Exploring The Treasures Of The Great American West: A Journey Through Five Enchanting States

K.C. Dermody

Written by Justin Mewse

September 2023

Exploring the five states of the Great American West – Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, and North Dakota – offers an incredible journey through a rich tapestry of natural wonders and cultural treasures. Visitors can witness the iconic geysers of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and the majestic peaks of Glacier National Park in Montana. Idaho boasts the serene shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene, while South Dakota showcases the famous Mount Rushmore. Finally, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota unveils a unique blend of wildlife and painted canyons. Travellers can seamlessly incorporate multiple states into one trip for an immersive experience in the untamed beauty and history of the region.

Admiring the view at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area - Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development/Bob Webster


Exploring Wyoming promises a captivating adventure through the heart of the American West, replete with iconic national parks, stunning landscapes, and rich historical sites. Here are some of the best things to see and do in Wyoming:

Yellowstone National Park (shared with Montana):

  • Encounter the world’s inaugural national park, celebrated for its captivating geothermal wonders, including the iconic Old Faithful and the kaleidoscopic Grand Prismatic Spring
  • Immerse yourself in the park’s rich biodiversity, featuring remarkable wildlife like bison, elk, and grizzly bears, and explore enchanting natural spectacles such as the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River

Grand Teton National Park:

  • Admire the jagged peaks of the Teton Range, offering unparalleled opportunities for hiking, camping, and wildlife photography
  • Take a boat ride on Jenny Lake or visit the Mormon Row Historic District for a glimpse into the region’s history

Jackson Hole:

  • Immerse yourself in the charming town of Jackson, a gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks
  • Stroll around the town square with its iconic elk antler arches, dine at western-themed restaurants, and enjoy local art galleries

Devils Tower National Monument:

  • Marvel at the striking geological formation of Devils Tower, a unique volcanic neck rising dramatically from the plains
  • Hike around the base or watch climbers ascend its sheer walls


  • Explore the town of Cody, founded by Buffalo Bill Cody, and visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a comprehensive museum complex
  • Attend the Cody Nite Rodeo for an authentic western rodeo experience

Bighorn National Forest:

  • Discover the pristine wilderness of the Bighorn Mountains, perfect for hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife watching
  • Scenic byways like the Cloud Peak Skyway offer breathtaking views

Hot Springs State Park:

  • Relax in the mineral hot springs of Thermopolis, known for their therapeutic properties
  • Explore the park’s terraces, gardens, and the Wyoming Dinosaur Centre

Wind River Range:

  • Embark on epic backpacking and hiking adventures amid the towering peaks and pristine lakes of the Wind River Range
  • Gannett Peak, the highest point in Wyoming, is a challenging mountaineering destination


  • Cheyenne’s roots as a prominent railroad town are evident in its well-preserved historic district, where you can explore vintage locomotives at the Cheyenne Depot Museum. Additionally, it serves as the capital of Wyoming, with the Wyoming State Capitol building being a significant landmark
  • Just outside Cheyenne, you can visit the Terry Bison Ranch, where you’ll find bison herds and the opportunity to go on bison-viewing train tours or even hand-feed these massive creatures
  • Known as the “Daddy of ’em All,” Cheyenne Frontier Days is the largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration in the world

Fossil Butte National Monument:

  • Explore the fascinating world of ancient fossils, including fish and insects, preserved in the shale layers of Fossil Butte
  • Hike the interpretive trails to learn about prehistoric life
Prismatic Lake, Wyoming - IG: travelprospect


Exploring Montana promises an unparalleled adventure through a state renowned for its vast wilderness, stunning landscapes, and outdoor recreation opportunities. Here are some of the best things to see and do in Montana:

Glacier National Park:

  • Marvel at the pristine beauty of Glacier National Park, known for its glacial lakes, rugged mountains, and diverse wildlife
  • Hike the iconic trails like the Highline Trail or drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road for breathtaking views

Yellowstone National Park (shared with Wyoming):

  • Witness the world’s first national park, famous for its geothermal wonders, including Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring
  • Explore the park’s abundant wildlife and scenic waterfalls

Flathead Lake:

  • Relax on the shores of the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River, offering swimming, boating, and fishing
  • Visit the charming town of Bigfork for arts, culture, and dining


