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Author Topic: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18  (Read 371 times)

bbbzzz

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Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« on: September 12, 2017, 11:34:46 PM »
Hello, I am in the midst of planning a 2018 summer trip and would love some advice as I begin to piece together details. We've never rented an RV, but plan to take 12 days out in Aug and cruise around the mid-west area. We're a family of 4 -> 2 adults, 2 kids (10, 7). We'll be flying into Denver from NY area (chose Denver as it has nice flt options and seemed to have good selection of rentals and RT itinerary). I'm somewhat nervous about a large RV and have been looking into campervans (w/ roof tents) and small (>25') RVs - Apollo RV and Escape Campervans seem reasonable (though very much open to any other suggestions/advice).

Route wise I was thinking the following, but having never driven the area, please let me know if I am completely off base or missing good things:
Day 1 - Arrive Denver AM/ Stay near Cheyenne
Day 2 - Devil's Tower / Stay by there
Day 3 - Deadwood / Crazy Horse / Mt Rushmore (if time, otherwise in AM following day) / Stay in Custer
Day 4 - Badlands / Wall / Stay near Rapid City
Day 5 - Theodore Roosevelt National Park (I know ND is out of the way, but we want to hit that state) / Stay near there or possibly out by Billings
Day 6 - Get to Yellowstone / Stay in Yellowstone
Day 7 - Stay in Yellowstone
Day 8 - Stay in Yellowstone
Day 9 - Grand Tetons / Jackson Hole / Stay there
Day 10 - Dinosaur National Monument / Stay nearby there
Day 11 - Arrive back to Denver Area
Day 12 - Return RV / Fly home

I calculate it should be about 2200-2300 mi total, but feel like it is broken up ok. Any feedback/advice would be greatly appreciated!
The only specific question I have is about booking campgrounds - is it necessary for Aug? I will definitely book for Yellowstone, but for the others, is it recommended to book spots in the parks or would I be ok playing it more loose?

Thank you in advance.

Isaac-1

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2017, 01:48:58 AM »
This may ramble a bit, but I just returned to Louisiana a couple of weeks ago from a trip to Wyoming (to see Yellowstone and the solar eclipse).  We have a 28 ft class A (29 ft 3 inches bumper to bumper) and spent 3 nights in Yellowstone at 3 different campgrounds (Grant, Canyon and Fishing Bridge), and I can say this much with certainty, I would not want to try to get in there with anything much larger, even with ours there were some tight squeezes, between trees and parked campers on the camping loops, a few times I almost had my wife get out and make sure our mirrors would clear, and getting into some of the sites required inching back and forth to make the turns.  After being there I understand why they have a 30 ft max length in most of these campgrounds.

As to rentals out of Denver, I saw several people camping out in rentals from B&B RV in Denver, they certainly appeared a lot nicer than the Cruise America Class C's that were everywhere (I have no idea about the price), speaking of Cruise America RV's being everywhere, at one point in or near Yellowstone we counted 8 in a row going the other direction, and there were at least 16 in the parking lot at Old Faithful when we were there.

As to your route, it may be possible, but driving that many miles in those few days may not give you much time to see things at your stops.  We did Dinosaur national monument last summer, and while it is nice, expect to spend a few hours doing the fossil wall, but it is many miles from nowhere, with lots of repetitive scenery along the way.  Unless you have someone that is really into Dinosaur fossils you might want to save it for another trip when you are passing nearby.  Miles in an RV are not like miles in a car, particularly if you are not used to driving a 25+ ft motorhome, don't expect to be cruising at 80 mph down I-80 in Wyoming, don't even expect to maintain 70 mph most of the time, set your sights on 65 maybe less if there is a cross wind.  400 miles a day in a motorhome is a full day of travel with little time to spend seeing sights, In my opinion 150 to 200 miles per day, stopping along the way to see the sights makes for a much nicer travel experience.

To ramble on a bit, you mention night 1 in or around Cheyenne, if possible I would aim for a point farther north, Wyoming gets a lot more scenic north of Wheatland on I-25.  Also there are surprisingly few RV park options near Denver
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AStravelers

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2017, 02:04:47 PM »
Ditto on what Isaac-1 said.

