Much of the West has been carefully preserved in America’s national parks and monuments, enabling visitors to experience the same pristine natural beauty that greeted the first pioneers.
Go camping in North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Take an unforgettable journey across the continental divide in Montana’s spectacular Glacier National Park. Marvel at the thermal wonders and abundant wildlife in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park – America’s first national park. Or visit South Dakota’s legendary Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Wherever your Western holiday takes you, there’s sure to be a national park, memorial or monument just waiting to be explored.
Yellowstone National Park
Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park. Located in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, it is home to a large variety of wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. Preserved within Yellowstone National Park are Old Faithful and a collection of the world’s most extraordinary geysers and hot springs, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Since its designation as a national park in 1872, Yellowstone National Park has been a cherished part of the region’s rich tapestry. It’s easy to see why. The very definition of “unspoiled,” Yellowstone has served for generations as a sort of living museum, its natural splendours giving visitors an up-close-and-personal glimpse of what the continent was like in the days before recorded history. More…
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
The majestic 60-foot (18 m) faces of four U.S. presidents gaze out over South Dakota’s Black Hills. Recognized worldwide, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, stands as a symbol of American democracy. This national treasure represents critical times in American history.
From the Grandview Terrace, visitors get spectacular views of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. For a closer view, visitors can walk the half-mile (.8 km) Presidential Trail, which loops along the base of the mountain. The impressive Lincoln Borglum Museum contains interactive interpretive exhibits. Visitors discover why the four presidents were selected. They see how the mountain was carved, and they learn about sculptor Gutzon Borglum and the workers who brought Mount Rushmore to life. More…
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park, together with the Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, forms the world’s first International Peace Park. But in this rugged section of the northern Rockies, exhilaration is the universal language. Mountain goats cling to craggy, glacier carved peaks. Pie is served fresh daily in a small town. And drivers watch the scenery unfold beyond their knuckles as they drive along a road that defies words. The park was designated America’s 10th national park on May 11, 1910.
If there’s one defining feature of this place it’s the engineering wonder known as the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This spectacular 50-mile highway clings to the edge of the world as cars—and bikes—cross over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. Along the way, don’t be surprised if resident wildlife shares the road with you. After all, the same remote solitude you’re seeking is what attracted them here in the first place. Then unwind in a comfortable wooden chair at the Lake McDonald Lodge. As you pass through the gates and leave the park, you may also be a changed person. Inquire ahead of time as to the current status of the Going-to-the-Sun-Road because snow can often last well into June. More…
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The two units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park offer majestic Badlands scenery, abundant wildlife and all kinds of adventures of your own making.
During his administration, President Theodore Roosevelt founded the United States Forest Service, signed the National Monuments Act and established the first federal game preserve. His conservation efforts led to the founding of the National Park Service, established to preserve and protect unspoiled places like his beloved North Dakota Badlands, now known as Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Today, visitors can view a natural setting much like the one that greeted Roosevelt over a century ago. The 36-mile scenic loop drive in the South Unit and the 14-mile drive in the North Unit provide easy access to popular vistas and wildlife viewing. You will always see buffalo herds and prairie dog towns, and you may catch a glimpse of wild horses, mule deer, elk and maybe even at coyote. More…
Grand Teton National Park
An ethereal mountain landscape where jagged peaks tower more than a mile above the Jackson Hole valley, Grand Teton National Park is located in northwestern Wyoming just south of Yellowstone National Park and just north of the town of Jackson. Visitors can reach the park through U.S. 191.
The park’s mountain range is very popular among climbers, hikers and photographers. The Tetons are a prime example of fault-block mountain formation. When the earth’s crust cracked along a fault millions of years ago, the Tetons rose into the sky. The exposed crystalline rocks give these mountains their dramatic appearance in any season. The Grand Teton rises to 13,770 feet above sea level and 12 other peaks reach above 12,000 feet elevation.
Sixty species of mammals, over 300 species of birds and a half dozen game fish call the Jackson Hole area home. The American elk (wapiti) is the most common member of the deer family in the park. During the summer, the elk range high in the mountains in search of food. When winter comes, they descend to the floor of Jackson Hole. Many migrate to the National Elk Refuge just north of the town of Jackson.
Grand Teton National Park offers hiking, camping, climbing, boating, kayaking and numerous photography opportunities. A road winds through the park, but the best way to experience the park is to take one of its shorter trails. More…
Badlands National Park
Millions of years of wind, water and erosion have created the chiselled spires, deep canyons and jagged buttes of Badlands National Park.
