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  1. Default Road Trip Columbus Ohio to Yellowstone

    I want to plan a road trip from Columbus Ohio to Yellowstone.

    I don't want to be on major highways the entire way. Instead, I want to visit small towns, great sights, and as many interesting landmarks on this trip.

    That being said, I don't want to spend a week to get to Yellowstone. I plan to see the Custer State Park, Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse along the way. I want to include Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, and as many great spots on this trip. I have 3 weeks and I am very flexible with time.

    Suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    You've got some contradictory goals. You want to take slower roads that go through small towns, you want to see the sites in the Black Hills, and yet you don't want to take a week to get to Yellowstone.

    Just sprinting to Yellowstone on the freeways would be a solid 3 day drive. Seeing all the things you want to see in the Black Hills area is at least 2 days there, and that's a fairly rushed pace. That's 5 days before you get off the freeways.

    A couple things you could do is look for US highways that are still expressway quality - for example US-20 across Northern Iowa or US-36 across Northern Missouri. Those are mostly 4 lane highways, but they still go through some towns along the way, so they strike a bit of a balance between speed and stops.

    The other thing is if it's just that you don't want to wait to get to yellowstone, you could do more of a sprint just to get out there - mostly taking I-80 across the plains and then cutting up through Jackson, and see the Tetons as you enter Yellowstone from the South. Then, on your way back take a more meandering pace back across Wyoming and South Dakota, taking two lane highways as you see fit very gradually working your way back home.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Mix and Match

    As Michael noted, you're going to have to make some hard choices given your competing goals. But here's one thing to keep in mind. most Interstates were built to, and still do, run parallel to existing 'old' highways. So, the first thing I'd do is plot out an Interstate route that avoided major urban areas such as Chicago (but you can't avoid them all) and then look for opportunities along that route to take advantage of parallel roads to take a break from the monotony of the superslabs.

    For a basic route, I'd probably choose something like I-70 to Indianapolis and the I-465 beltway either way around the city to I-74 to the Quad Cities, then I-80/I-380 to Cedar Falls and then, again as Michael suggested, US-20 across northern Iowa to Sioux City. The last bit would be I-29 up to I-90 west to the Rapid City area. That route is actually a few miles shorter than the shortest all-Interstates route, but would take a bit longer.

    Then along the above route, you can look for opportunities to get off onto parallel roads when/if you have the time or inclination. A few such opportunities would include US-40 in eastern Indiana, US-150 between Champaign and Bloomington in Illinois, IA-12 along the Big Sioux River and then SD-48 to rejoin I-29, and SD-248 for most of the length of I-90 through that state.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 01-28-2021 at 06:46 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome! I see that you want to take the phrase, "the journey is the vacation, not the destination" to heart. That's great, but as others have pointed out, you may have to make some compromises.

    Each of the places you have mentioned takes some time to actually see. My husband and I have been to most of what you mentioned, within the past 8 years, so here's what we've found:

    Custer State Park - there are 3 scenic drives to take: Iron Mountain, Needles, and Wildlife Loop. It took us a half day to do the first 2, and another half day to do the Wildlife Loop.

    Mount Rushmore - we used a half day, in the morning. We were glad we went in the morning because of the parking structure. We have a pickup and are not thrilled about trying to park it inside a structure. (We used the other half day to take the Iron Mountain/Needles in Custer SP.)

    Devil's Tower - This is about 30 miles off of the interstate highway, but the nice thing is that there's another highway that takes you back to the interstate without repeating the first one. Actually seeing the Tower and its very small visitor center doesn't take all that long - maybe less time than you'll take getting to/from the highway. I do recommend the 1-1/3 mile trail around the Tower. If you go in July or August, you may get the chance to see and hear climbers on the Tower (climbing is not allowed in June). We took around an hour to take that trail, but we stopped a lot to take pictures of the Tower from different angles.

    Yellowstone is a huge park. The road is a figure-8 and very slow moving. Lots of scenic points, geyser basins, rivers and waterfalls, short hikes to take, and if you get into an "animal jam", you may not move for an hour. We came in via the Beartooth Highway, spending the day driving that and then seeing the northeast sector of the park. The next day, we went around the lower part of the 8. The third day, we went around the upper part of the 8. We never went on the eastern sector. On the fourth day, we left via the south and went to Grand Teton National Park. We were not enthralled with Jackson, too crowded, but to each his own. We stayed in West Yellowstone for that section of our trip, but went around to Driggs, ID, after the Teton portion. You know it's pretty expensive when Motel 6 is over $200/night in Jackson!

    I mention these things so you can keep them in mind as you plan your trip. Here's a Trip Report from that trip, you can start at post #57.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    The Great Midwest, Illinois to be precise


    Here's a thought.

    Drive a U.S. Highway part of the way. US-12 starts in Detroit, Michigan, and runs west to Aberdeen, Washington.

    Along the way, you'll go through Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South and North Dakota, Montana and Idaho.

    The stretch from Fox Lake, Illinois, to the Wisconsin Dells is especially nice. That will take you through Illinois' Chain O'Lakes, Richmond and Madison. If you get a chance to eat beer nuggets anywhere, go for it.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Beyond the Road

    As others have mentioned you've got some contradictory goals with your trip. With the places you plan to visit, do you want to stick mostly to the scenic points near the road? Or do you want to do some walking/hiking, if possible? If that is the case then your plans would certainly look different.

    One thing that impresses me about the Wyoming night sky is the vast amounts of stars visible. Taking the time to look up and enjoy it will be a memorable experience. Just seeing that you might want to stick around an area a little bit longer.

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