Additionally:

Rent an RV this fall for a long weekend to see what it is like to be in an RV and learn about the operation of the systems.  You don't want to arrive in Denver needing to learn everything all at once.   When you do rent the RV do NOT go to a place with electric water and sewer hookups.  For the trip you are planning you really want to know how to live w/o hookups.  Especially in Yellowstone you will enjoy your stay much more if you can stay in a campground inside the park that doesn't have hookups.  More on Yellowstone CG's later.

You are traveling with a 7 & 10 year old.  They will enjoy the trip much more (and mom & dad will be happier to) if you cut out a bunch of your drive, sightsee, park for the night and repeat the next day. All the places you list are nice to visit places, and good for the kids to see, but they really don't have the experience to relate to those places.  Making it a rush to here, rush to there, trip gets very tiring for the kids.  They want to play & relax, not to go to all the places mom & dad want to visit.  Try to be back at camp by 3-4 o'clock to relax with the kids.  They will be happier than getting back at 5-6 o'clock, dinner and then bed then repeating the next day. 

As Isaac-1 said, 400 miles in an RV especially with kids is a long days travel.  Just Denver to Mt Rushmore is about 400 miles.  It is then close to 500 miles from Mt Rushmore to Yellowstone. 

Having traveling with our 2 kids from the time they were still in diapers till they were in their mid teens, we always drove directly to one area and stayed there for several days to a week depending on what there is to see.  If we moved to another area the travel days was just that. We drove, set up camp and that was it for the day. 

I can't emphasize enough how much more enjoyable the 12 days will be if you go directly to Yellowstone/Grand Teton and spend 10 full days exploring the two parks.  It also allows for a relaxed day if the weather is rainy.  You don't have to go see whatever in the rain or miss out seeing it.

There is lots to see and do in Yellowstone.  Some suggestions:
--  Download the Yellowstone NP newspaper:  https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/upload/17YellSummer_for_web.pdf  Excellent info about the park. 
--  Make reservations as soon as you can to stay in Madison CG inside the park. This week would be a good time to make your reservations for next August.  No hookups, but it is convenient to most of the park, especially the hot springs and the geyser basin at Old Faithful.  In Madison it is nice to walk the 100-300 yards in early morning or evening down to the Madison river.  Also the ranger lead evening programs are usually good.
--  Staying in no hookup (dry camping) CG's usually lets you be with other campers/families with young kids in a somewhat natural outdoors environment.  The places with hookups are more for people who must have hookups and many times have pretty tight spaces between RV parking spots.
--  When you go to see Old Faithful, plan on being at the upper geyser basin for 4-5 hours or so.  Check in the visitor center for the predicted times for eruptions of the geysers along the boardwalks in Upper and Lower geyser basins.  There are several geysers you can safely be within 20 yards or so when they erupt.  Seeing the water in the geyser reseed, then feeling the rumbling and gurgling before the eruption, and then feeling the power of the eruption is well worth the time and effort to have the up close experience.  Old Faithful is nice, but you sit/stand so far back you really don't get the full experience. It is kind of yep we saw the hot water go up in the sky.
-- Norris geyser basin has a couple of nice, but smaller geysers as well.
--  Take a ranger lead hike.  The drive to the hike and the hike pretty much takes up full day, but you and the kids should find the hike enjoyable and informative. 
--  Consider trying to get a first come first serve campsite at Slough Creek or Pebble Creek CG and then get up really early and leave at first light for a drive along Lamar Valley to see the wildlife.  You may be lucky to see wolves and grizzly bears.  Fix peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast.   The down side to getting a campsite in these two CG's is you need to be there by about 7-9 in the morning to get one of the campsites that someone is leaving that morning.  You can also fairly easily drive Lamar Valley in the early morning from Mammoth Springs CG.

Lots more info is available about Yellowstone by looking around online and the National Park website. 


Al & Sharon
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AStravelers

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2017, 02:12:52 PM »
About the RV you rent.  Try to stay under 25 feet.  That makes the RV a little more maneuverable.  If you think you could be comfortable in a 20-22' rig so much the better.  As I mentioned in my first reply, rent the RV for a long weekend to see what works for you.  Yes, it is not cheap to rent an RV for the weekend just to see how it works.  However I really think you will have a better experience if you do that.   
Al & Sharon
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AStravelers

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2017, 02:17:48 PM »
For your first day out from Denver, consider making your first night at Curt Gowdy State Park (Wyoming), a little NW of Cheyenne, about 126 miles from the Denver airport.

