We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Wishlist - Mt Rushmore/Yellowstone/Grand Tetons 8 - 9 days

Birmingham, Alabama
Level Contributor
30 posts
6 reviews
Save Topic
Wishlist - Mt Rushmore/Yellowstone/Grand Tetons 8 - 9 days

Planning road trip from/return to Lincoln, NE, August 2011. First trip to area. Need suggestions re: time allocation, "most bang" for this brief time, and things to put on next trip itinerary. Budget-sensitive. Traveling with grad student daughter. No caves/casinos. Thanks.

Minnesota
Level Contributor
379 posts
7 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Wishlist - Mt Rushmore/Yellowstone/Grand Tetons 8 - 9 days

Well, it would be a long day of driving, but you could make it from Lincoln to Rapid City, SD, in one day. A more reasonable day would be to stop in Chadron, Neb, which is about two hours south of the Black Hills. Hill City or Custer, SD, would be a good place to stay in the Black Hills. Both are close to Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, and Custer State Park which are three of the main attractions. All could be visited in a day.

Given your time schedule, take US Highway 16 out of the Black Hills to Interstate 90 and on to Buffalo, Wyoming. From there you get off on US 16. You'll go over the Bighorn Mountains. Steep drive up, some very scenic areas on top, and then a long curving drive down. Stay on 16 to Worland and on to Cody, Wyoming. You could get to Yellowstone but lodging is more expensive there. Cody gives you the most options.

In Yellowstone, your most reasonable lodging is in West Yellowstone. From Cody you could get there in 4 hours. You would have a couple of days in Yellowstone. The visitor center in the Fishing Bridge area would be a good place to stop to get information and you would go right by it on the way to West Yellowstone. It's a vast park with a lot to see: Old Faithful, Yellowstone Falls, Hayden Valley, various thermal areas, etc.

After Yellowstone, it's only about 120 miles to Jackson, Wyoming. However, it's one of the most scenic drives in the US so it'll take several hours to take in the scenery. Grand Tetons, to me, is much different than Yellowstone. I find myself doing a lot more looking and picture taking in Grand Tetons whereas in Yellowstone I do more hiking. It can be experienced in a shorter amount of time than Yellowstone. If you do one thing in the Tetons, I'd strongly recommend the Cascade Canyon hike. You take a short boat ride to the trailhead. There is a short steeper climb and then you hike up this absolutely spectacular canyon between towering peaks. I do quite a bit of hiking and it doesn't get any better this hike for scenery.

From Jackson, Wyoming, I would head down US 191 to Rock Springs, Wyoming. The first part of this drive is very scenic. Rock Springs is your connection to Interstate 80 and you'll probably take two days to get back to Lincoln. There are other routes obviously, but if it's your first time, I think this would fit your plans pretty well.

Birmingham, Alabama
Level Contributor
30 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Wishlist - Mt Rushmore/Yellowstone/Grand Tetons 8 - 9 days

Thanks for your help with this ambitious trek.

Delavan, Illinois
Level Contributor
1,391 posts
69 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Wishlist - Mt Rushmore/Yellowstone/Grand Tetons 8 - 9 days

If going to Yellowstone, pay the money to stay at a hotel inside the park. The park is huge and travel times inside the park are twice what you would expect. Staying in Cody or some other place just outside the park is going to add travel time to any of your destinations.

Also, I cannot recommend strongly enough setting aside time for the Grand Tetons. In a trip that included 4 national parks (Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Grand Tetons), our time at the Tetons won approval of our group hands down. Indeed we cut a day off of Yellowstone to add it to our time at the Tetons but we had nearly 3 weeks for our trip.

In your case, minimum time at Yellowstone is still 3 nights and 2 full days, and at least 2 nights and a full day at the Tetons.

If budget is a major issue, then one could stay in Gardiner, MT which has a number of options and are not that far from Mammouth Hot Springs. But on the whole I didn't find that staying outside the park was really a significant savings.

At the Tetons you will be able to save money by staying in Jackson, but if you can get a resevation at Signal Mountain Lodge for one of their cabins I think you will find it worth it.

Birmingham, Alabama
Level Contributor
30 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Wishlist - Mt Rushmore/Yellowstone/Grand Tetons 8 - 9 days

Much appreciated.

Indy
Destination Expert
for Indianapolis
Level Contributor
529 posts
131 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Wishlist - Mt Rushmore/Yellowstone/Grand Tetons 8 - 9 days

I did a similar trip, with Glacier NP and Denver stuff included (two full weeks). Anyways, here is what we did:

Day 1: Arrived at Rapid City early evening. We checked into our hotel, went to dinner, and went and saw Mt. Rushmore at night. We didn't know about the "night program" or "lighting ceremony" and arrived as it ended. Most people who attended that quickly left and it was very peaceful after the crowd was gone. Looking at my photos, we only spent one hour.

Day 2: Drove to the east entry of Badlands NP. For the most part, BNP is a short road trip through some neat scenery. We stopped off at the visitor's center and a few pull-offs. Very, very short walks to over/outlooks. We spent about two hours in the park. When you exit Badlands you are essentially at Wall Drug. We spent about 90 mins. looking around at Wall Drug. I enjoyed visiting Badlands and Wall Drug and highly recommend seeing them if you have never been before.

