Imagine yourself setting off into a vast wilderness, on foot or by covered wagon, in search of a new and prosperous life. Imagine the awe as your eyes set upon majestic mountains, canyons cut deep by raging rivers, endless prairies full of buffalo. On this trip into the great American West, you'll see the landscape in all its glory just as it appeared to early settlers. As the landscape unfolds, you will fully appreciate the courage and determination it took for these pioneers to venture into this vast wilderness and make it home. Setting off from the "Mile High City" of Denver, you'll visit truly Western towns like Cheyenne, Cody, Buffalo and Laramie, where the legends and the rodeos are still alive and well. You'll hear the pioneers' stories and be entertained by tales of lawless mining towns, heroic figures, and fortunes made and lost.
The spectacular natural features at Yellowstone National Park, America's first national park, still leave visitors awestruck. In addition to Old Faithful, you'll find more than 300 geysers, as well as natural springs, paint pots, and bubbling stones. Further on, you'll be just as amazed by the ever present mountains of the Grand Teton Range, punched up through the earth like craggy blades. In between, you'll delight in the gorgeous mountains and relaxing hot springs in Sun Valley.
Enjoy this very diverse journey; you're seeing some of America's best treasures while discovering some of its richest heritage.
This is an example fly-drive itinerary - please call (01892) 779900 or email us with your plans and we will be happy to help!
- Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
- Montana's old mining town of Butte
- Beautiful towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley
The Colorado State Capitol building in Denver has a brass cap positioned at 5,280 feet above sea level, exactly one mile high, lending the city the title the "Mile High City." The 16th Street Mall connects the Capitol Building with LoDo, the cultural district that a century ago was home to Bat Masterson, Calamity Jane and other frontier icons. One of the city's newest architectural icons is the Hamilton Building of the Denver Museum of Art, which mimics the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and the geometric rock crystals found in the Denver foothills. The building's 9,000 titanium panels reflect the Colorado sunshine. The Colorado State History Museum, which explains the dramatic geology of the region, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Denver Visitor Center, and the Molly Brown House, home of the "unsinkable" local heroine with a really interesting story, are all nearby. Try one of the interesting restaurants in LoDo for dinner.
Begun as a gamble when the first flakes of gold were found in Cherry Creek in 1858, Denver was established as the first gold rush camp in the area. It epitomized the legends of the wild, wild, west, with gunslingers, gamblers, gold miners, saloons, cattlemen and a sheriff. Very conscious that it was destined to become a major western metropolitan area, the Historical Society began in 1879, little more than 20 years after the city's founding. Immediately after outlasting several surrounding cities for the title of capitol of the Colorado Territory, Denver began to develop a transportation network, cattle exchange, banking sector, cultural offerings, grand architecture and energy systems, working to make itself the thriving, contemporary, world class city that it is today.
Just over the Colorado border, you'll find Cheyenne, Wyoming, a place where the American West still lives. The Historic Plains Hotel is the perfect home base from which to explore the downtown historic district which has been thoroughly restored. There are dozens of historic buildings between the hotel and the Historic Governor's Mansion. In true Old West style, the streets in downtown Cheyenne are so wide that from the center of the city you can glimpse both ends of the downtown core; the gold domed capitol building that anchors one end and the Union Pacific Depot on the other. Hop on the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley for a narrated tour of this historic town.
When the West was still the rugged Old West, Casper, Wyoming was a frontier outpost, with a free-wheeling sense of adventure and authentic western ways. Today, the city is Wyoming's Adventure Capital, a year-round destination where you can enjoy the outdoors, the indoors, history or all of the above. Activities here range all the way from spending the day fishing for trophy-sized rainbow trout to exploring the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, which allows visitors to experience pioneer life as it was for early emigrants traveling the Oregon, California and the Pony Express Trails. Be sure to sit in a wagon and view a simulated crossing of the North Platte River. Fort Casper, located on the Oregon-California-Pony Express Trails was reconstructed to appear as it did in 1865. The fort museum illustrates the social and natural history of Wyoming from prehistoric inhabitation through the present day.
