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  1. Default Chicago to Glacier NP, Yellowstone, Arches, and home

    This trip will be my third road trip with my boyfriend. The first was to New England and the second was in the Southwest. This next trip is a 16 day trip and just over 5,000 miles. We are thinking Day 1 and 2 we are leaving Chicago around 4pm and heading for Billings, MT. Along the way we are planning on seeing the Badlands, Wall Drug, the Black Hills Scenic Byway, Mt. Rushmore and Devil's Tower. This is a long day of driving but we know we can do it because on our last trip we drove straight through from Chicago to Albuquerque. Day 3 we will be driving to Kalispell, MT hopefully stopping at a ghost town and Flathead Lake. Days 4 and 5 will be spent in camping in Glacier NP. Day 6 will be a drive along US-89 arriving close to Yellowstone. Days 7 and 8 will be spent exploring Yellowstone, we will also be camping here. On Day 9 we depart for to Salt Lake City, UT stopping to enjoy some scenic overlooks in Grand Teton along the way. On Day 10 we will continue on to Moab, UT. On our last road trip we got a flat tire in Arches NP so we did not get to do everything in this area we wanted to since our car was in the shop getting two new tires, quite the bummer. We want to do hike to Delicate Arch as well as do the Fiery Furnace tour. Day 11 we will stay in the Moab area, going to Dead Horse Point SP for a portion of the day. Day 12 we head for Durango, CO. On this day we will see Monument Valley, 4 corners, Mesa Verde NP, and Canyon of the Ancients NM. Day 13 we are going to Great Sand Dunes NP, Garden of the Gods, and Cave of the Winds. We are also deciding if we want to drive up Pike's Peak or take the train. Day 14 and 15 are driving home. This leaves one extra day to add into the trip. Any suggestions on where it should go? We were thinking in Colorado. Any must off the beaten path must sees? Trail suggestions? Restaurants? Tours? Also, we were considering bringing our dog Ivy, a 10 lb toy fox terrier, but are currently thinking it might be best to leave her at home because we arent sure about what to do with her when we want to go hiking. Would it be best to rent a car for this trip or to use our own new car? Our budget for this trip is $4000. We are planning on leaving the third week in July. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
    Last edited by chcbears2403; 03-15-2010 at 11:30 PM. Reason: additional info

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Fly to Denver ?

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    We are thinking Day 1 and 2 we are leaving Chicago around 4pm and heading for Billings, MT. Along the way we are planning on seeing the Badlands, Wall Drug, the Black Hills Scenic Byway, Mt. Rushmore and Devil's Tower.
    It doesn't matter how many times I read that I can't change what I believe it to mean. You are leaving Chicago at 4pm and plan on being in Billings MT by the next evening ? If you were to just drive this route and not stop for any sleep it would mean be being on the road for 24 hours, but you are planning on "seeing" the above places ?

    we know we can do it because on our last trip we drove straight through from Chicago to Albuquerque.
    Sorry if it sounds harsh but the fact is you got away with it that time but doesn't mean you will again, it is reckless trying to drive that far in a straight shot, more than professional drivers are permitted to do by law and double what we would recommend as a daily limit.

    Please don't tell us you are different or special somehow as we have heard it all before, but the reality is it is no different than a drink driver saying "no problem I have done it before", it risks the lives of you and others that share the road with you.

    The good news is that you have a "spare day" that you could use at the beginning of your trip so please use it for that. If you done the trip as you stated, you would be wrecked on day 3 and your whole trip could become tiresome trying to keep up, so it's not worth it. Even so it will still be like other parts of your trip, doable but busy and it might be worth considering cutting back a little more rather than looking to add, but it's your choice.

    If you have no concerns about your own vehicle in most cases it makes sense to take that and not have the expense of a rental, however if you were to rent you could take advantage of the fact and fly to Denver and do a loop from there, it would save time and miles by doing so.

    Also, we were considering bringing our dog Ivy, a 10 lb toy fox terrier, but are currently thinking it might be best to leave her at home
    With someone at home willing to look after your pet I think you would be better off leaving it behind. You have a lot of time in the car and in areas with pet regulations.

  3. Default

    We are thinking about flying now, but are concerned about flying with all of our camping gear and things we like to have with us on the road. Anyone have tips for doing this? Is shipping a box UPS with some of those items to the first hotel we are staying in a good idea, can you even do that?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    It may be cheaper to buy basic cheap camping gear when you get to where you are going, and donate it to charity when you leave, rather than ship yours both ways.

  5. Default

    check how many bags your airline will allow for free. We flew to yellowstone with a large duffle that had tent, sleeping pads, jet boil, a sleeping bag and hiking poles. We fit the other sleeping bag in with clothes and bought a cheap cooler and camping chairs at Walmart. Given we were splitting time between hotels and camping we found this was plenty.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Unfortuantly, other than Southwest, I don't think any airline allows even a single bag for free. Even worse, the fees even for the first bag keep going up. Its now up to $25 for the first bag -each way- on many airlines.

