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  1. #1

    Default Denver to Coeur D' Alene Camping

    Hi Folks,
    We will be attending a wedding next August in Coeur D'Alene ID(CDA). I am planning to roadtrip from Denver to CDA, camping at National Parks or National Forests along the way. Shortlisted so far:

    Rocky Mountain National Park
    Colorado Nat. Monument/Black Canyon of the Gunnison
    Grand Tetons
    Glacier National Park

    It's not realistic to see all these in one trip but I want to get the best bang for the the buck. Last year we detoured off the plan to hit the Bear Tooth Highway and it was one of the best days of our trip.

    I would be grateful for any recommendations or experiences in these areas. I am not familiar enough with the Grand Juction/Black Canyon of the Gunnison area to know if mid August camping is a good idea.

    Any input is welcome.

    Thank you

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default One (or Two) of These Things Doesn't Belong

    If you're concerned about whether such an itinerary is realistic, then the first thing that should jump out at you when you map it out is how far it is from a straight line. You've taken what could be a relatively easy two day drive of around 1060 miles via I-25/I-90 and turned it into a three and a half day, 1600 mile, circuitous back road trek. Now that's all well and good if that's what you want, but it seems unusual to do so in order to visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison which is nowhere near any direct route between Denver and Coeur d'Alene. The same is true, to a slightly lesser degree, with Glacier National Park.

    The thing is that there is so much gorgeous scenery and so many great parks on more direct routes, and if you're returning to Denver after the wedding you can take a couple of them, so that there is no need to waste time adding miles. Take a look at the following as an example of one such 'loop' trip. Head out of Denver up through Rocky Mountain National Park, then take US-34/US-40 west to CO-14/CO-125 north into Montana. Continue north on WY-230/WY-130 to I-80 west and US-287 north to US-26 west to Moran Junction and Grand Tetons National Park. From there US-191 would take you up through Yellowstone National Park to I-90 west into Coeur d'Alene. The return would have you taking US-95 south past the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area to I-84 which follows the Snake River past Bruneau Canyon and Bruneau Sand Dunes down into the Great Salt Lake area. You'd pick up US-40 there and head east past Dinosaur National Monument and then use CO-64/CO-13 to drop down to I-70 with a final detour over Loveland Pass (US-6) rather than through the Eisenhower Tunnel to get back to Denver.

    You probably still won't have enough time to see all the sights along those routes either, but at least you'll save some time and miles so that you can devout those resources to getting out of the car and experiencing the countryside rather than just hurrying from place to place.

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default How long?

    How long do you have for this trip? Where you can go will depend greatly on the time available each way. If taking I-90 you will be going right by the National Bison Range north of Missoula. Time permitting, Glacier NP would be a great trip. The Going to the Sun Road through the park should be open in August. Take scenic highway 89 from I-90 and scenic highway 93 back to I-90. Spectacular country.

    Lifey

  4. #4

    Default Good campsites along the way?

    Thanks Guys,
    Great feedback!

    AZBuck,
    You're absolutely right about Gunnison being so far out of the way. I'd still like to shoot for Glacier since I don't know when (or if) I'll get that far north again. Your example above will be a great help in planning our route. I hadn't even considered most of that return route through Idaho, being unfamiliar with that area. What is the area like along US-287/US-26 between Rawlins and Riverton WY? Will we be running along the western edge of the prairie with the divide visible to the west, or or will it be mountainous terrain from RMNP all the way to the Tetons? Either way is great.

    Lifey,
    I'm with you on Glacier NP. It has been the real goal since I learned of this wedding. Right now I plan to get to Denver one week before I need to be in CDA. I have a little flexibility to add a few days on the front end if needed and I should have 3 or four days to return from CDA to Denver.

    Thank for the great feedback! Any more suggestions are most welcome!

    Any good campground suggestions along the way would also be most appreciated.

