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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default Planning our 2014 summer trip

    All things hopeful, of course, we are beginning to plan our summer trip (June-July) for this year. I have some questions for you all that have traveled a little more extensively and more recently in these areas than we have:

    We'd like to visit Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave, and Custer State Park. (I've been to the first and the third, but not since I was a kid. My husband has been to the first, also as a child, but has not been to Custer or the Cave.) At first, I thought Rapid City would be a good base for operations there. Now, really looking at the map, it seems there are more central places. Any suggestions? Motel, of course, is our way to go this trip.

    Traveling from this area, the next minor stop would be Devils Tower (neither of us have been there), followed by several days in Yellowstone. First things first -- trying to pick a reasonable route. I'm torn between two routes: 1) Going to Cody via I-90 and then Alt-14, or 2) Going to Cody via US-16/20. Then going through Yellowstone the following day to find our lodging, stopping as we go, and spending 2 more full days on "the loops". Both of those routes above are shown as gorgeous. I also seem to recall my dad complaining about towing Powder River Pass, but that was many, many years ago. :-)

    We were unable to secure any lodging in Yellowstone itself, even 6+ months ahead of time. That, of course, is typical. We are thinking of staying in West Yellowstone -- any suggestions about where to get reservations? Something very reasonable, does not have to be a chain, just decent.

    Another area we hope to visit is the Headwaters of the Mississippi River. Once again, this is a place where one of us has been but not the other. Since I went to college along the Mighty Miss, I'd like to see where it all begins. Does anyone have a suggestion about where to stay in that area of MN? Since it will be a 2-night stay, and not on a weekend, it would be lovely if it had cabins. We will be coming there from northern WI, where I have a cousin that I haven't seen in years and would love to visit her.

    It also looks like we may try to get two Laura Ingalls Wilder places on our trip. One is Marshfield MO (home of Rocky Ridge Farm, where she wrote the books that my daughter and I have loved) and the other is DeSmet SD. We'd like to stay near DeSmet -- we would be coming from Minneapolis, seeing the DeSmet museum that day, and then finding a hotel afterward for the night before heading towards Rapid City the next day. If anyone has an idea of where we might stay in that area, that would be great.

    For now --

    Donna

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,747

    Default Lodging.

    There is always a possibility that lodgings in Yellowstone will become available and is worth checking their site regularly for any cancellations. We recently stayed at the Moose Creek Inn in West Yellowstone which [at that time] offered good value compared to other places in this highly priced town, the rooms were on the small side but were clean and equipped with nice furnishings. It's located in a quiet[er] part of town but is within easy walking distance of town. If you want somewhere clean and comfortable to sleep after a day in the park it's not bad at all, but if you want somewhere with lots of amenities, it won't be the place for you.

    Dave.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    I HIGHLY recommend the Evergreen Motel in West Yellowstone. It's as cheap as anything in that expensive town, and it's a charming little place. Very clean and well maintained. It's owned and run by a wonderful 20-something couple. Only problem is parking is very tight, you may want to look elsewhere if you will be driving your truck.

    I have a feeling that to get any closer to Mount Rushmore than Rapid City, you will be paying through the nose.

    If you are not planning on leaving Yellowstone via the Beartooth Highway, I'd take that going in. You HAVE to take it in one direction. It's the closest thing to a "must" that exists.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default The Odd Recommendation

    First, as a base of operations for visiting the sights of southwestern South Dakota, your best bet is probably Custer. It's centrally located and has a number of competing motels of different quality and price so that you ought to be able to find something that suits both your tastes and budget. I also stayed in West Yellowstone a few years ago, and the same can be said for it, but I did have the advantage of staying there in late September and had the town pretty much to myself. The major disadvantage to staying in West Yellowstone, and this is true of any of the surrounding towns, is the miles of driving over crowded roads to get to the major attractions within the park itself. The only thing I can suggest is that you time shift a bit and start your day before sunrise and end it early in the evening. This would at least let you get well into the park before most people hit the road, and maybe be heading back when most are getting dinner.

    If it helps any in choosing your route between Devils Tower and Yellowstone, I will note the US-14 west of Ranchester is the Bighorn Scenic Byway. And while US-16 is also designated a scenic byway, (the Cloud Peak Skyway), I think my preference would be for US-14 and save the 40 miles.

