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SenseCheck: Vegas, Craters, Yellowstone,Rushmore, Mon Valley

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SenseCheck: Vegas, Craters, Yellowstone,Rushmore, Mon Valley

Looking for some opinions on our next US Road Trip. This is our 9th trip so are not newbies to driving long distances in the US. Initial Idea: Fly to Las Vegas. 4/5 days there (last time was '96 and to quick) - then head off North - Salt Lake, Craters of The Moon, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Monument Valley and back to Vegas. Just me and the wife. Arriving 3rd week of April for between 21 and 28 days depending on advice here. Covering 2500-3000 mile 'loops' is no issue. As British I have only listed the major sights we want to see that we are aware of. Having read loads of posts here I know it is a great source for 'must see' places, timings, weather warnings.

So..... Is it feasible ? What's worth more time (Rushmore is a one day view?) Should we travel anti clockwise to get to Yellowstone in mid May (better weather) ?

Big Thanks in Advance.

26 replies to this topic
Houston, Texas
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1. Re: SenseCheck: Vegas, Craters, Yellowstone,Rushmore, Mon Valley

For Yellowstone it is very early. Depending on the dates you get there most facilities and some roads will be closed. Roads won't fully open until the last weekend in May. Yellowstone in may can have nice weather (cool) but can also have full blizzard conditions. It's the luck of the draw at those high elevations. Most of the "low lying" areas where the roads and most tourist attractions are are between 6000' and 8000'. At the very least expect below freezing every or nearly every morning.

Yellowstone opening/closing dates.

https:/…hours.htm

Yellowstone Roads

https:/…parkroads.htm

Mt. Rushmore in itself is small, a few hours are needed. However in the area, Black Hills, Wind Cave NP, Badlands, NP. Also in between there and Yellowstone there is Devil's Tower and Little Big Horn Battlefield.

A month later would be better.

Salt Lake City, Utah
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2. Re: SenseCheck: Vegas, Craters, Yellowstone,Rushmore, Mon Valley

Even late April is very early for Yellowstone. Depending on snow pack, much will still be under snow. They will still.be clearing the roads of snow. Access will be limited.

There's a lot to see in Utah between Las Vegas - Yellowstone - Mt. Rushmore - Monument Valley and Las Vegas. You'll be driving right by 5 national parks. Hope you are allowing time to see them. You'll need at least 10 days to include those parks.

Then, there's the Grand Canyon between Monument Valley and Las Vegas that deserves at least one night.

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3. Re: SenseCheck: Vegas, Craters, Yellowstone,Rushmore, Mon Valley

Thanks Ystoner and Connie B. I was worried about being to early and encountering closures or worse still snow storms.

SO AN UPDATE - NEW DATES - Arrive June 5th for 21 - 28 days. Will that avoid worst weather ?

And Connie. Yours is the sort of insight I need. What are the 5 parks you mention because we can certainly factor in 10 days to focus on them. We don't walk or hike as over 65's. But love driving through beautiful landscapes. Las Vegas we are allocating 4 days. And we have been to Grand Canyon before.

Oh - must add - we try to keep off Interstate Highways. We are cruisers.

Edited: 14 October 2017, 17:48
Houston, Texas
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4. Re: SenseCheck: Vegas, Craters, Yellowstone,Rushmore, Mon Valley

June is a much better time frame. In the desert SW summer comes early but in the mountains it comes late.

Utah National Parks

https://www.nps.gov/state/ut/index.htm

Other possibilities Mesa Verde Np, Antelope Canyon (search for images), Rocky Mountain Np

Madison, WI
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5. Re: SenseCheck: Vegas, Craters, Yellowstone,Rushmore, Mon Valley

I see no mention of Grand Teton National Park which is literally next door to Yellowstone to the south. So worth a stop. Also, I'm a non-interstate kind of guy and can recommend US-212 which you would pickup west of Rushmore in Belle Fourche, SD. It runs right by Little Bighorn Battlefield (highly recommend), through Billings (as I-90/US-212), and then breaks off at Laurel (exit 434) just west of Billings. It then continues into Red Lodge, MT and goes over Beartooth Pass...(highly recommend)...the pass is scheduled to open on 5/25/18 subject to weather. So, another reason to wait a bit longer. Check out video for a great early season ride.

https://www.youtube.com/watch…

Edited: 14 October 2017, 18:08
Santa Fe, New Mexico
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6. Re: SenseCheck: Vegas, Craters, Yellowstone,Rushmore, Mon Valley

