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Thread: Ohio to Montana

  1. #1

    Default Ohio to Montana

    I am very new to this forum and mapping.

    I am planning on a trip this summer. I will be taking 4 children. We will start in Ohio, go through Moline Illinois (JD plant), through Yellowstone to western Montana. I have 3 or so weeks to do this.

    Besides being crazy for doing this with 4 children, any advice would be greatly appreciated. I would like to camp to save some money, but may also need to stay in a motel some of the nights.

    I will be the sole driver.

    I have never traveled before and been many years since I have camped.

    Also looking for areas of attraction to see along the way.

    Thank you fo any help you may offer.

  2. #2

    Default Big Sky Country

    Hello kudos 2 U,

    The best possible advice will require a bit more information from you:

    What part of the summer do you expect to travel? Early June often sees some of the higher mountains with much leftover snow, and some National Park attractions, particularly in Glacier NP, don't often open until mid- to late June.

    What are the age-ranges of the children?

    Will you be returning to Ohio within the 3-week time frame? In other words, is this a one-way or a round trip?

    Do you have a particular destination in western Montana, and if so, what city or area?

    With that information the many veteran RoadTrippers here can provide you with much advice.


  3. #3

    Default Ohio to Montana

    Thank you for responding.

    I expect sometime around mid-June to be traveling, partly like you said, some of the leftover snow would hinder some of the site seeing.

    My children at the time of traveling will be: 11, 9, 5, 3.

    I am hoping to keep the time frame to 3 weeks, nothing set in stone, unless my husband is able to convince his boss to let him off of work (no luck so far). That would mean from the time we leave until the time we return, 3 weeks.

    I am aiming for western Montana, Arlee area.

    Soooo much I have to get around. I am also looking into a small pop-up trailer, that would help a lot with storage and sleeping.

    As far as potential advice from other veteran RoadTrippers, much appreciated!


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default My Main Bits of Advice

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    To me, as a Grandfather who has traveled with small children and who has fond memories of RoadTrips as a child, the most important aspect of your planned trip is that you will be doing it with four children. Kudos to you. Now, if you haven't made such a long trip with so many 'individuals', here are some things to keep in mind. The first is that this is not, in my opinion, a time for the Gameboys, iPods, DVD players, etc. Do your best to get and keep your children involved in the journey. You can get a leg up early by having the older two do a little of the planning, finding some sights that they'd like to see, and doing a little research on those places (what to see, hours, admission, directions, etc.). Then they're both invested in making those stops enjoyable, and can act as your very own tour guides. That's probably a bit much to expect from the younger two, but they will probably be just as happy stopping at a small park every few hours. That's another key. Try to make this a series of short hops from one interesting place to another rather than just day after day of slogging down the highway for hours on end. Camping will be good for the kids as well, giving them a chance to blow off steam each night rather than sitting glued to a motel room TV.

    A few other things to keep in mind. When you cross the Missouri from Council Bluffs to Omaha, you'll also be crossing the route of Lewis and Clark (Look up why Council Bluffs is so named.) and as you work your way through western Nebraska on I-80, you will be following the route of the old Oregon Trail with lots of historic and scenic sites. Don't miss some of these great teaching moment opportunities. In the same vein, whenever you stop at a national park, monument or historic site, ask about any age appropriate Junior Ranger program they may have for your kids. Not only will they learn something, but they'll have fun and earn some great souvenirs. Finally, have a look at the possibility of taking a different route home so that the adventure and 'newness' continues. something like using I-90 past Little Bighorn, Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, Circus World Museum. etc.


  5. #5

    Default OK, now we're talking..........

    Hello Wendy,

    This is quite the undertaking, and "kudos 2 U" for tackling it.

    I think AZ Buck's suggestion to get the kids involved in the planning and execution of the trip and its stops is right on target. One of my fondest memories of traveling was a trip to Washington, DC when I was around 10 years old. I traveled with my father and an uncle. I had acquired, of all things, a thick "Dennis the Menace" comic book some weeks before the trip, and the comic was structured as a kid's guide to US History and Washington, DC's role in it. I read it cover to cover more than once and was wholly engaged for our entire multi-day tour.

    Now, for some travel suggestions.

    I am much in favor of including the Beartooth Highway on any visit to Yellowstone. It runs from near Billings, MT (on I-90) across the crest of the Beartooth Range into the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone NP, probably the least-visited corner of the park. The highway runs for many miles well above timberline and in mid- to late June there should be plenty of snow still around.

    Leaving Yellowstone and with Arlee in mind, I'd depart from West Yellowstone, MT and visit Quake Lake, only a 30-40 minute drive west. At Quake Lake there are a number of striking vistas and exhibits at the site of a massive earthquake-triggered landslide, an event of such proportion that it dammed up the Madison River to form Quake Lake.

    A little farther along one can trend west and visit Virginia City, MT, a restored mining town and the second capital of Montana Territory. Attractions for the kids there include world-famous ice cream and fudge shops.

