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  1. Default Spring trip from Seattle to Yellowstone

    Hi all.

    We're a small group (4 adults, 1 toddler) from South Africa looking to do a road trip from Seattle to Yellowstone in early May. Our timeline is unfortunately rather short and inflexible, but we really want to see Yellowstone and we really want to do a road trip in an RV. This is the final part of a larger trip that will also include Edmonton, Banff, Jasper, Vancouver and Greater Seattle area. It will be the first time for any of us visiting the Pacific Northwest.

    Current thinking is to rent an RV in Seattle with planned itinerary as follows:
    5 May: depart Seattle, overnight en route
    6 May: on the road, overnight en route
    7 May: arrive Yellowstone, first night in the park
    8 & 9 May: in Yellowstone
    10 May: depart Yellowstone, overnight en route
    11 May: on the road, overnight en route
    12 May: arrive back in Seattle

    We know much of Yellowstone will still be inaccessible, hence only the 3 nights in the park giving us a bit more time on the road. There are too many things to see in such a short time, but this is all we have available, so we'll have to compromise some.

    A few things we're looking for more info on:
    1 - Roads: the seasonal road closures inside Yellowstone are fairly well publicized, but I'm not sure where to check for other roads. Any recommendations of resources and/or tips of roads to avoid/favor in early May?
    2 - Driving conditions: Bear in mind we have close to zero experience driving in snow / icy conditions. I assume the authorities will close roads depending on conditions and that any road that is open will be relatively safe. Is this correct? If not, any pointers on roads to avoid, warning signs to watch out for, etc.?
    3 - RV & cold: esp. At higher elevations we know it will still be quite cold so the plan is to choose overnight locations wisely and prepare for some cold. However, not sure exactly what to expect and/or how practical this is. Our thinking is if the camp sites in Yellowstone are open then it can't be too bad, but this may be wishful thinking. Any thoughts on how viable this is and specific recommendations for dealing with the cold in an RV?
    4 - Any routes / sights to recommend, especially keeping in mind the time of year.

    And of course any other tips are welcome.

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

    Default what's behind the curtain

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Personally, I would not recommend and RV for this trip, simply because it is too early in the year at Yellowstone. The beginning of May is the very end of winter in the park. As you've noted, several of the roads within the park will still be closed when you are there, and most of the park's services will not be open yet, including most of the campgrounds. The reason is that it will still be very cold overnight, where you'll have to expect temperatures below freezing. It would be a mistake to assume that the campgrounds are open would be better, simply because they are open - rather they are there for the brave souls who enjoy winter camping! It's also not really correct to assume that roads will be closed if there is winter weather. Yes, if there is a major storm, the roads will be closed, but you could still easily see some snow or ice, that isn't necessarily strong enough to close the roads, but would still make driving a little more challenging, especially in an RV.

    If you are going to insist on taking an RV, then I'd look at staying at Fishing Bridge RV park, if it's open, so you can have full electric and water hookups and be able to take full advantage of the RV's heading system. But I think this is a case where looking for a hotel, especially because you're not planning on going anywhere else in an RV, would be a much more comfortable choice.

    Having said all that, you've admitted you're only giving us a small piece of the overall picture of your trip. It would be helpful to know the details of what else you're doing, especially because in this case it would seem to make much more sense to potentially visit Yellowstone while you're already in the mountains (after Banff/Jasper) rather than driving all the way to the coast and then doubling back to Yellowstone. Maybe the timing just doesn't work out, but people will always be able to give more complete suggestions when they have a better idea of your entire plan.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    "Early May" is when Fishing Bridge RV Park is set to open for the season. Whether it coincides with the above travel, will be a guess without a phone call to YNP. There are only a few of the hotels within the park that would be open in "early May": Mammoth Hotel and Old Faithful Inn, if I read the park information correctly.


  4. Default

    Fishing Bridge opens 8 May according to the NPS website:

  5. Default More background

    Thanks for the input so far. More background on overall itinerary:

    Primary purpose of trip is U2 concerts 14 & 15 May in Vancouver (their tour sadly excludes South Africa, so this was as good an excuse as any to visit a part of the world none of us have been to).

    We're flying into Edmonton on 26 April (Edmonton because some members of our party have family there) and flying back from Vancouver 16 May (because we'll be there for U2). The overall timeline is set in stone as this is all we could do with available leave & work schedules.

    Plan from there is:
    Day 1 in Edmonton resting after long flights.
    Then split up for a few days so that some can go skiing in Banff and some can spend time with family in Edmonton.
    Rendezvous in Jasper 1 May to catch a train to Vancouver (we love train trips and this is apparently a great train ride, so an important part of the trip).
    Skip through Vancouver and spend the next few days in & around Seattle (amongst others visiting Boeing)
    Trip to Yellowstone
    Last few days in Vancouver

    We did consider the option of going to Yellowstone from Banff, but this moves the Yellowstone part of the trip even earlier on the itinerary and means less roads and other facilities open etc. It would also mean going all the way back to Jasper from Yellowstone to catch the train so doesn't really save on travel time / distance. (Unfortunately Amtrak options are limited so there's no comparable train journey to go for South of the border).

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default RV Lifestyle choice.

    If temps drop below freezing durung your RV trip you will have to consider draining your water tanks overnight to save the pipes freezing over. This wouldn't be covered on insurance and you would most likely be expected to pay the repair costs if the pipes burst or pumps were damaged. If you are hooked up you should disconnect the city water supply overnight as well in these circumstances. We have slept in an RV in sub zero temps and it's OK if you have the heating on gently to take the edge off the cold, although that can be noisey at night. It's a lovely way to travel as a 'Lifestyle' choice, but by the time you add on campground fees, high fuel consumption, mileage charges, bedding and kitchen kits etc it will not be the cheaper option over a car and Hotels.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Seat belt laws.

    Are you aware that the toddler will need to be in an approved child restraint all the time the RV is moving. The child will not be able to play on the floor or be put to bed for a nap. All occupants need to be seated with approved restraints.


  8. Default

    Yes, we're aware of this thanks.

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

    Default A few thoughts.

    If you are set on an RV then you really should look at booking your site within Yellowstone to make sure you get a spot, it's a long drive in and out of the park each day if you had to stay outside. The park is huge so with a short trip like yours I would try and maximise my time there and perhaps include a trip to the Tetons just to the south. If you are picking up your RV on the first day then you shouldn't aim to get too far. The pick up process can take a while with the papre work and orientation of all the equipment. Perhaps Coeur d' Alene would make a good first stop, you should also fill up with supplies before heading into Yellowstone where everything is more expensive. The following day you could make it all the way into Yellowstone or maybe spend the night nearby, in West Yellowstone for example. I doubt you will have too much trouble with the weather especially when sticking to Interstate but you keep updated with local radio and sites such as the weather channel and State highway live conditions. If you keep up to date with this info and given you are travelling in May, you should be fine. As I say I would make the park the priority and just enjoy the scenery and regular stops on the way out and back while trying to fit in a little time to visit the Tetons.

    With regards to the toddler seat you should check the regulations, but for safety the seat should, probably be secured in the front with the driver as it is the only other available 'car' seat.

    Have a great trip and we would love it if you would return and share your experience with us !

  10. Default

    We did consider a visit to Grand Teton, but ruled this out on account of expected road closure between the parks. As I understand you would need to exit Yellowstone to the north or west and then drive round to enter Grand Teton from the south or east, so it seemed like a lot of extra driving to fit into an already cramped timeline. Not sure if I'm missing something with regards to access to Grand Teton from Yellowstone.

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