  • Immerse yourself in the vibrant cultural scene of Missoula, home to museums, galleries, and a lively downtown area
  • Enjoy outdoor activities along the Clark Fork River or explore the University of Montana campus

Bitterroot Valley:

  • Discover well-preserved ghost towns, Virginia City and Nevada City, offering a fascinating glimpse into the past
  • The area is an ideal stop when travelling between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park:

  • Explore the underground world of limestone caverns adorned with stalactites and stalagmites
  • Hike in the surrounding park and enjoy scenic views of the Jefferson River Valley

Big Sky:

  • Enjoy year-round outdoor activities, including skiing in the winter and hiking, mountain biking, and zip-lining in the summer
  • Explore the nearby Gallatin Canyon and the stunning Gallatin River

Makoshika State Park:

  • Explore Montana’s largest state park, known for its unique badlands terrain and dinosaur fossils
  • Hike the trails and learn about the park’s geological and paleontological history
Chief Mountain, Glacier National Park - Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development/Bob Webster


Exploring Idaho promises an unforgettable adventure through a state known for its diverse landscapes and outdoor recreation opportunities. Here are some of the best things to see and do in Idaho:


  • Begin your Idaho adventure in the state capital, Boise, and explore its vibrant downtown scene and cultural attractions like the Boise Art Museum
  • There’s a vibrant Basque community here with a rich cultural heritage, known for its Basque festivals, cuisine, and traditions that have left an indelible mark on the city’s history
  • Enjoy outdoor activities in the nearby Boise Foothills or visit the Idaho State Capitol

Sun Valley:

  • Experience world-class skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and hiking, mountain biking, and festivals in the summer in the picturesque Sun Valley resort area
  • Stroll through the charming town of Ketchum, known for its arts scene and dining options

Sawtooth National Recreation Area:

  • Take a scenic drive along the Sawtooth Scenic Byway, passing through some of Idaho’s most breathtaking landscapes, including the Sawtooth Mountains and Salmon River
  • Discover the stunning Sawtooth Mountains, pristine alpine lakes, and extensive hiking and backpacking trails
  • Redfish Lake is a must-visit for its clear waters and scenic views – especially on horseback

Coeur d’Alene:

  • Enjoy outdoor activities on Lake Coeur d’Alene, including boating, fishing, and kayaking
  • Explore the scenic Tubbs Hill Nature Trails and visit the Coeur d’Alene Resort

Shoshone Falls:

  • Witness the “Niagara of the West,” a stunning waterfall on the Snake River that’s higher than Niagara Falls
  • Visit the adjacent Shoshone Falls Park for picnicking and viewpoints

Craters of the Moon National Monument:

  • Explore a surreal and otherworldly landscape shaped by ancient volcanic eruptions
  • Hike through lava fields, explore lava tubes, and marvel at unique geological formations

Hell’s Canyon:

  • Experience North America’s deepest river gorge, located along the Snake River
  • Enjoy activities like whitewater rafting, hiking, and wildlife viewing in this rugged wilderness area

Idaho’s Hot Springs:

  • Relax in the state’s natural hot springs, such as those near Stanley and Boise, for a rejuvenating soak in stunning surroundings
Horseback riding at Redfish, near Stanley - Idaho Tourism

North Dakota

Exploring North Dakota promises an enriching adventure in the heart of the Northern Plains. This glorious state is brimming with unique attractions and natural beauty. Here are some of the best things to see and do in North Dakota:

Theodore Roosevelt National Park:

  • Witness the rugged beauty of this park, known for its colourful badlands, scenic drives, and abundant wildlife
  • Hike the trails, like the Caprock Coulee and Petrified Forest loops, to immerse yourself in the landscape.


  • Experience the charming Old West atmosphere of this historic town, the gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit
  • Enjoy the toe tappin’ Medora Musical, a lively outdoor performance that celebrates the spirit of the American West

Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site:

  • Explore the reconstructed earth lodges and visitor centre to learn about the lives of the Northern Plains Indians
  • Take a stroll along the nature trails and appreciate the serene Missouri River views

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site:

  • Step back in time to the 19th century and discover the history of the fur trade in the reconstructed trading post
  • Attend living history demonstrations to gain insights into the daily life of fur trappers and traders

Lake Sakakawea:

