Hello, I am planning a family vacation (2 parents and 2 adult children) for 2 weeks (approximately July 22-August 6th) for a western National Parks/Monuments and attractions road trip. We will be traveling by train from Washington, D.C. to Chicago, then on to Salt Lake City. We plan to rent a car in Salt Lake and begin our drive from there. Our tentative plan is to go Salt Lake -> Yellowstone -> Theodore Roosevelt NP -> Mt. Rushmore/Badlands -> Denver, and to take the train back to D.C. from Denver. We are slightly flexible with our dates, but not too much. Based on other information I gathered, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally starts around August 8th and we are trying to avoid that, so we were planning to be out of South Dakota before then. With 4 adults we have no problem driving long distances at a time without breaking it up (we have driven from Key West home to D.C., about a 20 hour drive, in one shot). We have a Buddy Bison and a National Parks Passport book, so are trying to hit as many spots as we can along the way. We plan to buy the Annual Parks Pass to use for the trip. We will be doing all hotel stays, and will need 2 rooms each night. Some places I looked did have cabins, which would also be great, we just unfortunately can not do any camping. We love all history, so can easily be persuaded to stop anywhere interesting. We also love roadside attractions, so have to cross a few of those off the list. With some preliminary planning, this is what we hope to do and see (in a tentative order). I would greatly appreciate any feedback on any parts of this trip, particularly about driving times and how long to spend in each place).
-Salt Lake City (see the Olympic village, Great Salt Lake)
-Golden Spike, Utah: We have watched all of the show Hell on Wheels and definitely want to stop in here.
-Jackson Hole: Was told to make a stop here since it was on the way!
-Grand Tetons: Need help in this area too. Would it be worth it to just drive straight up through the park and come in to Yellowstone from the South Entrance and work our way up?
-Yellowstone: Here is where we need the most help. We want to see all the big attractions of course, but don't have a concrete plan. We are up for doing some hiking, but probably nothing major, just as we won't have enormous amounts of time. I read that watching the geyser eruption and seeing the waterfalls at night at very cool. Not sure if we should stay in the park, or outside. Would like to possibly visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone.
-Cody, Wyoming: Visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
Curious if we can drive through the Crow Indian Reservation on our way across Wyoming and if so, would it be of any interest?
-Theodore Roosevelt NP, Medora, ND: We want to visit the South Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Want to go to the Pitchfork Fondue and maybe the Medora Musical, and see the Burning Hills Amphitheater. Have looked at lodging at the Rough Riders Hotel but am open to other options. Would love to then head east a bit and travel on the Enchanted Highway down through North Dakota.
-Badlands NP: Would love to catch some of the nighttime stargazing and ability to see the Milky Way. Also want to go to Minuteman Missile Site, as well as Wall Drug while out there.
-Custer, SD area: Plan to visit Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Deadwood, and all the surrounding areas. Looked at possible lodging in Custer State Park.
May be interested in going to Chimney Rock on our way back down to Denver.
-Denver: Try to catch a Rockies game before we depart. We know we may not have much time in Denver, because we would like to spend it elsewhere on the trip, and can always come back.