Hi there!

 

So you want to go on a road trip from Chicago to Yellowstone National Park!

 

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In September and October 2021, I did a road trip from Chicago to Wyoming.

Well actually it was from Michigan to Wyoming. It was a road trip out west from Michigan.

But that included driving on the outskirts of Chicago on day 1… so that means I also did drive from Chicago to Yellowstone. 😜

So I can also give you some ideas on how to get to Yellowstone if you are starting from the Chicago area!

It took me 10 days to drive from Chicago to Yellowstone.

That is one way, from leaving the Chicago area to entering Yellowstone National Park for the first time.

No, it doesn’t have to take you 10 days to drive from Chicago to Yellowstone!

And in fact, my first overnight stop was in Wisconsin.

If you are starting the drive from Chicago, you probably won’t want to make your overnight stop until after you get out of Wisconsin, unless you’re getting started from Chicago late or something.

So you could say it was more like 9 days to get from Chicago to Yellowstone. Even so, it’s possible to make the drive in much fewer days if you want.

 

 

How long is the drive from Chicago to Yellowstone National Park?

Driving directly, it might take around 20 hours of driving time from Chicago to Yellowstone.

 

Map of driving route from Chicago to Yellowstone National Park road trip. what is on the way from Chicago to Yellowstone. chicago to wyoming road trip. chicago to wisconsin to minnesota to south dakota to wyoming.
Explore the map.

 

Of course, it’s a bad idea to do this drive in one day.

It might even be bad to do this drive in 2 days. That would be driving an average of 10 hours each day. I can imagine some people will think that’s doable.

But I would say that at minimum, taking 3 days to drive from Chicago to Yellowstone starts to seem actually reasonable. That would be an average of 6 to 7 hours a day.

So if you want your road trip from Chicago to be focused on Yellowstone National Park and this is mainly a Yellowstone National Park road trip, then you might say you are going to take 2 days or 3 days to drive to Yellowstone from Chicago.

But there are a bunch of other stops that you can make if you want the “journey” (aka the drive to Yellowstone) to be meaningful too!

Of course, there are many different ways you can do this drive depending on your time and interests!

Below will show you one driving route to start to give you some ideas… the way I did it… if you want to break up the drive and spend more time along the way from Chicago to Yellowstone!

 

Download offline maps before you go!

It’s quite possible that you will have minimal data in some places as you are driving to Wyoming.

It will be best to download offline google maps before you go! This is free.

If you’ll be doing some day hikes in Wyoming, see the best apps for hiking in Wyoming!

 
More below for ideas on driving from Chicago to Yellowstone!

 

 

 
Side note!
Plan more of your trip to Yellowstone and beyond:


I have a lot of 30-90 second Yellowstone videos. A few of them might be on this page. If you can't see the video directly above, it might be because you have an ad blocker. Save the Yellowstone video playlist to watch on youtube later!

You can have a perfect one day in Yellowstone driving from the west entrance and following the road down south... or entering from the south entrance and following the road up north aka driving from Grand Teton to Yellowstone!

There are a lot of videos below. If you can’t see them, it may be because you have an ad blocker. You can see the South Dakota video playlist and Yellowstone video playlist on youtube.

 

 

What is there to see between Chicago and Yellowstone?

Drive from Chicago to Yellowstone National Park road trip. what is on the way from Chicago to Yellowstone. chicago to wyoming road trip. road trip out west from chicago. chicago to wisconsin to minnesota to south dakota to wyoming.

Map of driving route from Chicago to Yellowstone National Park road trip. Chicago to Yellowstone. chicago to wyoming road trip. chicago to wisconsin to minnesota to south dakota to wyoming.
Explore the map.

 

 

Minor stop: Glacial Drumlin State Trail (Wisconsin)

My first overnight stop was at the Sandhill Station Campground along the Glacial Drumlin State Trail. It was just a place to sleep. This is a Wisconsin state park campground.

This is located about 45 minutes east of Madison WI.

Chicago to Sandhill Station Campground is around a 2.5 hour drive. (map)

Chicago to Madison WI is also around a 2.5 hour drive. (map)

 

 

1. Great River Bluffs State Park (Minnesota)

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On a previous trip back from out west, I made a stop at Great River Bluffs State Park.

Great River Bluffs State Park is a Minnesota state park in Winona MN, and this can make for a break-up point right after you leave Wisconsin.

It is located pretty much directly off of I-90.

So if you want to get a little further out from Chicago but still want a shorter driving day, then this can be another camping option, as there is the Great River Bluffs State Park campground.

You can also make it a stop to go for a short hike that ends with views of the Mississippi River.

There is a Minnesota state park entry fee of around $7.

Chicago to Great River Bluffs State Park is around an 4.5 hour drive. (map)

Great River Bluffs State Park to Yellowstone National Park is around an 16 hour drive. (map)

 

 

2. Palisades State Park (South Dakota)

Chicago to Yellowstone National Park drive. What is there to see between chicago and yellowstone: palisades state park. road trip out west from chicago

 

Palisades State Park is a small South Dakota state park that can also make for a nice break-up point as you drive west along I-90 in South Dakota.

