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  1. Default RV roadtrip to Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton NPs (from/to Calgary)

    Hi there!
    We are a family from Spain and we will be visiting the US again this next August. We will be renting an RV in Calgary and plan to visit Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

    The Glacier part of the trip (the most difficult in terms of reservations) is already planned and booked, and now I would like to ask for your great advice for the rest of the trip.

    I have two possible itineraries during our stay in Yellowstone and Grand Teton. The big question is whether to leave Grand Teton by the end of the trip or split Yellowstone in two legs so as to reduce driving times.

    We are travelling with kids and would like to avoid long driving times.


    Option A:

    Nights 1-3: Canyon Campground
    Night 4: Madison Campground
    Night 5: Grant Campground
    Nights 6-7: Grand Teton (campground recommendations?)
    Return to Calgary in 2 days via the east (12 hours driving)

    Option B:

    Nights 1: Sleep in a campground in Gardiner
    Night 2: Madison Campground
    Night 3: Grant Campground
    Night 4-5: Grand Teton
    Night 6: Fishing Bridge
    Night 7: Canyon Campground
    Return to Calgary in 2 days from Canyon Village (10h hours driving)

    Also, any recommendations on which route to take from West Glacier to North Yellowstone (Gardiner) would be appreciated. We plan to stay overnight halfway.

    And regarding the way back to Calgary, any recommendations on where to stop or what to do and see with kids?

    Thank you in advance!

    I have great memories of my trip back in 2011 in the West National Parks and the great help this forum provided during my planning.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    South of England.
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    Default Very nice!

    Hi. Welcome back with another great adventure to look forward too!

    Heading direct to Canyon campground would be quite a long day on the road, but with an early start you could do it. The advantage of the long day is you would arrive later and avoid the huge queues entering the park the following morning! With option A you would also avoid queues heading back into Yellowstone by driving through the Tetons and out via Jackson, possibly spending one night at Colter Bay and then I believe there are a couple of options around Jackson. The most direct route from Jackson would be to head along the west side of Yellowstone and close to half way would be Wolf creek/Great falls area. Remember that the going is slow in Yellowstone, REAL SLOW ! (You can get held up for long periods due to traffic and wildlife congestion on the roads)

    I would take a look at the Yellowstone campgrounds asap as they get booked up so far in advance.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    12,029

    Default 'Going to the sun'

    One more thing that you may already be aware of. You won't be able to travel over the Going to the sun road in Glacier NP in your RV so you will need to plan accordingly. The NP do run Red bus tours over the GTTSR but they to get busy.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,815

    Default

    I would say I prefer option A - but perhaps not for the reason you might think.

    I like that option because you're spending multiple days in the same campsite. Being that you're going to be in an RV, it's not as big of a deal because you'll be leaving your campsite every day anyway, unlike a tent or trailer where you'd be able to leave everything set up, however, just checking into a campground takes time. If you show up at a busy time, it could easily take 30 minutes to an hour to get checked in and get a feel for how to best park on the site. I wouldn't say that is a dealbreaker, but I'd find that tiresome to have to do that every day and it's something I would factor into your equation.

    You mention in option A you're planning to go from Tetons to Calgary via the east? Which route did you have in mind - are you talking about going back up through Yellowstone, maybe even beartooth highway? As Dave mentioned, that is going to take quite a bit of time. Heading from Jackson west towards Idaho Falls, and then up I-15 would certainly make things a lot faster and reduce some of your travel time.

    As far as other interim stops, I think Missoula is a nice town that's about halfway between Yellowstone and West Glacier. The last time I was there, I camped at a private campground near Travelers Rest State Park (the state park doesn't have camping).

    Helena - Montana's state capitol - could be a place to stop between Tetons and Calgary. I know there's quite a few National Forest campgrounds in that area, although there's probably some private options too.

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    One more thing that you may already be aware of. You won't be able to travel over the Going to the sun road in Glacier NP in your RV so you will need to plan accordingly. The NP do run Red bus tours over the GTTSR but they to get busy.
    Yes, I am aware of that. I already booked a Red Bus Tour for the first day in Glacier and then booked a boat tour in Many Glacier so that we can access that part of the park even without a vehicle permit. Thanks!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    Hi. Welcome back with another great adventure to look forward too!

