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  1. #1

    Default Yellowstone from Bear Tooth or Tetons?

    Good Morning Folks,
    I am brand new to this site. What a great resource!

    We are driving first week of August from South Jersey to Coeur D'Alene, Idaho and beyond. I have budgeted some extra time to detour through Yellowstone. I'm trying to get a good balance of the most scenic drive and still making fair headway on the greater journey. The only piece of the puzzle I haven't locked in is this: I'm not sure whether it would be best to go through Yellowstone coming SW from Billings, MT and I-90 to check out the Bear Tooth Highway or to approach from I-80 driving up through the Tetons. I'll have to commit to one route or the other at or near Chicago. Any thoughts or experiences would be appreciated.

    Thank you

    Jeff

  2. #2

    Default I'd avoid I-90

    Hi Jeff,

    The annual Bike Rally, with around 500,000 visitors, will be going on in Sturgis, SD (just outside of Rapid City), during the first week of August. While it's been > 10 years since I traveled through the area during the Rally, I expect the rest areas, fuel plazas, restaurants, motels, and campgrounds to be crowded with ridden and towed bikes for hundreds of miles east and west of Sturgis during the weeks before, during, and after the official dates for the Rally. I have zero problems with bikers, but the numbers are daunting.

    I do particularly enjoy the Beartooth Highway and the Lamar Valley accessed by the Yellowstone's Northeast Entrance. But I'd skip it if I had to run the gauntlet of Sturgis crowds to get there. You may find some relief to running up I-94 and rejoining I-90 at Billings, MT. If you do that, be aware of a paucity of motel rooms in the Williston, ND area, where the shale oil boom is under way. A particularly nice overnight could be Red Lodge, MT, thus allowing you to run through the "no motel" area along I-94, stop in the delightful tourist town of Red Lodge, and take on the Beartooth Highway first thing the next morning.

    All things considered, including how nice a drive through central Wyoming can be during the summer months, I'd probably just run I-80 out there. You can also look at running I-80 to western Nebraska, then ramping up US 26 through Ogalala and Scottsbluff, to Casper after a short jaunt on I-25, then again on US 26 all the way to the Tetons. That should limit your exposure to Sturgis traffic to the I-25 segment. Personally, I'd find the US 26 route somewhat more enjoyable then running I-80 clear to Rawlins, then up US 287.

    Foy

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    There really is no bad answer here, but personally, I'd lean towards the Beartooth.

    Foy's notes about traffic are important though. Because of Sturgis, I would also recommend taking I-94, which is actually a touch shorter than I-90 between Wisconsin and Montana. I think the drive across North Dakota is a bit underrated, as it can be quite pleasant, especially if you take a couple hours to detour through Teddy Roosevelt NP. However, Foy is also very true about the hotel situation in Western ND, which is an issue that results in very high hotel rates as far away as Bismarck. Ideally, you can get your overnight stops to fall in eastern North Dakota and then again in Montana.

  4. #4

    Default

    Thanks Foy. That's some great info. I hadn't even thought of Sturgis. The US 26 route you describe looks like a good choice. Are there any neat little towns along 26 to overnight that would compare to Red Lodge? (Casper to Riverton Maybe?)

    My wife and kids have never been out West. As we approach the Rockies, how would you compare the WOW factor on the Red Lodge/Bear Tooth route vs. central WY up through the Tetons?

    Thank you

    Jeff

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    If you have the time you can do both. Take I-80 to Rock Springs, then US-191 to US-189 through Jackson. Depart Yellowstone through Cooke City and over the Beartooth through Red Lodge to I-90.

    I would also recommend you take I-70 instead of I-80 across the Midwest. This will cut out a lot of tolls and keep you out of Chicago traffic. You can get to I-80 from Denver via I-25.

    EDIT: Several posts while I was researching and posting!

    If you don't have time to do that, the Beartooth is one of the highest WOW factors ANYWHERE. How many miles a day/hours on the road are you planning between your home and Yellowstone? If I were making the trip, I'd take 4 days.

    How many kids and how old are they? Where in south NJ are you? What exact date are you leaving - and I assume first thing in the morning? How many days do you have to get to CDA?
    Last edited by glc; 07-26-2013 at 07:11 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Now For Something Completely Different....

    Realizing that you already have most of the puzzle 'locked in', I'd actually urge you to consider unlocking it for almost the entire eastern portion of your trip. And I say that not even knowing what you've got planned. What I do know is that you plan to get from southern New Jersey to Chicago, and that almost certainly entails using the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes, the Indiana Toll Road, and the Tri-State Tollway as well as (shudder) driving through Chicago. While that may be the fastest way (by maybe a whole hour) to get clear of the industrial northeast including the Great Lakes, it is hardly the cheapest or the most scenic. And that hour can easily disappear when you add up the time spent waiting at toll booths and in traffic in Chicago.

    What I'd suggest instead is that you look at taking I-95 down to Baltimore, the I-695 beltway around that city to the north, and then I-70/I-68 to Morgantown WV. From there I-79 north will re-connect you with I-70 west to Kansas City, I-29 up to southwestern Iowa, and then use IA-2/NE-2 to hop on I-80 at Lincoln. I-80 through Nebraska follows the old Oregon Trail route along the Platte River, past the Medicine Bow and Wind River mountain ranges in Wyoming and up through the Grand Tetons to Yellowstone. And it does all that (save on tolls, avoid Chicago, give you a great scenic drive) for only 75 more miles than the direct route through Chicago and by Sturgis.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 07-26-2013 at 10:53 AM.

  7. #7

    Default

    Thanks Guys,
    Sturgis, Oil Boom, Chicago, Tolls and Scenery are all compelling reasons to take a more southerly route. I was pretty hung up on the Bear Tooth but the Tetons would also be a great ride.

    Thanks for all the great input. Any more would be welcome and appreciated.

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

    Default

    Can you answer the questions I asked in my last post, please?

  9. #9

    Default

    GLC,
    I'm leaving from very close to Philly 6am on Tuesday 7/30. The plan is to arrive CDA mid afternoon Friday 8/4. This allows 3 1/2 days driving. The intent is to drive long hours day one and two, allowing for more wandering days 3 & 4. Kids are 15 and 11. They travel pretty well but this is going to be their longest road trip yet. It will my 4th trip cross country but I haven't done the northern routes.

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

    Default

    You are overextending yourselves if you expect to drive direct from Philly to CDA in 3.5 days without getting off the Interstates. Sorry, but this trip is over 2500 miles and 4 full days is slightly over what professional drivers are allowed to do. If you want to go through Yellowstone, you need at least 5 days to make this trip - and even then it's pretty much going to be just a quick drivethrough.

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