Welcome to Rapid City
Tour begins: 6:00 PM, Hotel Alex Johnson. A transfer is included from Rapid City Airport to Hotel Alex Johnson in downtown Rapid City, gateway to the Black Hills. This is where the antelope roam... along with bighorn sheep, elk, mountain lions, feral burros, and one of the last great herds of bison. Join us this evening for a welcome reception and dinner at your historic hotel, a Rapid City fixture since the 1880s.
Mount Rushmore & Crazy Horse
Begin the day with a private, guided Buffalo Safari in a vintage touring vehicle in South Dakota's Custer State Park - home to a herd of approximately 1,500 bison! Then, majestic landscapes await you on a scenic drive in the Black Hills, where rock formations feature granite spires called "needles" that cut a jagged skyline. In the 1920s a state official got the idea to draw tourism to the area by carving images of famous Dakotans on them - which eventually led to the creation of Mount Rushmore. But first... in 1948, in response to Mount Rushmore, an Oglala Lakota elder commissioned sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to carve a memorial to the warrior Crazy Horse on the face of Thunderhead Mountain, to show "that we have heroes too." At the gigantic Crazy Horse Memorial - expected to dwarf Mount Rushmore when completed, but still a work in progress carried on by Ziolkowski's family - you'll see the sculptor's dramatic model of Crazy Horse astride his war pony; visit the onsite museum and cultural center, dedicated to Native American heritage, art and traditions; and have lunch. Next, some 17 miles away, arrive at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, which evolved after sculptor Gutzon Borglum dismissed the original "local heroes" idea for a far grander project: national figures on the face of the granite mountain. Borglum's masterpiece (known as The Shrine of Democracy) greets you on arrival at the mountain, and no matter how often you've seen it in photographs, the towering relief of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln on the white rockface above you is breathtaking in person. In fact, the presidential faces were carved (without permission) on a mountain known to the Lakota Sioux as The Six Grandfathers... which in turn inspired the Crazy Horse project in response. Return to your hotel and spend the evening as you please in Rapid City.
How to be a cowboy... a day at a ranch
Depart this morning for a journey to the T-A Ranch in Buffalo, Wyoming. A cookhouse lunch greets you on arrival. The T-A is a working cattle ranch steeped in cowboy history and lore, the site of a pitched battle in the famous Johnson County War of 1892, which pit rival ranchers and their hired hands against each other for control of the range... a dispute that eventually required the intervention of the US Cavalry. Get an authentic taste of cowboy life as you saddle up for a guided horseback trail ride, explore historic sites, take a wagon ride, or try your hand at pitching horseshoes. You'll also meet a horse-whisperer, watch a roping demonstration, and gain insights into the rugged spirit of the open plains. Continue on to Sheridan, the next stop on your Wyoming trip, for an overnight stay.
Cody, Buffalo Bill & the rodeo
Head out for Cody this morning, traveling through some fantastic scenery in Bighorn National Forest - a landscape that's ever-changing, of alpine meadows, waterfalls, glacier-carved valleys and mountain ranges. Continue on to Cody (a high point of your Wyoming trip), named for the larger-than-life western showman, William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill): buffalo hunter, army scout, Wild West Show entrepreneur, and tireless inventor of tall tales. Explore his legend at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a complex of five museums that will immerse you in American Western culture and mythology: galleries of art and artifacts (including works by famous artists like Remington and Wyeth), ephemera and historic objects, a firearms museum, and a center dedicated to the traditions, values, and histories of Northern Plains tribes, including the Lakota, Cheyenne, Pawnee and Arapaho. Carry the spirit of the West with you to your overnight stay in town, where this evening you'll attend the world-famous Cody Nite Rodeo (seasonal, June through August), a fixture here since 1938.
Welcome to Yellowstone National Park
Tauck's Wyoming trip spends two nights in two different parts of Yellowstone National Park to immerse you fully in America's first national park - "America's best idea" as described by filmmakers Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan. You'll view special film vignettes by the filmmakers throughout this trip, providing you with behind-the-scenes insights into the visionaries and explorers who shaped the West. Settle in at Lake Yellowstone Hotel late afternoon; built in 1891, the elegant, colonial-style hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places - its sun room and dining room offer absolutely enchanting views of Yellowstone Lake. Enjoy dinner à la carte and time at leisure this evening.
Yellowstone's Grand Canyon & geysers galore
This morning, take a guided tour of some of Yellowstone's 10,000 geothermal wonders including hot springs, waterfalls, fumaroles and mudpots. Wind along Grand Loop Road, through three of the largest geyser basins, and the Fountain Paint Pot (bubbling pools of paintlike, multicolored silica). Stand in awe at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, carved by the Yellowstone River, plunging over a thousand feet with miles of breathtaking gorges and torrential waterfalls. You'll also visit Hayden Valley, once a lake-bed, now a vast plain that attracts herds of roaming bison. Arrive at the Old Faithful Inn for lunch and an overnight stay; a national landmark built in 1904, the log and wood-shingle inn is a rustic work of art, featuring a towering lobby and a massive stone fireplace. This afternoon, it's all about exploring the Upper Geyser Basin - one of the largest concentrations of geysers in the world - and Old Faithful, only steps from your door. Seeing Old Faithful Geyser, the famous clockwork geyser that launches a steaming jet of water 145 feet skyward every 90 minutes, in person is... awesome.
The Tetons, Jackson & Mormon Row
Your Wyoming trip takes you through awe-inspiring scenes of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, stopping at Jenny Lake, the tranquil center of a landscape of jagged peaks of the Teton Range and alpine forest frequented by moose, deer and grizzly bears. Continue to the town of Jackson, once a magnet for fur trappers and now a trendy attraction in a vista of natural beauty with the ever-present Tetons for a backdrop. After exploring the town on your own (there are some great places for lunch), visit Grand Teton National Park's Mormon Row Historic District, whose preservation is being supported by a major grant from Tauck. A homesteaders' settlement dating back to 1890 located in an undeveloped area of the park, Mormon Row is home to a number of weathered historic structures - including the iconic T.A. Moulton barn, an unofficial symbol of the park - that (along with their dramatic Teton Range backdrop) attract photographers from around the world, and convey the sense that you've traveled back in time. Arrive at the Jackson Lake Lodge for a two-night stay. Historic in so many contexts, the lodge features an amazing lobby where windows 60 feet high provide stunning panoramic views the breathtaking Teton Range; "breathtaking" is definitely the right description as first views usually elicit a gasp - they are among the most picturesque, photographed mountains in the world. A Tauck Exclusive upgrade option to a limited number of Main Lodge Mountain View rooms at Jackson Lake Lodge is available at an additional cost; see Pricing & Availability for details.
A float trip on the Snake River
Immerse yourself in the valleys of the Tetons on a guided float trip* down the Snake River inside Grand Teton National Park, through miles of stunning river landscapes that lie in the shadow of the mountains - always in the furtive company of deer, elk, moose and bald eagles ashore. Spend the rest of the day at the lodge, enjoying the many amenities and activities (including some at additional cost, such as horseback riding*). This evening, your Wyoming trip marks the last roundup with a farewell reception and dinner at the lodge.
Tour ends: Jackson. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from the Jackson Lake Lodge to Jackson Hole Airport (approximately 35-45 minutes). You should allow at least two hours for check-in.