    Considering that fee, you do need to figure out what's really worth bringing with you and if its worth that extra fee. Also remember that there is typically a 50 pound weight limit for checked bags, and hefty fees for going over the limit.

    My last Fly/Drive camping trip we took one big bag, with a small tent, some cooking supplies, a battery powered lattern, and some other basic gear that you can take with you on a carry on. We then picked up some other supplies, like sleeping bags and a foam cooler at Walmart. We also cut back on a few things - for example, we just used the campsite grills for cooking, instead of bringing the propane stove and cast iron cooking gear.

  7. #7
    Mikeh Guest


    Hi Cbears!

    I can offer my advice on this because I have done it many times from Chicago to Glacier. You have a lot of questions, maybe I can provide some answers.

    First, I am going to be perfectly honest with you. The road trip is way too crazy. You can definitely have an enjoyable time, but there's too much on your plate and you will be tired form driving. Secondly(and I say this as someone who has seen all these places), Glacier National Park and the northern Rockies are where people from Colorado go on vacation. That doesn't mean Colorado isn't amazing - it is. But it should tell you something ;)

    There is so much to see and do between Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier that there's no need to drive down south at all, especially when Zion and Bryce will be scorching hot in the middle of summer. I would take those 16 days and focus on the Northern Rockies. They offer more water, more wilderness and more wildlife. Glacier and Teton are considered the finest scenery parks in the lower 48. Thw Wind River Range, Beartooths and the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex are the wildest in the lower 48.

    An important thing to consider is not all parks are created equal in size. Yellowstone National Park is 2 million acres, Glacier is 1 million. Grand Teton is 300,000 acres. Badlands National Park in South Dakota is 244,000 acres.

    It's important to remember that dogs are not allowed on trails in national parks. If you wish to hike with your dog, you should focus on the magnificent national forests that border Yellowstone and Glacier such as the Bridger-Teton, Gallatin, Flathead, lewis and Clark or the Shoshone.

    My suggestion would be to take I-94 through Wisconsin and Minnesota, then across North Dakota. At the western end of North Dakota, there is a great park called Theodore Roosevelt National Park. They have a nice campground for ten bucks. It's called Cottonwood campground. Just enter the park at MEdora and take the wildlife loop up and down into the valley.

    You can reach this campground within fourteen hours of Chicago - a very reasonable drive for two people. Get up at 6 am, hit the road and you're good.

    The reason I recommend I-94 is due to the fact the road is better and it's faster. You wouldn't think so, but it is. Heading west on I94, you cross the border into Montana. At Glendive, take highway 200 west to highway 24, then head noth to U.S. 2. Take U.S. 2 al lthe way to Glacier National Park, which is IMHO the most scenic national park in the lower 48. You will hit the town of East Glacier. Go under the little railroad bridge and head up to Two Medicie. This is a wonderful campground in Glacier that gets nothing but rave reviews. Many people consider it "home".

    That leaves you fourteen days. Spend the next six in Glacier, touring going to the Sun Road and viewing Many Glacier(east side). Take a wild drive up the nothfork road near west Glacier and head up to Kintla campground - a remote off the beaten track place way up in Glacier National Park. This is an adventure. When you are done at Glacier, head down to Yellowstone via the Rocky Mountain Front back out East Glacier. This is the last place in the lower 48 where the grizzly bear still roams out onto the prairie. There is nothing for miles but prairie and mountains. Take U.S. 2 from Browning to 89 south along the front. This wil lgo through a few small towns. 89 wil lturn into 287 south. Take it for a long time, crossing highway 200 at bowmans corner. Eventually 287 turns into Interstate 15 and goes through Helena. At Helena, take 287 east through Townsend and down to interstate 90. This will put you ate three Forks. From here, take I90 east to 85 south. This will put you in line with the Gallatin Gateway into the Gallatin National Forest. This turns into highway 191, entering the national forest among wonderous scenery in a canyon. There are tons of campgrounds here for you to try out.

    I like Spire Rock or Swan Creek. They are more private and very beautiful. The Gallatin National Forest borders Yellowstone. Also, you can hike with your dog as much as you want there. From there, take 191 south into West Yellowstone. You will see the entrance sign and all that jazz.

    In Yellowstone, head to Madison and then south on 20. This will take you to old faithful and all the geothermal features. By following 20, you will hit West Thumb and 89 south. Take this into Grand Teton. Grand Teton offers wonderful alpine mountain scenery., You may not want to go back up to Yellowstone. I can highly recommend Colter Bay as a campground although it can get busy. It is really beatiful. It;s the firrst major "signs of life" when you enter the park. Drive around and see if you like it. Make sure you drive the Grand Teton Park road from Jackson Lake Junction south to Jenny Lake. You won't believe your eyes. Jenny Lake campground is tent-only and incredible. It's hard to get a site at peak times - get there before 9 AM.
    I would spend a few days in Grand Teton ,so this is what, 9 or ten days of your trip?

