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Old 08-16-2010, 03:23 PM   #1
Where should we go next!
 
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Need Advise on Trip Out West

Hello, we are planning a trip from Chicago straight to Glacier National Park (GNP), then to Yellowstone, then to Grand Tetons, then Badlands/Mt Rushmore in mid June of 2011. We are pulling a 31' Surveyor SV291 with our 2001 GMC Explorer van. (5.7, 3.73 Gear, and aux trans cooler, Equalizer 10,000 lb WD/sway control- pulls like the camper's not even there. But then again, this thread is NOT about the vehicle I'm driving - its about the route - thank you.) Now we have pulled through the mountains out east and have encountered some pretty challenging inclines and curves with no problem. But would like to avoid that really suddenly steep, twisting climbing if possible. What would the best routes be for these destinations? And are we missing any other majestic sites along the way that are not too far off our planned path? We stay at KOA's and have read that the West Glacier KOA is nicer than the St. Mary's KOA - any opinions on that? Any feedback on any other KOA's along the way - there seem to be a cluster of them in each area. We plan on doing this over a three week period, starting in mid-June.

Thank you!
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Old 08-16-2010, 07:05 PM   #2
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Need more info on your route. Which highways...specifically are you thinking about? The only KOA's we've stayed at in Montana were on I-94, and some in Northern Wyoming.

I've been through every entrance to Yellowstone and Teton.
Wow...what a great trip you are about to embark on!
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Old 08-16-2010, 07:54 PM   #3
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I have done that, only the other way around, ending up in Chicago. You should have no trouble as long as you stay off dirt road switchbacks. I was just in Yellowstone/Tetons, then RMNP last fall. No unusual driving at all.
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Old 08-18-2010, 12:48 AM   #4
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Thanks for the info, I feel it would be better to just do the hotel thing on the way out there instead of trying to match up miles with KOAs. The KOAs tend to dry up alittle as you get west of the twin cities on I-94. Lots of planning to do.
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Old 08-18-2010, 01:10 PM   #5
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Chicago to Yellowstone is I-90 to Sheridan. Then 14 West through Cody. There will be some climbs. Unavoidable if you are going to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone to Glacier. 89 North to I-90. I-90 West to 287. 287 North to Helena. I-15 North to Wolf Creek area. 287 north to 89. 89 north to 2. 2 West to East glacier. Lots of rollers; no bad climbs that I remember. Depending on when you go, it can be very hot and is almost always very windy.

Glacier to Chicago. U.S. 2 to I-15 South to Great Falls. 87/200 East to Glendive. I-94 on to Chi.

Lots of KOAs along the way as well as Mom & Pop places. I wouldn't over think or over-plan.

When in Glacier, do yourself a favor and camp in Many Glacier campground. I have never been to a more beautiful place. And there are numerous trailheads that originate there for hiking.
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Old 08-18-2010, 01:22 PM   #6
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If you want majestic, go back out the East entrance of Yellowstone and back over to Cody. Go North on 120 and then North on 296; Chief Joseph Hwy. Take 212 to near Cooke City. There is a great national forest service campground there called Soda Butte. From there you could take a day trip (leave your trailer) and take 212 East to Red Lodge. TV only!! You will never regret seeing this. Absolutely AWESOME.

The go West on 212 (assuming moving on to Glacier) back thru NE entrance of Yellowstone to 89. Then use the route I noted previously to get to Glacier.

We've made this trip numerous times. IMO, these are the best and most interesting routes. The scenic routes do have their steep climbs however.
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Old 08-18-2010, 01:27 PM   #7
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OK, at the risk of over-communicating and over-staying my welcome, be darn careful towing. In and around Yellowstone, there are some places that you DO NOT want to drop a wheel off of the roadway. Absolutely no shoulder to the road and oblivion waiting over the edge. Not saying this to scare or dis-sway you from the trip, but it is a time for serious attention to driving out there. Be careful and attentive. Have fun! This is an AWESOME trip. As I said, we've done it several times and will do it again. It is that good.
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Old 08-18-2010, 02:00 PM   #8
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Cody WY See the Cody Museum. Devil Tower is another nice stop with a KOA at the enrence. The East entrance into Yellowstone is a lone uphill climb. KOA in West Glacier is nice but about $57 a night. In Glacier take the Red Bus Tour (you don't have to drive the road to the sun). Part of this trip I took this year, Yellowstone and The Tetons was last year. Its a good trip.
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Old 08-18-2010, 02:13 PM   #9
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Chicago to Yellowstone is I-90 to Sheridan. Then 14 West through Cody. There will be some climbs. Unavoidable if you are going to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone to Glacier. 89 North to I-90. I-90 West to 287. 287 North to Helena. I-15 North to Wolf Creek area. 287 north to 89. 89 north to 2. 2 West to East glacier. Lots of rollers; no bad climbs that I remember. Depending on when you go, it can be very hot and is almost always very windy.

Glacier to Chicago. U.S. 2 to I-15 South to Great Falls. 87/200 East to Glendive. I-94 on to Chi.

Lots of KOAs along the way as well as Mom & Pop places. I wouldn't over think or over-plan.