 

 

This is located in eastern South Dakota, and you’ll take the I-90 exit shortly after entering South Dakota from Minnesota.

All of the best places to visit in South Dakota are in western South Dakota, so this is something to do in eastern South Dakota along I-90.

There is the Palisades State Park campground.

There are also the Palisades State Park cabins.

 

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South Dakota state park camping cabins are simple (bring your own everything including bedding) but it’s a budget-friendly way to have a roof over your head!

Chicago to Palisades State Park is around an 8.5 hour drive. (map)

Palisades State Park to Yellowstone is around a 12.5 hour drive. (map)

 

See more about planning your Chicago to Yellowstone road trip:

 

 

3. Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

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Badlands National Park is the best national park in South Dakota.

The main thing to do is to drive along Badlands Loop Road.

 

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Badlands Loop Road is THE road to drive in Badlands National Park. It’s the main road through the park.

All you have to do is drive this road and you will get scenic views!

 

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👆 You can make a quick stop at the Big Badlands Overlook.

 

 

This is also the road that has pretty much all of the popular viewpoints and popular hikes in Badlands National Park.

 

Chicago to Yellowstone National Park drive. What is there to see between chicago and yellowstone: badlands national park. national park road trip out west from chicago
👆 Hiking from the Door trailhead.

 

Chicago to Yellowstone National Park drive. What is there to see between chicago and yellowstone: badlands national park. national park road trip out west from chicago

Chicago to Yellowstone National Park drive. What is there to see between chicago and yellowstone: badlands national park. national park road trip out west from chicago
👆 Hiking from the Notch trailhead. The Notch Trail is one of the scary trails in Badlands National Park!

 

 

 

There are campgrounds in Badlands National Park.

The Cedar Pass Campground is the more convenient Badlands campground because it is located almost directly off of the Badlands Loop Road. 

 

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While the Cedar Pass Campground is the most convenient, you may also want to go camping in Badlands National Park in the more remote area of the park too.

That’s where you will find the free Sage Creek campground where you have a very good chance of seeing prairie dogs.

 

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And you also have a chance at seeing buffalo walking right past your tent!

 

Chicago to Yellowstone National Park drive. What campgrounds are there between chicago and yellowstone: badlands national park. national park camping road trip out west from chicago

 

If you are not camping, then driving towards this remote Sage Creek area will also give you a chance to see prairie dogs and buffalo.

When you are in Badlands National Park, you also have a chance to see bighorn sheep too!

For that, you have a chance to see them just by driving the main area of Badlands Loop Road.

 

Chicago to Yellowstone National Park drive. What is there to see between chicago and yellowstone: badlands national park. national park road trip out west from chicago

 

 

Chicago to Badlands National Park is around a 12.5 hour drive. (map)

Badlands National Park to Yellowstone is around an 8 hour drive. (map)

 

See more about planning your Chicago to Yellowstone road trip:

 

 

4. Wall Drug (South Dakota)

Wall Drug is a complete tourist attraction.

As you are driving along I-90 west in South Dakota, you will see a TON of signs for Wall Drug.

There are really just THAT many that it will have you thinking… what is this Wall Drug?!?!

Well, personally I think it’s skippable.

But it’s also kind of an all-American road trip story, and you are on a road trip yourself, so… you might want to be a part of it and stop by!

I did an overnight at a hotel in Wall SD. (Super 8 by Wyndham Wall – reviews)

Chicago to Wall SD is around a 12.5 hour drive. (map)

Wall SD to Yellowstone is around an 8 hour drive. (map)

 

See more about planning your Chicago to Yellowstone road trip:

 

 

5. Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)

Mount Rushmore is one of the most popular places to visit in South Dakota from out of state… if not THE most popular.

 

 

If you want to stay for a night or 2 near Mount Rushmore, there are a few hotels near Mount Rushmore in Keystone SD.

The big city near Mount Rushmore is Rapid City SD, and this is around 30 minutes away.

Mount Rushmore is in the famous Black Hills of South Dakota.

A popular drive related to Mount Rushmore is to drive through the Iron Mountain Road tunnels that includes a tunnel view of Mount Rushmore.

If you want to make time for it, you might also be interested in driving through Custer State Park also in the Black Hills. For example, you can drive through the Needles Eye Tunnel.

 

 

There are also buffalo in Custer State Park.

 

 

There are also camping cabins in Custer State Park, along with other more “luxury” Custer State Park lodging options.

 

 

If you want to stay for a few days in the Black Hills, this area is also where you will find Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument.

 

 

And then not too far away is also the National Natural Landmark of the Mammoth Site where you can see what’s said to be the largest concentration of mammoth remains in the world.

Chicago to Mount Rushmore is around a 14 hour drive. (map)

Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone is around an 8 hour drive. (map)

 

See more about planning your Chicago to Yellowstone road trip:

 

 

6. Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway (South Dakota)

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The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is a scenic drive that you can make along the way if you are driving from Mount Rushmore to Devils Tower. (Next on the list!)

