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  1. Default Advice on a Cincinnati OH to Seattle WA road trip (Mar-Apr 2018)

    Hi folks, was hoping to get some advice on an upcoming road trip I'm making with my Dad and sister.

    Background - We are from the UK and flying into New York JFK late on Fri 23 March 2018. We're then staying nearby somewhere overnight, then early on Sat 24 March flying from La Guardia to Cincinnati OH. Our plan is to then pick up a rental car at Cincinnati Airport, and drop it off somewhere in Seattle WA 12 days later on Thurs 5 Apr. We'll then be staying overnight in Seattle before getting an Amtrak up the coast to Vancouver, where we will again stay overnight, before flying home from Vancouver to the UK on Sat 7 April.

    We have established stops for the start and end of the trip, but currently the middle is fairly flexible:

    Fri 23 Mar - fly to New York
    Sat 24 Mar - fly to Cincinnati OH then pick up car and drive to Louisville KY
    Sun 25 Mar - drive to Nashville TN
    Mon 26 Mar - drive to Memphis TN
    Tue 27 Mar - drive to St Louis MO
    ...
    ...
    ...
    Wed 4 Apr - drive to Portland OR
    Thurs 5 Apr - drive to Seattle WA (drop off car)
    Fri 6 Apr - Amtrak to Vancouver
    Sat 7 Apr - fly back to UK

    So basically we have 8 days of driving from Wed 28 Mar to Wed 4 Apr to get from St Louis MO to Portland OR. I'm not worried about the pace, it will be fairly rapid but I've done two cross-country trips before so know what to expect.

    However, what I am unsure about is what sort of car would be best for a trip like this. The previous road trips I've done have been in the height of summer, whereas this time it will be spring. Our route between St Louis and Portland hasn't been set in stone but we're very keen to drive through the northern states of Mississippi, N Dakota, Wyoming, Montana etc - as I understand it, in late March/early April the weather in these states can get extremely cold/snowy/icy. Normally I would just opt for a small-ish compact car but not sure if that would be sufficient for a route like this at that time of year? Would something bigger like a 4WD SUV be more appropriate? Do we need to worry about snow tyres and chains etc? (Sorry I am a bit naive with this, we don't get much snow here in England)

    Also one other thing, we were hoping to skirt the northern edge of Yellowstone - however, having done some research it seems that a lot of the park is closed for a couple of weeks in late March/early April to clear all the snow away. Apart from, it seems, one road which remains open year round (from Gardiner MT to Cooke City MT) - would anyone know if it is worth taking this road? I know we don't have enough time to properly see Yellowstone but even just driving through the northern edge (or possibly staying the night if there are any accommodations open at that time of year) would be awesome.

    Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read, any and all advice on any of the above would be much appreciated. Thank you!!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    What the weather will be like 4 months from now, is anyone's guess. You're right, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana do *normally* stay colder through the early spring months. (BTW, Mississippi is quite a bit south, not a northern state at all, with completely different weather patterns.) If it were me, I'd rent a medium sized car, which probably will be equipped with all-weather tires, and not worry about the added expense of an SUV.

    Yellowstone is considered open all year, but to non-snow machine traffic only between mid-November and mid-April. Yes, they start to clear the roads then. Some portions of YNP don't even open to vehicular traffic until mid-May, such as the mountain passes. You could, indeed, get to Gardiner and then along the road between Mammoth and Cooke City, which is generally open year-round, but you won't get to Old Faithful, or any of the geyser basins, for that matter, unless you sign up for a snowmobile tour.


    Donna

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    You would also probably not be able to go east from Cooke City, that road also closes for the winter.

    A snowmobile tour is also not possible after March 15, all but the one road mentioned will be closed to ALL traffic.

    https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm

  4. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    Welcome to RTA!

    What the weather will be like 4 months from now, is anyone's guess. You're right, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana do *normally* stay colder through the early spring months. (BTW, Mississippi is quite a bit south, not a northern state at all, with completely different weather patterns.) If it were me, I'd rent a medium sized car, which probably will be equipped with all-weather tires, and not worry about the added expense of an SUV.

    Yellowstone is considered open all year, but to non-snow machine traffic only between mid-November and mid-April. Yes, they start to clear the roads then. Some portions of YNP don't even open to vehicular traffic until mid-May, such as the mountain passes. You could, indeed, get to Gardiner and then along the road between Mammoth and Cooke City, which is generally open year-round, but you won't get to Old Faithful, or any of the geyser basins, for that matter, unless you sign up for a snowmobile tour.


    Donna
    Thanks Donna. I meant Minnesota not Mississippi, whoops!

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    You would also probably not be able to go east from Cooke City, that road also closes for the winter.

    A snowmobile tour is also not possible after March 15, all but the one road mentioned will be closed to ALL traffic.

    https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm
    Thank you for the response - I see what you mean, now that I re-read the NPS website. I assumed I could depart I90 at Laurel and approach Cooke City from the east and then drive west along to Gardiner before rejoining I90 but it sounds like that will not be possible.

    In that case we may have to skip Yellowstone as it doesn't make much sense to double back on ourselves. Save it for another trip!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    When you *do* go to Yellowstone in the summer, the drive in from I-90 through Red Lodge over the Beartooth is absolutely spectacular.

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