is particularly popular in this area when the beautiful fall foliage makes an appearance.

Hilger’s Gulch in Pierre includes a 1.1-mile lighted walking trail along with attractive flower gardens and a scenic view of the South Dakota State Capitol. During holidays and special events, the park is decorated with a United States flag display. Governor’s Grove is located on the west slope of the gulch and contains hundreds of trees and 28 monuments dedicated to former governors of South Dakota.

Sica Hollow State Park. Courtesy Travel South Dakota

Wildlife viewing

Spy on abundant populations of waterfowl and songbirds. Spot endangered species like the bald eagle, peregrine falcon and whooping crane. Encounter deer, elk, prairie dogs and more. With diverse terrain throughout the state, South Dakota is home to many species of wildlife.

Take a stroll through the unique LaFramboise Island Nature Area along the Missouri River in the capital city, Pierre. The island is covered in trees and meadows, which are home to a variety of wildlife and bird species.

Wind through Custer State Park on the Wildlife Loop State Scenic Byway for a chance to see bighorn sheep, elk, coyotes, the begging burros, wild turkeys and the big stars of the show, the bison. Get out in the morning or evening for your best chances at catching the animals in action.

The center of activity for the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area is the 25-mile Lewis and Clark Lake. The lake is one of four large reservoirs on the Missouri River in South Dakota, and creates a wonderful opportunity to view many species of birds while walking along the water.

Pelican Lake Recreation Area near Watertown is a popular stopping point for migrating waterfowl. Each fall, geese and ducks use the lake’s open waters as a resting area. A variety of shore birds spend their entire summer in or near the park. Most noticeable are the large white pelicans that frequent the lake. An observation tower on one of the hiking trails gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of the area.

Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. Courtesy Travel South Dakota

Scenic drives

South Dakota’s diverse landscape, iconic monuments, national parks and natural wonders are the makings for the perfect road trip. Life’s about the journey, and here, scenic byways take travelers through the other-worldly formations of the Badlands to world-famous monuments like Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Through tribal lands steeped in rich Native American history where spiritual leaders like Sitting Bull now rest to Custer State Park, where the buffalo still roam free, we encourage you take the scenic route and let life happen between the mile markers.

Breathtaking views of the Missouri River, diverse landscapes, and tribal history and culture are showcased on the Native American Scenic Byway running north and south through central South Dakota. The route takes travelers through the lands of the Yankton, Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux Tribes.

Gradually climbing from the town of Spearfish on the northern edge of the Black Hills, the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is one of the gateways into the heart of an ancient mountain range. Spearfish Creek flows along the canyon bottom, acting as a natural guide for the scenic byway that follows the creek’s contours. Although the drive is only 19 miles, give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the ride and pull over for pictures or a hike. Spearfish Canyon is one of the most beautiful spots in the country, so this is no time to put the pedal to the metal.

Sometimes described as “surreal” or “otherworldly,” you won’t want to miss the twisting curves climbing through passes in the Badlands’ “wall” of rugged rock pinnacles, buttes and mounds on the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway. Motorcycle riders and sports car enthusiasts love this road so much that it has been featured in driving video games, but is an enjoyable cruise with any vehicle.

Spearfish Falls off the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. Courtesy Travel South Dakota

For more information on South Dakota, visit TravelSouthDakota.com.

Dakota Drum Company

Dakota Drum Company has been in business for 20 years and specializes in traditional buffalo hide drums, powwow drums and traditional buffalo hide drums hand-painted by Lakota and Sioux artist Sonja Holy Eagle, who has won many major art show awards.

Known for their traditional buffalo hide drums made from hand-scraped buffalo rawhide with cottonwood frames, as well as one-sided drums, they pride themselves on the quality of their products and their Native American art.

They also carry hide paintings by Sonja, along with traditional beadwork and quillwork by artists from the Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations. You can also find beautiful buffalo robes, sweetgrass and sage, along with many other traditional arts.

Dakota Drum Company

Star of the West Hat Company

Star of the West Hat Company is known for hat refurbishing and custom felt hats that will ship all over the world! In their 20-year history, they have had the privilege of building hats for everyone from ranchers and rodeo cowboys to musicians and movie sets.

The store is pretty small, but they are able to show the kinds of equipment and materials that go into building hats as well as the process of building hats. With a small work area, there could be some hands-on experience for interested groups!