On-going rains, freezes and thaws have revealed millions of years of sediment that paint a colourful landscape on the prairies of southwestern South Dakota. When the Lakota first encountered the striking, moon-like landscape, they aptly called the area “Mako Sica” or “bad land.” Early French trappers also described the area as “bad land” after difficult travels over the rugged terrain. Today, visitors to Badlands National Park can explore this natural wonder on foot, on horseback or by car as they travel the scenic loop or roam the many trails. More…
Devils Tower National Monument
Devils Tower National Monument, which looms more than 1,200 feet above Wyoming’s eastern plains and the Belle Fourche River, is a one-of-a-kind natural wonder. The flat-topped volcanic formation is found amid some of the state’s most beautiful country, leaving you plenty to do after you behold its otherworldly presence. More…
Fort Laramie National Historic Site
“The Crossroads of a Nation Moving West.” This unique historic place preserves and interprets one of America’s most important locations in the history of westward expansion and Indian resistance. Fort Laramie, the first garrisoned post in Wyoming, is located adjacent to the town of Fort Laramie near the confluence of the North Platte and Laramie rivers. It was the most important outpost on the major emigrant trails – the Oregon, Mormon and California. The fort was named in honour of Jacques La Ramie, a French fur trapper who worked in the tributaries of the North Platte in the early 1800s.
Fort Union Trading Post
Between 1828 and 1867, Fort Union was the most important fur trade post on the Upper Missouri River. Here, the Assiniboine and six other Northern Plains Indian Tribes exchanged buffalo robes and smaller furs for goods from around the world, including cloth, guns, blankets, and beads. A bastion of peaceful coexistence, the post annually traded over 25,000 buffalo robes and $100,000 in merchandise.
Knife River Indian Villages
Earthlodge people hunted bison and other game, but were in essence farmers living in villages along the Missouri and its tributaries. The site was a major Native American trade centre for hundreds of years prior to becoming an important market place for fur traders after 1750.
Fossil Butte National Monument
Wyoming’s newest national monument, Fossil Butte, was established on October 23, 1972. It is administered and protected by the National Park Service. The monument contains 8,198 acres and protects a portion of the largest deposit of freshwater fish fossils in the world. The richest fossil fish deposits are found in multiple limestone layers, which lie some 100 feet below the top of the butte. The fossils represent several varieties of perch, as well as other freshwater genera and herring similar to those in modern oceans. A large, deep-bodied fish with many curious plates is common. Other fish such as paddlefish, garpike and stingray are also present.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Located in southeastern Montana, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument memorializes the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, which took place on June 25-26, 1876 between the United States Seventh Cavalry Regiment led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, and the Sioux and Cheyenne under the political and spiritual leadership of Sitting Bull. The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument was originally named Custer Battlefield National Monument. President George H.W. Bush renamed the site on December 10, 1991. It is now representative of those who were in the battle, Native Americans and the 7th Cavalry.
A visitor centre and museum contains exhibits relating to the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn in which a total of 263 US Cavalrymen, of the regiments 650 men, were killed in action by Sioux and Northern Cheyenne warriors. Lieutenant Colonel G.A. Custer was killed leading a contingent of 209 men. The Museum features exhibits of the history of the battle, Custer, weapons, archaeology, Plains Indian life, and a walking tour with interpretive markers. It is wheelchair accessible. Adjoining the visitor centre is Custer National Cemetery, which includes interments from abandoned frontier military posts, the world wars, Korea and Vietnam.
Jewel Cave National Monument
Jewel Cave National Monument is not only the second-longest cave in the world (currently 150 miles and counting!), it is also one of its most structurally complex. Located just over an hour southwest of Rapid City, Jewel Cave is a regional gem tucked in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Exploration is ongoing in this pristine underground labyrinth, now the world’s second longest cave. Visit chambers decorated with calcite, nailhead and dogtooth spar crystals and other speleothems such as draperies, flowstone and stalactites.
Pompeys Pillar National Monument
Pompeys Pillar is a rock outcropping that rises 200 feet above the Yellowstone River 30 miles east of Billings. Pompeys Pillar is like a sandstone history book that reads like a who’s who of western frontier history. Look on the rockface for the remains of animal drawings created by people who used the area for rendezvous, campsites, and hunting. In 1806 Captain William Clark carved his signature and the date in this rock. It is the only site on the trail where visible evidence of the Lewis and Clark Expedition may be viewed by the public.
Wind Cave National Park
Caves are one of the Black Hills most mysterious and intriguing wonders. To do your exploring underground, visit Wind Cave National Park. Stretching more than 100 miles, Wind Cave is one of the longest caves in the world, and the first cave to be designated a national park.
With a maze-like, underground chamber system, Wind Cave features the world’s largest concentration of box work, a rare formation of thin calcite fins that resemble honeycombs. Above ground, Wind Cave National Park includes a wildlife sanctuary of 28,295 acres for antelope, bison, elk, prairie dogs and other creatures to roam. Here, the ponderosa pine forest meets the rolling prairie, one of the last remaining mixed grassland areas in existence.