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  1. #1

    Default Summer Road Trip

    In the Pre-planning stages of a 3 week (approx) road trip.
    Leaving from the Detroit area and heading west towards the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Mt Rushmore, and the Badlands.
    Most likely driving an RV
    2 small children, 5,4 now.
    Would love advice, tips, places to go, places to not miss, places to avoid etc.
    Also we love food, so any special restaurants or neat attractions would be appreciated.
    We're a young family with the itch to explore.
    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    What you're talking about should be a fantastic trip, where there are tons of things to do.

    The hard part is that there is so much to do, that it really is difficult to impossible to start narrowing things down when you are talking about such a large area with so many possibilities. For example, just between Utah and Colorado, you've got about a dozen more national parks that could be included into your plan.

    What I would encourage you to do is to take advantage of all the resources of this site - including other forum threads, planning articles, and of course the Map Center, to continue finding and building ideas.

    As you have more specific questions, we'll be glad to help!

  3. Default

    I don't know if you own an RV or are renting one but driving an RV is more tiresome than driving a car and usually takes longer to get to your destination. With two small children you are probably only going to make about 500 to 550 miles a day at best. With that in mind, it will take 4 days of just driving to reach the Grand Canyon. It will take another almost another 1 1/2 to 2 days to reach Yosemite Village. Figuring you have to get home, that's another 5 - 6 days for a total of 12 possible days of just driving long hard days out of 3 weeks. That leaves you 10 to 12 days for site seeing.

    I'd highly recommend you drop Yosemite and add other parks that will be on your way. Examples would be Rocky Mountain National Park, Arches National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park & Dinosaur National Park or if you want to avoid the summer heat of the Utah parks then consider Yellowstone & Grand Tetons and you would still cut out a lot of miles.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Optimistic!

    Quote Originally Posted by Utahtea View Post
    With two small children you are probably only going to make about 500 to 550 miles a day at best.
    And with the needs of two young children in mind, I would say that even that is very optimistic. You may find that you will get nowhere near that far... especially when you take into account the time it takes setting up camp at the end of the day, and breaking camp the next morning.

    I would endorse Utahtea's suggestion, that you consider a much shorter route, as outlined above.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    With kids, it really depends on how experienced they are as travelers. Ours would do very well on 500 miles a day. Oh, this doesn't mean that we didn't have the squabbles and crying that other parents had. The rule in our vehicle was: "when one person stops to go to the bathroom, EVERYBODY tries to go!" If a child then tried the "I've gotta go NOW" bit, five minutes after leaving the rest area, that child got a lecture. My daughter swears to this day that her dad strengthened her bladder by that rule! Another rule we had was, "We are eating now. If you are not hungry, get something anyway and then you will bring it with you." Most of the time that wasn't a problem, because we took a family consensus about breakfast stops. We traveled with snacks and juices in the car, something I often regretted when vacuuming up Cheerios from the vehicle after the trip. But hey, they were happy.

    Once the girls got old enough, they were able to pack a little car bag full of the things they could do easily in the car. At 4 or 5 it was small dolls, My Little Pony (who saw lots of the country), little picture books for one (the other got car sick when she'd look at a book so Mom made her hold off on books until the motel), and we had tapes of kids' songs and music that the parents liked. (Our kids grew up on jazz and John Denver, etc.) The girls were also very good nappers in the car.


  6. #6


    Awesome advice, keep it coming!
    To add:
    We will be traveling no more 300-350 miles per day.
    Going to break it up to hit cool cities or attractions along the way.
    We've never been to Milwaukee or the Mall of America so those will be stops before heading further west.
    We have family in Durango,CO as wel so that will be a stop, but mostly focusing on the NP's
    Grand Canyon, etc.
    Does anyone have approximates as to park fees and camping fees?
    Thanks again for the great feedback!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default America the Beautiful

    Quote Originally Posted by Rutledge4 View Post
    Does anyone have approximates as to park fees and camping fees?
    If you are going to be visiting four NPs (or more), then purchasing the annual pass at the first park you visit, will be a considerable saving. It covers all occupants of the vehicle - entry only.

    Details on camping fees and requirements can be found on the National Parks website.


  8. Default

    We will be traveling no more 300-350 miles per day.
    That's good news and bad news! Good news you won't be exhausted at the end of each day but the bad news is you will be traveling at least 15 days of your 3 weeks and that only leaves you 6 to 8 days for having time to see spend more time in one place. I would still recommend dropping Yosemite in California.

    Since you will be going to Durango, you might want to check out Mesa Verde National Park and drive the scenic Million Dollar Highway 550 from Ouray to Durango. Your children might like playing on the sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park.

    The National Park Pass cost $80 and is good for one full year for entrances to National Parks and National Monuments. The Grand Canyon entrance fee is $25.00 (for 7 days), Mt. Rushmore is free but you have to pay for parking which is not part of the National Park Pass, Badlands is $15.00 and Yosemite is $25.00. So if you don't hit any other parks, it wouldn't be worth it, but if you are considering Mesa Verde NP at $15.00, Bryce, Zion or Yellowstone at $25.00 each then it could be worth it.

    Since you will be going to Durango, you might want to check out Mesa Verde National Park.

    Camping fees can vary anywhere from free in Canyon de Chelly National Monument to $40.00 at Fishing Bridge RV Park in Yellowstone. On average I'd say it's about $18.00 per night in the National Parks for the basic dry camping sites with a table & fire pit.

    Private Campgrounds can vary too but they come in handy when traveling long distances because they are so convenient to the highway.. They will probably start at $18 and go up to $50 or $60 depending on their location. On one of the forums I was reading that the KOA in Billings Montana was $75.00 a night! OUCH. Some of it will depend on the size of your RV. Some Private parks will charge for the 3rd and 4th person, but usually kids under a certain age will be free. On average we spend about $35 - 40 a night for a private campground. You might want to invest in either a Trailer Life Campground Directory or a Woodalls. If you are renting an RV, some of the RV rental places will lend you one of the directories. You can also look up campsites ahead of time on line.

    Once you have your route and destinations decided, I can help you with campgrounds in the West. If you want to stay in the National Parks this summer, you will need to make reservations. Yosemite will be booked, but you can sometimes luck into a cancellation.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Some thoughts.

    I have to agree that Yosemite would be pushing beyond the scope of an enjoyable trip. As wonderful as it is I would turn around at the GC and put Yosemite NP on your 'must do another day' list.

    We will be traveling no more 300-350 miles per day.
    If you were to head from home to GC that would take about 6 days of travel doing this. From Rapid City area home would take up to a further 4 days. So with 11 days to spare between GC and Badlands what could you do ? From GC, Zion NP and Bryce canyon would certainly be on my list. From Bryce canyon you could take UT scenic 12 to Torrey and 24 through Hanksville [passing Capitol Reef] and make your way to Moab, Arches and Canyonlands. From there head South to Durango and then North on the 'Million dollar highway' through the lovely mountain towns of Silverton and Ouray. You could then make your way towards RMNP by way of I70 or US50 passing Black canyon and Currecanti rec area and over Monarch pass to Poncha Springs and North to Leadville, the highest incorporated town in the US. Head for I70 and Georgetown and then North to Grand lake and the Trail ridge road [highest continuous paved road in the US] across RMNP to Estes park and then North towards Badlands. These are just a few suggestions of many to work from and you most likely won't do all of these. You could easily use your time up in the Four corners region and still leave plenty for 'another day'. Getting the balance right is important, you don't want to be rushing through one great place to get to another, sometimes less is more. You might pick up a few ideas here.

    Once you have worked on the details of your trip we can help fill in the blanks.

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