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  1. Default RV trip : SF - Las Vegas - Salt Lake City - Denver?

    Hello fellow RTA users

    I am currently planning a visit (from Denmark) to the US next Summer and stumbled across this great forum in my thirst and search for knowledge and advice. I hope you can assist me with some valuable information and inspiration to the following trip. I have read through various of the current posts already here, but haven't really found answers to all my questions.

    We are 2 adults and 3 children (2,5,8) and are planning the following route in an RV (we have previously travelled in both Canada and Australia in an RV so this is not foreign to us):
    SF - Monterey - San Simeon - Yosemity - Kings Canyon - Sequioa - Las Vegas - Grand Canyon - Zion - Bryce - Sal Lake - Jackson - Yellowstone - Cody - Badlands - Mount Rushmore - Hot Springs - Cheyenne - Denver.

    We have approx. 5 weeks (max. 40 days). My questions goes: Is it too much for the time available? Or does it sound reasonable. If reasonable, could I ask for some suggestions as to time to spend in some of (not all) the various NPs?

    If the route & time-to-spend seems... well, optimistic... what should not me missed? I appreciate that route suggestions are difficult to give as it depends very much on taste and preferences, but any input would be valuable nonetheless.

    Final remark; we do not neccessarily need to end in Denver; could also be Rapid City so safe the last leg to Denver. we just opted for Denver as Apollo RV has a drop-off outlet there (Apollo's RVs seem to be preferable to CruiseAmerica's...).
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 08-08-2014 at 07:36 AM. Reason: added some white space

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Considered a loop ?

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    You have a nice amount of time for a great trip and what you have mentioned is doable as long as you are happy with the pace. The first thing I would consider is to make it a loop trip and start and finish in the same city. Not only will it save you the rather large one way drop off fee, it will also give you more options to find the best flight and RV costs to any one of the City's you are visiting. For example if you started in SF and headed down the coast you could head to GC > towards Denver and RMNP with places like Monument valley, Arches and Canyonlands NP to consider. From Denver [Rocky mountain NP] you could then head to Badlands, Rushmore etc and to Yellowstone NP. From Yellowstone through the Grand Tetons to SLC and Bryce and Zion NP's. Then you would head towards Yosemite NP to include Vegas, or not. I doubt you will be allowed across Death valley in the summer in a rental so you could cut across from Zion towards Tonopah and Lee vining and enter Yosemite over the Tioga Pass. Then Sequoia NP back to SF. Of course there are many ways to work this and it's just set as an example of doing a loop without back tracking.

    Some parks can be seen quicker than others and a couple of nights in each of Yosemite, Zion, Grand canyon is really the minimum needed to appreciate them. I haven't been, but Rushmore could probably be an afternoon visit and Yellowstone would be at the other end of the scale where you really need 3 or 4 nights to get around this huge place. Bryce can be appreciated in a full day which would mean either 2 nights or just the one night and an afternoon and following morning. This is a 'minimum' really and you could easily spend a week in Yosemite [for example] and see new things each day.

    When renting an RV you need to make sure you get the bottom line figures and know what is included and what isn't. Mileage charges, Insurance fee's, bedding and kitchen kits, preparation fees etc and if it were the case, the one way drop fee. Cruise America often have specials for longer and local rentals [same drop off location] and you can find them by clicking in their 'Hot deals' link on their own website. They often include insurance cover in their fee's as well. It's not to say you can't find bteer deals, but they are usually are competitive when you get down to the fine print.

    The one thing you need to know is that RV sites in National parks are limited in number and extremely popular. High demand means a lack of available sites and booking is highly recommended at the earliest possible time, when that booking window opens !

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you've got an excellent start to your trip plan so far. I certainly don't think that 5 weeks is too much time at all, then again, I think it would be close to impossible to have too much time on a trip like this.

    Very generally, each National Park deserves at least a full day of your time, with Yellowstone being one place where 2-3 days really is a minimum. However, you could also spend more time at nearly all these places and still have lots of things you wouldn't be able to get to.

    A couple thoughts on your specific route. I'd go from the California coast to Sequoia/Kings Canyon then Yosemite, so you can continue east over Tioga Pass. That would also let you let you drive through Death Valley, although you may need to check with your RV company for restrictions depending upon who you end up using and when exactly you'll be driving through.

    In Utah, between Bryce and SLC, you might consider continuing east to Moab, checking out Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands, before turning north again.

    There is a lot more to the Black Hills than just Mount Rushmore. I'd also look into Devils Tower, Custer State Park, and Jewel and/or Wind Caves.

    I suspect it would be cheaper to finish in Denver, both because of drop off fees and options as well as Denver being a much larger airport than Rapid City.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    We just came back from a number of the places mentioned in the above posts. Here are my takes on "how much time to spend":

    Mt Rushmore - easily just a few hours. We arrived at 9 in the morning and were gone by 11, and we took the time to walk the Presidential Trail.

    Custer State Park - can easily take more time than Rushmore! There are three roads to take, and any/all of them are worthwhile (IMHO). The Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway (not a highway, just a road) would probably NOT be easily done in a motorhome. Some Class C's were fine. You can't do these roads in a longer RV. Wildlife Loop was a bit easier but still, long motorhomes did not use it.

    Devil's Tower -- a couple of hours would be fine here, too. That's about what we spent. Drove out to the park from I-90, did the Tower Trail (1.3 miles all the way around the Tower), stopped at the Prairie Dog field on the way out.