If Las vegas is to be the "start' consider driving the (somewhat remote) 93 to Ely, NV & Great Basin NP. Continuing on the 93 to Twin Falls, Idaho & Craters Of the Moon, NM. The 33 to the 20 at Rexburg. Will take you to a overnight at W. Yellowstone & Parks entrance... Most all thermal features should be accessible. Leave the Park(s) on the 191 South to Moab, UT. Enjoying the (hot during the day) Parks there ... Turn off the 191 At Bluff, to the 163 into M. VY. ... Happy trails ... carracar

Edited: 14 October 2017, 18:20
Fremont, California
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7. Re: SenseCheck: Vegas, Craters, Yellowstone,Rushmore, Mon Valley

Mount Rushmore is more of a lesser site in the Black Hill area to see. We like the night program (ceremony, music, night lighting) whihc takes about two hours.

There is far more to see in the area.

Custer State Park is amazing to see with three major loop roads. Its also a good place to stay.

blackhillsbadlands.com/parks-monuments/custe…

its more on the level of a national park.

There is Wind Caves National Park just south of Custer State Park.

The Black Hills has Crazy Horse, Mammoth Museum (when mammoths used to roam the western US), wild horse sanctuary, and fun activities like the KOA Chuck Wagon Meal.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Revie…

90 minutes east of The Black Hills area is Badlands National Park.

https://www.nps.gov/badl/index.htm

On the way to Mount Rushmore, moer things around the area are

1., Devils Tower

https://www.nps.gov/deto/index.htm

2. Deadwood

https://www.deadwood.com/

3. Spearfish Canyon

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Revie…

For more on the Black Hills see

http://www.blackhillsbadlands.com/

If you want to just see Mt. Rushmore it takes a couple of hours. but there is so much more to see in this area that can easily cover 3 to 5 days. If interested in more, be sure to ask on the South Dakota Forum.

If you need a round trip back to Las Vegas, from Mt. Rushmore, you can drive to see Rocky Mountain National Park, then drive to Glenwood Springs

http://www.visitglenwood.com/

and then to Grand Junction, Moab, Monument Valley, Zion, Bryce You may also want to see Nevada's first state park Valley of Fire and drive the north shore of Lake Mead National Recreation area on your way back to Las Vegas.

For your drive north Las Vegas to Great Basin National Park is a nice start towards your drive to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. Great Basin has a good cave tour (Lehman Caves). If you go that route its good to make a reservation in advance.

https:/…lehman-caves-tours.htm

Its about a 5 hour drive from Las Vegas.

At Arco, where Craters of the Moon is, also you might want to see the free Atomic Museum.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Revie…

So a route I would suggest is:

Las Vegas - Great Basin National Park - Arco, Idaho (perhaps an interim stop at Elko to see Lamoille Canyon)

https:/…lamoille-canyon

as well as the free Trails Museum eight miles west of Elko

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Revie…

Then on to Idaho Falls, Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park, perhaps drive from Jackson to Casper.

Casper is a good interim stop between that and the Black Hiils. You can see Devil's Tower, Spearfish Canyon, and then a night in Deadwood.

From Deadwood to Black Hills/Badlands National Park and then route south to Denver to Grand Junction and the desert parks and then back to Las Vegas.

Do make your reservations far in advance for the national Parks and Custer State Park.

Just some ideas...but did want to share on these items.

Enjoy planning your trip.

Salt Lake City, Utah
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8. Re: SenseCheck: Vegas, Craters, Yellowstone,Rushmore, Mon Valley

National parks in Utah...heading north from Las Vegas are Zion (2 nights), Bryce Canyon (1 night), Capitol Reef (1 or 2 night). Heading south from YNP to Monument Valley are Arches and Canyonlands near the town of Moab UT. 3 nights in Moab is recommended.

Wednesbury, UK
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9. Re: SenseCheck: Vegas, Craters, Yellowstone,Rushmore, Mon Valley

Hi.

Mini has picked up some of the Colorado locations I was going to suggest ( although there are alternatives to Glenwood Springs like dropping down to US50, Black Canyon, then back to Grand Junction, and Ut128 to Moab).

Whatever you decide, you will always end up with too many places you'd like to see, not enough time. Good thing about a June trip is, in theory, all the scenic mountain routes ( Beartooth, Trail Ridge Road) should be open.

Atlanta, Georgia
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10. Re: SenseCheck: Vegas, Craters, Yellowstone,Rushmore, Mon Valley

Great ideas and so much to see!

Yes June is better and staying in park in Yellowstone is better to cut down on drive times.

Craters of the Moon?? Not impressed but hope you will be.

Other national parks like Mighty 5 in Utah and RMNP are much more impressive imo.

Edited: 17 October 2017, 20:49
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