    Jeff
    Last edited by Jeff Myers; 01-16-2014 at 02:58 PM. Reason: left something out

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    When we tent-camped, we always preferred the national forest campgrounds to most others. We always found it difficult to actually get a spot in a national park campground, but when we did, we liked them. Many of the NF campgrounds were located away from the crowds. They were used but not heavily, the sites were far enough apart that you didn't hear your neighbors snoring in the next tent over, and they were usually flat with enough room for parking your vehicle.

    State park campground usually left us unimpressed, though we utilized one here and there. It seemed like we were a lot closer to our neighbors, the ones in California seemed to stack us one on top of another. The only things they had going for them, is often a shower (usually coin-op, though) facility. Since we would go 3-4 nights in a tent and then a night in a motel to catch a shower and a comfortable bed, a state park campground with a shower was a nice thing.

    One of our last tent camp experiences was in Rocky Mountain National Park's Moraine CG. It was a lovely spot. However, down the road in the national forest was a nice enough campground, too, called Pawnee.

    Since I haven't figured out exactly what route you've settled on, it's hard to give you more advice on exact campgrounds. Once you get a good route planned, look for the national forests and parks that are along your route or where you're going. Then do a search in that forest's or park's website. Let us know, too, and perhaps we can give you more recommendations.


    Donna

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

    Default Camping?

    Camping really shouldn't be a problem with the many public lands in the west. Besides the national parks and monuments on your route, there will be state parks, and perhaps the best and least utilized of the national camping facilities, the national forests. On your drive you will pass near or through all of the following national forests:

    Roosevelt
    Routt
    Arapaho
    Medicine Bow
    Shoshone
    Bridger
    Teton
    Targhee
    Gallatin
    Beaverhead
    Deerlodge
    Helena
    Lolo
    Clearwater
    St. Joe
    Kanisku
    Coeur d'Alene
    Nez Perce
    Payette
    Wallowa-Whitman
    Boise
    Sawtooth
    Cache
    Wasatch
    Uinta
    White River

    As I said, camping should not be a problem. As for US-287 through Wyoming, you're going to be passing through the Great Divide Basin, a unique bit of geography that is actually in between two branches of the continental divide. Rain that falls in the basin flows to neither the Pacific nor the Atlantic, but is trapped within the basin itself. The fact that there is no lake in the basin shows how little such rainfall there is. After exiting the basin you'll be running up the leeward side of the Wind River Range of the Rockies, a very scenic mountain range. Both of these sections would be classified as high plains desert with scrub vegetation and vistas that go on for miles.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 01-16-2014 at 10:18 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default They're all marked on maps.

    Any good paper map will show you where camping in NFs and SPs is available. They all have little tent symbols. As noted above, there are lots along any route you choose to take.

    Lifey

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    When you're on the highway, you'll see a little blue or brown tent sign with a directional arrow, like this:

    camping.jpg


    Donna

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    State park campground usually left us unimpressed, though we utilized one here and there.
    Funny, as a tent camper I've generally found the opposite experience. I tend to favor state parks. Typically I find the sites are just as nice, the cost is very similar to National Forests, and they typically have a bit more for modern features - like showers and bathrooms with running water instead of just pit toilets. Of course, some of that is state by state - as some states certainly do a better job than others.


    One other thing I've noticed recently is that many National Forest campgrounds are now being operated by private groups, which tends to drive up their price a bit. That's not to say I have any problem staying in National Forest or National Park sites either, as those often are quite nice, and in the west they can be more plentiful.

  10. #10

    Default

    Thanks all for the good info.

    There are certainly plenty of camping opportunities along the way and not hard to find.

    I was wondering if anyone has been to any particularly beautiful spots they would recommend or any to avoid.

    Donna, I am pretty set on the route AZBuck laid out above for the Northwesterly leg with camping stays at or near Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Tetons NP and Glacier NP. I am also leaning towards the National Forest campgrounds in these areas. I have looked at Moraine which looks beautiful. I will also look at Pawnee. One website I found listed Moraine as the best Campground in Colorado.

    Michael, I am also a fan of many State Park campgrounds but have no experience with them in the states I will hit on this trip.

    Thanks
    Jeff

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