Star of the West Hat Company

Suzi Cappa Art Center

Suzie Cappa Art Center is a downtown non-profit studio and gallery where artists of all abilities create, exhibit and market their work. It offers an inspirational atmosphere for artists and visitors alike and is a division of Black Hills Works, which provides services and support to more than 630 adults with disabilities. Creations by their artists are sold nationwide and may be viewed and purchased on their website.

Suzie Cappa Art Center

For more information on Rapid City, visit VisitRapidCity.com.

The people

What makes North Dakota different from anywhere else? Is the bison? The great fishing and hunting? Biking and hiking on spectacular trails? The majestic scenery? Or is the people? Judge for yourself. We think the people are every bit as important to the story of North Dakota.

Roadside art

There’s a lot to see in North Dakota, including beautiful sunsets, colorful crops, wildlife and 38-foot-tall cows. Really. Salem Sue towers over the cars passing by on the interstate at New Salem. She is one of several pieces of larger-than-life roadside art scattered across the North Dakota landscapes. A large number of sculptures can be found along the Enchanted Highway between Gladstone and Regent in western North Dakota, including:

  • World’s Largest Buffalo: The 26-foot-tall bison stands watch over the live buffalo herd at the National Buffalo Museum along Interstate 94 in Jamestown.
  • Wahpper Catfish: The 40-foot-long catfish in Wahpeton is a tribute to the great catfishing on the Red River.
  • Wally the Walleye: Lake Sakakawea’s great walleye fishing is recognized in Garrison by a 26-foot walleye sculpture on Main Street.
  • Lewis, Clark and Sheheke: Sculptures of the two explorers and the Native American chief greet visitors at the entrance to Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn. A large replica of the explorers’ dog, Seaman, stands guard along the Missouri River at nearby Fort Mandan.

The Pheasants on the Prairie statue along the Enchanted Highway. Courtesy North Dakota Tourism

Open road

What does “wide open” really mean? In North Dakota, it means just that. Here you will find wide-open places with abundances of hiking trails and open roads providing easy, traffic-free travel along scenic byways and backways.

From its tabletop-flat farmland of the Red River Valley in the east to its rolling hills and wetlands through the central part of the state to its rugged Badlands out west, North Dakota is a scenic wonderland. And it’s truly wide open, meaning you can experience a lot without the crowds you find in a lot of other places.

North Dakota’s scenic byways and backways crisscross some of the state’s most beautiful scenery, including the Badlands that cover much of the west. While it may be a hidden gem to some, the 144-mile-long Maah Daah Hey Trail through the Badlands from near Amidon to near Watford City, and its adjoining trail spurs, are well-known by avid hikers and bikers. Sections range from difficult to easy, even for the most novice hikers and bikers.

Other trails in state parks, wildlife refuges and grasslands are just as enjoyable for day hikes or rides.

“Wide open” means just that in North Dakota. Courtesy North Dakota Tourism

For more information on North Dakota, visit NDTourism.com.

Offering rich history and abundant wilderness across 30 state parks, along with 31 scenic byways covering over 2,400 miles, Idaho is an ideal destination for a grand and fascinating road trip by car, RV or motorcycle. If you’re looking for inspiration and ideas for your next visit to the Great American West, consider these four pairings packed with Idaho’s stunning scenery and captivating stories.

Oregon Trail – Bear Lake Scenic Byway & Bear Lake State Park

Connect with Idaho’s pioneer history along the Oregon Trail-Bear Lake Scenic Byway with a stop at the National Oregon/California Trail Center. Take an auto tour, visit interpretive sites or hike trail segments of the westward migration of American settlers.

Located just 30 minutes south of the Oregon National Historic Trail, Bear Lake State Park is home to the sparkling turquoise waters of its namesake lake. Often referred to as the “Caribbean of the Rockies,” Bear Lake stretches 20 miles across the Idaho-Utah border and is the perfect spot to spend a day swimming, fishing or water-skiing.

Bear Lake State Park. Courtesy Idaho Tourism

City of Rocks Backcountry Byway & Castle Rock State Park

 Continue your history lesson with the City of Rocks Backcountry Byway. This rural byway wraps around two geographic stunners in southern Idaho: City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park. City of Rocks is a 14,407-acre paradise of granite domes and pure Idaho wilderness well-known for rock climbing, hiking and birding. The reserve is also home to historical trails, replica wagons and markings from pioneers traveling the California Trail during the gold rush. Emigrants passing through named it “The Silent City.”

