February 17, 2022
Who’s ready for a Troutt’s adventures blog post?! This is weird for me because I am so used to blogging about weddings and engagement sessions! However, I have been wanting to blog this trip for so long now! Justin and I, as well as my brother and sister-in-law, Jonny and Tiffany, road tripped together from Missouri to Montana on an epic multi- U.S. national park adventure! When I reflect on this trip, it feels like a literal DREAM. We explored the Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore, the winding mountain roads of Pray, Montana, Yellowstone National Park, AND Grand Teton National Park! Below, I will take you through our adventures and break it down for those of you who are inspired by all things adventure, travel, epic scenery, and living life to the absolute FULLEST!!!
1st stop, Badlands National Park!! (This was probably close to my FAVORITE and we spent the least time here….biggest regret!) It felt like I was on scene of a wild wild west movie and I would either get attacked by tumbleweeds or ran over by Spirit “Stallion of the Cimarron” himself. Ha! If you take a trip here, plan for at least one whole day to explore! We only spent an hour and I didn’t want to leave!! Badlands actually wasn’t apart of the travel plan and became sort of spur of the moment stop on the way to our destination in Montana! I am so so glad we didn’t miss this scenery but as I said, I wish we would have had MORE time here!
After exploring the unique and rugged geological formations of the Badlands, we spent the night in Wall, SD. We started the day off with breakfast and souvenir shopping at one of Wall’s popular tourist attractions, Wall Drug. I didn’t snap any photos but if you every find yourself in the area between Badlands National Park and Mount Rushmore, go ahead and add this pit stop to your list! They have multiple shopping outlets all conveniently under one roof! We then resumed westbound on i90 to Rapid City, SD and took a detour south to catch a quick glimpse of Mount Rushmore!! If you are like me and don’t love the more “touristy” spots, you can make this a super quick stop, take a couple photos in front of the mountain and get back on the road! This was our plan from the get go, but I am definitely glad we got to see this amazing artistry of history carved into the mountain side!
We knew we always wanted to visit Montana, however, upon planning the trip we were able to find a beautiful cabin located just 45 minutes north of Yellowstone’s north entrance. This worked out perfect for us as we were able to both plan more adventurous days of traveling to and from Yellowstone AND more relaxing days hanging out at the cabin, soaking in the hot tub, and taking in one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. Sometimes while on vacation you just want to go and let your eyes scan as much as possible and let you feet touch as much of God’s wonderful creation as possible. But then other days, you just want to sit in one place and take in what’s right in front of you! This vacation was the PERFECT mix of both and I would do this way over and over again!!
We finally arrived at our cabin(Chicory on the Yellowstone) overlooking the Yellowstone River and beautiful mountain ranges. It came complete with wifi, cabinets stocked full of essentials, and my favorite….a HOT TUB overlooking the mountains and river. This was such a perfect place to come back to after long days of hiking through Yellowstone!! And if you look closely, you will see plenty of Bald Eagles souring above the river! This was such a dream! I will attach a link for the cabin here: https://www.mountain-home.com/montana-vacation-rentals/chicory-yellowstone
One of my favorite days during our 9 day trip was just driving the winding roads and valley’s of Pray, Montana. We stopped at small, quiet little campsite down in a valley by a small stream. We built a fire and just hung out for a little while….no sound from a nearby busy interstate, no people….just the sound of stream, light breeze, and our own voices…..basically heaven on earth! Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing all there is to see in the world, but my heart and soul is much more attracted to the off the beaten path/ less touristy spots. And this day was definitely it! One of my biggest regrets was not hiking off the beaten path MORE! Another highlight and something my photographer heart looked forward to was capturing a shot of the milky way! Fun Fact, the milky way is only visible in the night sky from spring through fall with August and September being the peak months. The fact that we were there in September I was just dying for my lens to capture the glory of our galaxy!!
I present to you….the milky way over the Yellowstone River! Nothing short of EPIC!!