    Heading direct to Canyon campground would be quite a long day on the road, but with an early start you could do it. The advantage of the long day is you would arrive later and avoid the huge queues entering the park the following morning! With option A you would also avoid queues heading back into Yellowstone by driving through the Tetons and out via Jackson, possibly spending one night at Colter Bay and then I believe there are a couple of options around Jackson. The most direct route from Jackson would be to head along the west side of Yellowstone and close to half way would be Wolf creek/Great falls area. Remember that the going is slow in Yellowstone, REAL SLOW ! (You can get held up for long periods due to traffic and wildlife congestion on the roads)

    I would take a look at the Yellowstone campgrounds asap as they get booked up so far in advance.
    Thank you so much! You made a good point here! I wasn't taking into account the possible congestions in Yellowstone, so I will go with Plan A for sure.

  6. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    I would say I prefer option A - but perhaps not for the reason you might think.

    I like that option because you're spending multiple days in the same campsite. Being that you're going to be in an RV, it's not as big of a deal because you'll be leaving your campsite every day anyway, unlike a tent or trailer where you'd be able to leave everything set up, however, just checking into a campground takes time. If you show up at a busy time, it could easily take 30 minutes to an hour to get checked in and get a feel for how to best park on the site. I wouldn't say that is a dealbreaker, but I'd find that tiresome to have to do that every day and it's something I would factor into your equation.
    Very good point! I didn't quite remember how was the check-in process in the campsites when I went to the West in 2011 but that makes total sense. It might be better to spend 30 minutes on the road seeing wildlife than queuing in the check-in office. Thanks for mentioning that! Will definitely go with option A.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    You mention in option A you're planning to go from Tetons to Calgary via the east? Which route did you have in mind - are you talking about going back up through Yellowstone, maybe even beartooth highway? As Dave mentioned, that is going to take quite a bit of time. Heading from Jackson west towards Idaho Falls, and then up I-15 would certainly make things a lot faster and reduce some of your travel time.

    As far as other interim stops, I think Missoula is a nice town that's about halfway between Yellowstone and West Glacier. The last time I was there, I camped at a private campground near Travelers Rest State Park (the state park doesn't have camping).

    Helena - Montana's state capitol - could be a place to stop between Tetons and Calgary. I know there's quite a few National Forest campgrounds in that area, although there's probably some private options too.
    Great recommendations! We will go West for sure, and after so many days in the parks, I think that staying in a private campground with some more amenities after a long drive can be a good option too!

  7. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Heading from Jackson west towards Idaho Falls, and then up I-15 would certainly make things a lot faster and reduce some of your travel time.

    From Jackson to Calgary, Google Maps recommends going via Ashton, Harrison, and then taking I15 past Boulder.
    Which road would be better in terms of scenery and also to reduce driving time?


    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Helena - Montana's state capitol - could be a place to stop between Tetons and Calgary. I know there's quite a few National Forest campgrounds in that area, although there's probably some private options too.
    Are there any activities or places you would recommend in the Helena area to do with kids, such as water parks or theme parks? After 12 night sleeping in the National Parks we would like to treat the kids with a surprise specially for them.

    Thanks!
    Last edited by AZBuck; 02-13-2024 at 09:46 AM. Reason: Fixed formatting

  8. Default

    Also wanted to ask if the route from Jackson to Calgary is doable in 2 days in a Class-C RV. Google Maps says 12 hours, but I guess it will be more with an RV. Do you know how long it might take?

  9. #9
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    Jul 2007
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    Default Always allow more time than Google suggests.

    Quote Originally Posted by oconee View Post
    Also wanted to ask if the route from Jackson to Calgary is doable in 2 days in a Class-C RV. Google Maps says 12 hours, but I guess it will be more with an RV. Do you know how long it might take?
    Yes it's doable, but Google time estimates are already overly optimistic for a car. I would estimate you will be travelling for a minimum of 7.5 hours per day (split equally) with decent rest/lunch breaks.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    10,299

    Default Google Maps™ Time Calculations

    I had always been curious as to how accurate Google Maps™ was in its suggested travel times. Naturally the algorithms it uses for this purpose are considered proprietary information and thus not available. My best guess was always that they just looked at the route, assumed that you were going to be travelling at the speed limit and computed the time.

    It turns out to be a bit more complicated than that, but not much. One good thing Google Maps™ does is to use both historical as well as real-time data, road closures and traffic density mostly, to make adjustments to the basic calculation. So you might want to check again just before you leave.

    Of course such calculations cannot take into account your personal driving habits or luck. If you're going to be off-Interstate for part of your journey, you'll have to make some adjustment for traffic lights and stop signs. If you're going slower than the speed limit on a fairly consistent basis, you'll have to factor that in as well. If you're on a long enough drive to require stops, you'll have to add those stop times in too.

    I certainly agree with Dave that you should allow more time than Google Maps™ suggests. My personal guess, given your travel style, would be to add one to one-and-a-half hours each day to whatever Google Maps™ comes up with.

    AZBuck

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