  • Engage in water-based activities such as boating, fishing, and swimming on North Dakota’s largest reservoir
  • Visit the MHA Interpretive Centre and learn about the history and culture of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Native American tribes

International Peace Garden:

  • Visit this beautiful garden on the U.S.- Canada border, symbolising peace and friendship between the nations
  • Explore the floral displays, serene walking paths, and the Peace Chapel

Minot and the North Dakota State Fair:

  • Discover the city of Minot and its Scandinavian heritage at the Scandinavian Heritage Park
  • If visiting in July, enjoy the North Dakota State Fair, featuring entertainment, food, and agricultural exhibits


  • Explore the state capital, Bismarck, and its historic attractions, including the North Dakota Heritage Centre
  • Cross the Missouri River to Mandan to visit the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park and On-A-Slant Indian Village
International Peace Garden - North Dakota Tourism

South Dakota

Exploring South Dakota promises an enriching adventure through the heart of America’s Great Plains. This diverse state boasts a wide range of attractions, from iconic monuments to natural wonders. Here are some of the best things to see and do in South Dakota:

Mount Rushmore National Memorial:

  • Marvel at the towering sculptures of four U.S. presidents carved into the Black Hills. The best time to take photos is typically during the early morning or late afternoon. During these times, the sunlight is softer, casting warm, flattering tones on the monument’s faces
  • Explore the visitor centre and the Avenue of Flags, showcasing state flags and history

Badlands National Park:

  • Witness the otherworldly landscapes of rugged canyons, spires, and buttes during sunrise and sunset hours
  • Hike the numerous trails to get up close to the unique geological formations and wildlife

Custer State Park:

  • Enjoy scenic drives, like the Wildlife Loop Road, to spot bison, pronghorn, and other wildlife
  • Head to the park at the end of September to coincide a visit with the spectacle of Buffalo Roundup

Wind Cave National Park:

  • Descend into one of the world’s longest caves, known for its unique boxwork formations
  • Whilst in the area, visit the nearby Mammoth Site, an active paleontological site, which boasts the largest concentration of mammoth remains in the world!

De Smet:

  • Take a trip to the small town of De Smet to follow in the footsteps of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie
  • Visit the Ingalls Homestead to discover what life was like in 1862 – drive a covered wagon, attend a one-room schoolhouse, twist hay, grind wheat, and make rope

Crazy Horse Memorial:

  • Witness the ongoing creation of the world’s largest sculpture, dedicated to Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota leader
  • Visit the Indian Museum of North America to learn about Native American cultures

The historic town of wild west Deadwood:

  • Stop in the old west town of Deadwood where the legends of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane live on. Watch these colourful characters come alive in fun street re-enactments
  • Visit the Days of 76 Museum or try your luck at one of the town’s numerous gaming parlours

Sioux Falls:

  • Discover the vibrant city of Sioux Falls, known for its cascading waterfalls at Falls Park
  • Visit the SculptureWalk to admire outdoor art displays throughout the downtown area
Mountain goat at Mount Rushmore National Memorial - South Dakota Tourism

​Discover The Best Holiday Options In The Great American West With These Recommended Trips

We’ve delved into the holiday offerings from a number of our favourite travel experts to find what we think are the best itineraries you can book to experience the marvels of the Great American West.

Grand prismatic geyser in Yellowstone

13-Day Minneapolis, Yellowstone & The Rockies

Tailor-Made Self-Drive
Packed with epic mountain peaks and glorious natural wonders, free-ranging wildlife, wide-open plains and orb-stretching big sky and wild west towns. This journey through the Midwest presents the perfect opportunity to discover extraordinary places and pleasantly surprise your senses.

Why we love this trip…
Spend time in the “Heart of America,” Sioux Falls and visit Mount Rushmore
Travel through Bighorn National Forest and follow in the footsteps of Buffalo Bill
Explore Yellowstone – home to eagles, grizzly and black bears, buffalo, elk and much more
Discover Glacier National Park and drive the famed “Going-to-the-Sun Road”
Marvel at the impressive landscapes of North Dakota’s rugged badlands
ABTA & ATOL protected

From £1,175pp
Price includes 12 nights accommodation, 12 days car hire and personalised roadbook

Operated by Discover North America

Visit Website

Bison in Badlands National Park - South Dakota Tourism

14-Day Legends & Landscapes of the Old West

Tailor-Made Self-Drive
Take this road less travelled trip to experience the beauty and history of America’s Wild West. See national parks, historic towns and spend the night in a ranch to enhance your experience of life on the frontier.

