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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Stockholm, Sweden

    Default June 2012 Chicago > Yellowstone > Las Vegas. Suggest. of roads and what not to miss.


    Let me first shortly introduce my self and my wife, we are 52 and 53 years old, live in Stockholm, Sweden and love to travel. One favorite we discovered in may -10 was Las Vegas, my wife love slot machines and I'm quite found of them too. We stayed for 9 days and it was 9 days of a lot of walking from hotel to hotel, a heli tour to GC and a concert with Eagles. When we went back home we both felt that we had not discovered everything too see in LV and therefor we went back this summer in June but this time I also planned for a road trip. We started in Las Vegas, stayed 3 nights on Freemont street and then picked up a rental car and headed for LA. We stayed in Hollywood for 3 nights before we continued driving up to San Simeon for the next stop. Next stop was in Carmel by the sea, 1 night, unfortunately we could not drive by the sea, there had been a landslide so the road was closed and we had to do a detour. From there we did go to SF and stayed for 3 nights. The plan from there was to go to Lee Vining via Tioga trail but that road was not open yet so we had to go thru Sonora pass instead but it was great road anyway. 1 night in Lee Vining and then we drove up to Bodie and from there down to Stove pipe wells in Death valley NP. The next day back to LV via Badwater where we stayed another 6 nights before returning to Sweden.

    This trip was great and as soon as we returned home I started to think about next summer. I now know what we would like to do. Since there are no direct flights to LV from Sweden we always have to change flight in either New York or Chicago and the plan now is to change from airplane to a rental car in Chicago, drive west to Yellowstone NP and from there south down to LV and fly home from there.

    What I'm looking for here are suggestions of what to see on that way, what not to miss if it's nearby where we pass. I know we will stop by Mount Rushmore, Devils tower (thought Close encounters of the third kind was a great movie when I was a youth) and 2 or 3 night in Yellowstone NP. I notice there are other NP like the Badlands and Wind cave on the way, is't worth the detour to see them ? What else are there to see, specially between Yellowstone and Las Vegas ? We like to drive scenic roads and stay over night in small nice city's or villages, suggestions of roads and stops for the night are very welcome.

    The length of this trip is not decided, it depends of the suggestions I hopefully get here and this time I don't think I will do any reservations in advance at hotel/motel/B&B except for the nights in Yellowstone NP. For the trip we made this summer I booked and paid every night in advance and it worked well but it did not give us any room for a change of the route or if we wanted to drive longer or shorter distance one day.

    Best regards

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    There's no shortage of places to visit along the route you've laid out, that's for sure.

    First, there's never been a national park that I've visited that I didn't think was worth the time.

    In South Dakota, I certainly wouldn't miss the Badlands, as it is one of my favorite National Parks. The caves (Wind and Jewel) are both worth exploring, and Custer State Park is also beautiful enough to deserve National Park status. Really, you could easily spend a few days in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

    Heading west, you'll drive right by Little Bighorn Battlefield, and I'd highly recommend entering Yellowstone via the Beartooth Highway.

    I'd recommend you spend at least 3 days in Yellowstone, and if you can spend more time you wouldn't regret it, and from there the obvious next stop is Grand Teton National Park.

    Between there and Vegas is Utah, which is home to about a dozen more National Parks. I'd recommend doing some combination of Arches, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, Monument Valley (Tribal Park, not a national park), Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. If your only visit to the Grand Canyon was by helicopter, then you likely only visited the West Rim, and a visit to Grand Canyon National Park (a quite different experience) would also be worth consideration.

    Getting a National Parks pass will likely make sense. Its $80 and covers all entrance fees to all national parks, so it can pay for itself if you visit just 4-5 parks.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Up to you.

    Hello and welcome to RTA !

    You will find Lot's of info throughout the forums and in the road trip planning pages in the tool bars above. You say the lenght of trip is undecided depending on suggestions, well to be honest it could take a lifetime to visit the thousands of possibilities. What's worth it and what's not, really comes down to your own personal preferences. If time and money were no object, they would all be worth it in my opinion and as well as the main sites there is always plenty in between.

    From Yellowstone to Vegas you have many options, including some great driving roads and National parks in Southern Utah like Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion and Bryce canyon. As you took a Heli tour to the Grand canyon it is likely that you only saw the West rim outside of the National park. If that is the case I would recommend revisiting inside the National park area, being the north or south rim. Lake Powell, Monument valley are just another couple of places you could consider visiting. Whats worth it, how far you want to venture and how much time you want to spend, are ultimately down to you. Once you have worked on it some more I am sure we can help fill in the blanks and make more meaningful suggestions.

    Enjoy the planning.

