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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    London, England
    Posts
    13

    Default Best time to visit - Denver, Yellowstone, Glacier NP etc.

    We are planning our fourth trip from the UK to the US for next year and would appreciate any advice in trying to decide the best time to go. We've previously had fantastic trips to the Denver area and a longer road trip which included Yellowstone and are looking to see some more of that part of the US.

    It will be a two week trip and the very rough itinerary currently looks something like:
    - Fly into Denver
    - Drive to Jackson, WY with an overnight stop somewhere on way (Rock Springs?)
    - Spend a few days in Yellowstone area, including visiting Cody, Beartooth Hway etc.
    - Head North to Glacer NP, stopping off on way somewhere (Helena?)
    - Spend a couple of days at Glacier
    - Then a few days travelling back towards Denver, not sure on where will be visited on way, but will include Mt Rushmore area.
    - Back to Denver to fly home - may revisit Rocky Mountain NP if there's time (Trail Ridge road was unfortunately closed when we visited last).

    Wanting the various roads to be open (Going to the Sun Road, Trail Ridge Road, Beartooth Hway) seems to limit the timescale somewhat. It would be nice if there was still some snow visible on the peaks, as that always makes things prettier. When are we best visiting? Are school breaks etc likely to make roads particularly busy at certain times? (We visited Yellowstone in early September last time and were presently surprised that it wasn't too busy).

    Thanks!

  2. #2

    Default 2nd half of June?

    Hello MrBen,

    Welcome back to the States. We're glad you enjoy visiting!

    I would think the average seasonal opening dates of the Beartooth Highway (BH) and the Going-To-The-Sun Road (GTTSR) are your limiting factors. I believe there are websites which will display such but I am not personally familiar with any.

    My first visit to Glacier was in 1975, and in early July there was snow a-plenty at Logan Pass and on the surrounding peaks along GTTSR, and likewise a week earlier along the crest of the BH. The variables of the depth of this coming winter's snowpack and how early and warm the Spring is, of course, will determine both the opening dates and the amount of snow still around in June. Some online research should provide historical information on opening dates, as noted.

    I suspect you'll find rather more crowded conditions in both Yellowstone and Glacier in the summer, due, as you noted, to schools being out then. Perhaps pushinging the dates into the middle two weeks of June could avoid some of that, but you then run the risk of arriving too early for your favored roads to be open.

    Might I suggest you consider seeing something few from the US and fewer from the UK see on visits to the West? On your route up to Glacier, exit Yellowstone to the west and pass Quake Lake and Hebgen Lake, thence through Ennis and Virginia City to Dillon, MT, and thence up MT 278 and MT 43 through the Big Hole valley. The Big Hole is as spectacular of an example of alpine scenery as there is in the Lower 48, in my opinion. Some 70 mile long and 15-20 miles wide, and dotted with giant haystacks (hence the nickname "Land of 10,000 Haystacks", it's a breathtaking and completely rural part of Montana. You may want to visit the somewhat touristy reproduction of a mining town at Virginia City, the preserved but unrestored ghost town of Bannack, and the Big Hole National Battlefield along this route. Exiting the Big Hole to the west along MT 43 brings you to US 93 at Lost Trail Pass, thence north up the very scenic Bitterroot Valley to Missoula, itself a nice overnight stop. It's a college town with nice restaurants and fun bars and at least one motel right on the Clark Fork River. From Missoula it's a couple of hours or so up to Glacier.

    Enjoy planning and taking your RoadTrip!

    Foy

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    London, England
    Posts
    13

    Default

    Foy, thanks very much for your thoughts - that defnitely looks like a great route from Yellowstone visiting the Big Hole valley, I've put it into my planned route. Thanks again!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    Target opening dates:

    Trail Ridge Road - mid May
    Old Fall River Road - July 1
    GTSR - mid June
    Beartooth - Last weekend in May
    Internal Yellowstone roads - mid May

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    London, England
    Posts
    13

    Default

    Many thanks for that glc. I guess it's very difficult to know how likely it is that the targets will be accurate from year to year?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    It all depends how long it takes to plow them in the spring, and if there are any late-season storms to deal with.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default September ?

