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  1. Default Los Angeles, short visit to Grand Canyon, longer visit to Yellowstone, then east

    We want to drive this week from Los Angeles, make a one day visit to the Grand Canyon's south rim, and then continue to Yellowstone to spend 2-3 days, and then drive east to South Dakota for sightseeing and then asap back to Philadelphia. Although some people would advise me to visit the splendid parks in between, there just isn’t enough time! What would be a reasonable drive for a sole driver? If you have experience driving between the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, I’d be especially glad to hear from you. Is night time driving in Utah, Wyoming or SD very difficult? Should I do the south or west approach to Yellowstone? Would it be better to spend 2 nights in between the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, so to avoid night time driving? If so, in what towns should we stop? What route would be the easiest and safest drive?
    Last edited by Gaile Irene; 08-22-2010 at 10:02 PM. Reason: planning to visit south rim of Grand Canyon

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Time Constraint

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    You indicate that time will be a problem on this trip. The drive alone will take a minimum of 7 days. Add in a day at the Grand Canyon and 2 at Yellowstone and you will need 10 days at least. Getting to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is a time sink with a relatively long road that you must drive in and then retrace on the way out. The South Rim is much more accessible and has more visitor facilities and view points. With time being a big factor, You'll have to stick to the main route up to Yellowstone, US-89 north from Cameron, then I-15 to Idaho Falls and US-20 to West Yellowstone. Exit the park on US-14 to I-90, etc.

    For a reasonable day's drive, I find about 550 miles is a good amount. A little more if I really put my mind to it. But note that in heading east you'll be losing sunlight, resetting your watch 3 times during your trip to 23 hour days. I'm not a big fan of night driving on RoadTrips for a couple of reasons. The first is safety. Especially in the west, there is always the possibility of wildlife on the roads. Couple that with the high speed limits and the chances for a mishap go up commensurately. Secondly, on a RoadTrip the point is to see new vistas. You'll be driving through some of the most scenic areas on the continent. I just don't get wanting to do it in the dark.

    Grand Canyon to Yellowstone is around 900 miles, so a comfortable 2 day drive with an overnight somewhere along I-15 in central Utah or even Provo depending on how well you're doing.

    AZBuck

  3. Default

    Thanks for your advice! When the early sunshine hits, I'll hit the road!

    I have the first set of days planned:
    Day 1 - leave Los Angeles; early dinner in Kingman, AZ; overnight in Williams, AZ.
    Day 2 - visit Grand Canyon, drive east on Rt 64 around the park, then overnight in Page, AZ.
    Day 3 - drive from Page, AZ to Evanston, WY to spend the night.
    Day 4 - drive up to Jackson, WY then to the Yellowstone South Entrance, spending night at Old Faithful Inn (they apparently have some cancellations!)
    Day 5 - Yellowstone, staying at Old Faithful Inn
    Day 6 - in Yellowstone, then leave either from the east or northeast
    ....... unknown! ..... to be continued!
    If you have any advice for the east of Yellowstone, via South Dakota, please bring it on!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    I would leave Yellowstone by the northeast entrance and take the Beartooth Highway (US-212) to I-90 near Billings. The other option is the east entrance on US-14 through Cody to I-90.

  5. Default

    I haven't had time to read up much, but hear the Beartooth route is wonderful. I guess that means spending the night in Billings, MT, and then driving south to Buffalo, WY before continuing east into South Dakota? Any thoughts on this? Or is driving through Cody much more practical? At the end of August snow should not be a factor, hopefully! I'll check back before booking lodgings for this segment within the next day or two. Thanks a bunch!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    If this helps, it takes about 4 hours to get from the northeast entrance of Yellowstone to Billings via the Beartooth. Billings to Buffalo is about 3 hours. It's about 6 hours from the east entrance to Buffalo via Cody.

  7. Default

    We’re back in Philadelphia! This is how we got here:

    Day 1 - Left Los Angeles late morning and drove through canyon and mountain, desert and forest to Williams, AZ.

    Day 2 - Visited the National Geographic center in Tusayan for the excellent IMAX film about the Grand Canyon, then drove and parked inside Grand Canyon National Park. Took the internal shuttle bus to the second stop (Yavapai) to take in the view and did some walking westwards for more views. Walked back to the car, stopped for lunch, then drove east along the Desert View/East Rim Drive. Stopped at Grandview Point where we made a small descent into the canyon and then returned to the car, continuing east, stopping along many of the other excellent view points along the way. (Although this is a short distance in miles, it is a long distance in views - we spent several hours here, driving in some places on gravel road.) After leaving the park, we headed to Page, AZ, for the night.

    [CRYING SHAME: Tour buses were dropping tourists off at Mather Point where they can see absolutely NOTHING because of construction! In order to view the canyon from there, they had to make a long hike on an ugly, fenced-in and stony construction path. Some of these tourists were obviously in poor health or disabled, including one with a cane who apparently walked with the aid of a leg brace. I saw an older woman along the construction path who was in visible distress, leaning on the fence. Why were these poor folk forced to walk long distances on uneven surfaces in the hot summer sun?! The Grand Canyon shuttle buses should have been there to intercept them when they got off the tour buses! Or, at least, they should have been told to walk to the shuttle bus stop! Shame on the National Park Service and the tour operators for creating unnecessary misery!]

