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  1. Default LA through Yellowstone to CT

    I am looking for any advice on my first road trip. I am in my twenties and traveling with my GF.

    The route I have planned is:

    Day1: LA to Grand Canyon
    Day2: Grand Canyon to Zion NP
    Day3: Zion NP to Northern Utah (probably SCL - any recommendations?)
    Day4: Northern Utah to Grand Teton NP
    Day5: Grand Teton to Yellowstone
    Day6: Yellowstone to Rapid City (want to Beartooth Hwy)
    Day7: Jewel Caves, Mount Rusmore, Badlands NP
    Day8: Badlands to Sioux Falls
    Day9: Sioux Falls to Madison or Chicago (depending on time)
    Day10: Chicago
    Day11: Chicago to Erie, Pennsylvania
    Day12: Erie to CT

    1) Other than making reservations in Yellowstone and Chicago, should I make reservations for other stops? What is the best method to find safe, but cheap places to stay? I feel like I should organize every hotel now to get the best rates, but I want flexibility incase we fall a day behind.

    2) What is the best route to take Beartooth Hwy to get to Rapid City Area? Is it even doable in a day or does it depend where we stay in Yellowstone?

    3) How much time is needed to do Jewel Caves, Mount Rushmore and Badlands? Would my extra day be better spent in Grand Teton/ Yellowstone?

    4) Any recommendations for a place to stop between Chicago and CT? I don't want to stop in Cleveland

    I am really struggling between trying to plan too much and just enjoying the freedom of a road trip.

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

    Default good outline

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Your basic trip outline is pretty solid, but there are a couple of things I'll note.

    LA to GC to Zion in 2 days really is not going to give you much time at all to see the Grand Canyon. Its a very full day to drive from LA to the Canyon, and then its another 5-6 hour drive to Zion, leaving you just a few hours to see the Canyon. If you want to stay at or near the rim, you should probably make reservations, but you could probably get by without them if you stay in Williams. However, that would add yet another hour of driving to day 2, and thus even less time at the Canyon.

    Otherwise, you should be able to get by without making reservations, unless this trip happened to be in early August when you'd need reservations in the Rapid City area (because of the Sturgis rally).

    You can make the trip from Yellowstone to Rapid in one day, but it will be a long day on the road. You may end up stopping a bit short, say in Deadwood or somewhere else closer to the Wyoming/SD state line.

    Trying to cram Jewel/Rushmore/Badlands into one day will make for a very full day. Of course, trying to see the Tetons and Yellowstone in one day is going to be very busy too. The way you've got it broken out is probably about as good of choice as any.

    Niagara Falls would be a natural stopping point between Chicago and Boston. If you've got your passport, you could cut through Canada for this part of the trip.

    You're always going to walk a line between overplanning and underplanning, but which side of the coin depends upon your personal tastes as much as anything else, but it seems like you are doing a pretty good job of balancing things.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    The need for reservations will depend on the dates. Generally, advance reservations will not save you much money, if any, unless you use something like Priceline to bid a price. There is nothing economical in the city of Chicago that would be in an area that I would consider "safe". Downtown hotels that are "livable" are over $100 a night. I would stay out in the suburbs somewhere.

    I would say take the Beartooth to Billings, then I-90 to Rapid City. It's about a 6 hour drive from Billings to Rapid City. I don't know how long it will take you to get to Billings, but I think it may be long enough to make a Yellowstone to Rapid City run too long for one day. I'd play it by ear, just stop and find a room if you get tired.

    When I used to drive from Chicago to the east coast, I stayed in Youngstown (Niles) OH. There are a few hotels at the OH-46 exit (223) on I-80. This is the first exit east of the Ohio Turnpike junction.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    The Beartooth Hwy is a great road with magnificent scenery and an interesting drive. It is a good three hour drive from the park to Red Lodge - more if you stop to admire the scenery and use your camera. But oh so worth it! Be sure to stop by at the Top of the World Store.

    Alternatively you could exit the park at the eastern entrance towards Cody, and drive over the Big Horn Mountains. These too have a great deal to offer. If you take Hwy 14A it will take you to the Big Horn Canyon and past the Medicine Wheel. It is the first place I ever saw a moose, which stood in front of my vehicle, and all I could do was admire it, and wait till it moved.

    Either option will mean taking two days from the park to Rapid City. There is no shortage of accommodation along or near the highway.

    After leaving Rapid City, Mt Rushmore, etc., be sure to stop over at Wal Drug on your way to the Badlands - which also deserve more than just a drive through. At Wal Drug, check out the Mall at the very back of the store, where you will see the history of the store and the surrounding area in hundreds of articles and photos along the walls, as well as exhibits of industries of years gone by. You can even pan for gold!

    Beware!! The dinosaur eats every 15 minutes.

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