Next door, Castle Rocks State Park is formed by a unique rocky landscape that dates back 2.5 million years. While exploring the rock formations, be on the lookout for Native American pictographs created by the area’s original inhabitants.

Castle Rocks State Park. Courtesy Idaho Tourism

Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway & Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes State Park

What better spot to get lost in the twists and turns of an open road than beautiful, airy Coeur d’Alene? Known as one of the best summer playgrounds in the Pacific Northwest, a drive along the Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway offers views of lakes, mountains and wildlife.

Make your way to the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes – a 73-mile paved path through the center of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s aboriginal territory. Stretching along the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene, the trail is perfect for a leisurely bike ride. Along the way, catch glimpses of eagles, deer, elk and other wildlife among the pine and fir trees.

Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway. Courtesy Idaho Tourism

Salmon River Scenic Byway & Land of the Yankee Fork State Park

Take the Salmon River Scenic Byway to the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park for highlights of Idaho’s frontier mining history. Located near the intersection of Idaho State Highway 75 and U.S. Highway 93, the site’s interpretive center showcases the area’s mining past, and historical sites and ghost towns throughout the park tell the story of the land’s early inhabitants and gold seekers.

Scenic overlook of Salmon. Courtesy Idaho Tourism

For more information on Idaho, visit VisitIdaho.org.

Western Montana’s Glacier Country has several unique and off-the-beaten path attractions that often go under the radar. Here are three that shouldn’t be missed as you travel through the region.

The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

This public park, and breathtaking sight to see, is located in the middle of the Jocko Valley just north of Arlee, off of Montana Highway 93, on the Flathead Indian Reservation. One thousand hand-cast Buddha statues circle the central figure of Yum Chenmo (the Great Mother). Guided tours are available April through October, or self-guided daily from 9 a.m. to dusk. Admission is free.

The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas.

Miracle of America Museum and Pioneer Village

This museum houses a large collection of curiosities throughout several buildings. Items include a winged monkey from “The Wizard of Oz,” an alien autopsy and a two-headed calf. Make sure you allot enough time to see it all! Located in Polson on the south end of Flathead Lake. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: $10; $5 children ages 2-12.

Miracle of America Museum and Pioneer Village

National Bison Range

Located off Montana Highway 200 is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the nation. With more than 18,000 acres, the range is home to 350-500 head of bison, as well as black bear, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, elk and whitetail deer. The refuge is enjoyed from the comfort of your own vehicle during daylight hours on two different scenic drives. Be sure to bring along your binoculars for the best viewing opportunities. Admission: $5 for private vehicles; $25 for bus or tour groups.

National Bison Range.

For more information on Western Montana’s Glacier Country, visit GlacierMT.com.

These have not been normal times, but Fargo has always prided itself in being a little bit “North of Normal”; a resilient community founded on kindness, unparalleled creativity and ingenuity. If you’re looking for a safe, off-the-beaten-path kind of adventure, consider heading north to Fargo-Moorhead.

Parks & Conservatories

The Forest River Conservation Area is covered by over 40 acres of woodlands and more than 15 acres of prairie landscape. Considered a very popular place for birding, you’ll find marbled godwits, red-wing blackbirds, Virginia rail and many other species. There are nearly 1,000 acres along the Red River of the North enrolled in a joint conservation effort called The Urban Woods and Prairie Initiative, and over 200 acres have been restored to native conditions.

Just a few miles outside of the city is Buffalo River State Park, one of the largest and highest-quality prairie remnants in Minnesota. Combined with Bluestem Prairie Scientific and Natural Area, there are more than 6,000 acres of grassland and woods to explore, 250 species of wildflowers to smell, 200 species of birds to discover, and countless potential wildlife sightings.

You may think of the prairie as just flat … what is there to see? The answer is: sky … as far as the eye can see. And sunsets more vivid than you could ever imagine.

Buffalo River State Park. Courtesy Visit Fargo-Moorhead

Lake Country

Take a day trip deeper into Minnesota just outside of Fargo to discover the beautiful lakes country! In under 45 minutes, you can discover over 100 lakes, all great for boating, swimming, fishing or just relaxing on the beach.

The Red River of the North runs through the heart of the community, dividing Fargo from Moorhead and North Dakota from Minnesota. Discover miles of hiking trails, hop on a kayak/canoe, bike or do some fishing (The Red is known for its excellent catfishing). Every year, the River Keepers host a Race the Red event that consists of a 3.5-mile fun race and 6-mile competitive races.

