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Author Topic: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?  (Read 1800 times)

yellowroses

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I am a retired woman traveling alone with my two standard poodle dogs. That means I will be unlikely to boondock or go way off the beaten trail and out of cell service range for calling road service.

I am planning to leave Pensacola in mid to late April, 2017 and spend three weeks exploring South Dakota in the areas along I-90 then on to Custer's Battlefield on the Crow reservation in MT and to Boseman. Hopefully, I'll arrive at Yellowstone for when it opens in mid-May- before the kids get out of school and the crowd comes in.

Or I could wait and leave in mid June when the weather gets unbearable here and make Yellowstone after Labor Day.

There is a lot to see both getting to Yellowstone and traveling back. Hope to make Grand Teton, as well, but not Glacier. Most of the Rockies will be avoided because I'm a flat-lander and not experienced with driving an RV over even moderate hills. Florida is a sandbar.

I want to paint scenic views, encounter/paint wildlife, including lots of buffalo and draw/paint impromptu portraits of the many people I come across. Also love pow wows, art festivals and buffalo round-ups. Traveling with two dogs means most activities will have to be outdoors with them on lead. It is too hot to leave them in a locked RV in summer. Not interested in cities.

All you experienced travelers must have gone this way before. Any suggestions?

Thank you for any input.:) 

SeilerBird

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2016, 05:44:16 PM »
My advise is to not miss the Tetons. Oxbow Bend at sunset is a like zoo without bars. You will definitely want to paint the Tetons themselves. There is no foothills blocking your view so you have this magnificent view of a 14,000 foot mountain range from 6,800 feet. Yellowstone is going to blow you away too. Be aware it can snow at Yellowstone in either May or September or actually any time of year. You are going to have to cross mountains to get there. Yellowstone is located on the continental divide. I-80 is a relatively easy drive so you should be ok. I live in Florida too and I love your line about Florida being a sand bar. Yes there is a lot to see on the way to and from the Yellowstone area but save most of your time for Yellowstone and the Tetons. Yellowstone is larger than several states and there is a lot to see there.
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Ken & Sheila

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2016, 06:38:50 PM »
We are currently at Gros Ventre CG in Grand Teton Nat'l Park.  Have been here and to Yellowstone many times and this area is some of the most beautiful country there is.  We are enjoying it so much more this time of year than late spring or summer.  The aspen are golden and there is snow on just the tops of the mountains.  The nights are very cool but the days have been magnificent, although some rain. 
It is still very crowded but for the most part it has been all adults.


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yellowroses

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2016, 09:43:31 PM »
That sounds like Heaven. How far in advance do you need to reserve a campsite in the parks? We used to go camping in the Smokies twice each year and there were no reservations required. This was in June when school just let out and in September just before school started. I think that's not the way it is now, though. Especially in parks as popular as Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

I watched Shane three times through a few months ago. It is a good old movie, but I was watching for the scenery. It was filmed in the Tetons. You are right. Can't miss the Tetons.

The weather sounds great- especially since it is the end of September. I think it may be better to leave in early June, visit South Dakota and Montana then get to Yellowstone after Labor Day.  The weather gets very hot and humid here in June and stays that way until early October so it will be a welcome escape. Returning home by November means the heat has broken. Winters here are marvelous.

SeilerBird

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2016, 10:30:51 PM »
At Colter Bay Campground in the Tetons reservations are not needed. At Madison or Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone you don't need reservations.
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jackiemac

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2016, 12:25:07 AM »
Gros Ventre doesn't take reservations either. Check to see what utilities they have as we only had electricity at Gros Ventre although there was a dump station with water close by and it was a fantastic place to be. We went to see the old Shane film set!
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UTTransplant

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2016, 08:56:33 AM »
Regarding reservations, a lot depends on your rig size. If you have a bigger class C or A, your choice of sites within many national parks will be limited making it harder to find a site without advanced reservations. There are exceptions like Gros Ventre in the Tetons with lots of big sites, but that is the exception. The first come/first serve places like Mammoth in Yellowstone have big sites too, but not as many so it is taking a bigger chance. We have a 29' (nose to tail) TT, and we have to sometimes be creative in getting a site at popular places. Show up early at the campground (7:00 am is not too early at many), drive through looking for who is leaving based on their tags, politely ask the campers if they are indeed leaving, then go register for the site before they have left it.

