Road Trip Advice: GA-CO-WY-MT

Jun 25th, 2005, 10:28 AM
  #1  
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Road Trip Advice: GA-CO-WY-MT

We are in the early stages of planning next June's trip out west. We live in Georgia and want to go to Colorado, Yellowstone, Glacier, Mt. Rushmore and back home. So, any advice on amount of time needed, routes to take, places to stay, etc. We are a family of a single mom and two girls-12 and 15. Send your tips and advice this way. I love to plan and I figure a year gives me plenty of planning time!
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Jun 25th, 2005, 02:12 PM
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in the broad brush sense. head towards denver then north on 25, go to rocky mountain national park (stay in the town of este park, you'll all enjoy it) then head north to the dakotas and rushmore, from there hit devils tower on your way to yellowstone/glacier.

realize that glacier is pretty far out of the way from the rest of your trip. although i LOVE it there, you might want to cut it out this time and concentrate on your other destinations.

head to yellowstone and the grand tetons. from there head down 15 (or to 70

instead of Glacier, hit moab and arches np and canyonlands np, this is practically on your way back to colorado
and go across colorado, you can hit vail, aspen and any number of colorado towns this is a REAL broad brush , food for thought.
justme22 is offline  
Jun 25th, 2005, 02:43 PM
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Thanks for your help. I realize that Glacier is a long way out. However, my older daughter has her heart set on Montana. I would skip other areas in order to work in Glacier. This trip is in the VERY early stages so anyone with suggestions, please jump in. We aren't really set on any particular areas, but those I listed seemed to be what we would be most interested in. I am a teacher so we can travel for a pretty long period of time. Any other ideas?
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Jun 25th, 2005, 04:21 PM
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To get mileage and time, go to freetrip.com and enter your starting point in GA and your first stopover in CO. Then repeat it by the next segments. If you selct hotels in your price range, freetrip will give you that info also.
ronkala is offline  
Jun 25th, 2005, 05:25 PM
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Thanks for all the info. We are now looking at skipping Colorado for this trip and concentrating on Wyoming, Montana, and Mt. Rushmore. I'm still open for lots of advice. I'm thinking about a few nights in the Grand Tetons area and then on to Yellowstone for 3-4 nights. After that we will go on to Montana.
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Jun 25th, 2005, 11:10 PM
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Glad to hear you are a teacher with time in the summer to travel! We use to take 4 and 5 week trips in the summer and people always asked if we were teachers. We aren't.

Not sure where in Georgia you are so I used Atlanta as my starting point. The Grand Tetons are 1860 miles away. It will take at least 3 days (at 620 miles per day) and probably 4 days (at 465 miles per day) to reach the Grand Tetons. I would plan on at least two nights there and one full day. More if you want to do any hikings or other activities. Yellowstone isn't that far away, but to really see all there is in Yellowstone please allow 4 full days. You can make Glacier in one day long 400 mile day from West Yellowstone. I'm sure you will want at least 3 full days to see Glacier since you spent so much time getting here. It will take at least 2 days of driving at 420 miles per day to reach Mt. Rushmore. On the way you should consider the Little Big Horn, MT and Devils Tower National Monument, WY. While in the Mt. Rushmore area there is also Badlands National Park and Custer State Park. It will take another 3 days to reach home driving 500 miles per day. I think you will need a minimum of 18 days to do all of these things. Three weeks would be much better.

Utahtea
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Jun 26th, 2005, 04:50 AM
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Utahtea gives good advice. you can do the trip either clockwise or counterclockwise. one possible route:

head up towards st. louis/kansas city get to interstate 90 you can get to rushmore, the badlands, custer state park (which i have never been to but have only heard raves about it) and devils tower on your way to to glacier.

once at glacier, you have two options west side or east side, west side has more places to stay but IMHO the east side has more interest AND you can do a day trip up into canada and go to Waterton park in Alberta (again IMHO a must see!)

If you are not hikers, you can have 2 or 3 days in glacier and call it a day. If you hike, you could stay a month!

what do you want to see? make sure you give yourself time to drive into many glacier area, stop at the goat lick on route 2(south part of park)

spend time at logan pass, hike the highline trail even just a short way,

BRING binoculars to see grizzlies which can usually be seen in the area behind logan pass visitor center

then head down to yellowstone and the tetons. give yourself at least 4 days in yellowstone, each area of the park has so much to offer and geyser gazing can sometimes take a while, although, old faithful well, is pretty faithful!

