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Summer 2 week road trip: SF to Yellowstone/Mt Rushmore, seeking suggestions

winger

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So, after years of timesharing, we are considering possibly mixing it up a little and seeing if we can get a road trip planned for an upcoming summer (2013 & beyond).

We are a family of four, kids are now about 9 yrs young. We likely will be doing this journey in our minivan (rather than rent a car or RV).

We are seeking any advice, such as (but NOT only):
1) paths to take
2) things to see (like along the way)
3) shortfalls to be aware of
4) ways to minimize nightly accommodation costs (open to non-cash options such as private exchanges for timeshare stays)
5) additional end-destinations to Yellowstone and Rushmore
6) best times of day or summer to travel/do things
7) things to see and do at Yellowstone and Rushmore

I am sure there are many more things to consider, but this trip was just thought about last night!

Any and all suggestions are welcomed! Maybe some of you have already done a similar trip?
 

bccash63

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I would include the Tetons on my way from yellowstone to south dakota.dawn
 

rhonda

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Passepartout

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Some road-trip thoughts

Hmmm. Perhaps rather than allocating 2 weeks and trying to fit the maximum you can into it, figure how long those 9 y.o. will happily sit in a car then translate that into how many miles you want to cover on an average day. Sure, some days will be longer than others depending on activities/ roads/ pleasant stops/stays. Then get out a good map book- I like the Rand- McNally paper-bound ones. Write all over it. Get the kids involved with the planning. Leaving from the Bay area, which do they prefer, Tahoe, or Mammoth? There is a State park in N. Nevada where giant fish dinosaurs have been found. There are gold mines in N. Nevada, and dry lakes. Do you want to see N. Utah, see Dinosaur N.P. and get to YNP via the Tetons, or cut up to Idaho, see the Snake River canyon, Craters of The Moon, and go direct to Yellowstone that way? How long do you want to hang around YNP? Better get reservations soon. Do you want to get to the Badlands across Wyoming or Montana? Will you be camping or moteling it? Can you get short TS stays here and there? Plan to go East/North one direction, then a different route returning. There is just too much to see/experience to do justice in 2 weeks (imo).

No matter what you do or see, it will be an adventure that your family will always remember.

We live along at least one of the routes you are considering, and will be hooking up the RV and doing much the same things you will be too, but our route will start in Yellowstone and continue up to Banff and back via the North Cascades of B.C. and Washington.

Jim
 

myoakley

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Hi, Winger,

My husband and I took a Caravan Tour last year which started in Rapid City, So. Dakota (Mt. Rushmore area) and wound up in Salt Lake City, UT. If you check their website (www.caravan.con), you can get a good idea of an excellent itinerary which you can drive yourselves. For us, the highlights were the Little Big Horn Battlefield (site of Custer's last stand), the Buffalo Bill Historic center in Cody, Wyoming (2 places your young boys would love!) and, of course, Yellowstone. It's a gorgeous part of the country to visit and so much American History to relive. Have fun!
 

Deb from NC

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We really enjoyed staying in Custer State Park in South Dakota. It's near
Mt Rushmore, so you can combine those 2. We spent 2 nights in a cabin
at the State Game Lodge in the park (see link below)
http://www.custerresorts.com/state-game-lodge/overview/
The park is beautiful, there's a buffalo herd there that we enjoyed watching
and many other thing to do/see. We also enjoyed Badlands National Park in SD.

Sounds like a wonderful trip, enjoy!
Deb
 

Passepartout

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Hi, Winger,

My husband and I took a Caravan Tour last year which started in Rapid City, So. Dakota (Mt. Rushmore area) and wound up in Salt Lake City, UT. If you check their website (www.caravan.con)

Here's the corrected URL: http://www.caravan.com/tour/usa-mount-rushmore as well as an itinerary of their route. No reason to take their tour, but following their route, you could see the high points of the areas visited. Then add the SF to SLC route and back and there's your 2 week trip.

Jim
 

winger

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Keep the ideas coming...

The kids have not been brought into the planning stages yet - but good idea since they helped "plan" last year's trips (Disneyland marathon!!!) .

We do like to get ideas what best timeshares along the trip where we can possibly do private exchanges with. I know for sure our Marriott and Diamond Resorts do not have TS's on the route from SF to YP.

Just a couple of answers to questions asked so far:
1) driving-wise, our kids can likely handle a good six hours/day max if we had to do this say two or three days straight. This means, if we did three days straight of six hours driving, the forth day should be limited to say, two or three hours.
2) Route-wise, South Lake Tahoe is our default TS location, so I would prefer not to have to stop there IF there were a better route to travel with better sites to see.

