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Mt Rushmore/ YNP, GTNP itinerary

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Apr 28th, 2014, 08:27 AM
  #1
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Mt Rushmore/ YNP, GTNP itinerary

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!
shorty313 is offline  
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Apr 28th, 2014, 12:08 PM
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THere are plenty of dining options in Wall Drug.

Day 2,3,4. Stay in Custer State Park(not the town). This is my opinion, others may have a different opinion. Frankly I would stay there day 5 and 6 too. I'm thinking you might be staying one day to many in this area, but maybe not. You might want to swim or rent one of the several kinds of boats at one of the lakes in Custer. Harney Peak is THE hike there, but might be a bit much for your parents. But, they could do something else while everyone else hikes.

Day 8 Petrified Tree is one thing you could skip, especially if you have seen Petrified Forest National Park.

Day 9 There is a Deli type place that makes good sandwiches in Canyon area. I think you are fine with your schedule.

Day 10 Be sure and catch Dragon's Cauldron(it's called something like that). Lunch is at Lake Hotel in Yellowstone?
I love Old Faithful Inn. However, the food there was the worst in the park we experienced. So, to me that meal might be a toos up. Lake Hotel was the best meal we had. We liked Hamilton Store, which is like 1/4 mile for OFI. This has a short order cook type situation(think Waffle House, but a bit better). It is good for a burger or breakfast. Not sure what they have at dinner.

Our favorite geysers were Riverside and Castle. So, check those out, if you can. They are predictble geysers.

You might want to take the shuttle boat across Jenny Lake and hike to Hidden Falls or a bit longer hike to Inspiration Point. This is a popular spot and I would suggest being on the first boat of the day over the lake.

Perhaps I missed it in your list. But you don't want to miss Grand Prismatic.

You also might want to consider the Tram ride up to see the Tetons. On your last day, you might consider doing the Alpine Slide in Jackson(for something a bit different than the parks scene). We did see a fox and kits while going up the chairlift for the slide. Which was pretty cool.

You plan looks very good the way it is. Just a few suggestions.

Your going to have a GREAT time. Have fun. We are going there Mid-June 2015. That will be our 2nd trip.
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Apr 28th, 2014, 12:08 PM
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Oh, Big Horn Canyon might be worth a drive thru on your way from Rushmore to Cody.
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Apr 28th, 2014, 12:11 PM
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I don't know anything before Day 8 so I'll start here.

I wouldn't waster my time with Tower Fall. Maybe years ago you could see the waterfalls but in recent years the growth blocks almost the total waterfall. People go there out of habit and there are picnic tables and they sell food. What a sorry excuse for a waterfall. If you look back at my trip report several years ago I did a big thing on waterfalls and which were good and not.

Also, unless they changed things in the past year or so, the trail down to the bottom of Tower Fall is permanently close due to danger on the trail.

At Redrock Point don't just go to the top lookout. Hike down to the lower lookout for a better elevation look. Hiking back up will be a bit of an effort due to elevation.

I don't think much of the brink of waterfalls. All you see is water going over the top. You can't see much.

I have mixed feelings about Uncle Tom's Trail. It's not really a hike. It's down over 100 stairs. I'm kind of stuck between a good view and being too close. You can actually feel the splash. If anybody has knee problems they may not want to do this. Still, it's probably worth the effort.

The view from Artist Point is great.

You don't just see wildlife unless you're lucky enough to see some roadside. You have to go to places that are frequented by wildlife and be there when they're most active. Lamar and Hayden Valleys are good and very early and late in the afternoon are usually best. The problem is that you want to reduce night driving so you don't hit any animals.

I was quite surprised with OF. I thought it would be a consumer-type of attraction. It's truly impressive. A whole complex is built beside it.

Old Faithful is the easiest of the geysers to see since it erupts approximately every 90 minutes. The other 4 geysers and further down the basin and erupt a lot less. Maybe once or twice a day with a window as large as plus or minus several hours from the predicted time. Still, spend the better part of a day wandering the Upper Basin.

In my opinion, the best time to see OF is very early. There are fewer people out then, the sun is behind you and the wind hasn't kicked up.

Late in the day a good place is Plume Geyser. There are a couple of benches there. But instead of watching Plume OF is right there. So you're watching it from the other side.

Grand Geyser is a short walk from Riverside. So if possible try to coordinate them. About 5 minutes from Riverside is Morning Glory and its spectacular colors.

You didn't mention Grand Prismatic Spring. More spectacular colors. It's a couple of miles up the road. Once you've seen it and realize the view isn't the greatest, drive about a mile back towards OF and pull into the Fairy Falls parking lot.

Hike the first mile of the Fairy Falls hike until you get to Grand Prismatic Spring on the right. There's an unofficial trail up the hill on the left. That gives a great elevated view.

When you arrive in Grand Tetons, depending upon the time stop at Oxbow Bend for great views and possibly some wildlife. The road splits left to the outside road and right to the inside road and Signal Mtn.

Oxbow Bend is just a little bit on the left side (east) away from the Signal Mtn side. Only a minute or two.

A few other things. On the outside road nearer the bottom. Schwabacher Landing is reopening this summer and Mormon Row barns just a minute or so below on the other side of the road.

You can see my photos of that trip at:
www.travelwalks.com
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Apr 28th, 2014, 12:11 PM
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Sorry, one more thought. Devils Tower National Monument is probably worth a short detour on your way to Sheridan.
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Apr 28th, 2014, 12:12 PM
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spiro,
I mentioned Grand Prismatic Spring (and its unofficial trial) but forgot about Jenny Lake, Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point which you mentioned.
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Apr 28th, 2014, 01:01 PM
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Replying here - our itineraries are very similar! Same time frame, too (we're going mid-June 2015). Great info. in these replies!
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Apr 28th, 2014, 02:27 PM
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Spiro - I will look into staying at Custer - does that book up very far out like Yellowstone? How far a drive would I be looking at for each of the stops I have on days 2-4? I thought I had put Dragon's cualdron in there after your initial recommendation, I need to keep up with my edits better.

Myer-I totally forgot to include Prismatic Spring, I meant to! My husband saw a picture of it and demanded it be put in, lol. Thanks for the top on the best way to see it.

How far out of the way is Devil's Monument?

I think I'd been (mentally) putting Schwabacher Landing and Mormon Row with the Chapel of Transfiguration. They are close, yes?
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Apr 28th, 2014, 06:32 PM
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Generally speaking, are the sights in days 2-6 close enough that we can stay in one spot, even if its not in Custer park? I have no sense of how much driving time is between them.
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Apr 29th, 2014, 10:11 AM
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The chapel is very close to Schwabacher Landing and Mormon Row. However Schwabacher Landing and Mormon Row are very much photographer stops.

You want to be there quite early in the morning before the sun gets too strong and for sure not later in the afternoon when the sun is facing you. Both are facing west into the mountains.

Schwabacher Landing is a half mile dirt road down a curved hill at the start. Since it's away from the main road a bit, you'll probably be there alone. It you go early that part of the snake river will be still and with some care the mountains will reflect off the water.

The barns will be a dramatic scene with the mountains in the background.

I don't know the layout of the area where the chapel is located.

I gave you the link to my photos of this trip and these sights are included.
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Apr 29th, 2014, 10:24 AM
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You probably just need to plug everything into Google Maps and see what you think about driving distances and time.
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Apr 29th, 2014, 12:34 PM
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Thanks spiro, not sure why that didn't occur to me!
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Apr 29th, 2014, 01:58 PM
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The Chapel, Mormon Row & Schwabacher Landing are 10-15 minutes apart.
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