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LeslieC Jun 20th, 2015 09:25 AM

Critique our Plan: Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore
Never been to these places. Please comment on our plan. Reservations are already made so I'm mostly interested in comments on things to do and our driving times/possible traffic and whether I'm trying to squeeze in too much, especially for the Yellowstone to Rapid City segment. We are 4 adults in our sixties. Light hiking fine, but not mountain climbing! Interested in wildlife, natural wonders, history, and good eating. From Los Angeles so would love to squeeze in anything "cowboy" and native American, but haven't found any pow wows timed with out route.

Aug 25: Fly into Jackson, arriving 12:30 pm
Pick up rental car, lunch in Jackson, then drive to Jackson Lake Lodge, stay 2 nights

Aug 26: Have booked a 2:00 pm float trip on the Snake River with Baker-Ewing. Would like an easy/scenic hike and picnic for the morning

Aug 27: drive to Yellowstone, two nights at the Old Faithful Inn (hotel, not cabins. Are there any road closures of concern?) See geysers this day or next. Other suggestions?

Aug 28: Anniversary dinner booked at 7:00 pm at the OF Inn. Other ideas for daytime?

Aug 29: Drive to Canyon Lodge, stay two nights. We have booked a 3:45 pm Lamar Valley Wildlife Excursion that picks up from Canyon Lodge. Will we have time to stop en route to see Yellowstone Lake, Grand Canyon Lower falls? I'm concerned by stories of traffic so have no idea how long this will take and obviously want to avoid back-tracking where possible and don't want to miss our 3:45 pick up.

Aug 30: Have booked a 3:45 pm Wagon Ride and Cookout departing from Roosevelt Lodge. How long a drive from Canyon Lodge is this? Any other suggestions for activities?

Aug 31: Part company with the other couple. Two of us will continue on from here. We really want to see the scenic part of the Beartooth Hwy 212 en route to Mt. Rushmore and our flight home from Rapid City SD on Sept 3. Not museum fans, so we figured on missing Cody and instead carrying on from 212 up through Billings, MT, stopping at the Little Bighorn battlefield, passing through Sheridan, WY for lunch and checking into the Occidental Hotel in Buffalo, WY late afternoon. Stay one night.

Sep 1: drive to a B & B in Keystone, SD and stay two nights, stopping at Devils Tower enroute.
First priority is Mt. Rushmore and then one loop of Custer State Park (hoping to see Bison). We would love to also see Deadwood on Sept 2nd.

Sep 3: flight out of Rapid City leaves 1:50 pm. Return rental car at the airport.

Aug 30:

WhereAreWe Jun 20th, 2015 10:50 AM

I would stop to see Deadwood on the 1st to eliminate backtracking.

Custer State Park is great but you will see a lot of buffalo in Yellowstone. Perhaps you could visit either Wind or Jewel Cave (or even Badlands) if buffalo viewing is the primary reason for visiting Custer. I don't think they will hold as much excitement after Yellowstone. Custer is beautiful but the others I mentioned are completely different so they may be more interesting.

osakaorchid Jun 20th, 2015 03:38 PM

On the Rapid City segment, you may also want to visit "Cosmos". Its one of those places where the laws of science are twisted on its side due to abnormalities with the Earth's magnetic poles.....where you can roll a ball uphill, far as Deadwood....I would definitely spend a whole day there....not just a few short hours..There's a lot of history and culture to be absorbed there...Its where Wild Bill Hickok got shot in the back during a poker game....the only time he ever played a card game with his back unguarded (he always played with his back against a wall)

EJinPa Jun 25th, 2015 09:04 PM

So am I understanding that you are dropping off your car at a diffrent location than where you picked it up?
We were thinking about doing that but I think the cost is almost I triple than if you dropped it off round trip.
Can you verify that?

2idocs Jun 27th, 2015 01:49 PM

The Beartooth highway is definitely worth it!

I think you have plenty of time for what you want to see in Yellowstone. When you look at the map, you can see that the roads form several loops. A day per loop is a good guide.

Traffic is slow, but keeps moving. If you see cars stopped, it almost always means wildlife present. The hour before sundown is a great time to be driving. You'll see elk/deer coming out of the trees and it's a good time to be in a car (mosquitoes!)

You're going to see a TON of bison on this trip!

For the Black Hills:
Make sure you drive DOWN the Needles Highway & UP Iron Mountain Road back into Keystone (the view will explain why)
Stop at Sylvan Lake at the end of the Needles.

Jewel Cave tour is less strenuous than Wind Cave & prettier.

LeslieC Jul 11th, 2015 08:37 AM

Just checking back in and see more great advice. Thank you all.

To EJinPa: to be honest, we didn't even consider a round trip car rental since these are great distances to drive. I'm a big believer in "open jaw" trips to see the most in limited time. What I did find is a double-the-cost difference if we used a car rental agency with an on-site airport location at Jackson airport vs. using one that requires a shuttle ride into town. We chose Alamo in town. Besides, we wanted to see downtown Jackson and have lunch before driving up to Grand Teton National park. We are paying $374 (with a Costco discount) for a 10 day rental vs. $750+ that Hertz or Avis wanted to charge.

basingstoke2 Jul 11th, 2015 10:08 AM

About road closures, when we were there at the end of this past May, one could not exit Yellowstone to continue to GTNP because of bridge construction - the rangers said that they did not have a date when the bridge would re-open but thought it would be more than a few weeks. I assume that if you can't leave through there, you also cannot enter and drive directly to OF. This was not on the website and it is still not there, so check with the park directly. I have a TR on our trip including Yellowstone and GT. If you care to read it, you can click on my name.

HotWheels Jul 12th, 2015 04:33 PM

Consider the two main loops of Yellowstone roughly as a figure 8. Canyon is roughly in the center of the "8". Old Faithful, geyser basins, mud pots, Yellowstone Lake (Fishing Bridge) & Lamar Valley are in the lower loop. Roosevelt, Mammoth flow,(at top of upper loop) Norris geyser basin, assorted waterfalls are located in the upper loop, with Yellowstone Falls very close to Canyon. We rose early and spent a comfortable day dedicated to one loop, then the other. I would do the lower loop first if staying at OF, then the upper when staying at Canyon. You will see plenty of bison. Respect their space; they're surprisingly agile & can bash mirrors/doors as well as humans! That also goes for elk & bear! Leave early on Aug 31st thru Cooke City on the Beartooth - it will be a long day to do the winding roads and Custer Battlefield.
Devil's Tower has easy trails around it to see the climbers (bring binoculars) and is only about 1 1/2 hrs from Black Hills. A couple hours is all that's needed there, unless you're hiking. I would agree; stop at Deadwood before Keystone to avoid backtracking. I personally wouldn't spend more than a couple hours there on this trip; it's not the historical Deadwood of days past. Although there are historic buildings, cemetery where Calamity Jane & Wild Bill are buried, etc., there are also numerous casinos & souvenir shops there now. It would be ok if you had more time, but there are better choices.
Depending on what time you arrive in Keystone, you could go to Mt. Rushmore for the night viewing, which gives a different feel.
Sept 2nd could be used for Needles Hwy, a cave tour (call ahead for tickets to Jewel Cave), Mammoth Dig Site, AND Crazy Horse Monument (think Native American Mt.Rushmore, with full museum and perhaps Native Dancing, near Custer).
Custer State Park is near all the above, if you haven't yet seen enough bison.
Hope this helps!

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