    If you are happy to wait it out, I would go in September again. If you want to go earlier, Mid June onwards would better your chances of driving the passes you mention. Of course nothing is certain with the weather, but at least in the Fall if a bad storm closes them, they have a good chance of re-opening, in the Spring it's a just a waiting game.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    London, England
    Posts
    13

    Default

    Thanks for the info.

    I was thinking September, but my wife likes the idea of some snow remaining on the peaks as it's prettier! When we visited Rocky Mountain NP in early June 2009, the views of the mountains were absolutely stunning, so I see what she means, but then we were unable to drive the Trail Ridge Road as it was closed for the days we were there.

    It's a balancing act like many things - I'd rather visit everywhere we want to go and it be a bit busier than miss out.

    The empty part of the trip at the moment is driving back from Glacier to Denver - any suggestions on routes and things to see? I'd like to visit Mount Rushmore, but otherwise I'm pretty free on route. Thanks!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Sure is.

    It's a balancing act like many things - I'd rather visit everywhere we want to go and it be a bit busier than miss out.
    It certainly is, and the scales are finely balanced when it comes to Yellowstone and Glacier NP's. I am thinking along the same lines as I plan my next trip, which could include visits to the roads mentioned. I like to travel out of season and away from the crowds, but also like to drive these mountain passes. The only thing that is certain, is that nothing is certain ! We travelled over Trail ridge Rd at the beginning of October last year, had we gone a week or 2 earlier it may not have happened as early storms had closed the road for a while and we just slotted into a window of opportunity. We were quite fortunate in that there was snow around, yet we enjoyed the wonderful views of blue sky's with snow covered peaks mixed in with the golden Fall colours that the Aspens provided, without any real disruption to our travel plans. The one detour we did have to make took us on another great drive with great views, that we would otherwise not have seen. One way or another things will alway's sort themselves out, even if something has to be put on the "another day" list.

    Sorry for waffling, it took me back there for a moment ! If you are headed to Mt Rushmore, other attractions would include Badlands NP, Black hills, Custer state park and Wind cave National park. You could head through Great falls or you might pick up some route ideas from the RTA roadtrip routes section

  10. #10

    Default How about this?

    Quote Originally Posted by MrBen View Post

    The empty part of the trip at the moment is driving back from Glacier to Denver - any suggestions on routes and things to see? I'd like to visit Mount Rushmore, but otherwise I'm pretty free on route. Thanks!
    Depending upon how much time you have to devote to returning to Denver from Glacier, and in keeping with my theme/preference for somewhat out-of-the-way routes:

    If you've approached Glacier via the Big Hole and Missoula (from the south and west), perhaps you'd depart to the east to Browning. There you'll find the Museum of the Plains Indian, a wonderful stop, at least in the 1970s and 1980s when I was last there.

    From there US 89 to Choteau and US 287 through Augusta to I-15. I-15 to Butte, where the Berkley Pit and an excellent mining museum await.

    I-15 south through Dillon, across Monida Pass into Idaho, to Idaho Falls.

    East there towards Jackson, WY, thence south down US 191 to and beyond Rock Springs, WY.

    Below Rock Springs, US 191 cuts across the eastern end of the Unita Range at Flaming Gorge Reservoir. One can drive to the base of the dam and the highway itself crosses the top. Raft trips (non-whitewater) abound and can be arranged at Dutch John or Manila, UT.

    Below Flaming Gorge US 191 connects with US 40, where heading east brings you through Dinosaur Nat Monument (NP?), and then Steamboat Springs with the Strawberry Hot Springs close by, and where Granby, CO and Grand Lake are the western approaches to Trail Ridge Rd.

    An alternate is to remain on I-15 to Ogden or Salt Lake City, thence east on either I-84 or I-80 to or past Park City, UT (itself a very nice and fun place to visit in summer), accessing US 40 there.

    If you've already done Trail Ridge Rd, you can drop down towards I-70 at Rifle, CO, thence a short distance east to Glenwood Springs, for a visit to the Springs hotel and resort. The hot springs there are piped into an enormous series of outdoor pools and full spa services are available, with loads of fun restaurants and bars within walking distance across the footbridge spanning the Colorado River and I-70.

    From Glenwood Springs it's around 3.5 hours back to DEN airport, depending upon traffic.

    Foy

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