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Old 09-28-2020, 05:43 PM   #1
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4-wk Trip West Planning Help

We are planning a ~4-week trip out west to visit some national parks for July-August 2021. We did this in 2018 and hit 12 national parks...including the GC, all the Utah NP's, some Colorado NP's, and more.

Some of the stops we would like to hit this time around:

Yellowstone
Grand Tetons
Glacier
Badlands
Mt. Rushmore
Wind Cave
Likely get in Banff and Waterton NP's as well since we have the time.

-Any routing advice? (not necessarily what roads to take, but in what order to make each stop and for how long)
-Are there NP stops that should be added?
-We would like to do 5-7 days in Yellowstone, but can't decide if we should camp in one location or two. (ie visit the Park all from staying in West Yellowstone?)
-Is it crucial to keep our Yellowstone stay OFF of a weekend?

We are in a 40' fifth wheel and completely understand all of the driving to be done.

My current draft plan is:

4-nights -- Drive to Banff NP with stop at Theodore Roosevelt NP
4-nights -- Banff NP / Visit Calgary
3-nights -- Waterton Lakes NP
3-nights -- Glacier NP
6-nights -- Yellowstone NP
3-nights -- Grand Teton NP / Visit Jackson
3-nights -- Rushmore/Custer/Wind Cave
2-nights -- Badlands NP
3-nights -- Drive Home to Rochester, NY
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Old 09-28-2020, 06:02 PM   #2
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Devils tower in wyo.

Theodore roosevelt is about 2 days to visit both the major segments of the park. It's as big as Badlands.

Yellowstone, if you can get a site at Fishing Bridge campground in the park, it makes for an easy central location and not have to wait in an entrance line everyday.
They have been revamping it to be a lot better.
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Old 09-28-2020, 08:02 PM   #3
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I have an interest in doing something similar on 2021

Home is in Pleasant Prairie Wisconsin.

2006 Sunseeker 2860DS recently remodeled and well kept. 2013 GMC Acadia Denali toad.

Spent 4 nights at the Rapid City KOA last summer and would like to go back and hit Wind Cave and make a reservation for a missile silo tour on the way from Wisconsin to that area, cant remember its exact location but it's off an I90 exit.

Btw, found an idyllic rv campground in Hot Springs on a reservoir. Cant remember the name off hand but I've got it documented. Might be nice just to take it easy a day or 2 and chill out there.

Found Spearfish Canyon great for hiking, want to do that again.

Wyoming country beckons me as well. Would visit Devil's Tower and hike around it, again.

Would hit Yellowstone for sure.

If your into it, Pinterest has some really great out west trips, routes (sequence) and itineraries.

Chris
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Old 10-03-2020, 04:39 PM   #4
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Your plans look super!
Is this the order you plan to travel in your route?
A few seem out of order.

4-nights -- Drive to Banff NP with stop at Theodore Roosevelt NP (YES)
4-nights -- Banff NP / Visit Calgary (YES)
3-nights -- Waterton Lakes NP (Definitely YES)
3-nights -- Glacier NP (YES)
6-nights -- Yellowstone NP (YES Grizzly RV Resort in West Yellowston)
3-nights -- Grand Teton NP / Visit Jackson (YES make reservations Jan 2)
3-nights -- Rushmore/Custer/Wind Cave (YES make reservations ASAP)
2-nights -- Badlands NP (OK)
3-nights -- Drive Home to Rochester, NY (long drive home)lol

See my map route suggestion.
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Old 10-03-2020, 05:55 PM   #5
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Iggy

Thanks for putting pen to paper and visualizing.

The Great River Road route between Wisconsin and Minnestoa especially may be worth investigating. It would be a detour off of the Interstate travel route through Wisconsin but it offers some outstanding scenery and opportunities for great camping with amenities especially at Wisconsin State Parks.

Being a Wisconsin resident, I had to throw that in there.

Also, and possibly you all are aware of this too, but the Ohio Turnpike has wonderful overnight RV sites on the east and west travel routes. $20 / night, dump station, fresh water, a variety of hot food choices, fuel (of course). Check out their website for the exact rest stops offering RV overnight camping.

Just some thoughts to make this trip easier, enjoyable.

Planning is the key and for me exciting in itself.

Chris
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Old 10-03-2020, 07:08 PM   #6
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We have done West Yellowstone and Grand Teton 4 time since 2012 and have travelled up to Glacier NP as well as Alberta.
We made it to to the Calgary Stampede and loved Banff and other stops up there.
Waterton Lakes is almost breatah taking and they have a campground downtown.
All of those things youneed solid dates and reservations if you plan to stay a few days.

Suggestions for West Yellowstone. Grizzly RV Resort outside west entrance to Yellowstone.
A little pricey but worth it especially so close to downtown and the west entrance.
If anyone has any questions about these areas aska way.
Glad to help.

