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  1. Default Family RV road trip to Mount Rushmore/Yellowstone/Grand Teton Aug. 2016

    Hello,
    We are planning our trip out west from Cadillac, MI to Yellowstone national park and back. This will be a road trip in our F350 Diesel truck hauling a 32 foot Fifth wheel. I will be traveling with my husband and our 3 children (11, 13, & 15) as well as our tiny Yorkie. We plan to leave on Aug. 6th 2016 and return on Aug. 27th or 28th. We have a very rough travel plan figured out and would like input and advice on how far to drive in a day, where to camp, reservations?, what is a must see, etc. The farthest we have drove the fifth wheel is from our home in Cadillac to Cedar point in Sandusky OH. However, my husband used to drive semi trucks and has experience driving them in mountains and inner cities so Iím not too worried but I would like advice on highways or roads to take or avoid with an RV in tow. For example what is the best way through Chicago? Or should we go through the U.P.? (We have ruled out the ferry as being too expensive) So far our plan looks like the following but the only thing actually booked is our nights at Yellowstone (which can be changed at this point). Are my days realistic or would we need to break up our drive even more?

    Day 1 (Aug 6): Leave Cadillac around 6am & drive south around Chicago and stop for the night around Madison WI (423 miles).
    Day 2 (Aug 7): Leave Madison WI around 7 am & stop for the night around Sioux Falls SD. (431 miles)
    Day 3 (Aug 8): Leave Sioux Falls SD around 7am & head to Custer State Park SD to camp. (365 miles.)
    Day 4 (Aug 9): Stay at Custer state park and tour Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer state park.
    Day 5 (Aug 10): leave Custer around 8 am & head to Cody making a pit stop at Devils Tower. Stop and camp for the night in Cody. (379 miles).
    Day 6 (Aug 11): Thinking of getting a slow start and see some sights/attractions around Cody. Then head to Yellowstone by way of 14 and arriving by the eastern entrance to Fishing Bridge to camp. (77 miles)
    Day 7-14 (Aug 12-19): Camp at Fishing bridge and drive the truck around Yellowstone to see everything. Exact itinerary for our stay is still to be determined.
    Day 14-16 (Aug 19-21): Leave Yellowstone and head to Grand Teton. Camp for 2 days in the park.
    Day 16-23 (Aug 21-28): ??? Iím not sure the best way to go home or what to see from here. Iím debating about going back the same way we came and seeing some things we may have not had time to see on the way in (Badlands, more time at devils tower, etc.). Or going the southern route I-80 but Iím not sure what attractions to see or where to stop on this route.

    Other questions-Should we bother to bring things like bikes or Kayaks? Or will we not get enough use out of them to make it worth our while to haul them?

    If you made it this far thanks for reading. ☺ If you have any ideas or suggestions for us I would love to hear.
    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    Towing a rig like that' I'd stick to the Interstates as much as possible for point to point driving except when sightseeing. My suggestion for getting around Chicago is to take I-94 out of MI to I-80 through IL and IA, then taking I-680 to I-29 to I-90. There is one toll involved, and that's at the I-294/I-80 split south of Chicago. Any other way to I-90 through WI and MN will either involve a lot of traffic, a lot of tolls, or both. Your halfway point between Cadillac and Sioux Falls going this way would be around the Quad Cities IL/IA. You may be able to park the rig free for the night at the huge I-80 truck stop in Walcott IA, but you won't be able to unhitch or set up camp.

    The UP is of course an option, but that will involve a lot of 2 lane roads which can be a pain with a rig like yours. It will also take several hours longer.

  3. #3

    Default You'll have some company

    Good morning!

    Be aware that your arrival in western South Dakota coincides almost exactly with the beginning of the 76th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which their website shows is August 8-14, 2016. In my experience, travel from the east towards Sturgis in the days before the Rally's start involves thousands upon thousands of towed and ridden motorcycles, with rest areas, fuel plazas, restaurants, motels, and campgrounds full to overflowing with pickups, SUVs, and RVs towing tandem and triple axle bike trailers. It's quite the spectacle, and everybody we've met on their trek has been nice and a barrel of laughs, but it makes for a rather different travel experience than you may be anticipating. Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, and all of the Black Hills area attractions should be expected to be jammed with visitors during your stay.

