Iron Horse Travels: Scenic Byways + Dreamy National Parks

Exploring in Style, Even if Sparsely, is the Only Way to Go

“A long ride is the answer to a question you will soon forget.”

Here in Colorado, we love to be outdoors. For some, hiking is therapy; for others, skiing or snowboarding is stress relief. And for still others, it’s mountain biking or fishing or horseback riding. Then there is a select crew from all walks of life who you’ll see flashing a low wave as they pass each other on the road, a salute to the unspoken bond all motorcyclists have with each other. 

My husband and I have been riding for almost six years, and like many hobbies, it has become a passion. Exploring the beauty and hidden gems of the great state of Colorado, and even our incredible country and beyond, is a privilege not to be wasted. With the horizon ahead of you never to be caught and the fresh air whipping by, it’s a type of therapy that is difficult to explain unless you’ve experienced it on a motorcycle. I’m not here to discriminate, so whether or not you own a “hog,” the camping trip we took at the beginning of July is worth the journey, views and memories regardless of your mode of transportation.

Earlier this year, my husband, Zach, told me he was planning on taking a trip on the bike and camping at each stop along the way. We had been to Grand Teton National Park together as well as Yellowstone, but he had never been to Glacier National Park and had always dreamed of visiting Banff, Alberta, in Canada. As he was showing me his route, I obviously wanted to know why I wasn’t invited on this once-in-a-lifetime trip. Along with not wanting to interfere with some previously mentioned plans I had wanted to make that same week, I don’t have my motorcycle endorsement yet, so, despite the fact that his first bike is sitting in the garage waiting for me, I am still a backseat driver who, if the motor was quieter, you’d often hear shouting directions. (The drowning out of your backseat driver, gentlemen, is one of many reasons my husband jokes he highly recommends getting a bike). Needless to say, we had never spent more than six hours on the motorcycle together, and he was genuinely concerned that 2,900 miles might be an aggressive leap from weekend riders to road warriors on a single bike. But as we talked about the trip more and planned the stops, we decided we could not pass up the opportunity to experience these incredible locations together.

Three weeks before we were scheduled to leave, we got our camping gear together. I purged the bag I’d packed the night before of approximately half the items I deemed necessary for a three-day motorcycle camping trip, figured out how to strap it all to the bike and took a test ride through southwestern Colorado. (Ladies, the curling iron is not a necessary item as I learned during the purge). Late that Sunday, we pulled into the garage exhausted and dirty but elated. We’d done it, and we hadn’t killed each other. We were ready for the big one.

After our test trip, we purchased a few extra items that would be useful while also making the 10-day trip more comfortable. Collapsible cups (Stojo.co) that could be rinsed and packed away without taking up space were used after enjoying a bottle of wine post-hot spring soak while watching the sunset over the Canadian Rockies. These were a top-rated purchase. Coming in at a close tie for second are the inflatable camping pillows and the solar-powered inflatable lanterns (both purchased on Amazon).

Comfort and efficiency are key when camping out of a bag that must hold all of your gear in approximately 4.3 cubic feet. But, for those of you who know me personally, there is very little that will force me to sacrifice style. A great leather jacket, knee-high leather boots (because they look great but also to shield the bugs from causing welts at 85 mph) and a well-made thigh purse will take you to the ends of the earth in fashion. We could walk into a one-horse-town watering hole or the high-end Hotel Sask in Regina, Canada, and I didn’t feel out of place. 

So, whether you are a biker or just rocking a great biker vibe this fall, I always encourage you to travel in style and take any opportunity you can get to visit and explore our national parks. After all, a long ride on an iron horse is the answer to that question you will soon forget.

Day 1: Denver > Jackson Hole, Wyo. > Grand Teton National Park

  • Can’t Miss: Jackson Town Square with a photo under the Antler Arch
  • Must Eat: Gather
  • Watering Hole: Million Dollar Cowboy Bar

Day 2: Grand Teton National Park > Yellowstone National Park

  • Can’t Miss: The Paint Pots and Grand Prismatic
  • Must Eat: Grant Village Lake House Restaurant (It’s not fancy, but the views are worth the stop.)

Day 3: Yellowstone National Park > Glacier National Park

  • Can’t Miss: The Road to the Sun
  • Must Eat: Bison burger at Elkhorn Grill
  • Watering Hole: Backslope Brewing

Day 4: Glacier National Park > Kootenay National Park, B.C., Canada

  • Can’t Miss: Bighorn sheep meandering down Mainstreet in Radium Springs
  • Must Eat: Traditional schnitzel at the Old Salzburg
  • Pro Tip: Download the Kootenay Guided Tour App

Day 5: Kootenay National Park > Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

  • Can’t Miss: Banff Hot Springs (Especially if you’re doing this trip on a bike)
  • But Also Don’t Miss: Lake Louise

Day 6: Banff National Park > Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada

  • Can’t Miss: Mac the Moose
  • Pamper Yourself: Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa

Day 7: Moosejaw > Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

  • Can’t Miss: Stone Hall Castle
  • Must Eat: Poutine at Beer Bros. Gastropub
  • Watering Hole: Historic Hotel Saskatchewan Lobby Bar for a nightcap or the Lobby Coffee Bar for one of the best lattes you’ve ever had

Day 8: Regina > Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Medora, N.D.

  • Can’t Miss: Make sure to take the 28-mile round trip drive through the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park just south of Watford City on your way to the South Unit.
  • Also Can’t Miss: The Medora Musical – just trust me on this one
  • Look For: You can’t miss the buffalo, who are often hanging out right in the middle of the road, but if you’re lucky, you’ll spot the herd of free-roaming wild horses too.

Day 9: Medora > Deadwood, S.D.

  • Can’t Miss: The reenactment of Wild Bill Hickock’s Death (or if you want to take a drive, Mount Rushmore)
  • Must Eat: Breakfast at The Pump House
  • Watering Hole: Saloon #10 – half museum, half historic bar, 100% worth it
  • If you have the time, drive through Sturgis just to say you’ve been

Day 10: Deadwood > Denver

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