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Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Yellowstone

Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Yellowstone

Old Jul 11th, 2009, 05:18 AM
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Another vote to concentrate on Yellowstone/GTNP. Having done both recently, Grand Canyon several times and Las Vegas many times, August is hellish in GC and Vegas--temps often around/over 100--and it's a monsoon month in Arizona with a high potential for blinding rainstorms limiting driving and outdoor activities (we found this out the hard way). On all our trips, highway travel was not predictible--construction, storms, roaming buffalo and elk (yes, they really do stop traffic--fun to watch if you're not watching the clock)and what looks like not-too-far on a map can turn into a surprisingly long (and often boring) ride. There are lots of activities for families in the Yellowstone/GTNP area--6 days won't be enough for even this shorter trip! Cody is a fun town with a really interesting history and the museum is modern and designed with something for everyone. We stayed in Cody Cowboy Village--very nice, good price. The tour train stops outside the museum--I think there's a pkg with the museum--and gives a great perspective on all that Buffalo Bill did for the town, covers a lot of ground (incl a major dam) and they tried to make the ride interesting for all ages. Make sure to visit the ranger centers in both parks for free guided tours--generally very informative but they may fill up fast. We did the wildlife car caravan in GTNP--saw elk, antelope, moose with calf, and even a bear! The park lodges were generally booked, but I kept calling to check for cancellations (better than using the website) and finally got what we wanted. Great trip but don't over-tax the family trying to squeeze in too much...been there, done that.
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Old Jul 11th, 2009, 06:34 AM
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Hi MelRod

I sense your excitement about this trip, but agree with others that, in 6 days, you cannot do both the GC and Yellowstone itineraries. I would find it very difficult to choose between them - though I think the GC itinerary, which utahtea gives, is the most varied and, therefore, maybe the most enjoyable for your family. It will be hot, certainly - although we have been to Arizona in both early September and June and have not found the GC hot - nor have we encountered storms, whereas we did in Yellowstone (huge storms - huge hailstones!) in June. Weather is a little unpredictable.

Yellowstone is also fabulous and we only spent two nights in the park and two nights in Cody (also at the Cody Cowboy Village - wonderful!), during a much longer trip to the Pacific NW and Canadian Rockies, but saw most things, although we only had a cursory look at GTNP. In Yellowstone, we stayed at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and had plenty of time to see Norris Geyser Basin, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone Canyon, Grand Prismatic Springs, Yellowstone Lake etc. And we also had time (because we'd seen no bears inside the park!) to visit the Grizzly Bear Center in West Yellowstone. Several of these places we visited in the evening (thanks to the long daylight hours in June), when it was much quieter.

Whichever you choose - I hope you have a wonderful trip!
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Old Jul 11th, 2009, 07:10 AM
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utahtea - those were my exact thoughts when I read that report! lol!
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Old Jul 11th, 2009, 06:37 PM
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Note to all: Melrod hasn't yet said he DOESN"T plan to do it all; only that he likes the ideas.
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Old Jul 11th, 2009, 09:17 PM
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6 days is perfect for GTNP and Yellowstone. Your boys might enjoy the Alpine Slide in Jackson, which isn't to far from GTNP. Have you looked into the Tent Cabins or Cabins at Colter Village in Grand Teton? We enjoyed them and they are very budget minded. Old Faithful Inn is very reasonable as well. While Grand Canyon delivers the most Shock and Awe, Yellowstone has plenty as well, and is really the best overall National Park that we have visited. We like all of them we have seen, but Yellowstone is really hard to beat. There is a lot to do there. I would probably spend 4 days in Yellowstone and 2 in GTNP. There are a variety of rafting, kayaking, canoeing opportunities in and along the GTNP and Yellowstone area, both in and out of the parks.

Have fun!!! Don't even consider trying to cram your original thoughts into 1 trip, even if you had 2 weeks. It would be a road trip, but thats all it would be. You will have much more fun, just picking one area. Yellowstone will have cooler weather than Grand Canyon/Utah, which will be super hot first week in August.
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Old Jul 13th, 2009, 10:46 AM
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When I read your initial trip plan my immediate reaction was: "They're going to see what parks in 6 days?" Not possible unless they plan to experience it only through the car windows and with that distance, much of it would have to be in the dark during all night drives! Fortunately you seem to be leaning towards the great advice others have given you.