Why we love this trip…
Immerse yourself in ranch life in the foothills of the Big Horn mountain range
View the bison in Custer State Park
Spend the night in Badlands National Park for spectacular stargazing
Visit the gold rush town of Deadwood, where the legends of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane live on
Take the 36-mile scenic drive through Theodore Roosevelt National Park
ABTA & ATOL protected

From £2,210pp
Price includes 13 nights accommodation, 14 days car hire and return flights

Operated by Trips Beyond

Visit Website

Riverbend at sunset - North Dakota Tourism

9-Day National Parks & Native Trails of the Dakotas

Escorted Tour
Explore indigenous culture on a 9-Day National Parks and Native Trails of the Dakotas tour that introduces you to local people across four reservations. Learn the history of Native America and discover the future of tribal tourism.

Why we love this trip…
Enter the Badlands National Park and meet local artists at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
See the iconic mountain sculptures of Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial
Get an insider view of traditional tribal cultures from specialist local guides
Stay in Medora’s historic Rough Riders Hotel for an immersive experience of the old west
Witness bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
ATOL protected

Price available upon request via the link
Includes 8 nights accommodation, tours and sightseeing as mentioned in the itinerary, dedicated Travel Director and professional driver and return flights

Operated by Travelbag

Visit Website

Stanley Lake view in the Sawtooth Mountains near Stanley - Idaho Tourism

19-Day Glaciers, Geysers and the Gem State Idaho, Montana and Wyoming

Tailor-Made Self-Drive
Discover the beauty of the ‘gem’ state of Idaho where there is a natural wonder around every corner. See the iconic national parks of Grand Teton and Yellowstone, plus Montana’s jewel in its crown Glacier National Park on this memorable journey.

Why we love this trip…
Admire the vast landscapes of diverse forest and grasslands of the Sawtooth National Forest
Visit Craters of the Moon National Monument and Shoshone Falls
Explore Grand Teton National Park and take an aerial tram to the top of the mountains
Join a wolf tracking tour to see the majestic creatures in the wilds of Yellowstone
Keep an eye out for grizzly bears, elk, mountain goats and bighorn sheep in Glacier National Park
ATOL protected

From £2,720pp
Price includes 18 nights accommodation, 19 days car hire and return flights

Operated by American As You Like It

Visit Website

Mount Rushmore - South Dakota Tourism

22-Day Best of the Great American West

Tailor-Made Self-Drive
Packed full of bucket list attractions and iconic sights, the Great American West states of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming are home to awe-inspiring scenery, abundant wildlife, legendary wild west history and Native American culture. If you’re looking for adventure this itinerary is just for you!

Why we love this trip…
Head to the western Black Hills and drive the incredible Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway
Visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park and and North Dakota’s badlands
Take a boat tour through the Gates of the Mountains, a dramatic stretch of the Missouri River
Follow the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway to the Nez Perce National Historic Park
Witness the geysers, hot springs and mud pots of Yellowstone National Park
ATOL protected

From £2,960pp
Price includes 21 nights accommodation, 22 days car hire and return flights

Operated by American As You Like It

Visit Website

The Great American West logo

The Battery in St Johns, Newfoundland

Find My Perfect Holiday Destination

By using our intelligent search tool, we will present you with a tailored list of destinations based on your requirements.

Inspire Me

From the European beaches of Antalya and Majorca or the Caribbean sands of Barbados to the culture and cuisine of Thailand or majestic scenery of the Canadian Rockies, we’ve well over 400 destinations to inspire you.

Self-drive couple

Holiday Inspiration Delivered To Your Inbox

Sign-up to the Inspire My Holiday newsletter for the following…

* Receive details of the latest offers – plus savings that are exclusive to our subscribers
* Be the first to hear about some amazing competitions with truly incredible prizes

* Keep abreast of the hottest travel trends
* Discover outside-the-norm holiday ideas
* Discover articles, blogs & travel guides to your next getaway

Sign-Up Now

Top Holiday Offers

We’ve hand-picked a range of enticing offers to incredible destinations. If you want value for money on your next trip, start by reviewing our dedicated Top Holiday Offers page.

Top Offers