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Digital Subscriptions > Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) > August 2016 > Great Escape

Great Escape

2016 is the centenary of America’s National Park Service: celebrate with a road trip across South Dakota and Wyoming, for larger-than-life landscapes, wildlife and history in the parks and preserves that define the nation.

NATIONAL PARKS OF THE AMERICAN WEST

@gjaffe

Ranch hand Luis Alvarenga at Diamond 7 Bar Ranch, near Devils Tower National Monument
PHOTOGRAPHS MARK READ @markreadphotography

Plan your trip

1 Wonder at the otherworldly rocks of Badlands National Park then sleep under its cinematic, star-filled skies (p48).

2 Meet the presidents at Mount Rushmore and hear a different narrative in the Black Hills that surround (p50).

3 Take the reins and pull your horse to a stop at mysterious monolith Devils Tower, which rises out of the rolling prairie (p52).

4 Find out why the first-ever US national park, Yellowstone, is known as the ‘Serengeti of North America’ (p54).

5 Raft the wild currents of the sweeping Snake River, in the shadow of the mighty Grand Teton mountains (p56).

PHOTOGRAPHS: AF ARCHIVE/ALAMY, ELIOT ELISOFON/GETTY IMAGES, JOHN PITCHER/GETTY IMAGES, MARK READ, MURPHY-SHEWCHUK/GETTY IMAGES

HOW TO GET THERE

Rapid City is the nearest airport to Badlands, with flights to hubs such as Chicago, Dallas and Minneapolis. Jackson Hole airport near Grand Teton also offers connections to a variety of domestic hubs. Return flights from the UK involve combinations of airlines including American, BA, Delta and United (from £640, ba.com).

HOW TO GET AROUND

To get between the parks and cover the big distances within them, most visitors rent a car (from £155 for a week; kayak. com). All the parks are connected by easy-to-navigate highways, but be sure to fill up when you can, because petrol stations can be widely spaced in more rural areas; and ensure you have a paper map and/or a GPS with good coverage because signal strength can drop quicker than a departing president’s mic. A 4x4 will be useful if you intend on driving along some parks’ dirt tracks. Pay attention to road signs – some speed trap towns make up to half their local budget from fine revenues.

HOW LONG TO SPEND

Going to all the locations featured in our Great Escape should take around 10 days on a whistle-stop tour. But two to three weeks allows space to soak in the landscapes and take leisurely scenic routes such the Bighorn and Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byways. To turn this journey into a classic American road trip, make time for pit stops in the historic Wild West towns of Deadwood, Buffalo and Sheridan.

WHAT TO BUDGET

If visiting more parks than the ones covered here, consider buying the National Parks annual pass (£55; nps. gov). For this year's 100th birthday, there will be free entry 25–28 August, 24 September and 11 November. Accommodation within the parks comes at a premium – expect to pay at least £70 a night. Options just outside are normally less pricey. Campsites cost as little as £8 per carload and some parks allow backcountry camping permits from £5pppn. Meals are often affordable (mains from £7) but basic. Budget a little extra to splash out on the great restaurants in Jackson Hole.

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About Lonely Planet Traveller (UK)

Explore the iconic national parks of the American West, go on an easy sailing break in Croatia, spend a Perfect Weekend in Hamburg, discover the secrets of long life in Okinawa, find artistic inspiration in Andalucía and much more
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