On the Northern Loop

The trip northward from Denver to western South Dakota is through the grassy plains of Colorado and eastern Wyoming. Easy riding while looking at the open terrain that is easy to spot various wildlife.

Located within the beautiful Black Hills, we stayed (2 nights) in this wonderful lodge at Custer State Park (outside Custer, SD). President Calvin Coolidge used this location as the “Summer White House” in 1927.


Custer State Park is home to many animals. During scene drives, we observed elk, mule deer, white tailed deer, prairie dogs, pronghorn, and many buffalo.

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Two outstanding landmarks are located near Custer: Mt. Rushmore is a national treasure. It’s actually a National Memorial that is operated by the National Parks Service.

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Located 16 miles (26 km) away is a treasure that greatly impacted me. On our entire trip, our guide talked much about Native Americans. The Crazy Horse Memorial – the world’s largest mountain sculpture – stands as a tribute to all North American Indians.

Started in 1948, it still has a long way to go to completion. I know I won’t see it in my lifetime. Maybe our new great-niece (born this past July) will see it. Then again, maybe her kids.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is so big, Mt. Rushmore would fit in the head area behind the face (in the hair). The picture below shows a model of the final product with the mountain sculpture in the background.

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After leaving Custer, we travelled 2-days westward toward Yellowstone National Park – with stops along the way.

Deadwood, South Dakota – a town established as a result of the Black Hills Gold Rush of 1874. It’s also linked to western legends as Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. Some readers may remember this past post about my link to Deadwood – a headstone near my home marking the grave of Charlie Rich – the one who dealt the infamous Dead Man’s Hand of aces and eights.

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Devil’s Tower National Monument – declared as the US’s first National Monument in 1906 – is a butte of igneous rock located in northeastern Wyoming. We took a 45-minute walk around the base, and observed climbers!

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After a night in Sheridan, Wyoming, the trip through the Bighorn Mountains was a pleasant surprise – especially because I’d never heard of them.

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Cody, Wyoming, located near Yellowstone’s east entrance, is home to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. This stop was an unexpected surprise as it is 5 museums within one: Buffalo Bill Museum, Plains Indians Museum, Whitney Western Art Museum, Draper Natural History Museum, and Cody Firearms Museum – as well as a research library.

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Next Post: Yellowstone

For more posts about this trip, click here.

70 thoughts on “On the Northern Loop

  1. Frank – you sure put together a great post – I know you have mastered this over your years of blogging – but this seemed the right length (for whatever right means) and the slideshows came at just the right time –
    What a beautiful part of the country to explore –

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yvette,
      Thanks for the kind words. Length of posts is always tricky. I’ve seen plenty of posts that have (IMO) too many images. On the other hand, that’s personal preference.

      On my vacation posts, I tend to do one stop per post. This one got away from me (in terms of getting posts ready). Next thing I knew another vacation was approaching. That may have been a factor of combining locations as I’ve done here. Bottom line – who knows what is the best way.

      Nonetheless, we saw a beautiful part of the country. Most of the sites also had their own uniqueness.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with you on “who knows what is the best way” because as a reader I find I change.
        Like one time last week I was like, “omg – this post is too dense and too long to even scroll from the pics” and then the next day, a different blogger, Raj, apologized for too many pics and I chimed in with something about how one must go with flow and mood and added there is not fee to pay for extra pics – something like that-
        shaking my head at how different posts feel so – um – different.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Whoo-hoo! The wild, wild west – the whole world knows of some of these places I assume. Do you know if the Devil’s Tower National Monument featured in the movie ‘Close Encounters’? My memory thinks it looks very much like the place where the aliens landed – but it could be wrong. I did not know of the mountainous tribute to the Native Americans – you guys always go so big 🙂 It would be quite a demanding project I imagine. I’m enjoying your retrospective on this tour.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Frank,

    I’ll have to take a greater gander at some of these pics, but I love what I’ve seen. Those towns have such character, so unique and fun.

    I did have one quick observation though. I notice what looked like a second carving of Lincoln, off to the left. It’s a half baked looking one, but it does kind of resemble him in the same way a piece of toast might show Jesus . . or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent post! I appreciated the Native American tributes and am putting the Crazy Horse Memorial on my ‘Before I Die Bucket List.’ Same with Devil’s Tower National Monument, the Plains Indians Museum, and the Whitney Western Art Museum. Not so with Mt. Rushmore.

    One question – What/Where is the red butte formation sticking up out of the ground in the group of photos under “After a night in Sheridan, Wyoming . . . “?


    • Tim,
      Glad to add to your bucket list. Regarding the red butte formation, that entire collection of photos is from the drive through the Bighorn Mts. A wonderful drive (well, ride in my case).


  5. A great recap of your trip, Frank. Great photos and commentary to match with so much history and nature. The Devil’s Tower National Monument is amazing – I had never heard of it. Thanks for sharing your trip. We will look forward to your next vacation.


    • Jo,
      Glad you enjoyed this section of the trip. The next stop (next Sunday) is spectacular! As Pauline mentioned, Devil’s Tower is linked to Close Encounters movie. Meanwhile, I hope to start the Eastern Europe vacation posts either late November or early December.


  6. You’ve just brought me back… to my first honeymoon. We crossed Canada then made our way back through the States. I fell in love with South Dakota and Wyoming… Makes me want to go back now!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Otto,
      Very interesting to know. Even as much as you have travelled throughout the world, wonderful sites remain for you to see. This region was wonderful … and different from the lower loop and what is to come. Thanks for travelling along with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. AFA:
    A great travelogue accompanied by great pictures. You may become the Rick Steves of the West. I am really intrigued by the lodge you stayed at near Custer, SD.
    I have been to some of these western sites but not all. A western trip many, many years ago with a college friend took us to Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Yellowstone, and the Tetons. Subsequent trips got me to Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon (both north and south rims), Petrified Forest, and Canyon de Chelly. This coming spring – God willin’ and the creek don’t rise – we are planning a trip to Yellowstone, the Tetons and Glacier (before all the glaciers disappear).
    I remember that on that first trip driving from Mount Rushmore through Custer State Park, our two lane road suddenly split, becoming a one lane road through the forest. We made a rise by way of a 270 degree turn on a wooden bridge before joining the other half of our two lane road. Out of curiosity, I wonder if you encountered this unusual roadway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • C-A-L,
      Appears this post has taken you down memory lane. Thanks for sharing your encounters. This trip was our first to most of these parks.

      The lodge at Custer was nice – but could use a bit of updating. Definitely a beautiful setting! I don’t recall the wooden bridge you mentioned. Then again, I wasn’t driving the bus.

      Two more posts about this tour, so I hope you travel along. (Posted each of the next 2 Sunday nights.)

      You mentioned Rick Steves. I’ve only mentioned it here – meaning I haven’t posted about it yet – but we took one of his company’s Europe tours this past Sept/Oct. Stay tuned!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I haven’t been to each of these special places, and those that I have, long, long ago! After reading this post I think I may want to prioritize it. You’ve inspired me. 🙂


    • Debra,
      Glad to know that this post has inspired you to visit this region … and as the map shows, you could easily work in Yellowstone and others … maybe even Glacier. It was our first time to this region, and thoroughly enjoyed it!


  9. Pingback: On Heading South from Yellowstone – A Frank Angle

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