You can make it just about the drive.

 

 

Or you can get out of the car for a couple of stops too, like for hiking to Spearfish Falls.

 

Chicago to Yellowstone National Park drive. What is there to see between chicago and yellowstone: spearfish canyon, black hills. road trip out west from chicago

 

 

There is also the Roughlock Falls Road that you can take from Savoy SD to get to the Roughlock Falls trailhead.

 

Chicago to Yellowstone National Park drive. What is there to see between chicago and yellowstone: spearfish canyon, black hills. road trip out west from chicago

 

Chicago to Spearfish SD is around a 14 hour drive. (map)

Spearfish to Yellowstone is around a 6.5 hour drive. (map)

 

See more about planning your Chicago to Yellowstone road trip:

 

 

7. Devils Tower National Monument (Wyoming)

Chicago to Yellowstone National Park drive. What is there to see between chicago and yellowstone: devils tower national monument. national park road trip out west from chicago

 

Devils Tower is an iconic rock formation.

 

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If you only want to dedicate 1-2 hours to Devils Tower, that’s completely reasonable.

There are some quick things to do at Devils Tower.

I did an overnight at a hotel near Devils Tower. (Best Western Devils Tower Inn in Hulett WY – reviews)

Then I did 1 night at the Devils Tower campground.

 

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If you are at Devils Tower when it’s dark, you might see rock climbers lighting up Devils Tower!

 

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Chicago to Devils Tower is around a 15 hour drive. (map)

Devils Tower to Yellowstone is around a 6.5 hour drive. (map)

 

See more about planning your Chicago to Yellowstone road trip:

 

 

8. Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)

There are 2 national parks in Wyoming.

You know about Yellowstone, and Grand Teton is the other one.

Since you are so near if you are going to Yellowstone, you really shouldn’t miss Grand Teton National Park!

If you’re short on time, even a drive through the park can be worth it.

The best road to drive if you are truly short on time is Teton Park Road.

Along the way you will also pass by the turn-off for Jenny Lake Scenic Drive.

 

 

 

If you have more time, then you will want to do the whole 42-mile Grand Teton Scenic Loop Drive. (Teton Park Road is a part of it.)

 

 

And if you have even more time… or instead of the rest of the scenic loop… you can do a short hike with mountain views! (For example, hike to Taggart Lake.)

For Grand Teton National Park, the most popular gateway town is Jackson WY or Jackson Hole.

Grand Teton and Yellowstone are connected.

So depending on your route (aka what you’re doing after Yellowstone), you may or may not want to go to Grand Teton before you go to Yellowstone.

From Devils Tower, you can go directly to Yellowstone. Going to Grand Teton first is a detour.

So going directly to Yellowstone is another way you can take a few days off of your Yellowstone road trip.

I went to Grand Teton first. And then after Yellowstone I was went to Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho for lava fields and caves!

 

 

Driving from Yellowstone to Craters of the Moon, you can also drive the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway to stop by for waterfalls.

 

 

Also on the way to Grand Teton, I spent a couple of nights in a Wyoming national forest cabin too.

If you decide to go to Grand Teton National Park before Yellowstone, then also see about how to drive from Devils Tower to Grand Teton.

Chicago to Grand Teton National Park through South Dakota is around a 21 hour drive. (map)

 

See more about planning your Chicago to Yellowstone road trip:

 

 

9. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

And you’ve made it to Yellowstone National Park!!!

What makes Yellowstone National Park very special is the Yellowstone supervolcano!

Because of the Yellowstone supervolcano, there are tons of thermal features to see all over Yellowstone National Park.

So you must be sure to see geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and fumaroles (steam vents)!

This is not too hard to do since there are so many of them.

You do this by visiting the many thermal basins that are in the park.

 

 

THE best things to do in Yellowstone National Park are to see the Old Faithful geyser eruption (see from ground level and the geyser overlook) and to see the Grand Prismatic Spring (see from ground level and the spring overlook).

 

 

The West Thumb Geyser Basin is another one of the great things to do in Yellowstone, as you get to see thermal features with the backdrop of Yellowstone Lake.

 

 

And hopefully you will get to see a bunch of smaller geyser eruptions, like the Clepsydra Geyser!

 

 

There are also buffalo in Yellowstone National Park.

 

 

See more about planning your Chicago to Yellowstone road trip:

 

 

And those are just a few ideas on how to drive from Chicago to Yellowstone National Park!

 

More for your Chicago to Yellowstone road trip planning:

 

And, after Yellowstone, maybe you want to loop back around and make the return trip from Yellowstone to Chicago with a detour through North Dakota to go to another national park! (map) In which case…

Or, you can drive the southern route back to Chicago. You can drive the Snowy Range Scenic Byway in Wyoming.

 

 

And then you can take a detour to Toadstool Geologic Park in the Nebraska Badlands that is part of Oglala National Grassland.

 

 

PLUS: A separate summer road trip for you closer to home: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

 

HAPPY DRIVING TO YELLOWSTONE FROM CHICAGO!