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  1. Default Yellowstone and Mt Rushmore Mid-late April


    My wife and I are in the U.S. for March and April this year. It is pretty much a once in a lifetime trip for us, where we are trying to do many of the typical touristy things as well as spending a decent amount of time in certain areas. One of our must-sees is Yellowstone National Park, and we would also love to see Mt Rushmore if possible. At this stage the time we have allocated for these areas is 23rd - 29th April 2011. The weather during this time has really upset our plans (in the North Island of New Zealand where we are from, the weather almost never gets bad enough to interrupt travel plans!). Our Travel Agent has reccommended we fly into an airport i can't remember the name of in Montana (we will be coming from Chicago), hire an RV and drive into Yellowstone through the Northern Entrance (apparantly this is the only entrance open at this time). At this stage she hasn't got us going to Mt. Rushmore.

    So my questions are:
    -Are we going to be able to enjoy Yellowstone at this time of year? (we love the outdoors, but are not experienced in harsh conditions/wild animals/skiing etc.)
    -How will we get around the Park? (are the roads open to drive to key attractions/areas?)
    -Is it worth going to Mt. Rushmore (and badlands area etc.) as well, given our time constraints?
    -Can we drive to Mt. Rushmore from yellowstone in a rental car, or will the snow/roads prevent this? (if yes, how long will it take and which route is reccommended?)
    -Is an RV our best option? (it looks like all the onsite accommodation is closed at this time of year, but what about staying somewhere close to the park and driving in and out each day).
    -Is it better (or even possible) to drive to Yellowstone/Mt. Rushmore from California, as we will be there mid March (this month!!) and can re-arrange our trip to accomodate this if it is reccommended.
    -Is there anything else you would reccomend for this leg of our journey?

    Sorry for such a big first post and so many questions!

    Thanks in advance,


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

    Default Could be challenging.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Although weather is an unpredictable thing, Spring/summer comes late to Yellowstone and the parks facilities do not become fully operational until June with parts opening slowly through April/ May. Travelling in April you will have to expect the risk of winter storms and sub zero temps.
    The pages on the official Yellowstone NPS site here, will offer all the info you could hope to find.

    An RV is a lifestyle choice and if just the 2 of you are travelling will certainly be more costly than a car and Motels. As said you will be facing below freezing temps, a lot of campgrounds will be closed down and quite possibly the RV will be winterised for travel in this area. That is to say that all water tanks would have been drained and although you can use them, any damage caused by freezing would be your responsibility and at your cost. I love travelling in the NP by RV, but to be honest I don't think you will benefit from it around Yellowstone at the time you travel.

    Yes, it would be quite possible to drive from Cali to Yellowstone, from San Fran you could do the journey in 2 full days of travel in a car with no sight seeing.

    It doesn't sound as though you have got anything much 'nailed down' as yet, so I would take a good look around the forums and planning pages above for ideas. With the time you have you could drive from Chicago to California and I would look at the NPS link above and consider whether Yellowstone is right for you on this trip. There are many National parks in the 'Four corners' region that are pretty amazing and many won't offer the same accessibility problems of Yellowstone.

    As you work your itinerary out, keep asking questions and we can help piece it together, but if Yellowstone is on there, it really needs to be as late in the trip as possible.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Unfortunately...

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    No, I'm sorry to say, you will probably not be able to enjoy Yellowstone at that time of year, certainly not all of it. There is only one road that is kept open all year, and that simply links the North and Northeast Entrances. The first road to be opened in the Spring is the road to Old Faithful and that is not scheduled to opened until April 15th. The rest of the roads in the park don't open until May. Mount Rushmore and the Badlands are open year round, as are Devils Tower, and Wind and Jewel Caves. there will be plenty for you to see and do, but your access to parts of Yellowstone will be severely restricted.

    Also, the time of year argues against renting an RV rather than a standard sedan. First of all, RVs are a lifestyle choice, not a means to save money or get to otherwise inaccessible places, quite the opposite. They are expensive, slow you down and will occasionally be restricted from certain roads (depending on their size). In early spring, not many tourists will be on the roads and so most motels will have vacancies nightly and many will be charging off-season rates. Besides, motels have heat and showers that work. In addition, your typical front wheel drive sedan will do a lot better in snowy conditions than a lumbering RV with a high center of gravity.

    So, my basic recommendations are twofold: 1) Just get a comfortable car and enjoy the mobility, and 2) Don't expect to see all of Yellowstone, but rather enjoy what areas you can get to and plan on spending a bit more time in eastern Wyoming and western South Dakota.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    From the NPS site:

    April 15, 2011—Weather permitting, west-side roads open to motor vehicles. Visitors will be able to travel by car through the park's North & West Entrances to Norris, Madison, Canyon, & Old Faithful beginning at 8:00 a.m.
    That's all you will be able to do at Yellowstone. If you go, I'd recommend you stay in the town of West Yellowstone, just outside the West entrance. I can highly recommend the Evergreen Motel. Room rates that time of year start at $50 a night and they can be booked online.

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