    I'd give consideration to flip-flopping the itinerary to visit the Yellowstone and Tetons area first and catch the Black Hills on the return trip. I'd surely drop down to I-80 for the primary western route on the trip out since I-90 will likely be swarmed.

    Foy

  4. #4

    Default

    I agree with Foy, you don't want to get into that motorcycle reunion, so yes, I also recommend that you reverse the trip and start with the southern route. And here are some things you might consider seeing. Keep in mind that these are just suggestions, not a set-in-stone itinerary.

    Day 1 (Aug 6) Leave Cadillac at 6AM & drive south to Gary and get on I-80. Stop for the night at Davenport, Iowa. (421 miles)
    Day 2 ( Aug 7) Drive to Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo, Aquarium and Desert Dome. Stop for the night either west of Omaha or Lincoln. (356 miles)
    Day 3 (Aug 8) Drive to Great Platte River Road Archway at Kearney (2 hour minimum stop). Continue on to Sod House Museum at Gothenburg. Stop for the night at Cheyenne. (445 miles)
    Day 4 (Aug 9) Drive to Summit Rest Area for quick stop at Lincoln Memorial, then on to Rawlins. Then drive up US287 to Fort Washakie (Visit Sacajawea's memorial and gravesite) and then continue to US26 to Grand Teton NP. Overnight at Grand Teton. (404 miles)
    Day 5 (Aug 10) Grand Teton and Mormon Row. Overnight at Grand Teton again.
    (80+ miles)
    Day 6 (Aug 11) Drive to Yellowstone NP and see everything on the southern loop of the figure 8. (You might want to set up camping at Grant Village first and leave the 5th wheel at the campsite) Spend night at Grant Village Campsite. (180+ miles)
    Day 7 (Aug 12) Drive to Yellowstone Canyon (Do both South and North Rim Roads) and then drive the northern loop of the figure 8. Spend night at Fishing Bridge Campground.
    Day 8 (Aug 13) Drive to Greybull (nice airplane museum there) and then on to Buffalo. Stay in Buffalo for the night. (258 miles)
    Day 9 (Aug 14) Drive to Devils Tower. (Plan 1-2 hours if you hike to the base or around it) and then on to Chief Crazy Horse Monument and Custer State Park. Overnight at Custer Campground. (250 miles)
    Day 10-11 (Aug 15,16) Mount Rushmore, Iron Mountain Road, Needles Scenic Byway, Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, Lead, Deadwood, Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. (? miles)
    Day 12-14 (Aug 17,18,19) Now you are on your way back home, but visit and drive through The Badlands, stop and see the albino prairie dog village at the east entrance, and don't miss the Mitchell Corn Palace which should be fully decorated by now. Continue on I-90 to Chicago or go over to Green Bay and take the UP route back to Cadiallac.

    Okay, you still have four days to work with in case you want to spend a recommended extra day at Yellowstone and maybe one at Grand Teton. Maybe you could go into iconic Jackson and even drive over the Wilson Pass into Idaho and back. There is enough to see and do around the Black Hills to spend an extra day there, too.

    Harry

  5. Default

    I'm sorry I don't know how to respond without quoting the page. I can't be much help on trip planning, but I wanted to mention that Yellowstone is not dog friendly. You might want to do some reading up on it if you haven't. It's a beautiful place, and there are so many places to explore we could easily spend that much time in Yellowstone. We stayed near the Mammoth Hotsprings entrance (Gardner MT I believe), and in West Yellowstone. It was nice to eliminate so much drive time and explore different ends of the park. We take our kayaks everywhere because if we see a great place and don't have them we'd be disappointed. You may want to kayak in Yellowstone as well as the Teton's. The museum in Cody Wyoming is definitely worth seeing.

    Moderator Note: Welcome to the Forum! For future reference, if you want to post without a quote, just hit one of the the big green "reply to thread" buttons at either the top or bottom of the thread.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 01-21-2016 at 11:53 AM. Reason: Removed quote of entire previous post.