Link to the state park:  http://wyoparks.state.wy.us/index.php/places-to-go/curt-gowdy

Al & Sharon
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OBX

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2017, 03:14:14 PM »
Your current route is like a huge figure 8.  You will save time if you plan a more circular route by cutting across the states using state highways as opposed to using just the interstates.  You may want to skip Wall and Dinosaur and make the Tower a brief stop on your way from Rushmore to Yellowstone. 

You may want to spend a night or two in Cody before going into Yellowstone.  Take the kids to the museum, dinner show and a rodeo in Cody.

Many people figure about a 50 mph average on road trips once you factor in gas, food, etc.  400 miles is an easy 10 hour day unless you can be really efficient or your rig cruises really well over mountain passes, etc.


bbbzzz

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2017, 07:41:38 PM »
Thanks so much for the insight so far! Very very helpful. Going to rethink some of the plan, maybe find a way to convince family to cut out ND and Dinosaur, then see if we can just have home base around Rapid City for a couple days and then Yellowstone, and do a couple big driving days in between. That does make a lot of sense so that there is more time for kids to play/run around/etc.

And we're definitely looking into the local sites/activities so we get to have some fun.

I know if I end up with an RV we'll want to limit moving it every day, so going to keep that in mind.

As we get a little closer I'll post an update on how things have progressed. Thank you again!

taoshum

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2017, 08:02:38 PM »
FWIW: late summer in the areas you mention can be fairly nice... it can also be jammed with visitors, hot and if there are fires, very smokey.  You can't know before you make plans of course.  You might look at the weather data and visitor data  for the last 5 years though...  OTOH, late spring/early summer will probably be less crowded, cooler, likely good weather although it might be rainy... you can check that data as well.  Maybe it's the only time you can go and if so, so be it.  Like others have said though, your itinerary entails a ton of driving... you could spend the entire time you have at YS and still not even scratch the surface of that park if you are willing to do some exploration, kayaking, fishing, photography, bicycling and hiking, although the museum in Cody is world class.  It's a really big place to visit and the Bison have the ROW.  The Black Hills area of SD is also really big... we spent 10 days there a few years ago and did not begin to see it all.  BTW, you don't want to be in the Black Hills with a RV during the August motorcycle rally, unless you really, really like motorcycles!

read about the smoke this year: http://www.rvforum.net/SMF_forum/index.php/topic,107836.0/topicseen.html
« Last Edit: September 13, 2017, 11:13:50 PM by taoshum »
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Isaac-1

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2017, 08:41:21 PM »
One other thing about Yellowstone, there are limited RV parking spaces at the various pull off points, and these days many of them are taken up by commercial tour buses.  There are day tour buses that pick up at the campgrounds inside Yellowstone, however these pretty much require you to spend multiple days at the same park campground since they depart before common check in hours, and return after check out.  There are also lots of nice Forest Service and State park campgrounds in the region that you should consider using on some of your travel days.  Personally I like to have full hookups at a commercial campground every 4th or 5th day, it lets me take long showers without worrying about trips to the dump station, do laundry, sit back a relax without concern about battery level, or having to run the generator.
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bbbzzz

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2017, 08:17:00 AM »
We're dead on in the middle of Sturgis...didn't even think of that. Anyone been there around then? if you avoid the town are you ok, or is the whole surrounding area packed?

UTTransplant

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2017, 08:51:25 AM »
We're dead on in the middle of Sturgis...didn't even think of that. Anyone been there around then? if you avoid the town are you ok, or is the whole surrounding area packed?
Every place within 50 miles is full. If you aren't a biker, replan your trip. It is an absolute and unmitigated zoo with people everywhere. I have nothing against bikers, but hundreds of thousands of any group in one place is dreadful. Note that the week before and the week after the rally are still really crowded. We made the mistake of spending just a night in the area the week before Sturgis while passing through. Couldn't find a restaurant, no parking available anywhere, lots of noise. Never again.
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Isaac-1

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2017, 08:55:36 AM »
I was passing through Cheyenne WY heading up I-25 a few years ago helping an old friend move back to Montana driving a U-Haul during Sturgis week, and we could not find a vacant motel room anywhere along I-25 in eastern Wyoming.  Ended up stopping and sleeping in the cab of the truck in a rest area, after hours of checking motels in each town along the way.  It is nearly 300 miles from Cheyenne to Sturgis.
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AStravelers

