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Road Trip from Denver, CO to Mt. Rushmore/Yellowstone NP

Sydney, Australia
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Road Trip from Denver, CO to Mt. Rushmore/Yellowstone NP

Hi. My wife and I are planning a trip around May 2013, flying from Sydney, Australia to Denver CO. After spending a couple of days in and around Denver, we want to drive from there to Mt. Rushmore and Chief Crazy Horse, etc and afterwards to places like Little Big Horn, Cody, Yellowstone NP, Jackson Hole and anywhere in between that you think we should see. We would be very interested in hearing from folk who have done a similar trip, where we should not go, what we should be wearing (I am aware that this will be in the spring but also that the trip we be mostly in "mountain country". We are not sure whether there will still be snowfall and if we need to hire snow chains? We are anticipating a three or four week trip, at this stage. Would appreciate any advice/assistance in the planning of this trip and I thank you in advance.

Regards

John

Wednesbury, UK
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1. Re: Road Trip from Denver, CO to Mt. Rushmore/Yellowstone NP

Hi John R.

That's agreat trip and the time you have will let you maximise your visit, and dependant when you arrive in May, time your Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain NP visits for when the main routes (including Trail Ridge Road) usually open. Maybe even the Beartooth Hwy if its a late May arrival.

We sort of did this trip in 2011, althopugh over 2 weeks ( all return visits so we selective in whjat we did), and we started and finished in LV. AS your aware, lots more to see in the Black Hills area than just Mt. Rushmore, such as Badlands, Custer State Park, Needles Hwy, Devils Tower, Minuteman Missile site, Wall Drug ( if you like that kind of thing!), Deadwood etc.

ASfor Yellowstone and GTNP, the DEs on the Wyoming forum usually recommend a 4 and 2 day split for that and you have the time, perhaps even to fit in some other Colorado (or Northen/Central Utah sites if its four weeks?).

If its 3 weeks, then a week from Denver to Black Hills and Cody, week for Yellowstone and GTNP and a week heading back through Southern Wyoming, or northern/central Colorado to include RMNP.

Clothes, suggest you pack for layers including waterproof jackets, walking boots if you have them and fleeces. We have been roasted in Yellowstone in May (2007) and frost bitten (2008).

Snow. We almost always come across snow in May in that part of the world (last year was exceptional in terms of how much was still around) but have yet to need snow chains, althoiugh we have re-routed due to closures ( I-70 was affected for a half day last year and we could not drive the San juan Skyway in Colorado). The NPS usually close park roads if its that bad. The other point being the general consensus here is rental companies will not allow cahins on renatl vehicles, although I have found info suggesting some will and there is conflicting views on the Yosemite forum (comes up a lot there). I would say if you need chains, wait or go another route! Maybe rent an SUV with AWD or 4WD,(as we do) although neither will help in slick icy conditions as much as good driving skills.

I'll post you a link to our trip blog from last year, might give you a few ideas : ),

www.westmidstraveller.com/USA_2011_TR.html

Edited: 27 June 2012, 08:20
Uden, The...
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2. Re: Road Trip from Denver, CO to Mt. Rushmore/Yellowstone NP

With 3-4 weeks you easily can do a roundtrip Denver-Black Hills.Badland NP SD-Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP and also add Moab with Canyonlands and Arches NP's and finish with Rocky Mountains NP near Denver. That's magnificent trip.

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3. Re: Road Trip from Denver, CO to Mt. Rushmore/Yellowstone NP

Gosh, 2 or 3 weeks... I'm doing all that in a couple of days! Arriving in Denver and staying overnight, driving to Mount Rushmore the next day and staying one night in Rapid City, going to Yellowstone the next day and staying the next night in Cody, seeing more of Yellowstone and staying the next night in Gardiner, then the next night in Jackson Hole. I have a feeling it's going to feel very rushed...

what's the weather likely to be in early September in those places?

Wednesbury, UK
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4. Re: Road Trip from Denver, CO to Mt. Rushmore/Yellowstone NP

Hi Smileycat16.

''I have a feeling it's going to feel very rushed...'' ................so do I!

Anyway, the weather usually is good in Sptember, could be great (like last year). Can't rule out cool frosty nights but probably no snow (although we have experienced pretty heavy snow later in that month).

Uden, The...
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5. Re: Road Trip from Denver, CO to Mt. Rushmore/Yellowstone NP

And that's only part of the trip Smiley is going to make. They also are adding SLC, MV, Sedona, Tombstone and NM in a 2 weeks trip....... Are you flying back from Denver again Smiley?

Wednesbury, UK
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6. Re: Road Trip from Denver, CO to Mt. Rushmore/Yellowstone NP

Tet,..............yes seen it on the GCNP forum, looks like the mad dash trips me and the DW first made to the US.

I've pm'd Smiley to suggest she posts a separate thread, to see if we can help with any added value, tweaks etc?

Edited: 27 June 2012, 10:05
Carshalton, United...
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7. Re: Road Trip from Denver, CO to Mt. Rushmore/Yellowstone NP

Yes, I'll start a separate thread - thanks

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8. Re: Road Trip from Denver, CO to Mt. Rushmore/Yellowstone NP

We've done the exact trip in the last couple of years- flying in and out of Denver from Atlanta.

Here are my suggestions-

Best times to come- if want to see wildlife babies but could encounter snow- early to mid-June or if want less crowds then first of September.