  6. Default

    Thank you all for your advice. In response to all the great advice and information I have completely changed our itinerary. We will now be leaving the dog home with my mom, we decided against bringing bikes or Kayaks, and we decided to avoid Chicago all together. We will be leaving the night of the 5th instead to get a jump start on our trip. We plan to head south and go the more Southern route of I-80 through Iowa and Nebraska to avoid the motorcycle get together in SD. Now we will enter from the South and stay at the Grand Tetons first before heading on the Yellowstone for 7 nights. We will leave through Cody and stay there a couple of nights before going on to Rapid City for a few nights. We will stop over is Sioux Falls SD and then on to the Wisconsin Dells for 2 nights before going through the UP to get home. We are still unsure if we will stop 1 night at the Straits State Park before we go the remainder of our trip home or if we will just push through so we can have Sunday to recoup at home.
    We are trying to decide if we should spend more money and stay at KOAs along the way so the kids will have more things to do or if we will just stop at the basic parking lots with hookups that are significantly cheaper. I am concerned with safety staying at places that have no attendant but I’m a little surprised by how much KOAs cost (more than basic hotels). Any experience? Is it worth it for the kids to have a pool and jumping pillow at the end of a long day on the road?
    Thanks!

    Vacation Itinerary

    Day 1: Aug. 5
    Leave time: 5:30pm
    Destination: Warren Dunes State Park
    Miles: 193
    Approx. travel time: 4 hours
    Approx. Arrival time: 9:30-10:00pm

    Day 2: Aug. 6
    Leave time: 7:30am
    Destination: Newton IA
    Miles: 364
    Approx. travel time: 8-10 hours
    Approx. Arrival time: 5:30pm

    Day 3: Aug. 7
    Leave time: 7:30am
    Destination: Kearney, NE
    Miles: 353
    Approx. Travel time: 8-10 hours
    Approx. arrival time: 5:30pm

    Day 4: Aug. 8
    Leave time: 7:30am
    Destination: Laramie, WY
    Miles: 365
    Approx. travel time: 8-10 hours
    Approx. arrival time: 5:30pm
    Day 5: Aug. 9
    Leave time: 7:30am
    Destination: Colter Bay Village, WY
    Miles: 362
    Approx. Travel time: 8-10 hours
    Approx. arrival time: 5:30pm

    Day 6-7: Aug. 10-11
    Stay in Colter Bay Village & tour Grand Tetons

    Day 8: Aug 12
    Leave time: 10:00am
    Destination: Fishing Bridge RV campground Yellowstone
    Miles: 65
    Approx. travel time: 2.5-3 hours (low speed limits, traffic congestion, & animals in the road)
    Approx. arrival time: 12:30-1:00pm


    Day 9-15: Aug 13-19

    Day 15: Aug 19
    Leave time: 9:00am
    Destination: Cody, WY
    Miles: 78
    Approx. travel time: 1.5-2hours
    Approx. arrival time: 11am

    Day 16: Aug 20
    Stay in Cody. WI

    Day 17: Aug 21
    Leave time: 7:30am
    Destination: Rapid City (Going north through Billings around the Bighorns to avoid potential problems with towing)
    Miles: 420
    Approx. Travel time: 9.5-11.5 hrs.
    Approx. arrival time: 6:30pm

    Day 18 & 19: Aug 22 & 23
    Stay in Rapid city & tour Custer state park & Mount Rushmore

    Day 20: Aug 24
    Leave time: 7:30am
    Destination: Sioux Falls, SD
    Miles: 352
    Approx. travel time: 8.5-10 hours
    Approx. arrival time: 5:30

    Day 21: Aug 25
    Leave time: 7:30am
    Destination: Wisconsin Dells
    Miles: 385
    Approx. travel time: 9-10.5 hours
    Approx. arrival time: 5:30pm

    Day 22: Aug 26
    Stay at the Dells

    Day 23: Aug 27
    Leave time: 7:30am
    Destination: Straits State Park
    Miles: 401
    Approx. travel time: 9.5-11 hours
    Approx. arrival time: 6:30

    Day 24: Aug 28
    Leave time: 8:30
    Destination: Cadillac
    Miles: 147
    Approx. travel time: 3-4 hours
    Approx. arrival time: 12:00pm

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by KB36 View Post
    Stay in Cody. WI

    Day 17: Aug 21
    Leave time: 7:30am
    Destination: Rapid City (Going north through Billings around the Bighorns to avoid potential problems with towing)
    Miles: 420
    Approx. Travel time: 9.5-11.5 hrs.
    Approx. arrival time: 6:30pm
    Be aware, that's a HUGE detour. It really isn't 420 miles, it's 490 - as I'm sure your online mapping estimate also includes using US-212 across Southeast Montana, instead of using I-90.

