I'm currently planning my late summer and Fall road trip and while I have a fair idea of what I'm trying to accomplish, I'd like some suggestions on best travel routes.
I will be driving from Boston to tour the greater Rocky Mountain region and I would like to visit the following National Parks: Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Badlands, Rocky Mountain, Arches, Canyonlands.
I did parts of this trip last year taking I-90 most of the way and I really hated the interstate, especially all of the tolls east of the Mississippi.
My timing also worked out poorly for visting Glacier NP. After several days in the Yellowstone area, I arrived at Glacier's western entrance the day after most of the Going to the Sun Road was closed from that direction. I would like to avoid that this trip by possibly visiting Glacier NP before going to Yellowstone.
So here are my possible route ideas. I'd love any opinions on which of these is more favorable and also any alternate suggestions regarding both the route and places to visit. I should be able to leave Boston around August 23rd.
One possibility is to drive through part of Canada, picking up Hwy 17 (Trans Canada?) just over the New York border and re-entering the US in Wisconsin. Then making my way to Glacier NP from there.
By going this route, I will eventually have to backtrack to South Dakota if I decide I really want to go to Badlands and Mt Rushmore, but I can always do a clockwise loop starting from Yellowstone/Grand Teton
I was thinking I'd go to Yellowstone from Glacier. I would spend a week in the Yellowstone area, visiting Grand Teton NP and Cody WY while there, and then drive the Beartooth Highway out to Red Lodge and head over to SD from there.
From SD, I'd then drive down to Colorado to visit Rocky Mountain NP and then drive to Moab, Utah from Colorado to visit Arches and Canyonlands. I'd spend the rest of my trip puttering around Utah, I think.
The alternative route is to take US 20 most of the way, visiting Badlands National Park and any of the other places in SD I want to see, and then heading towards Glacier from there. That way, after Glacier, I can swing down to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and then head into Utah.
I would possibly skip Rocky Mountains NP on this trip, depending on just how much time I spent elsewhere and what you folks think might work best. I could alternatively visit Rocky Mountain NP on the way home since I'll likely take I-70 back if the weather is okay.
The only thing I don't like about US 20 is that it still goes through large population areas like Chicago, but if there's anything interesting on that route, I can deal with it.
Only three real Must Do's for this trip: Glacier, Yellowstone and Moab.
Badlands isn't a critical part of the trip. I went there last year and thought it was cool and I would kind of like to go back and also visit some of the other sites in the area, such as Mt Rushmore, Buffalo Gap and Thunder Basin. But if you think a better trip could be planned by skipping it, there's always next time :)
I'm in no particular rush for the journey (I'm planning a minimum of 8 weeks) and in fact I'd like to take things a bit more slowly than I usually do. Last year, I felt like I had to basically race to Yellowstone because I had a lodging reservation and as you probably know, Yellowstone lodging is nearly always booked. This year, I'm making no such plans. I'll sleep in the minivan at one of the campgrounds instead.
As mentioned, I will be driving a minivan and plan to spend at least a few nights a week sleeping in it. So my big concern is how late into the Fall is the weather fairly comfortable at these parks.
I can't leave Boston before August 23rd and I should be able to stay out west until at least the end of October. When I'm ready to head back, I'll likely use I-70 or I-40 to head East - depending on how late I'm returning and what the weather is like.