When in Glacier, do yourself a favor and camp in Many Glacier campground. I have never been to a more beautiful place. And there are numerous trailheads that originate there for hiking.
This is exactly the route I would suggest with a potential other route home by taking US 2 all the way across to Minnesota. Flat, straight, and no one around which can be a little bit disconcerting also. Great interesting side trip is Fort Union at the Montana/North Dakota border. Also you might want to take the trip from the south first because the Going to the Sun highway may not be open until late in June in Glacier.
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Old 08-18-2010, 05:03 PM   #10
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A visit to Deadwood, SD will give you a real flavor of the old wild West. Just south of I-90 - not far from Mt. Rushmore.
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Old 08-18-2010, 06:43 PM   #11
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For Mt Rushmore area, DEFINITELY look into Custer State Park near Custer, SD. It is a fabulous park with great facilities for all levels.

The Badlands are more interesting than most expect so I would recommend allowing at least one full day. The Badlands are at most a 2-hr drive from Custer State Park so you could find a CG then explore all day and spend the night. The Badlands Park has typical Nat'l Park level CGs and I would recommend them over anything you can find at Wall, SD, which seems to cater to one-nighters. You will be pretty crowded. Though the town of Wall is a tourist trap, the famous Wall Drugstore might be worth a few hours of your time (it's more like a mall than a drugstore).

If you have enough time, a side trip to the Wounded Knee Memorial is just south of the Badlands.

Some other points-of-interest:
Lewis and Clark Caverns near Cardwell, MT, off I-90.
The Little Big Horn/Custer Battlefield, Crow Agency, MT, also right off I-90.
Ft Laramie National Historic Park, WY (very nicely reconstructed frontier fort southwest of the Black Hills area.)

If you want to head a bit south and take I-80 back to Chicago, there are several interesting sites in Nebraska along the old Oregon trail and the Air and Space Museum near Omaha, site of the old Strategic Air Command (of which I was once a member).

Now there's some stuff to help your planning!
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Old 08-18-2010, 07:13 PM   #12
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Comment on East Vs West when it comes to Glacier National Park. There is more to do on the East side of the park: hike to the glacier, boating on the lakes, etc. Can not comment on the KOAs there as we stayed in the Park. East side of the park is much less commercial too.
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Old 08-19-2010, 11:53 AM   #13
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Thanks so much for all this great feedback! Much to think about. Didn't really consider going in backwards (from what we planned). Ending in Glacier instead of starting there. Is the Big Horn Battlefield worth checking out?

Happy Trails!
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Old 08-19-2010, 12:59 PM   #14
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Is the Big Horn Battlefield worth checking out?
If you are "into" history at all then don't miss it. The best part for me (been there twice) is that the area still looks almost exactly as it did in 1876. So you can feel the remoteness the soldiers must have felt and how isolated they were. They were on their own and once out-numbered as they were there was no hope of escape or relief.
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Old 08-19-2010, 03:18 PM   #15
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Another tip. You won't get anything large across the Road to the Sun. Not allowed. We had to fold in the mirrors on our F150 to keep them from hitting the mirrors of oncoming trucks; in places. Do Glacier last. We were there in mid July and some trails were still closed.
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Old 08-19-2010, 05:54 PM   #16
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Is the Big Horn Battlefield worth checking out?
The last time I was there I walked the trail out through the battlefield. Along the path are markers where soldiers and indians alike fell in battle. There were very few people there and the wind was blowing gently through the prairie grass causing that distinctive yet erie sound. It's a moment I won't forget. The idea that so many died here for no reason. Sad.

As Willis said, if you are a history buff then it's a great place to see. I haven't been there in years so I don't know if it has remained the same or not but I do hope to visit again.
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Old 08-27-2010, 09:29 PM   #17
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Looks like we are definitely taking the red bus and fitting in a few more stops along the way. Also going to end in Glacier as opposed to the other way around. You all have been great. We are having fun just planning it all out. Thanks.
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Old 08-27-2010, 10:04 PM   #18
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June of 2011..?!? Leave NOW..!! Just thinking about this area gives me goose bumps. Been to just about all the places mentioned and can't wait to do it again. If you go through the Big Horn Mountain range near Cody you will see some 10 per cent grades there. So much to see around Rapid City. Custer Park, The Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road, on this road(I believe it's this one) when you drive through tunnels made in the mountain, you will be viewing Mount Rushmore, miles away, "picture framed" by the other end of the tunnel opening, really neat. No words can describe Yellowstone with justice. Planning this far ahead is VERY smart.
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Old 08-28-2010, 01:40 PM   #19
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Can not wait. Much to think about. Probably a bigger camera card for starters!
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Old 09-04-2010, 10:14 PM   #20
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Don't limit yourself to KOAs. There are a lot of RV parks throughout the area of your travels that offer as good or even better RV sites than KOA. Some at a substantial cost delta, especially if you only need a place to stop for the night.

If you are going via Cody, Wy to I90 be careful on either US 14, US14a, or US16. All are great drives but they need to be approached with caution. They are nothing you can not do but you need to pay attention and don't get in a hurry. Some of the grades are steep.

I just stayed in the KOA in Missoula. It is a nice place, big but tight and crowded. Unfortunately There is not much competition in Missoula. I am currently in Kalispell staying in the Spruce Park on the river. It is right on the Flathead river. The spaces are a little close but it is a nice park and the price is right. Check it out online.

If you go through the Casper area and can do a little dry camping the county has some of the best rv sites I have seen for $7.00 a night. They are along the North Platte river on Highway 220. There is also a KOA on the north side of town.

Enjoy your trip. I hope you have as much or more enjoyment than I do out here.

If I could only get the wife to move out here I would be in heaven.
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