If you want to get way off the beaten path, you can climb Casper Mountain, where the difficult paths of yesteryear have been transformed into hiking and biking trails and ski areas. Casper also has five golf courses and in the summer is a regular on the rodeo circuit.
On your way to Sheridan today, stop in Buffalo, which offers fascinating frontier heritage along with spectacular scenery. The entire downtown district is listed on the National Register of Historic Districts, more than a dozen historic buildings line its main street, and The Occidental Hotel (where Owen Wister's "Virginian got his man") and the Johnson County Court House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nestled in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains, a sister range to the Rockies, Buffalo is half way between Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park, with plenty of attractions of its own. Bighorn National Forest provides a diverse landscape that includes lush greenlands and glacier-carved valleys.
Not far from Buffalo is the area known as Hole in the Wall, the famous hideout of outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and other members of the notorious "Wild Bunch." Tours from the Hole in the Wall Ranch allow you to relax and cool your heels in the same meadows and streams that those men found so inviting after days on the run.
Picturesque, historic and vibrant" - that's what the locals call Sheridan, Wyoming. The Old West meets the modern era in a town that offers world-class culture along with hometown hospitality and authentic Western charm. Like Buffalo, Sheridan's Main Street is lined with historic buildings, including the Landmark Historic Sheridan Inn, where Buffalo Bill Cody auditioned acts for his famous Wild West Show. More than 30 downtown buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, delightfully coexisting with unique shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants. Tour the town by trolley or walking tour, explore a mansion and museums, or relax in Kendrick Park where the buffalo and elk roam. Enjoy lively entertainment with weekly rodeos and polo, theater performances or a stop at the legendary Mint Bar.
The journey today is as significant as the destination. Traveling the Medicine Wheel Passage east towards Cody, you'll experience rich Native American history and culture. Visit Connor Battlefield State Historic Site, where the Arapahoe pushed back against General Patrick Connor's troops from Fort Laramie in 1865. Pass through the spectacular Bighorn National Forest watching for its abundant wildlife. Then enjoy a moment of stillness at Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark, located within the Forest on Medicine Mountain. This sacred stone circle is revered by Native Americans for its strong spiritual ambiance, which can be felt by anyone visiting this prayerful place.
Continue on to Cody, a true western town founded by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1896 and a great place to soak up the spirit of the Old West. Cody became the home place for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which toured the country for over 30 years. The Irma Hotel, established by Buffalo Bill in 1902, has western style entertainment on hand nearly every night.
The Cody Nite Rodeo, in operation for 60 years, is the longest running rodeo in the United States, and starts every night at 8PM from June 1 to August 31.
While in Cody, you must visit the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, which was originally founded as the Buffalo Bill Memorial Center in 1912, and comprises five separate museums: Buffalo Bill Museum, Whitney Gallery of Western Art, Plains Indian Museum, Cody Firearms Museum, Draper Museum of Natural History, and Harold McCracken Research Library. Visit the site of Old Cody City at Old Trail Town and the Museum of the Old West, and take in the views from Buffalo Bill Dam.
This evening, take in the rodeo or enjoy a night of good old-fashioned Western entertainment at the Cody Cattle Company. Western movies, gun fights, and Native American dancers are just warm-ups for the Chuckwagon Dinner and Cowboy Music Show! Bring your appetite and sense of fun.
Yellowstone National Park
En route to Yellowstone today, you'll travel the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway past Buffalo Bill Reservoir and Buffalo Bill State Park, and through the Shoshone National Forest. Keep watch for the abundant wildlife that inhabit the forest, and stop at the Wapiti Valley visitor center for information about the area. The Shoshone was incorporated into the Yellowstone Timberland Reserve in 1891, and the Forest Ranger station here is one of the oldest in the country.