Last year we finally convinced my Michigan aunt, uncle and their 18 & 19 yr. old granddaughters to visit us in Southern UT. Excited to be their 'first time in UT' tour guides we took them to Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Zion & Bryce, over the course of a week. That's a fairly compact region and still ended up being way too much. It only allowed for short hikes, but lots of driving. By the 4th day the teens were asking; "where do we have to go to today and how long are we going to be in the car?" I felt terrible for not planning better & remembering that teens especially, don't have the interest or tolerance for hours of driving, regardless of how beautiful the landscape. They want to be doing, not so much viewing. My family left travel fatigued and eager to get home. I learned a valuable lesson; more isn't always better and there will always be another trip.
Well, maybe not to UT for my bunch. I burned them out!

You'll love Yellowstone and the Tetons. The Grand Canyon will always be there & then you can include Zion, Bryce, Powell.....here I go again!
Have fun.
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Old Jul 13th, 2009, 03:55 PM
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<we took them to Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Zion & Bryce, over the course of a week. That's a fairly compact region and still ended up being way too much.>

I had to smile at this, RandiRA, as when we toured this area for the first time, we did it in 3 days!
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Old Jul 13th, 2009, 08:10 PM
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So much to see.....so little time.
As my gypsy mother always says: "Rand McNally is my favorite author."
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Old Jul 14th, 2009, 05:28 PM
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Thanks so much for all the advice!!
We are going to concentrate on Yellowstone NP.
Sun Aug 2 after lunch leaving Rochester MN area We will be driving along with all the Sturgis motorcycles through South Dakota. Stay in SD hotel ?
Mon Aug 3 drive to and visit Mt Rushmore and Devils Tower - drive to Sheridan WY (have the use of a cabin here)
Tues Aug 4 head to Yellowstone - not sure if we will go via Billings MT/Beartooth Hwy or through Cody? (find a hotel near YNP; I will start checking for Cooke City or W Yellostone)
Wed Aug 5 Yellowstone (maybe same hotel?)
Thurs Aug 6 possibly drive through Grand Teton/Jackson Hole before heading to Cody for the museum and rodeo (does the rodeo sell out) (find a hotel in Cody - I will check into the Cody Cowboy Village as suggested)
Fri Aug 7 Sheridan WY (use cabin)
Sat Aug 8 and Sun Aug 9 return trip
Interested in the Horseback ride/Cowboy Cookout - do these book up fast? experience/suggestions for companies?
Interested in the river rafting maybe in Grand Teton or in Cody - any suggestions?
THANKS for all the info!
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Old Jul 14th, 2009, 06:19 PM
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Melrod,

Cody is not on the way of a drive through GTNP. If you were to spend even just a day in GTNP it would be a minimu of a 2 hour drive from West Yellowstone (your best bet for short notice reservations). From GTNP to Cody would be about 3 hours drive.......

WHY are you driving from MN? It that your only choice? You really don't have time for this trip, let alone a horseback ride or cowboy cookout. If you must drive, just skip Rushmore and the free cabin. Not worth it. Go directly to Yellowstone, do not pass go, do not collect $200....
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Old Jul 14th, 2009, 08:58 PM
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I don't mean to sound mean, but you are bound and determined to torture your boys not to mention your poor husband. I get the feeling you haven't taken many trips like this.

Your plans would be great if you had two weeks to do this trip and could spend a minimum of 3 FULL days in Yellowstone, 4 or 5 would be better.

Please reconsider your plans. You are looking at well over 2200 miles in 8 days. You want to see two major areas and also cram in a couple other areas. Once you Sheridan you won't be on the interstate and driving will be a lot slower. I'd skip Beartooth with your time frame.

If you go ahead with this plan, please consider leaving Friday night so you can spend at least two full days in Yellowstone. This place is amazing and very spread out. There's more to Yellowstone than Old Faithful. Cooke City is really to far from the major geyser areas so I'd recommend West Yellowstone. Skip the Cook out, you aren't going to have time and Roosevelt is a nice area, but the major attractions are not in this area.
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Old Jul 15th, 2009, 10:25 AM
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regarding the Cowboy cookout - are you talking about the one in Yellowstone? If so, I called last week to reserve 2 horse rides and 2 wagon rides. There was only one day available that fit what we wanted, and we're not going to be there until 8/08. I would call now to see if there are any openings, I would not count on there being room due to cancelations.

I agree with Utahtea. I just read her/his post. The cookout is about..lets see.. the wagons leave at 4:45 and I think you get back to the Roosevelt lodge about 8:30pm. It's in the North part of the park about (if I can remember correctly from 10 years ago) an hour drive at least to Old Faithful. If I'm wrong about the time, someone correct me.

Roosevelt is my personal fav, but with your limited time you're best to skip it if you only want the high points of the park.
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Old Jul 15th, 2009, 11:19 AM
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Thanks for the continued info. We definitely do not have a clue about the area or traveling in the area - very first family vacation!!

due to airline rewards could not fly into jackson hole or billings so decided on the drive from MN (live near here)

Can't leave until Sunday and have to be back the next Sunday evening.

