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  1. #1

    Default Denver to Salt Lake City in October - advice please!

    We are two mature ladies from South Africa who are planning a road trip from Denver to SLC, taking in Mt Rushmore and Yellowstone on the way. We will pick up our rental car on Sunday morning, 5 October and hope to reach SLC by Saturday, 11 October. Is this do-able? We'd much appreciate help with working out an itinerary. There'll be just one driver - me - so I'm not sure what distance I'll manage each day. Any suggestions as to where we should stop each night, and whether there are plenty of reasonably-priced motels along the way?
    Any advice will be most welcome and appreciated!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default The Long Way Around

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    While your proposed itinerary would add at least 750 miles to the shortest distance between Denver and Salt Lake City, just getting from Point A to Point B does not seem to be the purpose of your trip. Certainly you can do this roundabout drive in 6 days, even as the sole driver. You only have to average a little over 200 miles a day to make it happen, or about 4 hours behind the wheel. So let me propose one possible itinerary that makes use of the time you have to see what's along the way.

    On the day you arrive in Denver, I wouldn't plan on going too far. Especially if you've flown overnight to get to Denver in the morning, then you're going to be tired and jet-lagged, and you do have to allow for the possibility of delays. I think that if you just play this day by ear. Your objective should be somewhere around Cheyenne, WY. On the way if you feel up to it, Boulder is a very user-friendly city with the Pearl Street Mall and the University of Colorado providing great walking venues, shopping and entertainment. Rocky Mountain National Park would be a possibility only if you got a good night's sleep on the flight into Denver.

    On Monday drive up to the Rapid City area. This will be about a 300+ mile driving day, but the two main things you'll be seeing today, Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial are relatively low-key sites that don't require a great deal of time to appreciate. Tuesday would be a day to get as far as you can on the way to Yellowstone. On the way, a worthwhile stop would be Devils Tower, but this is going to be your heaviest driving day at around 400 miles (still not all that far) so that you make Cody, WY.

    That leaves Wednesday to cover the final 100 or so miles into Yellowstone and to enjoy as much as you can. Stay overnight either in the park or nearby and continue in the morning, then on Thursday head out whenever you need to in order to cover the 600 miles to Salt Lake City so that you can be there at whatever time you need to on Saturday. By that time you should have a pretty good idea of how many miles you can cover on Friday and how much time you have available on Saturday.

    So yes, it's all quite doable and you should have a great time.


  3. #3

    Default Thanks, AZBuck!

    Thanks so much for your response, which is exactly the sort of information I was looking for! Just to give you a little more info, we arrive in Denver by train at 7.15 am on the Sunday morning, having travelled two days (in a sleeper apartment) from Washington, so should be fairly well rested. We will then just have to get ourselves to the airport to pick up the rental car. So we should have quite a bit of Sunday to drive to our first overnight stop. I think your proposed itinerary sounds perfect. Just one more question - Do you think we'd be able to fit in Jackson Hole (that sounds funny!) which I believe is an interesting place? On the map it looks like that would be between Yellowstone and Salt Lake City.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Jackson

    Jackson is an upscale western town, supported basically by skiing in the winter and dude ranches in the summer. Jackson Hole is the valley in which it sits. Certainly if you have the time after Yellowstone, a drive down US-89 through the Grand Tetons and Jackson is well worth it.


  5. #5

    Default The Beartooths and Jackson Hole

    Good morning Ladies,

    As usual, AZ Buck has provided some valuable insight. For the post-Rushmore portions of your trip, I can offer a couple of additional thoughts:

    Taking I-90 west from Rapid City will take you across the eastern plains of Montana. Just past Billings, MT, US 212 turns south towards Red Lodge, MT. The town of Red Lodge itself is a boisterous, fun place to visit. The last time I was there, we stayed two nights at the Rock Creek Resort, just a handful of miles south of Red Lodge. We were in a nice condominium unit and a very nice streamside restaurant was there on the premesis.

    But the best part of going through Red Lodge is taking US 212 on into Yellowstone NP. From Red Lodge to Yellowstone is the spectacular Beartooth Highway. The highway climbs thousands of feet in elevation through a series of switchbacks, then runs for miles above timberline at elevations of 10,000 to 11,500' or so. At a point around 35 miles from Red Lodge, you pass through Cooke City, MT and immediately thereafter, into Yellowstone NP. Having entered there, you pass through the Lamar Valley, a broad and spectacular valley off of the main circular route through the Park, and a place you might not venture to if you enter from the East entrance from Cody.

    Yes, the term Jackson Hole is humorous. The term "hole" in Western US nomenclature refers to a large valley, one which would appear to be a "hole" in the earth's surface. So, the delightful Western tourist town of Jackson, WY lies in the valley known as Jackson Hole. Further to the northwest, in southwesternmost Montana, lies the Grandaddy of them all, the Big Hole, but that's another story entirely.

    Have a safe and enjoyable trip, and an advanced welcome to the US.


  6. #6

    Default Thanks to AZBuck and Foy

    Many thanks again, AZBuck, and you too, Foy, for the invaluable advice. It makes such a difference to hear first-hand from people who know the areas, instead of just relying on a map!
    Cheers, Cindy

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