Passepartout and myoakley - Thanks for the caravan link. This is a good idea to review this for routes and things to do (for that half of the journey). DW and I love to involve historic sites in our trips - so the kids can get something extra out of a vacation.

Deb from NC - I would have the DW look at your link

Rhonda. Do you mind sending me an email (TUG PM is shot) more info on your trip? I read your link and the ideas are pretty good.

bccash63 - It looks like Tetons will be a very nice-to-see for this trip, especially if we do not have any plans to go back to this region of the country anytime soon.
 

DaveNV

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There is a lot to see and do along that route.

If you drive the road either to or from Cody, Wyoming and Rapid City, SD, you'll go by the small Wyoming town of Sundance. (Named after Butch Cassidy's buddy, or maybe it was the other way around.) A sidetrip from there takes you to Devil's Tower National Monument. Have you or your kids ever seen "Close Encounters of the Third Kind?" That's the place, although probably without the aliens. ;)

+1 for the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, WY. Awesome place.

+1 for Custer State Park in SD. If you drive Iron Mountain Road to get into the park, the view of the faces on Mt. Rushmore are a perfectly framed view around each and every turn in the road. It's kind of strange. Also, be sure to bring crackers or dog treats to feed to the wild donkeys in the park. Your kids will love that.

If you're going to visit Badlands National Park east of Rapid City, you can drive a few miles further to the tiny town of Wall, SD. Ever see a bumper sticker that asked "Where the hell is Wall Drug?" That's the place. The Wall Drug store is tourist shop after tourist shop lining three sides of one street in this town, with tons of distractions for you and the kids. Including a 70 foot life-sized dinosaur. Nice way to take a break from the road, and mostly free.

We're doing a similar trip in June 2013 - Seattle to Mt. Rushmore, then back through Yellowstone. Wave if you see us on the highway. :)

Dave
 
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rhonda

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Rhonda. Do you mind sending me an email (TUG PM is shot) more info on your trip? I read your link and the ideas are pretty good.
I don't mind ... but I'm not so speedy on replying to email. I'm currently about 6 weeks behind and letting much of it simply drop off the edges.

Aside: You might want to consider nightly timeshare rentals through ResorTime.com if you prefer the idea of condos over hotels along the way?
 

T_R_Oglodyte

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Given the info you've provided, the Beartooth Highway is the one thing you should not miss. The Beartooth is US Hwy 212 between the NE entrance to Yellowstone and Red Lodge, MT. It's regarded as one of the world's most spectacular drives. Most of the road is over 10,000 feet elevation, and the descent before Red Lodge down a cliff through a series of switchbacks is stunning. It's the kind of thing that even a kid will remember for life.

Coming out of Red Lodge, you can pick up I-90, which will take you past Little Big Horn Monument ("Custer's Last Stand"). After that it's an easy shot to Mt. Rushmore.

When I did a similar trip with my youngest son back in 1968, I also stopped by at Wounded Knee, which is on the Pine Ridge reservation south of the Black Hills. I think Wounded Knee is a great educational complement to Little Big Horn. In many ways, Wounded Knee is more culturally significant to the Plains Indians than Little Big Horn - the Wounded Knee massacre essentially ended the last shreds of independence among the Plains Indians. But because Wounded Knee is not a National Monument the site is maintained by the tribe, which is one of the most impoverished communities in the US. So Wounded Knee isn't glitzy or fancy, but you can tell it is still remembered.
 

WinniWoman

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I've only been to Yellowstone and the Tetons and that is a whole weeks worth of vacation in and of itself. We stayed at the Worldmark West Yellowstone Resort (through a private rental). It is next to the Wolf and Grizzly Preserve, the IMAX theater/museum and a block from the entrance to the park. Highly recommend.
 

Kevsdad

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That will be a fantastic trip. We live in Sacramento (100 miles East of San Francisco) and have done Yellowstone many times. We have a family cabin about 20 miles away from Cooke City, the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone.
We are doing a two week trip this summer from Sacramento up to Seattle for my brother’s Wedding, then through Idaho to Glacier. From there south to the cabin, then through the park, Jackson Hole, then home.
We did a trip in ’07 to Kansas (where I went to college) back though Rushmore, Yellowstone, then home.
Things I highly recommend:
- Mt. Rushmore is amazing (We stay in Hill City, it was much cheaper)
- Between Rushmore and Rapid City is Bear Country. It’s like a drive thru zoo. YOU MUST GO THERE!!! A buddy recommended it.
- From Rushmore take I90 to 330 to 14 to Cody.
- Make the loop from Cody to Red Lodge the Chief Joseph Highway (this is where our cabin is) to the Beartooth.
- Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody
- Obviously Yellowstone
Many other things to see but those are the highlights.

-Doug
 
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