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  1. Default Month long family road trip from Boston to Grand Circle

    We are in the process on planning a month long family road tip (my husband, myself and 2 boys ages 7 & 8) and are somewhat overwhelmed in planning our route. We want this to be "the trip of a lifetime." We are pulling a decent sized high top pop up (currently ho a/c but may install one) behind my SUV and our goal is to stay at some of the National Parks out west. Our travel dates are for 30 days starting mid July and returning mid August.

    We would love any advice on route planning, things to do, where to stay, etc... I was shocked to see how fast the campgrounds at the National Parks book up in the summer so I want to get a jump start on some reservations.

    As on now our tentative plan is to leave Boston very early in the morning and make our first stop at Niagara Falls. We'll stay at a hotel for that first night and then head to Ann Arbor, MI the next day to visit a friend. From Ann Arbor we are headed to the Badlands, Rushmore, Devil's Tower. We aren't against another overnight hotel stop on the way from Ann Arbor to our first National Park but don't know where we should stop. We want to get out West but we also want to keep the trip enjoyable and exciting for the kids.

    We have made 1 campground reservation at Arches National Park for 3 nights right in the middle of the trip. We are novices at road trip traveling and would love any suggestions or sample itineraries.

    Here is our idea so far:

    From Boston:
    Day 1Niagra Falls *hotel
    Day 2Ann Arbor *hotel
    Day 3Iowa City (??) *hotel
    Day 4, 5, 6 Badlands, Rushmore, Devil's Tower *camp
    Day 7, 8, 9 Yellowstone, Grand Tetons *camp
    Day 10 & 11 Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park *camp
    Day 12, 13, 14 Arches, Canyonlands *camp
    Day 15, 16, 17 & 18 Bryce & Zion *camp
    Day 19 Vegas *hotel
    Day 20, 21, 22 Grand Canyon *camp
    Day 23 Mesa Verde * camp
    Day 24 Head back east (?) * camp or hotel
    Day 25 ? *camp or hotel
    Day 26, 27 Shenandoah Nat'l Park *camp
    Day 28 - 30 head back towards home *hotel

    Any suggestions/recommendations are welcome and appreciated!


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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you're off to a sold start on your plan.

    On your drive out west, You could make it from Ann Arbor to the Badlands in 2 fairly long days on the road, but if that is the case, Iowa City can't be your overnight stop. You'd need to get to either Des Moines (if you're going I-80/I-29 to get to I-90) or Waterloo (if you use I-380/I-35). Otherwise, if you keep the Iowa City stopover, then looking for a place to spend the night near Mitchell or Chamberlain SD would be needed.

    In some places, it's a bit hard to tell where you are working your drives into things - for example, it's a full day drive from the Black Hills to Yellowstone, and a full day from the Teton to RMNP, and I'm not sure where that factors in. I will say, however, even if you're giving yourself 3 full days for Yellowstone/Tetons, I think you're shortchanging yourself. Those 2 parks cover a huge area and 3 days are pretty much the bare minimum. I would certainly give yourself more time there than the 3 days you've got planned for the Grand Canyon (which you can see pretty well in 1 full day).

    Another thing I would think about doing is waiting to hit Rocky Mountain until your trip back east. Go from the Tetons straight to Arches (could give you more time at Yellowstone without having to change your Arches reservation) and then after Mesa Verde, make your way across Colorado.

    While Shenandoah is a nice park, you could pretty easily get there from Boston in the future, so I would probably skip that to have more time out west.

    Niagara Falls to Ann Arbor will be a much shorter trip if you go through Canada, so make sure you have your passports (your kids can cross with just a birth certificate), and fill up your gas tank on the much cheaper US side.

    And of course, the National Parks Pass is something you should certainly by when you get to your first National Park. The $80 will pay for itself very quickly on this trip.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    I to would leave RMNP for the journey home. From Yellowstone head to Bryce, Zion, Vegas, Grand canyon and then through Monument valley to Arches and then Mesa Verde and back through Colorado to RMNP. Don't plan on getting too far on day 24 unless you plan to arrive at Mesa Verde by lunchtime on day 23 as you need to take tours to get down to the 'highlights' of the park and that can take time. I would use two different campgrounds to explore Zion and Bryce canyon and of the two, it is much quicker visiting Bryce so I would recommend 2 nights at least in Zion NP at the Watchman campground. [Riverside sites are nice] If you need to 'gain' a night somewhere then one night might do for Bryce canyon. The best way to visit Bryce is to drive to the far end of the canyon and stop at the viewpoints on the way back up, this will put all the viewpoints on your side of the road and you won't have to keep pulling across traffic. Ruby's Inn has a campground right by the entrance to the park and has shops and a restaurant with 'Old Bryce town' right across the road which can all make a pleasant stay, especially if you want to dine out in the evening.

  4. Default

    Thank you so much for the valuable info! You answered so many questions that I didn't even mention in my post (i.e. do the kids need passports if we drive thru Canada, Split ZSion & Bryce into 2 separate stops). So I guess my big takeaways are: Travel from Ann Arbor thru Des Moines on the way to Badlands. Increase time spent at Yellowstone/Tetons, reduce time spent at GC, save RMNP for then other end of the trip as we head back east and scratch Shenandoah in favor of more time out west. I will definitely plan 2 nights in Zion. I appreciate the tips on Bryce. I'm having a tough time envisioning the tip as a whole and have no idea at all on what the travel times are between locations.
    Can you take a peek at the list below and let me know if I'm making the right changes? I hate to plan so far in advance but like I mentioned in my original post, I don't want to miss out on being able to make camp reservations at some of the national parks.