Established in 1872 as America's first national park, Yellowstone is located in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and contains natural wonders that must be seen to be believed. In addition to Old Faithful, many of the world's most incredible geysers and hot springs are located within Yellowstone National Park. Each area of the park has its own unique features. The bubbling, boiling surface of Mammoth Hot Springs appears to be covered with white chalk. Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest, oldest and most dynamic of Yellowstone's thermal areas, with few of its features under the boiling point. The hottest recorded temperature here was 459F, just a little over 1,000 feet below the surface. See the world's tallest geyser at Steamboat Geyser.
In the Madison Natural Area, thermal action bubbles up in many colors. A one-mile trail takes you through the colorful hot springs and the two large mud pots of the Artist Paint Pots just south of Norris Junction. The Old Faithful Area is actually made up of four different geyser basins surrounding the famous geyser, where 60% of the world's geysers share a small space. There are nearly 150 of these thermal wonders within one square mile of Old Faithful. The Grant Village Area and the Lake Area are both adjacent to Yellowstone Lake, the largest high elevation lake in North America. The bottom of Yellowstone Lake has the same terrain as Yellowstone Park, namely geysers, hot springs. A hot spot at Mary Bay got high as 252F.
Formed by erosion rather than glaciation, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River features as an awe-inspiring attraction in Native American lore, pioneer travel accounts, and in early tourist descriptions. Three main falls can be viewed from locations along the Canyon such as Lookout Point, Uncle Tom's Area, Red Rock Point, Artists Point, and Brink of the Lower Trails Falls. Some falls along the river are 300 feet high. The park's visitor centers provide excellent information and exhibits to put your experiences into perspective.
As delightful as it is today, Butte began as nothing more than a bunch of mining camps back in the early 1870's. Then, silver and copper were discovered. This discovery began to bring in a flood of new companies and new people to Butte. By the late 1870's, a large and bustling city center had emerged – and was growing larger literally by the day. Then, as fate would have it, a fire in 1879 burned down the entire central business district. Following this disaster, the Butte city council passed a law that required all new buildings downtown (known as "uptown Butte") to be built from brick or stone – most of which still stand today and make Butte the historic and unique city it is.
While silver and gold were actively mined in Butte, it was copper that truly put the town on the map. Following the development of electricity, the demand for copper mushroomed. The demand continued to increase and spiked during World War I, when copper was used in every single rifle bullet (much of which came from Butte). Indeed, it is estimated that Butte supplied around 1/3 of the copper for the United States in the late 1800's and the early part of the 1900's. The most interesting and entertaining way to see the town is to take a narrated tour on the Trolley. You'll see where miner, scoundrels and famous characters lived, and worked, and made Butte the lively urban center it was.
Ketchum / Sun Valley
The drive to Sun Valley in Ketchum today is as scenic as the destination, as you pass through the Salmon-Challis National Forest and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It is also historically significant, as you're retracing the steps of Lewis in Clark at a particularly momentous point in their journey. In 1805, the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery crossed the Lemhi Pass on the border of what is now Montana and Idaho, leaving behind American territory to pass into lands claimed by various European nations in their quest to reach the Pacific Ocean. You'll cross that same pass, the Continental Divide, to pass into Idaho. Sacajawea, Lewis and Clark's Shoshoni translator, companion and guide, was born in what today is the town of Salmon, Idaho. The Sacajawea Center honors her Agai Dika Lemhi Shoshoni heritage and her role in the Corps of Discovery.
Ketchum was one of the richest mining districts in the Northwest during the silver boom, and quickly changed gears to become an important livestock station when mining was replaced by an agricultural economy. In the 1930s, the wonderful mountains around Ketchum were "discovered" as rivals to the Alps for skiing and the area was renamed Sun Valley. The same marketing firm that created Miami Beach took on Sun Valley and the rest is history. Today, skiers and non skiers alike can enjoy sophisticated Sun Valley and Ketchum, which has retained its Western small town character and lifestyle. In addition to great outdoor recreation—hiking, biking, walking, scenic drives, you name it!—there are a number of relaxing hot springs in Sun Valley in which to soak away every possible stress. Choose from one of the commercial pools outside town, or the rustic hot springs located inside Sawtooth Natural Recreation Area.
