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  1. #1

    Default Summer Adventure - Wyoming, SD and Colorado

    Hi, fellow 'trippers. I thought I had posted about this but I have no idea where it went (along w/my trip report of last year's PNW adventure), so I'm trying again.

    We are a NYC family of 3, 2 adults (mid-40s) and our 9 1/2 year old, finishing 4th grade son (who gets us into National Parks free this year, b/c of the every 4th grader in a park initiative).

    At the end of August (8/25), we are heading out from NYC to Salt Lake City and then driving to Jackson Hole (2 nights), Grand Teton, Yellowstone, SD (my little guy LOVES presidents) and ending in Denver, Colorado (he also loves sports - Rockies game tickets already purchased to continue our "see all ballparks" mission). I have secured lodging everywhere, 2 nights in Jackson Hole, 1 night in Grand Teton, 3 nights in Yellowstone (1 night at Mammoth, 2 at Old Faithful Inn, slightly backwards in my planning but I had to work w/the availability), 1 night in Buffalo, WY (Occidental Hotel President Suite), 1 night in Rapid City, 1 night in Custer State Park, and 2 final nights in Denver, flying home to NYC on 9/5.

    En route from Yellowstone to Buffalo, we'd like to head into Montana to see Little Big Horn (and I've read so much about the Beartooth Highway, that it sounds not-to-be-missed). Then we'd like to hit Devils Tower, en route to Rapid City (Presidents are us). Thankfully, I found a car rental option that does NOT have any 1 way drop off fees.

    I realize there's a LOT of driving (esp. for us non-car-owner City folk) but we've successfully done a few long road trips (PNW last year, AZ the year before), so we know what we're in store for and are really looking forward to the adventures.

    My questions: I'm wondering if we can hit Beartooth Highway (or if that's just too ambitious given that we want to see Little Big Horn en route to Buffalo), when would be best to get to Jewel and/or Wind Cave and drive the Badlands Loop. Because of the way the hotels in Yellowstone worked out, we will be heading out of Yellowstone from Old Faithful (unless there is a miraculous cancellation that perfectly aligns with my nights) - was thinking we head out at West Yellowstone and drive north to get to Little Big Horn, but I'm not sure what the best route for that would be. We're planning to go white water rafting in Jackson, horseback riding somewhere in there, see the rodeo, attend a cookout, and generally enjoy some time away from the concrete jungle. Any recommendations for specific providers of activities are most welcome.

    We've successfully turned our son into travel lover and he's very excited about this trip, and so are we.

    Appreciate any advice/guidance.

    thanks much!


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


    Getting from Old Faithfull to Buffalo via the Beartooth and the Battlefield would be a long day that would require a real early start. If you could get lodgings via a cancellation at Roosevelt lodge near Tower junction it would make a big difference, even Canyon village would be another option. The Beartooth drive is certainly worth it !

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Between a Rock and a Hard Place

    I see your dilemma on the Old Faithful to Buffalo leg. If you go through Yellowstone to use the Northeast Entrance to exit the park via US-212 (the Beartooth Highway), you're looking at about 380 miles of driving to Buffalo, much of it on slow park roads and the winding Beartooth Highway. On top of that you'll need to add the time spent getting to and exploring the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. That could make for a very long day. On the other hand, if you leave the park through West Yellowstone and then head north to I-90 you've got 430 miles, although most of it is Interstate. Doable in a day but of course you'd miss the Beartooth entirely. For my own part, I'd plan on as early a start as is feasible without sacrificing needed sleep and head out to the Northeast and the Beartooth, spend as much time as I have left in the evening at the Little Bighorn, and finish up after sunset to Buffalo getting in there around 9:30 or 10:00. As noted, that's a long day, but hopefully you'll have rested up a bit in Yellowstone before heading out.

    Timing doesn't much matter at caves. It's not like daylight seeps in, nor do outside temperatures for the most part. At really popular ones such as Carlsbad or Mammoth crowds can become a problem at mid-day, but I don't think that should really be much of a worry at these lesser-known out-of-the-way caves. I'm sure that if you gave them a call (605-745-4600) they can give you an idea of the most popular dates and tour times. Unfortunately, reservations are not available except to large school groups or for the two most strenuous tours.

    Timing will matter if you plan to hike in the Badlands in August. It will depend on the actual weather at the time of your visit, of course, but generally you'd be better off doing your hiking either in mid-morning, before 10:00 or so, or near sunset (warm still, but spectacular lighting). Be sure to take lots of water and loose, light clothing whenever you head out.


  4. #4


    Southwest Dave and AZBuck, you are geniuses. I was able to switch my 2nd OF night to Canyon Village, so we'll be much closer to the Beartooth Highway for our exit from Yellowstone. thanks, thanks, thanks!! If I had to choose one of the caves, Jewel or Wind, does anyone have advice on which to choose?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    My husband and I went through that same dilemma a little over 2 years ago: Jewel Cave vs. Wind Cave. We decided on Wind Cave, mainly because the road to Jewel Cave was full of construction at the time (probably is done now). Once we learned that this was the 1st national park to honor a cave, and we had two other "firsts" on our list (Devil's Tower, the first national monument, and Yellowstone, the first national park), we were glad we made the decision that we did. Wind Cave has a few formations that are pretty unique; couldn't tell you about Jewel Cave.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I don't think you could go wrong with either one.

    We went to Jewel Cave, which was easier for us to get to, as we were based out of Custer for that trip to the Black Hills. Jewel is also slightly larger (2nd biggest cave in the US, Wind is 3rd) and that might have had something to do with it.

    I'd probably look at the tour schedules and options, and see which one fits into your trip plan easiest, and go from there.

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