Day 3: This was our time to visit Mt. Rushmore in the daylight. We spent 2.5 hours at Mt. Rushmore. There is a trail from the amphitheater to the base of the mountain. It isn't a bad hike/walk, and I highly recommend it. We also saw a short, 15 min. or so movie that talked about the history of Rushmore. After Rushmore, we ate lunch in Keystone and then drove through Custer St. Park. The drive through the park was about an hour. This included a five minute stop to get out and feed donkeys and another stop for a bathroom break. Both Rushmore and CSP are worth a visit. There is a ton more you can do at both: Range stuff at Rushmore, hikes in the park, etc.. After this area we headed to Deadwood. Mom and dad are casino fans. Deadwood was a cool little town with some history. Wife and I went to Spearfish as we aren't into smoky casinos. We didn't spend all that much time in either Deadwood or Spearfish. I would have liked to have seen more of Deadwood. I really only walked around one part of town.

Day 4: We left Rapid City and drove to Devil's Tower. There is a one mile hiking trail at the base of the tower. A very easy, nice hike. I highly recommend it. Actual time we spent at DT was about 90 mins. give or take.

At this point, we drove to Billings then to Glacier. Here you would continue to head west towards YNP/GTNP. You could check out Cody, WY...I hear they have things there. Also, think about checking out Medicine Wheel Nat'l. Historic Site. We weren't able to see this place given our destination to Glacier.

Yellowstone: After Glacier, we drove back to Yellowstone. We didn't drive the Beartooth Highway, which I hear is awesome in terms of scenery. Given we came from Glacier NP, we drove to W. Yellowstone. We decided we would make our base camp in W. Yellowstone. Lots of diehards will say "stay in the park." There are pros and cons with each. However, if you don't stay in the park, you do want to stay somewhere near one of the park entrances. W. Yellowstone is a perfect outside-the-park base camp in my opinion.

For the most part, there is a figure 8 road in Yellowstone. There is the north loop and the south loop. We did the north loop one day and the south loop the second day. No hiking, just walking along some boardwalks. We saw all the big name places: Mammoth Hot Springs, Petrified Tree, Old Faithful, the waterfall (one of them), etc.. I feel that we got enough for a first time trip. We spent about eight hours or so each day in the park. Don't worry about those who say "two days isn't enough!!" Two days is plenty for a first time trip. Yellowstone is huge. You could have weeks and still not see everything there is to do, participate in every ranger led activity, etc..

Your best bet is to decide what you want out of this trip. If you want to see this stuff, and still enjoy it, my times above will provide that. For a more "in-depth" vacation, you will need time. We saw plenty, we missed even more....there is only so much time. We also missed Grand Teton (Well, we drove through the north half heading back towards Denver). We took a day of rest while at W. Yellowstone and stayed in town and saw some things there. Bad move. Should have gotten up and drove to Jackson Hole, etc.. Oh well. Like I said before, most people have limited time.

Eight to nine days is plenty of time to hit S. Dakota and Yellowstone area stuff. I would check it all out, just like we did. If you decide you really love the Yellowstone area, you can always plan a future trip with the sole focus on Yellowstone. Good luck and have fun!

western WA
Level Contributor
8,997 posts
14 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Wishlist - Mt Rushmore/Yellowstone/Grand Tetons 8 - 9 days

You need to get on Xanterra and see if there are any rooms available anywhere inside or outside YNP.

Once you get rooms, you can discuss trajectories. The rooms are scarce, scarce, scarce.

Cody to West Yellowstone in 4 hours is a little on the short side. There are always moose jams, etc. You don't travel at highway speeds inside the park for much of the time.

Post on the Montana or Wyoming boards for much more detailed and experienced YNP / GTNP info. Post on South Dakota for the Black Hills.

I think you could get to Rapid in a day. Go interstate to Omaha, Sioux Falls and out. I have routinely driven from Rapid to Worthington, which is not that much less in distance.

Birmingham, Alabama
Level Contributor
30 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Wishlist - Mt Rushmore/Yellowstone/Grand Tetons 8 - 9 days

I thought this was not impossible... thanks for sharing your trip.

Delavan, Illinois
Level Contributor
1,391 posts
69 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Wishlist - Mt Rushmore/Yellowstone/Grand Tetons 8 - 9 days

"Cody to West Yellowstone in 4 hours is a little on the short side. There are always moose jams, etc. You don't travel at highway speeds inside the park for much of the time."

This cannot be emphasized enough. That's why I said travel times inside Yellowstone are about twice what you would allow for any other highway. If it isn't a moose, it will be a parade of bison crossing the road, or 300 cars pulled over hoping to get a glimpse of a wolf or bear at some 400 yards distance. And in truth, since this is what Yellowstone is all about -- the wildlife even more than the natural geologic features -- you too will want to be pulling over in those places. So, allow even more time than I suggest if you are going to do that. (Now with regard to elk and bison, enjoy but don't get so excited by your first elk or bison that you don't make some place you are headed; they are so common you'll be seeing them in your sleep after a couple of days.)

Also, invest in a good spotting scope and tripod or a outstanding pair of super-sized binoculars (10X50s will do if they are the best you can get, but are really too small) before you go. It will be the difference between saying you've been to Yellowstone, and remembering that you've been to Yellowstone.

9. Re: Wishlist - Mt Rushmore/Yellowstone/Grand Tetons 8 - 9 days

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 03 October 2012, 08:21