    Day 3 - Made a short stop to see the Glen Canyon Dam in Page, AZ, then continued through gorgeous Utah countryside west and north arriving in Evanston (SW Wyoming) for the night.

    Day 4 - Drove north through Jackson, WY, through Tetons National Park in the rain to Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone. Walked amid geysers and hot pools. (Even if you don’t stay at the Old Faithful Inn it’s worth stopping in to take a look or perhaps catch a tour of the inn.)

    Day 5 - Drove north to more geysers, hot pools, a mudpot and fumaroles; then continued to Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon area (would have been nice to have had booked second night here - there was a cancellation available), returning through a buffalo traffic jam in Hayden Valley to Old Faithful hotel by twilight.

    Day 6 - Visited Mammoth Hot Springs/Terraces (in the northwestern part of Yellowstone) then left Yellowstone via the northeast exit driving along the magnificent Beartooth Highway where we saw ice in August and clouds nestled between ice-decorated mountains below. We stopped at one Arctic-tundra-like spot at over 10,700 ft elevation. Although we had already spent several days above sea level (Williams, AZ, at 6600 ft.; Page, AZ, at 4000 ft.; Old Faithful in Yellowstone at about 7000 ft.), I found myself gasping for breath, and breathing fast in the frigid air, when walking a short distance to a partially frozen pond. It felt like there was no air in the air! Once I got back to the car, the difficulty eased. At the visitor’s stop, further away and slightly lower, and warmer, at around 9000 ft., walking and breathing was no longer a problem. In all, we took about 3 hours to drive from the northeast exit of Yellowstone to Red Lodge - and would have enjoyed spending even more time on the road but nightfall was approaching and Billings, MT, was some distance away. About animals on the roads - once evening approaches slower is better. My little car and one large buck were a collision course. If I had been going faster, I might not have been able to brake in time and instead could have broken a window or a fender, or a neck or two or three. Plus, we would have missed that cute little fox, whose sudden appearance delighted my 12-year-old.

    Day 7 - Drove from Billings, MT to South Dakota via route 212. This was the emptiest stretch of highway I have ever seen. If you plan to drive it, fill your gas tank even if it’s half full! Once in South Dakota, visited the marker for the geographic center of the U.S. in Belle Fourche, then attended the very moving and patriotic evening ceremony at Mount Rushmore in Keystone, SD.

    Day 8 - Swam in the indoor pool at the motel in Keystone (the boy insisted!), then drove to Wall Drug in Wall, SD. We did some shopping and posed for pictures with the jackalope, the Western wagon, and the brazen hussy before dragging ourselves away to Badlands National Park. Drove on a gravel road to see the prairie dogs and buffalo, then returned to paved territory to admire Nature’s multi-colored artwork on the badlands rocks. Drove to Sioux Falls, SD. (Should have spent the night in Mitchell as the drive was a bit long - could have seen the Corn Palace in the morning - but forgot about it. There was so much in South Dakota - caves, Indian monuments, etc., - that we skipped on this highlights trip - perhaps next time!)

    Day 9 - Drove from Sioux Falls, SD, to Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells! Played in some of their indoor waterparks - whoopee!

    Day 10 - Packed our bags, keeping the change of clothes out. Spent much of the day at the waterparks. We did not do the Wisconsin Dells boat tour because the weather wasn’t that great and the resort was so much fun. Drove to Hammond, IN, just outside of Chicago, to spend the night.

    Day 11 - Drove from Hammond, IN, to Philadelphia. !!! Road tolls were about $60!!!!! I had not spent a cent on tolls from Virginia to Los Angeles and back, so this was a shock. It was a pity to have spent all this money on tolls, since we were not visiting Chicago or the Cleveland/Cuyahoga Valley area. On the other hand, because it was the Labor Day Weekend there were no construction workers on the roads, the high tolls must have scared away the other drivers, and the driving was fast, so we made very good time. But if I had realized how high the tolls were, I would have searched for another route from Wisconsin Dells.

    Readers: Please add your nickel’s worth (the cost of a cup of coffee at Wall’s Drug in SD) on this rush-through-the-country-but-see-something itinerary! Also, any suggestions on avoiding the expensive tolls in the MidAtlantic/Midwest?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

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    To avoid most of the tolls:

    Get off I-90 in Rockford, then I-39/I-74/I-70/I-79/I-68/I-70/I-81/I-78/PA-61/US-222/US-422/I-76.

  9. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    To avoid most of the tolls:

    Get off I-90 in Rockford, then I-39/I-74/I-70/I-79/I-68/I-70/I-81/I-78/PA-61/US-222/US-422/I-76.
    Geez! That will take quite a bit of trickery to fool the GPS!
    Do you think it will take many hours longer than the toll route? Have you tried it?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
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    9,270

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    That adds 220 miles and about 4 hours.

    That is why you do not blindly follow a GPS - you need good paper maps too!

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