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Driving From Chicago to Yellowstone

Surburban Chicago
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Driving From Chicago to Yellowstone

I am planning a two week trip from Chicago to Yellowstone.Was thinking of going right after Labor Day 2010 to maybe avoid some of the crowds.Is this too late in the season to go?I am also planning to check out some of the sites around the Black Hills area and enter Grand Tetons first with about 4 days in Yellowstone.Probably staying in West Yellowstone and returning home via I94 back home.Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Surburban Chicago
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1. Re: Driving From Chicago to Yellowstone

Just as a side note I could also go mid to late August if that would be better,Just my wife and I are going,kids are grown.

Wyoming & Sanibel
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2. Re: Driving From Chicago to Yellowstone

Some years the time right after Labor Day is beautiful, warm and sunny; other times it can be snowy and cold. Facilities begin shutting down in Yellowstone right after Labor Day and continue until by mid-October, Yellowstone essentially closes until the winter snowcoach season.

If you are coming from the Black Hills area, it makes most sense to enter Yellowstone from Cody and the east entrance rather than dropping down to the Tetons and entering from that direction. It's a long days drive from the Black Hills and you would be adding quite a bit of time to that driving day. Say from Keystone SD to Cody WY is about 6 and a half hours driving and you would pass by Devils Tower, which is certainly worth a stop. If instead you drop down, drive through Casper and then on to Jackson WY, the drive is 9 and a half hours. Both drive time estimates are optimal times and could take longer if there is any road construction.

It is also highly recommended you stay in the park if at all possible -- it is quite a drive (2-3 hours) to West Yellowstone from many places in the park. Had a couple join a ranger talk/walk we were on at West Thumb once halfway through it (started at 10) because they had no idea it would take them almost 2 hours to drive from West Yellowstone that day.

Ohio
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3. Re: Driving From Chicago to Yellowstone

we just made the trip-- husband and I. We went a tick earlier than Labor Day just to be "safe" when it came to weather. Left Ohio on Aug 26th. Took 2 days to wander across to the Badlands. Spent 3 nights in Keystone visiting Rushmore, Custer State Park, Badlands, Minuteman Missile site and Crazy Horse. Stopped at Devils Tower for a hike on the way to Cody for the night. If you like museums and rodeos, Cody is likely a 2 night visit as opposed to the 1 we gave it. On to yellowstone thru the east entrance. Stayed 1 night in the Old Faithful area, 3 nights in the western cabins at Canyon to tour the rest of the park. Central location worked well. South to the Tetons (stayed at Colter Bay) for 2 nights. On to Estes Park (stopped at South Pass City and Independence Rock) via the Snowy Mtn range and an overnight stop at Laramie. 2 nights at Estes to visit RMNP. Then on home to Ohio. Weather was perfect-- cool nights, warm days--2 weeks later, weather was much colder, parts of RMNP and yellowstone closed because of snow.... My advice is to shoot for the tail end of Aug. Crowds were minimal. All kids are back in school. Weather is still nice. Later than that gets "iffy" on the weather.

Toronto, Canada
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for Algonquin Provincial Park
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4. Re: Driving From Chicago to Yellowstone

We went in mid september and had great weather, cool nights, good days for hiking, smaller crowds. However the weather I am told can get snowy.

The lack of people and kids was a real plus, no lineups, easy parking, trails are not busy. We were also able to get into lodging in the park even though we booked in early August. Although there are fewer services we did not really notice that being a problem, the ones that were open were never busy. Staying at least a day or two in the park helps decrease your driving time, especially if you want to do some dusk wildlife watching (Lamar Valley is great, but a long drive back to West Yellow at night).

Ohio
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5. Re: Driving From Chicago to Yellowstone

agreed-- stay in the park if possible. W yellowstone would be fine for the Old Faithful area, but all else is much easier to get to from the canyon area. Also, we had great luck seeing wildlife at Hayden Valley (just a couple of miles south of canyon) Even had several people see wolves there, just not us :) Much easier to get to than Lamar Valley.

Michigan
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6. Re: Driving From Chicago to Yellowstone

we spent the first 3 weeks of Sept in Glacier Ystone and Tetons. It was beautiful weather sunny and 80's, but all lodging within and around the parks were booked solid...Luckily we had reservations! We drove from SW Michigan and among our favorite (non-Glacier) parts of the trip were driving the Chief Joseph and the beartooth Highways, going to Deadwood, staying at the K3 ranch in Cody, and of course, the tetons are a must see! We went on a snake river float trip and horseback riding there.

If you love seeing huge elk with enormous racks fighting on your doorstep -stay at Mammoth while in Yellowstone. My husband is a hunter and he was like a little kid at Christmas..a friend of mine said she was on the same route as us in August and they camped in the snow...so the weather really is a crapshoot

chicago
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7. Re: Driving From Chicago to Yellowstone

Hi madtrvler -

I spend much time in the nothern rockies doing film and other actiivites and I give you some advice based on my experience.

First, my #1 rule is that if you have two weeks in Yellowstone, a trip to Glacier is a must. Two weeks is a long time. Glacier is the most scenic park in the lower 48 and only six hours north of the park. My recommendation would be(and it sounds like you may be camping):

1. Take I94 from Chicago to Glendive MT, then head north on Mt highway 200s , then north on 13 to U.S. 2. Take U.S. 2 to East Glacier. Spend two days at Two Medicine. Then, pack up camp and head for Many Glacier for two days.

2. Take the Rocky Mountain front drive down to Yellowstone (about six hours), then head south on 191(Belgrade, just west of Bozeman on I90)which tkaes you past Big Sky and intoWest Yellowstone. enter the park and camp at Norris - 4 days while exploring areas of the park.

3. Head south to Grand Teton National Park and camp at Colter Bay or Jenny Lake (tent only). 3 days.

4. Head back up to Yellowstone, exit the aprk at Sylvan Pass, then take highway 14 through Cody and the Bighorn Mountains. This will hook you up with i90 east in NE Wyoming. Take that home to Chicago.

I feel this itinierary will give you the most "wow" for your buck.

If you aren't up for Glaicer I would highly suggest exploring some of the national forests which border Yellowstone. The Gallatin is incredible.

Montana City...
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8. Re: Driving From Chicago to Yellowstone

Driving thru the badlands is a great trip. I recommend staying on I90 to Livingston and head south on 89, beautiful drive thru the Paradise Valley, then on to Gardiner(North Entrance to the Park) for a few days, try a vacation rental, much nicer than a hotel. Gardiner is quite and just a hop & skip to the park. We always visit Yellowstone in the Fall.....the animals are moving and the crowds are gone

Maybe end your trip in West Yellowstone.

Good luck!

9. Re: Driving From Chicago to Yellowstone

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