Jackson / Grand Teton National Park
Talk about spectacular! As you drive along Teton Park Road, it becomes immediately obvious why Grand Teton is a National Park. The Tetons are a 40-mile long mountain range that rises straight out of the plain. Twelve of the mountain peaks are over 12,000 feet above sea level and Grand Teton rises to 13,770 feet. Even around Jenny Lake, one of the most pristine lakes in North America, they loom overhead. A wonderful way to see the Park is by traveling its three Scenic Drives: the Teton Park Road that follows the base of the Teton Range from Moose to Jackson Lake Junction, dramatic Jenny Lake Scenic Drive, and Signal Mountain Summit Road, from which you'll have panoramic views of the Teton Range, Jackson Lake and the Jackson Hole valley. Treat yourselves to a Wildlife Expedition with the Teton Science School. One of their all-day adventures, daybreak trips or evening tours will take you into the otherwise inaccessible back country of Grand Teton National Park, where you can expect to see (and photograph) wildlife that you would not normally encounter.
The scenery remains stunning for much of your drive today, as you travel through the Bridger-Teton National Forest to Pinedale. In Pinedale, stop at The Museum of the Mountain Man, which presents an overview of the Western fur trade's historical significance through the lens of the romantic era of the Mountain Man. Exhibits include a 10-foot-tall Trapper statue, Native American clothing and tools, Jim Bridger's Rifle, and a Shoshone sheepskin bow.
You can enjoy some serious outdoor recreation in the 201,000 scenic acres in southern Montana that make up the Flaming Gorge Recreation Area, featuring the 91-mile long Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Flanked by nearly 375 miles of dramatic shoreline of varying elevations in a kaleidoscope of colors, the reservoir is well known for fantastic trout fishing. Perched atop a cliff, the Red Canyon Vista and Visitor Center has huge windows and outdoor fenced platforms for viewing the Gorge and surrounding desert landscape. A scenic loop road off Interstate 80 connects WY 530, US 191 and Utah 44. Be sure to visit Firehole Canyon, just south of Rock Springs, for the spectacular sight of chimneys and pinnacles reflecting in the river.
Talk about Western heritage – what a perfect ending to your expedition through the American West. Like so many towns in southern Wyoming, Laramie began as an "end of the tracks" railroad town. As the railroad progressed westward to the Golden Spike, towns sprung up for workers extending the tracks. By the time the first train arrived in 1868, carrying the Ivinson family, who came to build the town, a fair number of cabins, tents, and houses had already been constructed. You can tour the 1892 Victorian Queen-Anne style family mansion, which is considered to be one of the finest historic homes in the region. Among the 14 museums and historic sites in Laramie is the The Wyoming House for Historical Women, dedicated to Louisa Swain, an elderly Quaker woman who became the first woman in the world to cast a ballot, giving women the right to vote with full civil equality to men. Also of interest is the Wyoming Territorial Prison, constructed in 1872, which held none other than Butch Cassidy himself. Visit the Prison Museum for an insider's view of the 190-acre facility, the restored Warden's House, and exhibits in the Horse Barn Exhibit Hall. If you want to get out of town, head to the top of Vedauwoo; the fantastic rock formations and views from this 8,000 foot "rocky oasis" are stunning.
Today, make your way from Laramie back to Denver for your flight home this evening.
- Direct return flights from London (Please ask about other departure airports)
- 15 nights hotel accommodation and room tax
- Fully insured compact car hire
- A personalised and comprehensive travelpack with driving instructions and maps
Daily Departures 18 May to 30 September.
We can also offer this itinerary in a wide range of other accommodation types, including superior hotels, character properties and small inns.