    Wind Cave -- we were there for about 3 hours. Whether this will be a full day or a partial day will depend a lot on when you get there, what tour you want, and how many people are waiting. We got there early in the morning, got the 2nd Fairgrounds Tour (which goes many times per day), and did not explore the above-ground part of the park. Some of the tours only go once or twice a day. Some folks want to take more than one tour, because every tour takes you to a different part of the cave and you see different formations because of that.

    Badlands -- we drove through the section closest to I-90 on the way into the Custer/Black Hills region. We took about 2-1/2 or 3 hours, including the stop at Wall Drug on the west end. Very interesting formations and very stark beauty in the Badlands. Both my husband and myself had been through the Badlands as kids with our respective parents and hadn't been very impressed. I was a little more impressed this trip, but to me, the Black Hills were lots prettier.

    When we were in Yellowstone, I think we saw RV's from every rental company we knew: Cruise America, RoadBear RV, Camping World RV, Escape Campervans, and so many more! The only thing about them is that they take up a bigger parking space, and those are limited in many NP parks -- and I'm just talking about places to park at the viewpoints. Camping spots inside the parks are ALSO at a premium,as pointed out.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Another view about the Badlands

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    Badlands -- Very interesting formations and very stark beauty in the Badlands. Both my husband and myself had been through the Badlands as kids with our respective parents and hadn't been very impressed. I was a little more impressed this trip, but to me, the Black Hills were lots prettier.
    A very useful post (above) with personal insights. As for me, I've always loved the roughness of the Badlands. I could spend days, weeks exploring the region happily.

    It's not an easy environment -- I've seen campers literally get blown away at night....

    When in the area -- TURN ON YOUR AM RADIO TO THE LOCAL STATIONS. Much of the programming is in the native language. It's a beautiful -sing/song language and it's fun to try and pick out the occasional English words while trying to figure out what they are talking about.

    Wall Drug is worth a visit -- but for me worth only the time to get something to drink. I much prefer to be out in the wildness of the Badlands.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Wall Drug is worth a visit -- but for me worth only the time to get something to drink. I much prefer to be out in the wildness of the Badlands.
    For us, it was ice cream. :-)


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Source of local history.

    Actually, when I was at Wall Drug I was surprised to find just how much history they have.... in the back. You have to get past all the touristy stuff which is only focused on relieving you of your $$$$$.


  8. Default

    Dear all.
    Thanks for all your great info and comments. Just what I hoped for, and it definitely got me thinking. Among other thinks I took the following from your comments: set aside ample time for each visit to the NPs, consider a loop and, well, even more interesting places were mentioned. So, now I am thinking that whatever we do, we need to come back again. And since we are travelling with small children, it's important to us to keep a pace that they will appreciate as well. None of us will enjoy it if the kids feel they are just being tagged along on a trip set by and speaking to only my wife and I. Hence, this new idea that takes all of the above into consideration: fly into Vegas and continue to Grand Canyon - Bryce - Zion - Lake Tahoe - Yosemite - Kings Canyon - sequoia - west coast - SF. It should make it a shorter trip in miles, leaving both more time for each stop/visit, and shorter distances between each stop, zig-zagging further west. It hurts me (!) not to be able to visit Badlands and especially Yellowstone, as this was something I personally has been looking forward to, however, we could then come back in a few years and do a Denver loop, visiting The black mountains, badlands, YS, and even ad Arches, Moab etc.
    Any thoughts on the above are welcome! Looking forward to hearing from you again, and again thanks for all your initial and very quick responses.

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

    Default Kids and National parks.

    A Denver loop would make for another fantastic trip further down the line and the most important thing is what you are comfortable with. With a full 5 weeks you could still consider heading out through Monument valley from the Grand canyon and visiting Arches and Canyonlands NP's which would set you up for a fantastic drive to Bryce canyon via UT24 and scenic byway 12 with a visit to the often overlooked Capital Reef NP. You might escape the one way drop fee between LV and SF on your RV rental(?) but if not you would still have time to close the loop by going from Sequoia to SF and then south down the coast [which has the advantage of putting the ocean on your side of the road ) before cutting inland back to Vegas.

    With the number of NP's you are visiting it will make economical sense to purchase the annual pass for $80 which gains access to all NP's as many times as you want for a year, but not camping fees. The one exception this trip is Alcatraz Island where entrance is free but you will still have to pay for the boat trip to get there. This is recommended while in SF, as is booking your tickets in advance. Use the NPS website to book to avoid paying agent fees or having to purchase an extra tour you may not want. You can also get the [older]children to join the Junior Ranger program in the parks which includes activities and education and they will be rewarded with badges for carrying out fun tasks. Get them involved with the trip in these planning stages with discussions etc and during the trip get them to keep a childs diary/memory book where they can make notes, do drawings, cut out and stick pictures from park leaflets etc at the end of each day. All these 'little' things add up and will make them feel part of the trip and not like thet are being tagged along.

  10. Default

    Oh how I envy you! Most of us Americans get 3 or fewer weeks vacation annually, and seldom consecutively.

    Something to consider about Cruise America is that none of their motorhomes have slides. Your family of 5 might find their units to be a bit cramped.

    Be aware that many of the National Park campgrounds cannot accommodate longer RVs. Check their websites before choosing your rv if your heart is set on camping in these parks. On the other hand, public parks shouldn't pose a problem.

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