This is a rough estimate of days needed for the trip-

Day 1- fly into Denver

Day 2- visit Rocky Mt. NP- stay in Estes Park, CO

Day 3- visit Rocky Mt. NP

Day 4- drive to South Dakota

Day 5-Day 7- tour Black Hills of SD- Badlands NP, Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer SP- stay in Keystone, SD

Go online or order a travel guide at-

www.travelsd.com

Day 8- drive thru Spearfish Canyon, visit Deadwood and head to Devils Tower- stay in Sundance, WY

Day 9- Battle of Little Bighorn- drive to Cody, WY

Day 10- Cody, WY- museums and rodeo

Day 11- Day 15- tour Yellowstone NP- if want to stay in the park then contact Xanterra for lodging- divide time this way- 2 days at OFI and the other days at either Canyon or Lake area- if out of the park then we like West Yellowstone, MT

Here is a link to the must sees for the park-

http://yellowstone.net/intro/top-10/

Day 16- Day 18- Grand Tetons NP- can stay in the park on in Jackson Hole, WY- do a scenic float trip on Snake River for awesome scenery and wildlife viewing

Day 19- drive part of the way back to Denver

Day 20- continue drive back to Denver

Day 21- fly home

Also check out the NPS websites for info for all the national parks.

If you want specific hotel recommendations, trip ideas or have other questions please let us know.

Enjoy your trip planning!

Boston...
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9. Re: Road Trip from Denver, CO to Mt. Rushmore/Yellowstone NP

Just to add to Peachbelle's suggestion -

Instead of staying in Estes Park for 2 nights to see Rocky Mountain NP, you could start the road trip by driving from Denver to Grand Lake and enter the Rocky Mountain NP from Grand Lake. This would allow you to drive the entire stretch of RMNP from Grand Lake to Estes Park and end the second day in Estes Park.

Hampshire, UK
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10. Re: Road Trip from Denver, CO to Mt. Rushmore/Yellowstone NP

We did a similar trip in 2010 - here is our itinerary and things we planned to do, most of which we did (and more). I never did get round to doing a Trip report, so I can only supply the Pre-Trip-Plan! It may be useful, it's a fantastic trip.

25th August 2010

London Heathrow to DENVER - Country Inn and Suites at Denver Intl Airport

http://www.countryinns.com/denverco

26th August – 31st August

CUSTER - stay here (can't recommend where we stayed)

Trips / Hikes planned

http://www.nps.gov/wica/index.htm Wind Cave National Park

http://www.nps.gov/jeca/index.htm Jewel Cave National Park

http://www.nps.gov/moru/index.htm Mount Rushmore

…sd.gov/state-parks/…default.aspx Custer State Park

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crazy_Horse_Memorial Crazy Horse Memorial

Visit on way to Buffalo

http://www.deadwood.org/ Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickok died & Calamity Jane

http://www.spearfish.com/canyon/ Scenic drive

http://www.nps.gov/deto/index.htm hike round Devil’s Tower

31st August

BUFFALO WYOMING

Hampton Inn & Suites Buffalo

…hilton.com/en/hp/hotels/index.jhtml…

Eat here occidentalwyoming.com/…20restaurant.

10 N. Main St., Buffalo, WY, 82834-1815. Johnson County,

Visit on way to Red Lodge

http://www.bbhc.org/home/ Buffalo Bill Historical Centre, Cody

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cody,_Wyoming Cody

1ST September

RED LODGE, MONTANA

Yodeler Motel http://www.yodelermotel.com/

On way to Yellowstone

Drive the stunning scenic byway – Beartooth Highway byways.org/explore/byways/2281/Beartooth_Hig…

http://www.google.co.uk/images?q=beartooth+highway&hl=en&rlz=1T4ACPW_enGB341GB341&prmd=ivm&source=lnms&tbs=isch:1&ei=zk5sTPriA5m8jAeDrqnsAQ&sa=X&oi=mode_link&ct=mode&ved=0CA4Q_AU&biw=987&bih=554

2nd September – 6th September

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

Canyon Lodge – Frontier Cabin

yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/canyon-lod…

Sights and hikes to be planned

nps.gov/yell/…areatripplanners.htm

http://www.google.co.uk/images?q=yellowstone+national+park&hl=en&rlz=1T4ACPW_enGB341GB341&prmd=nmi&source=lnms&tbs=isch:1&ei=R09sTM7VBd3c4wbbnOW7Ag&sa=X&oi=mode_link&ct=mode&ved=0CBwQ_AU&biw=987&bih=554

6th September

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

Old Faithful Inn

yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/old-faithf…

http://www.google.co.uk/images?hl=en&rlz=1T4ACPW_enGB341GB341&tbs=isch:1&&sa=X&ei=cU9sTJK7MsTKjAffgqChAg&ved=0CCIQvwUoAQ&q=yellowstone+national+park+old+faithful&spell=1&biw=987&bih=554

7th September

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, JACKSON WY

Stayed one night (can't recommend the place)

Hike Jenny Lake, maybe a raft trip up Snake river.

www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/hike.htm

On way to Lander – Sinks Canyon http://www.google.co.uk/images?rlz=1T4ACPW_enGB341GB341&q=sinks+canyon&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=IlBsTI-mBuON4gam0_jbAg&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=4&ved=0CDMQsAQwAw&biw=987&bih=554

Maybe the Bighorn Sheep Centre? http://www.bighorn.org/

8th September

LANDER, WYOMING

(can't recommend place here)

9th – 11th September

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK

Swiftcurrent Lodge

http://www.swiftcurrentlodge.com/

www.rmnp.com/RMNP-Areas-TrailRidge.HTML Trailridge Road Drive – very scenic

http://www.rockymtnrefl.com/Sample.htm Visit, walk Bear Lake & Sprague Lake

www.rocky.mountain.national-park.com/hike.htm

11th September

Denver International – Heathrow Terminal 5