    From Boston:
    Day 1 Drive Boston to Niagara Falls 8 hours *hotel
    Day 2 Drive Niagara Falls to Ann Arbor 6 hours *hotel
    Day 3 Drive Ann Arbor to Des Moines 9 hours *hotel
    * We can sneak another overnight in here or between DesMoines and Black Hills to avoid so many consecutive days of long driving. Ideas?
    Day 4 Drive Des Moines to Black Hills 10 hours * Where to camp?
    Day 5 & 6 Explore Badlands, Rushmore, Devil's Tower
    Day 7 Drive from Black Hills to Yellowstone 10 hours * Where to camp?
    Day 8 & 9 & 10 Explore Yellowstone
    Day 10 Drive to Tetons Short Drive * Where to camp?
    Day 11 & 12 Explore Tetons
    Day 13 Drive to Arches 10 hours
    Day 14 Explore Arches
    Day 15 Drive to Bryce * Ruby's Inn
    Day 15 & 16 Explore Bryce
    Day 16 Drive to Zion 3 hours *Watchman CG
    Day 17 & 18 Explore Zion
    Day 18 Drive to Vegas time to drive ? *hotel
    Day 18 & 19 Explore Vegas
    Day 19 Drive to GC ? time to drive ?
    Day 19 & 20 Explore GC
    Day 20 Drive through Monument Valley to Mesa Verde
    Day 21 Explore Mesa Verde
    Day 22 Drive to RMNP
    Day 23 & 24 Explore RMNP
    Day 24-30 Head back east with some wiggle room for additional stops/nights. Hotel and Camp depending on time and place.

    Also, we need to plan some fun "kids" activities in here. My boys have mentioned interest in river rafting, rodeos, hiking (of course) and horseback riding. With all the time spend in the car I want to make sure we have some cool adventures along the way.

    Thank you again for your help. I'm so happy I stumbled upon this site. I really hope to make this a trip of a lifetime for our family.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Keep in mind, the Badlands are about 100 miles east of the Black Hills. After Des Moines, my thought would be that you would camp on the east side of the Badlands - which is where the National Park's main campground is. The next day, you'd explore the Badlands and then continue onto the Black Hills.

    I'd probably look at Custer State Park first as a place to base yourself for the Black Hills - it's a great place to explore anyway.

    At Yellowstone, you probably will want to make camping reservations. If you want to stay at the same place for your entire stay, I'd try to pick one like Canyon or Madison that is relatively central to the rest of the park.

    Reservations are not accepted for any of Grand Teton's campgrounds, so you may want to plan to get there somewhat early (the campgrounds farthest south near the lakes tend to fill up first).

    Grand Teton/Jackson could be a good place for some of your kids activities. The first rafting trip we ever took was with Mad River Rafting out of Jackson, and we really liked it. The snake river is a pretty good "intro to whitewater" and I think your kids are just old enough to go.

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


    They do some horse riding trips and ATV's at Bryce which you can book at Ruby's Inn. There is also rafting near Arches on the Colorado river. Cody near Yellowstone is a 'Rodeo town' so you could see if there is anything going on there.

  7. Default Trip Advice on heading back to New Eng from Mesa Verde thru Rcky Mtns.

    We have a family trip planned (two boys 7 and 9 with us) this summer that takes us from Boston through SD, WY and the Grand Circle. We need advice on the route back home. We want to explore Mesa Verde and then will have 7 days left to get back to Boston. We want to check out some good spots in CO and maybe spend a night or two in Rocky Mtn Nat'l Park. We don't mind heavy driving days on the last few days but hope to keep our ride from out west back to Boston somewhat interesting. Any thoughts???

  8. Default Big Horn National Park Camping

    We have 1 night to stay in Big Horn National Park area this summer on a road trip from MA to UT and are looking for suggestions on where to cstay in Big Horn. We have 2 boys (ages 7 and 9) and are towing a pop up camper. We are open to camping suggestions and/or other lodging options for the night. Thanks!

    Moderator Note: Please keep all questions about the same trip in the same thread
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 04-03-2016 at 05:25 PM. Reason: Merged Multiple Threads

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default More Interesting and (Almost) as Fast

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    You can make the drive back to Boston from Rocky Mountain National Park comfortably in as little as four days. The trick, then is to find a route that adds visual interest and the opportunity for a few stops without unduly adding to that time. However, note that if you have a fifth day you can spend it at some memorable sites rather than spending it just driving extra miles. The shortest route (time wise) would simply be US-34/I-76 over to I-80 and I-80/I-90 the rest of the way home. Better (in my opinion) would be the same at first, taking I-80 through Nebraska where it follows the alignment of the old Oregon Trail, but then leaving it at Lincoln and taking NE-2/I-29 down to St Joseph MO (the eastern terminus of the Pony Express) and then US-36, a four lane divided highway across northern Missouri to Hannibal. Continue eastward on I-72 and I-74 through Champaign-Urbana to I-70 at Indianapolis. At Columbus OH take I-270 around the city to the northwest and pick up I-71 north to near Lodi where I-76 will connect you to I-80 near Youngstown. At Hazleton PA, take I-81 up to Scranton and I-84 east to the Mass Pike and home. That route adds all of an hour and a half to the shortest possible route, can still be made in four days, and takes you past at least a couple of spots that would appeal to young boys, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the US Air Force Museum.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Which Big Horn?

    There is no Bighorn National Park. There is Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (Which is run by the National Parks Service) and is mostly in Montana and there is Bighorn National Forest which is in Wyoming. Which one are you thinking about, and where will you be the day before and the day after?

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