We actually may do the trip in 2021 also.
Arizona north to Vegas to Salt Lake City Utah to Jacksonhole and into the south entrance of Yellowstone and out the west entrance to Grizzly RV resort. Then north to Glacier NP and into Alberta, Banff and especially Waterton lake.
I guess we just may start the planning now.
LOL
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Old 10-03-2020, 07:35 PM   #7
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Just returned from South Dakota and for Rushmore, Custer and Wind/Jewel caves we stayed at the Rafter Bar J Ranch near Hill City SD. We selected this location from the advice of many on this website and we were beyond pleased with it. However, if WIFI and/or cable is important be sure you let the host know as there is only one area with these features available.

Our location did not have either but nevertheless it was absolutely wonderful. Rushmore is just a jump skip and a hop away which is great when you attend the lighting ceremony which you SHOULD do. Custer is just a short drive away but unfortunately due to elevator repairs and Covid the caves were closed.

We also did Deadwood which was fine and is only a couple of hours from Hill City. We moved to the Deadwood KOA which was a huge mistake. The park is way too small and you canít get in or out with your trailer without asking other guests to move their cars. We left one day early because we saw an opportunity to get out without bugging anybody.

Enjoy your trip, sounds like heaven to me!
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Old 10-03-2020, 08:05 PM   #8
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Iggy,

Great suggestions. I dont mind the extra cost of a campground for convenience, niceties

I do wonder if crossing the border will be allowed even by next summer. I am pretty sure it is currently closed to tourists, correct?

That wont stop me from doing everything else though

This years been bad. 1 more 3 night camping trip a week from Monday for me and then most campgrounds here in the upper midwest close at the end of October. Around here if a rig isn't at least winterized by the end of the first week in November or a cold snap, its courting disaster. I've already got my rv antifreeze and can be done in 30 minutes if need be!

Thanks for the offer of help, I may take you up on some advice

Chris
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Old 10-03-2020, 08:24 PM   #9
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Yes Chris it has been bad a bad year but we still did 3 trips.
We actually went into northern Mexico south of Arizona when this whole thing started and spent 2 weeks. Then came home in early April.
They I said hell with this and we went up to Yellowston for the 4th of July week and then to SW Colorado just to break the boredom at home.

Yes,Canada is closed and may open back up in January if all goes well.
Have friends in Canada hoping it will be opened by early next year.
In Arizona we don't winterize our rigs...lol
In Phoenix we may get a night or two at night when it will drop into the high 30's for a few hours.
Then the sun comes up and we are 70 degrees.
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Old 10-03-2020, 08:59 PM   #10
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Iggy

If it were just up to me I'd be in Arizona for a few months this winter. January through March are bleak months up here. I am pretty active and healthy - I look for opportunities to be out in the worst weather just to get the exercise. Would be a lot easier walking in the sunshine and sightseeing in Arizona.

I called an rv park in Mesa last week asking about reservations. RV Regal in Mesa, I guess it's one of many owned by the same company. I dont think $1300 / month plus electric and garbage is crazy for a get away.

Gotten to be friends with a rv salesman at my dealer who stays at the park and he and his wife get out of Dodge in November. Hes retired if you can call working in your 70s retired and I think he does deals while in Mesa. He loves what hes doing. Ex military and insurance executive turned Rv salesman.

I am too busy to work. Got my cousins Grand Design TT in the driveway for routine roof maintenance tomorrow if it clears up, then my own stuff to take of!

Chris
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Old 10-04-2020, 07:31 AM   #11
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Update

Thank you Iggy for the information.
Not sure what you mean by some of the stops seem out of order?

Here is the updated trip thus far, with reservations already made in parentheses:

4-nights -- Drive to Banff NP with stop at Theodore Roosevelt NP
5-nights -- Banff NP / Visit Ice Fields
3-nights -- Glacier NP (St. Mary KOA booked)
5-nights -- Yellowstone NP (Grizzly booked)
3-nights -- Grand Teton NP / Visit Jackson
1-night -- Devils tower
4-nights -- Rushmore/Custer/Wind Cave (Big Pine booked)
2-nights -- Badlands NP
3-nights -- Drive Home to Rochester, NY

Here is my next big question...I guess the Sturgis Bike Rally is later in August than usual (or than I thought). The dates I have booked at Big Pine Campground are August 12-17 (I added a night in case we don't spend a night at Devils Tower). The bike rally in 2021 is Aug 6-15.

Do you recommend I avoid the Black Hills those dates and change my trip all around? Or, do you feel the sites we will be going to (Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer SP, Wind Cave NP) won't be too impacted?