We will skip GTNP and jackson.
Stick to YNP - as of now we have a Canyon cabin Tues night only - will keep looking in/out of YNP for Wed/Thur
If we skip the Beartooth Hwy from Billings to YNP, will we regret it??
They do still have openings on the longer horseback ride and wagon ride to cowboy cookout but decided not take it since we don't have alot of time in the park.

Cody as a day trip from Sheridan
Cody hotels are pretty full/some openings - Would still like to go on the train tour with the Dam and the museum! I am still checking into the rafting in Cody. May have to skip the rodeo because of the hotel situation - we do not want to drive back to sheridan after the rodeo is done. map shows sheridan to cody as about 3 hours - is this accurate for these roads?

due to full hotels we will probably do most of our sightseeing around Sheridan area - any suggestions??? The website lists trolley tour of city, museum, a rodeo in Sheridan with kids events. Any experience with these??

Thanks again for the info/opinions/suggestions!
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Old Jul 15th, 2009, 02:12 PM
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Try looking at West Yellowstone for lodging and keep checking back in the park for cancelations.

It's 150 miles between Sheridan and Cody and it's a slow drive though a scenic mountain pass. Not something I'd recommend doing twice in one day.

The Beartooth is a slow driving scenic mountian pass drive and you will be doing similar roads from Sheridan to Cody. In fact, I'd suggest going 14 one way and alt 14 for the other way.

Never spent much time in Sheridan (we usually just drove though), so have no idea if there is much to do there.

Utahtea
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Old Jul 15th, 2009, 02:20 PM
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Can you fly into Salt Lake City? That will cut your initial driving time tremendously and perhaps give you more than 72 hours in Yellowstone. It's still a serious drive (maybe 300 miles) to Yellowstone from SLC, though. You really seem to have no conception of the distances you are talking about here.
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Old Jul 16th, 2009, 12:36 PM
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Have you looked at a map yet?

I don't know where to begin other than to suggest that you go to Mapquest.com and do a little research about where everything is and how long the drives are in between.
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Old Jul 16th, 2009, 12:40 PM
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Changing your plans to Yellowstone and Grand Teton is ideal, I'm thinking. If you're determined to see a rodeo, note that during the summer, there's also one in Jackson (which is notably closer to these parks than Cody) on Wednesday and Saturday evenings during the summer -- runs between Memorial Day and Labor Day. And Jackson is a very nice town to visit for a day or overnight as part of your scheme. Flying in and out of Jackson and renting a car for the week would be a good idea -- save your miles for something else if you can.

Please also note that distances are greater then you might expect out in the American West, and it's easy to bite off more than you can chew driving-wise. Keep it simple and reasonably compact. You can always come back to see South Dakota, Cody, and eastern Montana on another excursion. Please also note that I'm someone who likes to (reasonably) cram in as much as I can when I travel, and even I'm thinking you're stuffing in too much in this week. Yellowstone and Grand Teton deserve an utter bare minimum of two days each (more is good for Yellowstone, and it's an amazing place unlike anything else in the US), and both are sizable parks (and with traffic construction in Yellowstone, that will slow you down more). Am thinking once you see these places, you'll kick yourself for not spending more time at them. But of course it's your call.

There are plenty of threads here about Jackson, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton. Would suggest doing a search for itinerary ideas.

If the airline miles are indeed a deal-breaker, would just stick with the Las Vegas flight option and go to Zion, Bryce, and Grand Canyon. Adding in Montana/Wyoming requires a second week minimum.
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Old Jul 17th, 2009, 04:43 PM
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Thanks to those with all the 'helpful' info! As I noted we have not been in this area or on vacation out of our area. 'Just looking at a map' is not as helpful as the great advice of the experienced travelers here.

We did find a flight with a stopover (ugh) with our rewards.

We will have 3 days in Yellowstone NP.

Thanks for all the help!
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Old Jul 17th, 2009, 05:09 PM
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MelRod: Please do a trip report when you get back. We plan on Yellowstone in the next year or so.

MY
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Old Jul 17th, 2009, 05:42 PM
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Melrod,

I'm glad you will have the 3 days in Yellowstone. While still short, it will give you a good trip and taste of the park. It will also give your family a better idea as to whether or not this type of trip is actually what you enjoy!
You won't be so rushed that you will hate it, when you might have loved it without the rush. Does that make sense?

Have a good time! Take a cooler for snacks, hats, sunscreen, and bug juice. Lots of photos. You'll have a good time, I'm sure!
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