    Basically, a lot like Michael was posting as I was still typing !
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 11-20-2011 at 04:15 PM. Reason: Slow fingers.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Stockholm, Sweden


    Thank's Dave and Michael,

    I'll do a more detailed planning and then post it here for comments. But it will take a while, probably not until christmas, we fly to LV on sunday and stay for 12 nights but this time there will not be any "road trip".

    I'll be back


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default You're welcome.

    No problem, have a good Vegas trip ! When you have worked on next years trip and new questions crop up, just ask here in this thread.

    You might find some insider tips at RTA's 'sister site', Living Las Vegas.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Stockholm, Sweden

    Default Hi again,


    I have now planned a little bit more and what do you all think about this roadtrip?
    It will take us to:
    Badlands NP
    Wildlife loop just north of Wind cave NP
    Jewel cave
    Crazy horse
    Mount Rushmore
    Devil's tower
    Little big Horn battlefield
    Beartooth Hwy
    Yellowstone NP
    Grand Tenton NP
    Hells backbone rd
    Zon NP
    Grand canyon NP north rim

    The first questions I hope I can get some help with is this ones:

    1, Overall, is it a viable road trip, given the timing?

    2, My choice of roads, comments and/or alternative?

    3, Does anyone know the normal road conditions for Sage creek rd and Hells backbone rd? (eg. is it enough with a ”normal” car or is it neccessary with 4x4 and/or high clearance?)

    4, In Yellowstone, would you recommend that we stay in one place and make day trips from that place or should we move around in the park for the nights? How would you plan the stay in the park, three nights and two full days?

    5, Would appreciate comments like, skip that, it's nothing to see and only a touris trap, visit this instead when you are so close to it......

    Here's a more detailed description of my planning:
    Day 1
    Start in Chicago at O'hare in early afternoon and drive to Madison on Hyw 90 for the first night stop (160 miles).

    Day 2
    Continue on 90 to Sioux falls for text stop (440 miles).

    Day 3
    Continue on 90 to somewhere close to Cactus flat and road 240.
    Stop at Corn palace in Mitchell. (280 miles)

    Day 4
    Drive in to Badlands on road 240, continue on Rim Rd and then Sage creek Rd down to 44. Then Bombing range Rd / Big Foot trail / BIA Hwy 27 down to BIA Hwy 2. West on BIA Hwy 2 to BIA Hwy 4, go north on BIA Hwy 4 / Rd 40 to Hermosa. Take Rd 36 and follow Wild life loop, first south bound and then follow it north up to Rd 87, continue north to Rd 16 and continue to Custer.
    Continue on Rd 16 to Jewel cave. Stop for the night somwere so we can be at Jewel cave in the morning when they open. (190 miles)

    Day 5
    Start the day with a tour at Jewel cave after a short drive from the night stop. Drive back to Custer and north on Rd 16 up to Crazy horse, continue north on Rd 16 and then Rd 244 to Mount Rushmore. From there, continue on Rd 244 and then Rd 385 up to Deadwood and stop for the night. (85 miles)

    Day 6
    A day with a long drive again. Hwy 90 to Rd 14 at Sundance for a detour up to Devils tower and then back to Hwy 90 at Moorecroft. Continue on Hwy 90 to Laurel with a stop at Little big horn battlefield. (450 miles)

    Day 7
    Drive to Yellowstone on Rd 212, Beartooth Hwy.

    Day 8
    In Yellowstone

    Day 9
    In Yellowstone

    Day 10
    Drive south out from Yellowstone thru the south entrance Rd. Continue on Rd 89 south in to Tenton and down to Tenton park Rd and then follow Mouse Wilson Rd down to Tenton pass Hwy and then east to Jackson and from there soth on Rd 89 down to Montpelier, stop for the night. (200 miles)

    Day 11
    Visit the National Oregon/California trail center. Driving soth from Montpelier to Evanstone and then Hwy 80 down to Rd 40, follow Rd 40 to Heber city and then turn in to Rd 18. Follow that Rd all the way down to Hwy 15 in Provo. Drive south on Hwy 15 to Nephi and then take Rd 28+89 down to Salina for the night. (300 miles)

    Day 12
    From Salina south on Rd 24 to Torrey and then Rd 12 down to south of Boulder and then right on Hells Backbone road and via Posey lake Rd back to Rd 12 in Escalante. Continue west to Rd 89, go south on Rd 89 and in to Zion NP, stop for the night. (270 miles)

    Day 13
    Drive thru Zion on Rd 9 to Rockwille, take left and drive to Rd 59 and later Rd 349 to Fredonia. Then Rd 89 to Jacob lake where we enter Rd 67 and drive downto the North rim lodge for two nights. (140 miles)

    Day 14
    In GC NP.

