Detroit to Grand Lake, CO via Mt. Rushmore and the East entrance of Yellowstone
Goodmorning fellow RoadTrippers!
First I'd like to commend you all- what a fantastic resource you've provided! I so enjoy the camaraderie among posters in forums like this one. I'm anxious to get my feet wet!
At once a newbie and veteran to the roadtrip world, I have come to this forum for your expertise. I'll begin by giving a bit of my background to provide context. I began driving solo to Indianapolis from Detroit on weekends when I was 17. While attending university in Alabama, I drove back and forth btwn Detroit and Birmingham more times than I can count. After graduating this past December, I drove to NY and Philly to visit friends. However, I've never driven a long distance for the sake of seeing things along the way. That's where you guys come in...
I'd like to leave around August 25 and return September 7 (start date flexible). With a firm budget of $1000, I plan to camp and eat from grocery stores along the way. I've looked into the "America the Beautiful" Park Pass and will most likely purchase one before I leave. Once in Grand Lake I'll be staying at a hostel outside Rocky Mountain National Park for 5(ish) nights. I'll take the most direct route home to Michigan.
Most of my questions revolve around the first leg of my journey. My plan is to drive to Grand Lake in 4-5 days, stopping at Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone. What are the must-sees between Michigan and South Dakota? I enjoy the outdoors- hiking, fishing, canoeing, beautiful vistas, etc., in addition to indie coffee shops and bookstores. What campsites do you recommend are Mt. Rushmore and the East entrance of Yellowstone?
Google maps suggests I take I90 all the way to Wyoming. My concern are the tolls. How much will it cost? Is this the best route?
Do any of you have experience with the National Park Pass? I've looked on the website, but still have a few questions. Does it include discounts on camping and/or fishing permits?
I realize my time is limited, but my main focus is Grand Lake, the other stops are just bonuses. I'll return some day and give to each place the time it deserves, but for now I'm content with just a taste. I'd like to have a buddy along for the ride, but it looks like I'll be on my own. If it matters, I'm now 23.
What am I missing??
Thanks so much in advance for your help!
choosing your path
Welcome to the RTA forum!
I think you're going to need to rethink some of your plans.
Starting off, Traveling to Grand Lake via Yellowstone is 2300 miles, that's 4.5 solid days of driving, so if you are only giving yourself 4-5 days to make the trip, you're going to have almost no time to do any sightseeing, hiking, vista-viewing, etc. If you make the trip on this timeline, you're going to see what you can see outside of the car window, and that's about it.
You need to make a choice, do you want to have the trip that you've describe where you see things along the way, or do you just want to drive and drive and drive?
What you might consider doing is leaving off Yellowstone, which is going to save you about 700 miles of driving, and just spend some time exploring the badlands and the black hills (and there is a lot more to the black hills than just Mt. Rushmore). With 4-5 days, that's going to be much better. You'll need 2 full days to get to western SD, but you could take a 3rd so you can explore along the way, and then you're looking at most of another day to make the trip down to Colorado. Even there, you're just getting a little taste, but you'll at least be able to enjoy the taste, as opposed to shoveling it down so you can move onto the next item.
You shouldn't be dealing with many tolls, assuming you take I-94 to Chicago, you'll just be dealing with tolls in Illinois, and you're looking at about $5-10 total, depending upon which route you use to get around the city.
The National Parks pass might not be that cost effective for you. It only covers admission fees, it does not cover camping, tours, parking, or any other extra fees.
Since it costs $80, you basically need to visit 4-5 national parks for it to pay for itself, and right now it only sounds like you'd be using it for Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, and maybe the badlands. Mount Rushmore is "free" however, you basically have to pay to park in their parking ramp, which is not covered by the parks pass (yeah, I don't like that one either). The pass would also not cover the cost of tours at places like Jewel and Wind Cave NPs also in the Black Hills.
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