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2017, 10:53:12 AM »
Bozeman, MT has a Enterprise Car rental.  Might be a good idea for Yellowstone.
Al & Sharon
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SeilerBird

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2017, 12:50:37 PM »
You are trying to put 10 pounds of poop into a five pound bag. Way too optimistic of a schedule. Save some of it for next time and then you will actually get to see the places you do stop. I would fly into Denver and go straight to Yellowstone and then rent a car and you would be able to see a lot more places.
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taoshum

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2017, 10:14:19 PM »
We're dead on in the middle of Sturgis...didn't even think of that. Anyone been there around then? if you avoid the town are you ok, or is the whole surrounding area packed?
 

We went to Sturgis on a HD in 2006 just to see it ourselves.  Amazing... basically, the population of SD doubles for a few weeks... 500,000+ motorcycles... it's packed, like sardines! Check out the YouTube Videos, it's loud like a rock concert! and in most of the towns, everything except motorcycles are banned...  Every motorcycle company and every motorcycle accessory company has a crew there for business.  Even the local newspaper building vacates so the tattoo artists can rent the building!  Every night the big entertainers/bands headline the big venues.  Everyplace for many hundreds of miles feels the impact, both + and -.  In fact, you might want to fly into Salt Lake instead of Denver... much closer to YNP... just sayin'
« Last Edit: September 14, 2017, 10:15:53 PM by taoshum »
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bbbzzz

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #15 on: September 15, 2017, 11:53:26 AM »
Yea, it looks crazy. Was able to shift our dates up so we get in Aug 9 now, can do Yellowstone first, then hit up SD late the week of Aug 13 (Sturgis ends the 12th). Sure we'll still encounter our fair share of motorcycles, but at least we'll miss the actual event. I'd avoid Aug altogether, but that timing just works best for us so doing the best with what we got :) This has been immensely helpful so far so thank you. 

tanglemoose

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #16 on: September 17, 2017, 10:38:25 PM »
Just a thought you can rent RVs in Billings, for sure at Bretz and Pierce. Would save you a lot of driving.. also check out Bozeman, cody, wyoming. Plus you don't have all the Denver traffic...
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OBX

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #17 on: September 18, 2017, 09:44:06 AM »
Search this forum for Yellowstone and Grand Tetons.  Some of the forum members have offered a lot of great information and advice you will find helpful.

Boonieman

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #18 on: September 27, 2017, 04:41:20 PM »
I grew up in Rapid City and Pierre, the capital of South Dakota. I also go to Sturgis almost every year, but I usually go out there a couple other times a year. Here are my opinions on the South Dakota part of the trip.
-Badlands, spectacular. Particularly if the lighting is good. Rainy or cloudy days takes away from the color and vistas.
-Custer State Park- super nice, sure to see buffalo, antelope, and other wildlife
-Deadwood- wall to wall casinos, crowded streets, parking is at a premium
-Hill City- nice place for shopping, some good home resteraunts, good parking for rv’s
-Wall Drug- good place for souvineer shopping, decent food, stop-off from badlands.
-Devils Tower- really cool, but you can get good pics of it from a distance and save yourself from going in and basically getting a vertical picture of a tiny piece of it. The drive from I-90 thru Belle Fourche (bell foosh) to get there is pretty
-Mount Rushmore- crowded but well managed, resteraunt not bad. Almost have to stop there.
-Sylvan Lake- very unique, one part of one of the movies National Treasure was filmed there. Can walk on huge granite rocks jutting out into the lake.
-Pierre-(pronounced “peer” out there) Corp of engineer campground below Oahe Dam one of my favorite spots, particularly campground #3. Have to fill up your fresh water tank tho, no water hookups. Shower facilities first class.
-Dinosaur Park in Rapid City great spot for the kids. Spectacular views of Rapid City
-Boatloads of deer at dusk out west, use caution.
-Our favorite place to eat out west- Pizza Ranch, awesome buffet, more than just pizza
Sounds like you have an awesome trip planned!!
« Last Edit: September 27, 2017, 04:43:02 PM by Boonieman »
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bbbzzz

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Re: Advice for Denver - SD - Yellowstone RT Aug 18
« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2017, 11:18:11 AM »
Thanks Boonieman, that's super helpful and will definitely add Pizza Ranch to the stop offs!

 

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