    Passing through Dillon, MT and heading northwest up MT 278 brings you within 5 miles of Bannack, MT, a restored ghost town now a Montana State Park. Bannack was the first capital of Montana Territory and is a very nice, non-touristy monument to Montana's frontier history. The state park campground is shady and nice, right along Grasshopper Creek. Around an hour's drive up adventuresome gravel roads from Bannack State Park is Lemhi Pass, where Lewis & Clark crested the Continental Divide. You probably would not want to take a trailer of any sort up there, but the drive is entirely fine in any passenger car, and the Park Service + the BLM have built a few excellent exhibits and view points from the pass. It's striking to see exactly what Lewis & Clark saw when they were hoping to see an easy downriver float to the Pacific (hint: that's NOT what they saw from Lemhi Pass).

    Just to the northwest of Bannack, still headed for Missoula, lie Elkhorn Hot Springs and Jackson Hot Springs. Each natural spring's flow is directed to an outdoor swimming pool. Elkhorn is the more rustic of the two. Jackson is in the pleasant burg of Jackson and it part of a motel/cabins/campground/pool/bar/restaurant complex. When I was there in July a young couple with 3 small children were getting them dried off and dressing to continue their trip from Pocatello, ID to Missoula. Their typical MO was to stop at Jackson for a couple of hours to let the kids play in the pool with the knowledge they'd then sleep for the remainder of the trip.

    Exiting the spectacular Big Hole Valley from Jackson brings you past the Big Hole National Battlefield, an important stop for the older kids, as it brings into focus the tragic interaction between the largely peaceful Nez Perce tribe and the US Cavalry, in 1877. Missoula is just a couple of hours north of the Big Hole Battlefield, down well-traveled US 93 through the Bitterroot Valley, and I see Arlee is just past Missoula on US 93.

    On the return trip, Butte is a good stop for the excellent mining museum, featuring many inside and outside exhibits of 19th century mining equipment. On the opposite side of town is the Berkley Pit, one of the largest excavations on Earth. A view platform and excellent series of environmental restoration exhibits overlooks the mile-wide pit from some 500' above the water level in the bottom.

    Early Montana ranching history is on display at Deerlodge at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch, and the old Montana State Prison there draws visitors, too.

    As was noted, you'd pass close to Devils Tower, the Black Hills, and the Badlands as you head east on I-90 east from Billings.

    The pop-up camper seems like a good idea. They're typically a bit easier to erect than a tent and are somewhat more stable in a windy night-time thunderstorm.

    Have fun planning and taking your Montana RoadTrip!


  6. #6

    Default Ohio to Montana

    Thank you both for so much information and advice!

    It is AMAZING to me how much there will be to see, all the history and beauty!

    We definitely have a lot of work to do to prepare ourselves.
    I am so excited (and scared) to be going on this trip!

    We will begin our mapping to highlight all the areas mentioned and to see if there are any extra sites between here and Wyoming/Montana.

    Again, thank you, thank you so much for you input/advice.

    Have a super day!


  7. #7

    Default Since you asked...........

    ........and since you seem to be planning some adventures for the kids........

    My first move would be acquisition of a current US highway atlas and just sit around the den with the kids poring over it. Lots of locales mentioned here will show as will plenty more to catch your eyes.

    As to additional sights to see along the way........

    After some Lewis & Clark history at Council Bluffs, at a point around 90 miles west of Omaha on I-80, turn northwest at Grand Island, NE and take NE-2, the Sandhills Scenic Journey, for a beautiful ride northwest diagonally across Nebraska. Looking at the maps, you'll see it's really not out of the way to do so. Along the way is Halsey, where a unit of the Nebraska National Forest provides shady campsites close to the shallow Loup River where tubing is encouraged. As you break out of the Sandhills at Alliance, the quirky site called Carhenge can be visited. Going north from there to Chadron, NE brings you through some beautiful high plains butte and canyon country and to the Museum of the Fur Trade and the Sandoz High Plains Center at Chadron State College. Just west of Chadron is Crawford and Fort Robinson State Park, featuring a nice shaded campground with a little creek running through it. I faintly recall a swimming pool there at Fort Robinson, but don't hold me to that. Running a little farther west on US 20 from Fort Robinson brings you to I-25 north in Wyoming. From there you can go north to I-90, thence west to the Beartooth Highway, or west across central Wyoming to Jackson Hole, the Grand Teton NP, and the south entrance to Yellowstone NP.

    You should be able to find some local rodeo competitions most anywhere in Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana on Friday or Saturday nights. It's rather like high school football in that the whole town turns out on rodeo night. The kids should love seeing kids their own age competing in rodeo events in a small venue.

    Oh, and concerning the National Parks--have a look at the "annual pass" program. It offers unlimited access to all National Parks, National Monuments, etc, for a year, and included is up to 5 (I think) per carload--perfect for your group. If you expect to enter at least 4 National Parks, you'll save with the pass.

    As close as Arlee is to Glacier NP, surely you'll want to take the kids up there to travel the Going-To-The-Sun Road, with a couple of hours dedicated to playing in the snow on the glacier atop Logan Pass.


  8. #8


    I so enjoy your postings. They are so informative and thorough, a real gem!

    It's like reading a short bit in a novel.
    The picture I get in my head is lying on the floor, hands under chin, totally mezmerized by the story being told.

    I believe you could be listened to all day and the listener would get a clear picture of all the places you've described.

    Thank you for sharing ;)


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