Do yourselves a favor a book a photoshoot if you plan to vacation in Montana/Wyoming. You will not regret it!! Upon planning for your vacation go ahead and contact Biddle Photography!! Alyssa was super fun and knew all the great spots for EPIC photos!! I couldn’t recommend her enough!! Here’s a link to her website!! https://biddlephotography.com
Ok so first really important tip if you want to avoid crowds…..GO AS EARLY AS YOU CAN. We woke up at the crack of dawn and started exploring Mammoth Hot Springs just after sunrise! The crowds were much more manageable and it was easy to park. One of the coolest parts about this day was the herds of elk that love to just hang around amongst the people and buildings. They sometimes will literally lay at someones doorstep and don’t have a care in the world. Because of the time of year we went, mid to late September, the bull elks were bugling! This was such an amazing thing to experience!! Also, check out the EPIC shot of a bull elk I managed to get while driving! This guy was standing literally right on the side of the road and posed PERFECTLY for the camera!!
Ok so this is a site to see! There are definitely crowds but this is absolutely worth it and was worth the photos!! Aside from the pure beautiful of the Lower Falls, the roaring sound you hear is so majestic in and of itself!! I do have one tip to share when stopping by to see the falls. There is a high platform to stand and view the falls, and then there is path down the mountain side to a lower platform….the walk down is EASY….but the walk back UP? If you take this on, be sure to bring water and pace yourself going back up because its a doozy! My tip is really to just view the falls from the top because it wasn’t really much different hiking down to the lower viewing area!
Although I don’t have many photos from my professional camera from these places, they are definitely still worth mentioning!! I do wish we would have planned our adventures a little bit differently to save on our drive times. I have to say we saw A LOT, but there was lots and lots of driving involved. For me personally, I would have loved more hike time over drive time! In one day we made a big loop and saw Mammoth Hot Springs, Lower Falls, Dragons Mouth Hot Spring, and Old Faithful. If I had it to do over, I would have nixed Dragons Mouth Hot Spring and Old Faithful and would have found a good trail head to hike! Since we knew we were going to leave Montana and head south towards Grand Teton on our way home, it would have been very easy to make a few pit stops on the way to see Dragon’s Mouth, Old Faithful, and the grand prismatic spring (which we actually skipped and wish we wouldn’t have). Old Faithful is definitely a classic tourist hot spot and in my opinion wasn’t worth the extra hours to go see it on the day we did.
Lamar Valley was absolutely fantastic! There is so much wildlife to see driving through that area! We saw the Lamar wolf pack, a grizzly bear, countless buffalo, and pronghorn! An important thing to note if you go and want to see wolves, you will 100% only be able to see them through a spotting scope. You can buy your own upon planning your trip or there are plenty of spotters parked on the side of the road that will kindly let you have a peek!! Justin and I left super early to head for Lamar valley and when we arrived we noticed all the people with their spotting scopes pointed in a specific direction. We started scanning and I noticed the tiniest figures running about the valley….sure enough, it was the wolf pack!! We could have watched them for hours!!
Another one of my favorite parts about this trip was hiking a 3 mile trail at Slough Creek. There is just something about letting my eyes scan and my feet wander about the magnificent terrain of God’s country. No buildings, no cars, hardly any people…..just the earth as God made it!! With only a few others hiking the trail, its just you and nature….and I am all for it! We packed snacks, plenty of water, let our feet hit the ground and hiked to a beautiful valley over looking a river and epic mountain ranges. We rested on hillside where we all just sat for awhile in awe of God’s creation. I would visit Yellowstone National Park a million times over!!
Ok so this place is whole other level of unreal! Whoever decided to name this place Grand Teton hit the nail on the head as it was definitely GRAND in all of its glory!! Another regret I have is not spending MORE time here! We left Pray, Montana a day early and made the 4 hour trip south to Grand Teton. We only had a few hours to take in the views as the sunset was approaching fast. As we were driving, I told Justin to park and FAST. I whipped out a dress and told Justin to put his cowboy hat on so we could get photos with this absolute MASTERPIECE of a mountain range!! I have to say my sis-in-law Tiffany is an absolute SAINT for dealing with my picture craziness!! I was freaking out and below you will see why!! Haha THANKS TIFFANY!!!
It is NEVER fun heading home from a vacation….but the scenery didn’t stop on our hike back towards Missouri. As we headed east on i80 we passed fields filled with huge white mind mills as far as the eye could see! And the cherry on top were the MULTIPLE rainbows we saw stretched from one side of the horizon to the other!! These are some of my favorite pictures!!
All in all, this was one of the best trips that I have ever been on in my life!! If anyone reads this, I hope there are some helpful tips for you based off of our experience! Montana, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton officially have my heart! I am counting down the days until we can return!