After our time in Yellowstone we then made the long drive across to Rapid City, South Dakota to visit the Badlands however due to the epic nature of this journey of approximately 500 miles we decided to break it up over 2 days of driving.
On our first day we drove north of Gardiner up to Bozeman. The main attraction here is the Museum of the Rockies which is where we decided to spend a couple of hours. We began with exploring an exhibition of photographs from the polar regions which was amazing. We then followed this with a presentation in the planetarium on the Northern Lights. The final section we ventured into was the dinosaur exhibit. As a massive dinosaur enthusiast this was of course my favourite area and despite multiple trips to the Natural History museum in London to lean about these prehistoric creatures I still found there to be so much to learn whilst in Montana. This is mainly because the state has such an extensive supply of fossils that are of good quality that have allowed insight into how dinosaurs may have looked and behaved. Bozeman was not on the most direct route we could have taken from Gardiner to Rapid City but if you have any interest in dinosaurs I would highly recommend a trip there.
We carried on driving east and stayed overnight in Billings which was conveniently located for our first stop on the following day which was the Battle of Little Bighorn National Monument. This was the site of Custer’s last stand in the Sioux Wars. I have to admit I had a certain amount of ignorance to this event prior to our visit as this is not something commonly taught in UK schools (or it wasn’t in mine anyway) however the visitor centre was very informative and gave me a crash course in the history to allow the outdoor memorials to have some context and meaning. Just above the visitor centre was a memorial to Custer and his men who were defeated at the battle and then across from this was a memorial to the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples who lost their lives. This was certainly the more moving of the monuments especially considering how it has only been a fairly recent addition from 2003. We then drove through the battlefield stopping at various viewpoints along the way.
Following on from the battlefield we briefly went back into Wyoming to see the Devil’s Tower National Monument which was the first ever national monument established in 1906. The tower rises 867 feet from base to top. I thought it was pretty cool but it was a bit of a detour to go and visit (in my mum’s words) “just a big rock”. Whilst there we were able to walk around the base on a well maintained, 1.7 mile trail that is easy underfoot and so could be managed by most people. My other favourite thing we found there, when driving to and from the monument, were the prairie dogs. These little animals are extremely cute and made up for the long day spent in the car.
Are there any other attractions in Southern Montana you would recommend to visit?