Regarding where to visit, no Black Hills visit is complete without an overnight in Badlands National Park IMHO. There are a few sites with electricity, and there are a number of big sites. It does cool off at night quite a bit, and the stars are incredible. Custer State Park is wonderful with lots of camping. Spearfish Canyon is gorgeous with nice Forest Service campgrounds. Note: whatever you do, do not plan on being within the 150 miles of Sturgis during the motorcycle rally. Crowds, no campsites, and did I say crowds? I think Buffalo, WY and the surrounding mountains are wonderful. Cody and Sheridan in Wyoming are great. Laramie has the historic old prison which is a cool place to visit. In Bozeman, MT make sure you visit The Museum of the Rockies, one of the premier dinosaur museums in the world. Bannock State Park in Montana is west of Bozeman but a wonderful ghost town from the mining days. I could go on and on. You will have no trouble finding places to visit; the problem is which ones you will have to leave out.
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Arch Hoagland

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2016, 09:34:37 AM »
Yellowroses said

"out of cell service range for calling road service"

Keep in mind even if your cellphone says "no service" you can dial 911 and there's a chance that other carriers will pick it up.

All cellphone service companies monitor 911 calls and are required by law to take the call.

I know that from an incident where we were out of Verizon service but I dialed 911 and got help. Later I spoke to someone in the cellphone business and found out there a lot of small carriers for private businesses that have their own towers, etc and they will pickup your call.
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SeilerBird

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2016, 09:38:06 AM »
You will have no problem finding a spot in Yellowstone if you are there at 8 am in the morning when everyone is leaving.
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yellowroses

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2016, 10:15:46 PM »
I drive a 26 foot class A Winnebago Brave. It should be okay for most state and national parks. There are some roads in the Black Hills that are difficult with twists and small tunnels according to online reports, but I plan to park the RV for two weeks at least and drive the little Nissan Versa.

Thanks for the information on the cell phone. Most of the phone provider maps show no service off the interstate roads across much of the west so I was concerned about going far off of them to travel secondary roads. The Black Hills should be covered because they are along the interstate and close to a city. The tribal areas of North and Central S. Dakota might not have coverage.

The information on finding space to camp is helpful. Thank you. Usually there are restrictions on the length of stay in parks but two weeks should be fine. Then I could move on to another spot as a base of exploration.

I have an itinerary and timing question and apparently a month to fill with something. I have been online reading about the best visiting times for the Black Hills and  Yellowstone. There are scheduling difficulties involving trying to work these in without backtracking across two states.

1- June- Black Hills and nearby areas for 4 weeks
    July-  Montana for 4 weeks
    August- ???
    Sept./Oct.- Yellowstone and the Tetons

2- Mid May- Yellowstone and the Tetons
    Mid June- July- Montana
    August ???
    Sept/Oct.- Black Hills

Not sure what to do for August. It would be nice to park someplace and just kick back and enjoy the wildlife and paint/read/fish/walk with dogs.

Arch Hoagland

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2016, 10:25:50 PM »
Keep in mind that August 7 through August 13th the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally occurs.

At least 800,000 people attend that and campgrounds in the area are booked way in advance.

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yellowroses

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2016, 10:41:54 PM »
The Sturgis Rally was one of the reasons the Black Hills stay was planned for either June or September. The online information said that the rally attendees arrived early and stayed late so mid July through mid August is not a great time to visit unless going to the kid places. Thanks for mentioning it. :)

Jim Godward

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2016, 10:50:53 PM »
Search the state sites for helpful information on things to do and places to go.  MT is huge and the state divides up into several sections, all quite different.  In the South east, Kalama has unique rock formations and lots of wild life.  West of there are several Indian reservations of interest before you get to Miles City.  Miles City has quite a history and may still have many of the original old west buildings down town. 
East of Miles City is Glendive with a unique state park in the badlands.  North of Glendive almost to Canada is Wolf Peck Dam and reservoir ass well and the Montana Breaks wild life area and another Indian reservation.