I've read to avoid the entire area when at all possible. We don't mind seeing the bikes etc...what we worry about is if the traffic congestion and sight seeing congestion being heavily impacted.

With this new revelation, I routed a different trip, but I'm not too certain we want to miss Banff. It would put the Black Hills prior to our existing Glacier and Yellowstone reservations.

Badlands
Custer/Wind Cave/Rushmore/Devils
Theodore Roosevelt
Glacier
Yellowstone
Teton
Salt Lake City (visit friend)
Dinosaur Monument
Rocky Mountain NP
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Old 10-04-2020, 09:58 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mekkerlc View Post
Thank you Iggy for the information.
Not sure what you mean by some of the stops seem out of order?

Here is the updated trip thus far, with reservations already made in parentheses:

4-nights -- Drive to Banff NP with stop at Theodore Roosevelt NP
5-nights -- Banff NP / Visit Ice Fields
3-nights -- Glacier NP (St. Mary KOA booked)
5-nights -- Yellowstone NP (Grizzly booked)
3-nights -- Grand Teton NP / Visit Jackson
1-night -- Devils tower
4-nights -- Rushmore/Custer/Wind Cave (Big Pine booked)
2-nights -- Badlands NP
3-nights -- Drive Home to Rochester, NY

Here is my next big question...I guess the Sturgis Bike Rally is later in August than usual (or than I thought). The dates I have booked at Big Pine Campground are August 12-17 (I added a night in case we don't spend a night at Devils Tower). The bike rally in 2021 is Aug 6-15.

Do you recommend I avoid the Black Hills those dates and change my trip all around? Or, do you feel the sites we will be going to (Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer SP, Wind Cave NP) won't be too impacted?

I've read to avoid the entire area when at all possible. We don't mind seeing the bikes etc...what we worry about is if the traffic congestion and sight seeing congestion being heavily impacted.

With this new revelation, I routed a different trip, but I'm not too certain we want to miss Banff. It would put the Black Hills prior to our existing Glacier and Yellowstone reservations.

Badlands
Custer/Wind Cave/Rushmore/Devils
Theodore Roosevelt
Glacier
Yellowstone
Teton
Salt Lake City (visit friend)
Dinosaur Monument
Rocky Mountain NP

Anything within a week of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally anyplace in that area is going to have you subject to the sight and sounds of lots of motorcycles. If you donít care for the sound of loud engines, just reverse your original trip and you should be out of the black hills before the motorcycles arrive.
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Old 10-07-2020, 07:11 AM   #13
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Since your original post asked for advice, here goes...
Chop at least half of those destinations, stay a little longer in each one. As it is, each stop will leave about enough time to jump out at an overlook, take a few pictures, then jump back in and go. Hardly worth driving all that way.
Each place on your list would be a one or two week trip all by itself.
When you get home, I guarantee you won't say to yourself, "I wish we hadn't stayed that extra day in (fill in the blank)". Each place has so much to see and do, you won't even scratch the surface.
I get that everyone vacations differently, but just the stress of packing up at each stop and rushing to the next would cause a family mutiny (in my house, anyway).
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Old 10-17-2020, 09:45 PM   #14
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Some suggestions from personal experience:

First, avoid the Black Hills during August. I had to work in the Deadwood-Lead area during the Sturgis Rally. Solid rows of Harleys parked along every street in Deadwood (it has casinos). Lines of Harleys on every highway between Rapid City and Deadwood. "Harley jams" on the main streets of Rapid because the Harley dealer there introduces all the new year's models during the Rally.

Second, Yellowstone is too big, has too many people trying to get through the gate every morning, and too much traffic traveling at the 45 mph speed limit to see the whole park from West Yellowstone. I know because I had to work in Yellowstone and stayed in West Yellowstone during the job. My commute was much less stressful after I moved to Canyon Village in the center of the park. I suggest reserving one non-hookup campground (Canyon or Madison) and one with hookups (Fishing Bridge), then move after 2-3 days at each. You will be close to Yellowstone Falls and Hayden Valley at Canyon and Old Faithful and Yellowstone Lake at Fishing Bridge (or Grant Village if you don't need hookups).

Third, on your way from Yellowstone to Teton, spend a night at Colter Bay on Jackson Lake. Glorious photo op of sunrise on the Tetons with the lake in the foreground and possible early morning chance of seeing a cow moose and calf wading in the shallows (we did!). And a choice of no hookup campground or hookup RV park reservations at Colter Bay.

Fourth, Devil's Tower NM is a tiny park. You won't need more than a half day there, unless you plan to climb it (just kidding, climbing is generally off-limits). If you stay in Casper or Sheridan on your way from Teton to rhe Black Hills, you can see it and still get to Rapid by dark. BTW, Casper has a wonderful Oregon Trail museum, well worth a few hours of your time. It is the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center.
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