Midwest Solo Road Trip
I’ve had this road trip itinerary on my list for a while, but I always put it off because I had “big, better” trips to do. But 2020 changed all my plans and I had to cancel most of my traveling. So this was the perfect opportunity for this solo road trip.
South Dakota + Wyoming + Montana Itinerary
- Day 1 – Minnesota to Black Hills, South Dakota
- Day 2 – Black Hills to Dubois, Wyoming
- Days 3 & 4 – Dubois, Wyoming
- Day 5 – Grand Tetons
- Day 6 – Yellowstone
- Day 7 – Emigrant, Montana
- Day 8 – Emigrant to Black Hills
- Day 9 – Black Hills to Minnesota (home)
Day 1 – Minnesota to the Black Hills
The first day was driving from my home in Minnesota to the Black Hills. This was about an eight hour drive and pretty boring until I reached the Black Hills area. I listened to a lot of podcasts and caught up with friends on the phone. I got to western South Dakota just in time to see Mount Rushmore at sunset.
Solo Trip Tip: I can drive up to 10 hours in a day, but know your limit. Think about what sort of driving it is – highway, through mountains, etc. This makes a difference for how long you can drive in a day. You should also know your limits in terms of driving in the dark.
Day 2: South Dakota to Dubois, WY
I woke up early and hit the road. The drive through the Black Hills is beautiful and I took my time and made a few stops. Once I crossed the border to Wyoming, it was desolate. This stretch took about seven hours, but once I got within an hour of Dubois, the landscape was insane!
Solo Trip Tip: If you know you are traveling in rural areas and you don’t know how far it is until the next gas station, FILL UP. It would just be a damper to run out of gas in an area you aren’t familiar with.
Days 3 & 4 – Dubois, WY
Getting the pace right is a big part of a solo road trip success. I believe it’s important not to squeeze too much into too few days. So on in Dubois, I didn’t make any plans + explored the area. A few gems I found were Whiskey Basin Wildlife Habitat + the local VFW. 🙂
Day 5 – Grand Tetons
I woke up early and made my way to Grand Tetons National Park. I traveled there in late September – the off-season so it was a little less busy. I packed it in and explored several areas of the park:
- Jackson Lake dam
- Jenny Lake hike
- Mormon Row
I knew the highlights I wanted to see, but I could have spent at least another two or three days at the park. I stayed just north of the Tetons at Headwaters camper cabins.
Day 6 – Yellowstone
Another early morning so I could pack in as much as possible at Yellowstone National Park.
Favorite spots in Yellowstone:
- Midway Geyser Basin with Grand Prismatic Spring
- Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
- Mammoth Hot Springs
I was pleasantly surprised with my time in Yellowstone. I hadn’t been to the park since I was a kid and all I remembered was a bunch of tourists and buffalo. Maybe it was the season or 2020, but it wasn’t busy and driving around the park was beautiful. The landscape is diverse and I cannot wait to go back and spend more time there.
Solo Trip Tip: Take the scenic route. It’s about the journey, not just the destination. So plan your route to be enjoyable and take time to enjoy the landscapes you pass through.
Day 7 – Emigrant, MT
This town is about an hour north of Yellowstone. The reason I chose this spot was because of a fun Airbnb and a local hot spring. I enjoyed relaxing at both of these spots with some red wine.
Day 8 – Montana to South Dakota
Finally looping around to make the drive home – this stretch is about eight hours. As you may know by now, I think to get up early and hit the road. I have the most energy in the morning so I like to get a good chunk of my driving done early in the day.
Day 9 – Black Hills to Minnesota
The final stretch of my trip was eight hours from the Black Hills to Southeastern Minnesota. This trip was awesome. A lot of driving, but I saw beautiful landscape + met new people + enjoyed alone time.
Solo Road Trip Tips
If you are planning your first solo road trip, it can be a little intimidating, especially as a female. So here are some of the things I learned from my experiences being alone on the road.
- Choosing the right campsite or spot to stay overnight can make all the difference. If you don’t feel safe camping solo, opt for a hotel or Airbnb. I generally look for popular campsites vs. remote so I know there will be other people around.
- A few things I make sure to have in my car are gallons of water + snacks + phone charger + jumper cables + sleeping items + spare key.
- If you do not feel safe traveling alone, bring some sort of protection such as a pocket knife, pepper spray, etc.
- Save money on meals by packing a cooler of food with sandwich items + snacks.
- Taking a road trip isn’t just about sitting in the car. I recommend planning fun things to do along the way. Also, stay open to possibilities because you never know what local gems you may find.