South west and near the center of the state is Lewiston.  Lots of wild life and interesting scenery quite different from the eastern areas.  South and slightly east is Billings and further south is Hardin and the Big Horn Battlefield on the Reservation, I believe the re-enactment is in July.

West of Billings are several small towns with interesting side trips into the mountains, you really need to do the Cooke City highway from Red Lodge  to Cook City or even better Cody but that should be done in an auto and not a RV.  It is also known as the Beartooth Highway.  Columbus has a nice campground near the Yellowstone river.  Good access on the road south to the mines, beautiful country.  Big Timber is further  west and there is a road into the mountains there what has several interesting attractions including a ghost town.  Next is Livingston, quite a town for art galleries, old buildings and scenery.  It was one of the Locals for the movie, "The River Runs Through".  The main street was used because of the old buildings among other features.  The valley to the south has been painted by many including Russell Chatham. 

Then there is Bozeman.  Lots of scenery both north and south of town.  I especially like the Gallatin river canyon for a nice drive in the mountains and scenic photos.  The Museum, as mentioned, is a must see.  West of Bozeman on an alternate route to Yellowstone is Quake Lake formed in the 1959 earthquake and the visitors center and memorial for the campers that died there.

More later!

Do check out the state government information, http://mt.gov/visitors/travel.mcpx, url]http://www.visitmt.com/[/url],
https://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=&oq=Montan+tourist+info&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4PLXB_enUS616US617&q=montana+tourist+information+center+&gs_l=hp..1.0i22i30l3.0.0.0.13925...........0.H43qlBeALAI

Wyoming:  http://www.google.com/aclk?sa=l&ai=DChcSEwij_fPz0K7PAhURl34KHUjHAIwYABAA&sig=AOD64_1lpXJ23CKV-t_98TWAszk1oG-LhA&rct=j&q=&ved=0ahUKEwiE9uvz0K7PAhUB92MKHbLNAaUQ0QwIHA&adurl=

South Dakota:  http://www.google.com/aclk?sa=l&ai=DChcSEwij_fPz0K7PAhURl34KHUjHAIwYABAF&sig=AOD64_2z4opjNO2vhoMGllj8lMHJa81h5w&rct=j&q=&ved=0ahUKEwiE9uvz0K7PAhUB92MKHbLNAaUQ0QwIJw&adurl=

Jim
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UTTransplant

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2016, 10:56:45 PM »

I have an itinerary and timing question and apparently a month to fill with something. I have been online reading about the best visiting times for the Black Hills and  Yellowstone. There are scheduling difficulties involving trying to work these in without backtracking across two states.

1- June- Black Hills and nearby areas for 4 weeks
    July-  Montana for 4 weeks
    August- ???
    Sept./Oct.- Yellowstone and the Tetons

2- Mid May- Yellowstone and the Tetons
    Mid June- July- Montana
    August ???
    Sept/Oct.- Black Hills

Not sure what to do for August. It would be nice to park someplace and just kick back and enjoy the wildlife and paint/read/fish/walk with dogs.
I would recommend western Wyoming for July then Montana for August. Lots of wonderful places in western Wyoming. Then again, you could easily two months in Montana; we certainly have spent much more than that in total.

Make sure you have reservations for the week before and after Independence Day no matter where you end up.
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SeilerBird

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2016, 11:21:18 PM »
For August I would zip up to Glacier National Park for two weeks and then visit Northern Cascades National Park. Both are beautiful beyond belief. The thing I like about the Cascades is the fact that no one even knows it exists. It is basically empty even in the dead of summer. It is like having a private National Park. Well worth the two state drive.
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yellowroses

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Re: Planning a trip through South Dakota, Montana, Yellowstone. Suggestions?
« Reply #15 on: September 27, 2016, 10:38:00 PM »
Great suggestions for places to go. Wyoming for July and Montana for August  may be the solution. Montana has so many places to go and to see that it may take up two months. I will know that best when I get there. Painting trips have to be loose and relatively unstructured- subject to change when unexpected opportunities turn up. Thanks for all your help. :)

 

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