    Day 15
    Drive from the north rim to the south rim and then down to Williams and Stop for the night.

    Day 16
    Drive to GC Caverns and after a stop there continue to Hoover dam, take a tour, drive to LV and that's the end of the road trip.

    I think it's a little bit urgent for me to set the dates for the trip so I can make reservations in Yellowstone and Grand canyon NP's a.s.a.p

    I want to thank you all in advance for your comments and suggestions of changes in our planned roadtrip.

    Best regards

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    3, Does anyone know the normal road conditions for Sage creek rd and Hells backbone rd? (eg. is it enough with a ”normal” car or is it neccessary with 4x4 and/or high clearance?)
    If a road is unpaved, you are not allowed to drive any rental vehicle on it, even if it's a high clearance 4x4, unless it's a local rental that gives you specific permission to drive it "off road". Both those roads are unpaved.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Stockholm, Sweden

    Default How to plan our stay in Yellowstone?

    Hi all,

    I'm looking for advices how to spend our time in Yellowstone best, where to stay for the nights in the NP.
    Our planning so far looks like this:
    Around August 20th, start from Billings or Laurel in the morning and drive Beartooth Hwy in to the park for the first stop. Staying in the park for 2 full days and on the third day leave the park by the south entrence (exit).

    What we want to see in the park during out stay are:
    Old Faithful area
    Norris area incl Artist Paintpots area
    Mammoth area
    Mud Volcano area
    Lower an Upper falls area
    Drive North Fork Hwy to Cody (to see town and visit Buffal Bill's museum)
    (have I missed any "must see" areas ?)

    I have tried to plan stops for the night so we can see all those places and at the same time drive as many different roads in the park as possible, but I think it's hard when we have no experience at all how long it takes to drive in the park and the needed time at each area.

    Due to the time we have in the park maybe we have to skip some of the mentioned areas, in that case what should we skip, what is less worth spending 'expensive' time to?

    It might be possible to extend the stay in the park with one day but only if it's well worth it and highly recommended by you.

    All advices and suggestions about our stay in the NP are very welcome.

    Best regards
    Pelle C

    Note. Please keep all questions about this trip in one thread. It makes it easier for everyone to follow and as you can see, might provoke a response from your earlier questions that in turn might help with the overall planning. Win Win !
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 03-30-2012 at 03:19 AM. Reason: Merged threads.

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

    Default Bryce canyon ?

    You seem to have a good idea of what you want and how to go about it, and it's great that you have obviously been researching. Knowledge is not a burden to carry, but don't overplan every moment of the day, or you risk thinking more about your next stop instead of enjoying the one you are at.

    As lovely as Utah Scenic Byway 12 is, with the time you have, I personally would take a direct route from Salina to Bryce canyon to view the fascinating rock formations, before heading to Zion NP.

    Yellowstone is on my 'to do' list and will let someone else respond to your specific questions. The thing I will say is that when you arrive you will be given lot's of leaflets and the park rangers are always happy to talk about their favourite areas of the park. You can learn lots form the Yellowstone nps site, but once you are there, it will all unfold before you.

  10. #10


    Yellowstone is a huge park. And it takes much longer than you might think to drive between the various attractions because of the low speed limit and various wildlife you'll encounter. There are frequent traffic jams because of buffalo crossing the road, and even because of vehicles pulling over to view wildlife near the road. Of course, the wildlife spotting is half the fun of being in Yellowstone (in my opinion!).

    If you haven't booked somewhere to stay in the park, do it as soon as possible or you'll find yourself with very limited options. The NPS has a park map on their website to help you see where everything is in relation to where you'll be staying.

    We did a very full (and exhausting) day that included Mammoth, Old Faithful (and all the surrounding geysers), and several geyser fields in between the two (which could include Norris). I don't know that I'd recommend that anyone do all of this in one day, unless you were just doing cursory looks at most stops and not walking all the boardwalks to see everything up close.

    You can comfortably do the Upper and Lower Falls and Mud Volcano in a day. How long you spend at the falls depends upon whether you do the climbs down to the viewpoints.

    The drive to Cody is longer than it looks (I think we spent a good 3-4 hours, but that did include a stop for picnic lunch, stops to view wildlife, and a stop at the Buffalo Bill dam). I'm not sure how long it would take if you just drove it straight through. If you want to spend time in the town, I suggest devoting an entire day to it.

    I found the Lake Yellowstone geyser area fascinating (some of the geysers are in the lake!) with a beautiful mountain backdrop. You could work this into your day at the falls and Mud Volcano. Just another thing to consider adding to your already full list...

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