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Mt Rushmore/ YNP, GTNP itinerary

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Hi! I've already gotten some great feedback from an earlier post about the YNP portion of our trip, and hoped I cold get some more for the entire thing :) I'm hoping for some feedback whether it's too much, or if I'm missing anything important. I've made some guesstimates on how long some of the stops and drives will take, but really can't be sure. Let me know if I'm way off! Recommendations for food and lodging (<$150/night) are certainly welcome! I've narrowed it down for accommodations a bit but don't have anything booked yet.

We plan on visiting first week of July 2015, and want to be ready when reservations open for next year open in a few days. There are 6 of us traveling: my husband and I, our two kids (who will be 5.5 and 7.5 at the time) and my parents, who are in their late 60s. They are in reasonable shape, but 5 hour hikes are out of the question - I'm trying to keep all hikes under the 1-2 hour mark

Day 1 -arrive Rapid City. Stay either Cambria Suites or Big Sky Lodge. Pick one activity for afternoon - Dinosaur Park, Journey museum, Storybook Island or Reptile Gardens. Dinner at Firehouse Brewing Company.

Day 2- drive to Badlands National Park via Rt 44 (1.5 hours), visit Ben Reifel visitor center and drive loop road, with picnic lunch (4-5 hours?). Short hike on Door Trail, drive Sage Creek Rim Road to Robert's Prairie Dog Town. Exit park via Pinnacle entrance. Go to Wall drug, 1-2 hours. Dinner in Wall (Red Rock Restaurant?) before returning to Rapid City via I-90 (1 hour). Overnight in Rapid City again.

Day 3- head to Mt Rushmore via Highway 79 and Highway 36, and Iron Mountain Rd. Bring apples or carrots to feed wild burros. Visit Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center, Sculptors Studio, ranger talk, and hike Presidential Trail. Lunch at Mt Rushmore. Head north on US 16 to Bear Country USA if there’s time (about 2 hours). Dinner and overnight in Keystone (K Bar S?) or Custer (Bavarian Inn?).

Day 4- head to US 16A to Iron Mountain Rd (scenic drive) to CR 753 into Custer State Park to Highway 87 (Needles Highway) (3 hours). Continue to Sylvan Lake for hike and paddle boating. Visit Crazy Horse Memorial (2 hours). Overnight same as Day 3.

Day 5- drive wildlife loop in Custer state park (should be early morning or dusk, 2 hours). Perhaps hike Creekside trail, 2 hours. Drive south on Highway 87 to Wind Cave National park tour (2 hours). Continue south on US 385 to Hot Springs. Overnight Hot Springs (Motel 6 or USA Stay and Suites).

Day 6- Visit Mammoth site (1-2 hours). Is Evans Plunge worth the stop? Drive an hour to Jewel Cave National Monument and take tour if any tickets are left. Lunch. Drive to Sheridan (3 hours) and overnight there, either Holiday Lodge Motel or Mill Inn.

Day 7- drive to Cody (2.5 hours). Visit Buffalo Bill Museum (2-3 hours). If time, visit Trail Town. Lunch and dinner in Cody – suggestions? Cody Nite Rodeo begins at 8 pm. Cody Stampede is July 1-4, with parades and fireworks. Overnight at Big Bear Motel or Cody Cowboy Village.

Day 8 – Leave Cody and drive to NE entrance of Yellowstone via Beartooth Highway and Lamar Valley. Check into Roosevelt Lodge (if we can get rooms with private bath). Drive to Mammoth and check kids into Ranger program. Drive Upper Terrace Rd and see buildings at Fort Yellowstone and map room in Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. If time stop for swim in Boiling River. On the way back hike either Undine Falls or Waithe Falls. Stop and see petrified tree. Have dinner at lodge.

Day 9 – Bring boxed lunch. Head south to see Tower Fall, perhaps hike down to bottom. Stop at Calcite Springs Overlook. Continue south to North Rim of Canyon, stop at Inspiration Point, then Grandview and Lookout Points. At Lookout Point, hike 0.5 mile trail to Red Rock Point. Next stop at Brink of Lower Falls, 0.5 mile trail and then Brink of Upper Falls. On South Rim, have lunch in picnic area, then hike Uncle Tom’s Trail to base of falls. If time drive to Artist Point. Return back to Roosevelt in time for Old West Cookout (4:45 pm). Overnight at Roosevelt Lodge again. (is this too much in one day? Should we push some to day 10?) Is the Canyon Village education center worth a stop (1hr)?

Day 10 – Depart Roosevelt Lodge, heading south to Yellowstone Lake area. Drive through Hayden Valley to Mud Volcano area to see wildlife and thermal basins. Hike Natural Bridge trail if open. Check out Fishing Bridge and hike Pelican Creek Nature Trail (30 min). Lunch at Yellowstone Hotel. Check in to Old Faithful Inn. Dinner at Old Faithful Inn.

Day 11- Take box lunch. Start at Old Faithful visitor center to check predicted eruption times and see Young Scientist room. After eruption explore Geyser hill area. Then see Firehole River loop to see Grand Geyser and Crested Pool. Head up to midway geyser basin through Firehole Lake Drive to see Great Fountain Geyser and Fountain Paint Pot. Further north, drive Firehole Canyon Drive to see Firehole Falls and (maybe) swim in hot springs. Head toward Norris Basin and hike trails to Porcelain Basin (45 min) and Back Basin (1 hour). If time, visit Artist Paint Pots (0.5 mile trail) before heading to dinner and overnight again at Old Faithful Inn.

Day 12-Leave park through South Entrance to arrive at Grand Teton. Drive along Rockefeller parkway to see Cathedral Group (peaks). Continue south to Colter bay. Perhaps hike Lakeshore trail, 2 miles. Lunch. Continue south to Jackson Lake junction and head west to Signal Mountain. Visit Jackson Point Overlook. Continue south to Jenny Lake and hike up to inspiration point (1.8 miles if take boat shuttle, otherwise 5.8 miles. May be better suited for morning). Dinner and overnight at either Colter Bay Village or Signal Mtn Lodge.

Day 13- Start at Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor center. See Chapel of Transfiguration. Take float trip down Snake River, any recommendations for tour company? Overnight same as day 12.

Day 14 - depart Jackson Hole

Thank you!

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