    So, you're actually adding more than 100 miles of driving to avoid that section of mountains - and I'm not sure that's really worth it. You could also look at dropping down to US-16 to get to I-90. I haven't driven either of those routes, so I can't say for sure which is your best option.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 01-22-2016 at 11:02 AM.

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Be aware, that's a HUGE detour. It really isn't 420 miles, it's 490 - as I'm sure your online mapping estimate also includes using US-212 across Southwest Montana, instead of using I-90.

    So, you're actually adding more than 100 miles of driving to avoid that section of mountains - and I'm not sure that's really worth it. You could also look at dropping down to US-16 to get to I-90. I haven't driven either of those routes, so I can't say for sure which is your best option.
    We made the decision based on what we read from this reviewer http://www.rvtechmag.com/travel/4_ye...yrv.php?pg=all
    However, I think we may decide to go the southern route through US-16. You are right it is a very long detour and the software was taking us across US 212. So it is longer than we estimated.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    We are trying to decide if we should spend more money and stay at KOAs along the way so the kids will have more things to do or if we will just stop at the basic parking lots with hookups that are significantly cheaper. I am concerned with safety staying at places that have no attendant but I’m a little surprised by how much KOAs cost (more than basic hotels). Any experience? Is it worth it for the kids to have a pool and jumping pillow at the end of a long day on the road?
    There are a lot of RV park/campgrounds that don't cost as much as KOA's, and have a few amenities like a pool and a shower room. Many, but not all, will be found in a Good Sam/Woodall's RV Park and Campground directory. Are they all parking lots with hookups? No, not at all. We have found a lot of lovely places with hookups that did NOT resemble parking lots. Many had a pool, playground, and/or a rec room. If you don't yet have a Good Sam/Woodall's directory for the areas you plan to visit, get one on your next trip to Camping World, or order from an online place such as Amazon.

    KOA owners have to pay their franchise fees, the advertising that goes with KOA's, and they have to have their park live up to the KOA standards. Maybe they have to offer Kamping Kabins, or similar. So the overnight fee charged for an RV is a lot higher than your average mom-and-pop RV park. BTW, I say this as the daughter of a former KOA owner! My husband and I rarely stayed in a KOA, though we noticed that we stayed in a lot of *former* KOA's (often identified by their A-frame building).

    Is it worthwhile to have a pool at the end of the day? If it's a long day on the road, the sun is shining and the air is warm, I'd say YES. Our kids always traveled better if they thought there was a pool on the other end. If the weather is crummy, they didn't care so much. We had a small TV with us, always carried some favorite board games, and since our kids were bookworms, they were allowed to carry a certain amount of books as well as their music and earphones.

    As far as the safety of staying at a place with no attendant -- I am assuming you mean like staying at a truck stop? Frankly, as a child I hated that. My kids were not thrilled about it either, the one time we had to do it. That meant not only no pool, it meant no hookups and they had to stay in the rig the whole time unless they were out with a parent. We would never have stayed in a rest area. I am old enough to remember when some folks were slain by escaped convicts in Arizona, at a rest area in the middle of the night in 1978. Now we don't stop at a rest area at night, ever, and are very careful to stop only at populated ones.

    Custer State Park has a campground. You might want to look into it, as it will be closer to Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park than Rapid City. There are a couple of non-KOA campgrounds in the area too, though I have never priced them. One that isn't too far from Rushmore, closer to Crazy Horse, is a former KOA and was advertising reasonable prices back in '14. There was a Jellystone Park in Custer City, but frankly I'm thinking it will be expensive. (Do a Google search, "RV parks near Custer, SD".)

    Donna

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