Red River. Courtesy Visit Fargo-Moorhead

The City

The Midwest has always been known for its lack of crowds and open countrysides. Fargo-Moorhead offers just that, along with a city booming with culture, amazing food, and the nicest darn people you’ll ever meet.

Looking for an urban outdoor adventure? Fargo-Moorhead is home to the first GeoTour in North Dakota and Minnesota. Think of it like a real-life outdoor treasure hunt! One of the largest caches in the country is just waiting to be found.

Movie fan? While the city and the locals couldn’t be more different than what you’d expect if you’re a fan of the Cohen Brothers’ “Fargo,” you can stop by to take a picture with the actual woodchipper used in the movie. Makes for a great souvenir!

And you can’t forget about the zoo! The Red River Zoo specializes in cold-climate species both native and from around the word. They care for and breed some of the world’s rarest cold-climate animals.

Red River Zoo. Courtesy Visit Fargo-Moorhead

For more information on Fargo-Moorhead, visit www.VisitFargoMoorhead.org.

Denver, The Mile High City and gateway to the Great American West, is a walkable, outdoor-focused city with 300 days of sunshine, brilliant blue skies, breathtaking mountain scenery and urban adventures for all ages. There are many ways to enjoy our city:

  • Top 10 Urban Adventures in Denver
  • Get inspired with this “Get a Feel for Denver” video featuring music from Colorado’s own OneRepublic
  • Get the Mile High experience without physically being in Denver with virtual experiences including tours of museums like Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art and Denver Art Museum, wine tastings, Red Rocks concert videos and more!

Love This City Mural. Courtesy Visit Denver

For more information on the Official Gateway City of Denver, visit VisitDenver.com.

Quebec 01 Missile Alert Facility

Driving north of Cheyenne on Interstate 25, you’d be hard-pressed to recognize an old intercontinental ballistic missile system facility left over from the Cold War era. But in an unassuming ranch-style house out in the middle of the prairie lies some fascinating Wyoming – and U.S. – history. Named Quebec 01, it’s the only accessible Peacekeeper Missile Alert Facility left in the world, and it strives to preserve and interpret this important history from the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In 2019, Wyoming Parks and Cultural Resources opened the Quebec 01 Missile Alert Facility as a new state historic site that highlights the role F.E. Warren Air Force Base played in the nuclear deterrent mission during the Cold War. The site also fosters an understanding of the mission and duties of the personnel assigned to work there.

Location: Approximately 30 miles north of Cheyenne, take Exit 39 off I-25. Turn left and go approximately one-quarter mile. The site is on your left.
Tour information: Open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
Admission: $6 for adults, $5 for military, $2 for youth ages 12 -17. Children 11 and under are free.

Quebec 01 Missile Alert Facility.

Mountain biking

Looking for something outdoors? When the days turn warmer and leaves begin to appear on the trees, find yourself on a jaunt to Curt Gowdy State Park. The park boasts over 35 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, and is open year-round. Well-designed trails ranging in elevation from 6,800-7,600 feet are suitable for any skill level, and reveal hidden and colorful respites to connect you back to nature. Here you’ll find incredible vistas and the occasional surprise waterfall. “Kate’s Trail” is a 1-mile concrete trail starting and finishing at the Visitor Center that gives folks with disabilities an opportunity to view natural areas of the park.

Specific features of Curt Gowdy State Park’s trail system include four mountain biking play areas as well as mountain biking skills areas. Locals suggest Shoreline and the Stone Temple Pilot circuit as favorite trails, and a trail/enduro bike for the best experience. In 2009, the trails system was designated as an EPIC trail system by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash at all times – and owners must pick up after them! Check out local bike shops Rock on Wheels or the Bicycle Station for a rental bike. Expect a state park daily use fee of $6 for Wyoming residents and $9 for non-residents.

Location: From Cheyenne, head west on WY 210 (or Happy Jack, as the locals call it), for 25 miles.

Mountain biking in Curt Gowdy State Park.

For more information on Cheyenne, visit Cheyenne.org.

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

Step back in time to the 1500s, when the Mandan Indians lived at the On-A-Slant Indian Village, or to 1875, when Gen. George Custer and the 7th Cavalry resided in the Dakota Territory. Located along the majestic Missouri River, not only does it whisper the history and stories of hundreds of years, it’s also a breathtaking experience for nature lovers to hike, bike, walk and explore.

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. Courtesy Bismarck-Mandan Convention & Visitors Bureau

For more information on Bismarck-Mandan, visit NoBoundariesND.com.