    As for the headwaters of he Mississippi, you do know that Itasca State Park has several lodges and cabins available, and I don't think these would be as heavily booked as those at major national parks. They're certainly worth looking into.

    AZBuck

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Great routes.

    Definitely, savour the Beartooth Highway. Not many places to stop and take in the view (and ambiance), but make the most of those there are.

    When crossing from Ranchester to Cody, divert onto Alt 14, it is spectacular. It is here on my first visit that a moose stood in front of my car - I was going slowly to view the wildlife. As he stood there, and looked straight at me as if to say, you'll move when I am ready. I was so awe struck, I did not even think to get out my camera. Early and late in the day, the wildlife is prolific.

    A short walk will take you to the medicine wheel. Another will take you to Big Horn Canyon overlook.

    Lifey

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default

    I should probably let you know that our plans are to go counter-clockwise: Phoenix, Houston, north to Missouri, *maybe* out east a little bit, up to the Chicago 'burbs to visit family, up to northern WI and northern MN, maybe a stop in Minneapolis, then west to DeSmet, Rapid City, Devils Tower, Yellowstone, south to Grand Teton, and probably home from there (unless we divert over to the south end of the Bay Area to visit another cousin). So utilizing the Beartooth Highway means to do so going in. (What's the highway number of that one's approach?)

    Yes, probably driving our truck, as one thing we need to do in MO is drop off some stuff that belongs to our daughter who lives there. Tight parking? We'd like to avoid that. We'll check into those two motels in West Yellowstone. We always try to get into ANY park early in the morning, as it is more likely a time to see wildlife -- most recently in Shenandoah (2011) and Acadia (2012). Research has told me to do the same at Wind Cave, and get one of the first cave tours.

    Speaking of Wind Cave: there are 5 tours. We're debating between the least strenuous and the 2nd least strenuous right now, because of our own health issues. My knees won't take 450 stair steps up and down that the most strenuous needs! Any thoughts, here?


    Donna

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,747

    Default

    So utilizing the Beartooth Highway means to do so going in. (What's the highway number of that one's approach?)
    You want US212 through Red Lodge. I'd recommend stopping in Silver Gate where you wil lsee a huge timber building. If you ask in the store they encourage people to have a wander around inside and we were most impressed.

    It's worth checking out Mormon Row near the Tetons.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    So utilizing the Beartooth Highway means to do so going in. (What's the highway number of that one's approach?)
    Beartooth is US-212, going through Red Lodge, Montana.

    I would agree with Buck that Custer is a very central location to all the main attractions in the eastern Black Hills and it has plenty of motels to pick from, although if cabins are interesting to you, you might look at staying right within Custer State Park, where there are at least a few cabin options.

    I can't help specifically with Wind Cave, as we toured Jewel on our last visit there. We did the Scenic Tour, which has 700 some steps, but that didn't end up being too bad. There were more small stair climbs, that were spread out throughout the tour, so it isn't nearly as tiring as if you were doing them all at once.

    If you end up driving from Minneapolis to DeSmet, you might as well look at going there via US-14 and Walnut Grove, MN, which also was one of LIW's homes and also has a museum. For motels around DeSmet, Huron has a good handful of places to pick from, otherwise, you could head down to Mitchell.

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

    Default

    Just to give you an idea on how expensive West Yellowstone is in the summer, the Evergreen is one of the cheapest motels in town and it starts at $116 a night. I'd look at the RTA reservations page NOW - looks like you can get a cottage for just under $100 a night at the Kirkwood, depending on dates. Next cheapest is a TENT with shared bathroom at Yellowstone Under Canvas. The Moose Creek that Dave mentioned is $180. The newer chain hotels are all $200+.

    To get to the Beartooth, take I-90 through Billings then take Exit 434 to US-212.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default

    I looked at the Moose Creek Inn first -- yeah, that's more than we spent at Disney World. Still it might be okay. I'll check out Kirkwood.

    I've debated Walnut Grove. A friend who went through said that if one was interested in the TV show, that one is focused more on the TV version of Little House than on the books. She liked DeSmet better because of the focus on the history and the books. (She hadn't gotten to Marshfield yet.) In the original plans for the trip, I had taken us from Chicago to north WI, to Minneapolis, to Itasca State Park. Then I realized that this was longer than doing northern WI and MN, then Minneapolis. Anyway, I'll rethink on Walnut Grove.

    Donna

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