    When you are done with Teton, head back up to Yellowstone via 89, but this time head north on highwy 14 at West Thumb. This will take you past magnificent Yellowstone Lake and into the Fishing Bridge and Hayden Valley Area. There are numerous campgrounds in the area such as Bridge Bay, Canyon and Norris. All will be busy as most Yellowstone campgrounds are.

    Make sure you see Yellowstone Falls at Canyon and explore the Lamar Valley in the notheast corner of the park - because the notheast corner is exactly how you should be leaving it, and early. What's up there? Well, Beartooth pass - an incredibly scenic high elevation road that cuts across the Beartooth Mountains. this is refered to as the Cooke City entrance in many circles. If you have used up nine or ten days in Glacier and Teton, use up four or five days in Yellowstone. This will leave you with two days as you head out of Yellowstone and over Beartooth Pass. Bring your camera, this is pretty amazing. The Beartooth starts on highway 212 11 miles east of cooke City. Follow 212 all the way to Billings, where you will hit I90. Take this southeast towards Wyoming. Take this into South Dakota. At Moorcroft, take highway 16 east until you hit the black Hills National Forest. This road wil ltake you to Jewl Cave National Monument, then to Custer State Park. You can head south thorugh Custer State Park on 87 south to wind Cave National Park. This icave is very cool - one of the largest in the world. By heading back up 87, you wil take 16 out of Custer State Park, then this turns int 36a. Take this to 79 north. until you see 44 southeast in Rapid City. This will take you on the backroads to the western end of the Badlands. Follow the main graded road. This will put you right at Sage Creek campground bordering the Sage Creek Wilderness. Lots of good hiking here along with bison and praire dogs. Heading east along Sage Creek Road, it turns into Badlands Park Road. By following this you wil ltour the entire park. Chicago is about 800 miles from here, easily done in a day.

    I hope you found this information useful. Please excuse any spelling errors.

    There's so much to do in this area with so much amazing scenery that there's no need to try and squeeze anything else in. Plan on about 5,000 miles on your car for this trip. Bring your camping gear, bring whatever you want and enjoy yourself. Let me stress these thigns about this trip:

    1. Beartooth Pass near Yellowstone and Going to the Sun Road in Glacier have no peers in the lower 48 for road scenery except for maybe the Grand Teton Park Road from the junction to Jenny Lake.
    2. Glacier National Park is mindblowing. I repeat, mindblowing. There is a very real possibiity that after visiting Glacier, other national parks will be sort of a "letdown" in terms of brute scenery. Notice that I didn't include some of the national forests there. The Wind Rivers and the Beartooths are amazing.
    3. If you want remote car camping, think Kintla and Bowman in Glacier, or focus on the national forests.
    4. Great hiking is everywhere.
    5. Lots of wildlife

    My campground recommendations:

    Glacier - Two Medicine, and a choice between Bowman or Kintla
    Grand Teton - Colter Bay or Jenny Lake
    Yellowstone - Pebble Creek, Slough Creek, Tower, Norris or Lewis Lake
    Badlands - Sage Creek (no water)
    Wind Cave - Elk Mountain
    Theodore Roosevelt - Cottonwood

    Good luck. I hope you found this response useful.

    Mod Note: Linking to Commercial Websites is prohibited by all new members, and is clearly listed in the TOS you agreed to when signing up for this Website. Deleting your post because you didn't like the fact that those links were removed gets you a time-out from participating in this community.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 03-23-2010 at 10:24 AM. Reason: Content Restored After Being Removed by Poster

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default good and bad

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    There are several good tips in your post, MikeH, however there are also some things in there we simply can not endorce.

    Teddy Roosevelt is a great park, and it really is one of my favorite hidden gems in this part of the world, however, saying its a drive that can easily be done in one day/14 hours of Chicago is simply not factually accurate.

    That is almost a 1000 mile drive, which is 2 full days on the road driving at a reasonable pace. To cover that kind of distance in 14 hours, you would have to average nearly 70 miles an hour, which means with just the basic stops for fuel/food/rest, you'd have to be driving at a cruising speed of 90-100 miles per hour. In the real world, driving 70-75 miles per hour (which is still above the speed limit across this entire route) you're looking at a drive that will take 19-20 hours. That's not fun, and not safe with just 2 drivers, and is the worst/most counter productive way to start a trip like this because it will set people up to be exhausted and spending the next week of their vacation trying to recover instead of trying to have fun.

    Also the Badlands to Chicago is also way too far to be doing in a day. This is 850 miles, and would be a brutal 17 hours on the road. On a one day sprint, where you were well rested before you leave and had a couple days after to recover, you might be able to do this safely, but doing it at the end of a long trip where you've been on the road for a couple of weeks is just asking for trouble. By the time you get into Wisconsin, your driving skills will be seriously reduced from exhaustion and you'd be an accident waiting to happen.

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