Stay in old faithful lodge, (no tvs in any of the park lodging) you really get a feel for the np experience.

in the tetons, take a raft trip or trail ride. visit the trendy town of Jackson. then start to head home

there is no reason not to hit colorado on your way back and see rocky mountain national park, and estes park,which is a touristy town but would likely appeal to your family after all the natural wonders you will have soaked up on the trip!

head down to route 70 and back to kansas city and alas, home. OR

do this in reverse and hit rmnp on your way up, which is the direction utahtea described.

you can find reasonable rooms along the way, the rooms in yellowstone aren't that pricey if you keep away from mammoth hot springs and yellowstone lake big hotels.

I strongly suggest staying in the park. old faithful lodge and the canyons at least. that being the case, make your reservations no later than feb next year to get your choice.
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Jun 26th, 2005, 07:46 AM
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WOW! Thanks so much for all the helpful advice. You have given me plenty to think about. I had already planned about 16 nights anyway. We aren't big hikers because I have mobility issues. Short walks are fine but nothing too long or strenuous. We will definitely being staying in the NP in Yellowstone. I have looked at Old Faithful and the Snow Lodge. For the Tetons area we aren't sure where we would want to stay. Now, what about the Glacier area? Where would you recommend staying?
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Jun 26th, 2005, 07:56 AM
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You have received some great suggestions. I would only add -- With just a bit over 2 weeks I would not want to drive all the way from/to GA. It would eat up almost 1/2 (probably about 40%) of your vacation time.

I would fly out to where ever you wanted to start your loop (Denver might be cheapest) and start from there in a rental car. You would then have MUCH more time to actually enjoy the amazing scenery.

If flying and renting a car eats too much into your budget - I'd cut a couple of days out of the whole trip to save enough to cover the extra expense. You would still have more time available for touring.
janis is offline  
Jun 26th, 2005, 01:56 PM
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Just returned from Wy and Montana. In the Tetons Jackson Lake Lodge is wonderful, if you want a more upscale experience Jenny Lake Lodge is pricey. In Glacier, McDonald Lake Lodge was our favorite, we toured all the lodges. On the Road to the Sun and a beautiful lake. Just outside the West entrance the Beltran Chalet looked wonderful.
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Jun 26th, 2005, 02:25 PM
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PS, I just reread this thread. I would allocate 1.5 to 2 days in Glacier, you need 1 full day to ride the Jammer bus over Going to the Sun Road, we had 2.5 days a little too long. I would do Glacier first, then 4 days in Yellowstone ( I would vote for the Snow Lodge as it is newer) then down to Tetons to relax for a few days. Do your rafting in Jackson. Yellowstone/ Teton area is the best
hilda is offline  
Jun 26th, 2005, 03:42 PM
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hilda,

Did you make it to Many Glaciers on the east side of Glacier National Park?

Utahtea
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Jun 26th, 2005, 03:59 PM
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I haven't read all the posts but I live in Charlotte and drive to Denver often. It takes me two solid days but it is not difficult driving--just get on the road and do it.
However, I might suggest you head NW from Atlanta and head toward St. Louis.I'd guess it is about 10 hours to StL. The Arch is truly a great sight. You should at least "see" it, and drive around the bottom to look up.
From ST. Louis, it is 14 hour drive to Denver. The speed limits are very high and you keep gaining an hour as you go west which allows longer driving (for me--I have done 1000 miles to KC one time to get BBQ).
You may be very right about saving Colorado for a trip of its own and do your far flung places this time. Mt Rushmore is very interesting but don't overlook the BadLands that are nearby. They are just fascinating. I think a "southern" route going out and then back across the Dakotas is a good plan. Have a GREAT time. The American West is a wonder of the world.
I just looked at justme's post and I think he/she has misplaced the Dakotas in relation to Denver.
Many years ago we spent 6 weeks with our kids touring the west and spent a week at a ranch in the Tetons, and then went to Yellowstone. Yellowstone is great, but you may get "caught up" on bubbling mud and such.
We did a lot of camping, but it took a lot of equipment and planning to get that done. I think the West has some very reasonable motels--plain pipe rack but not too expensive.
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Jun 26th, 2005, 05:10 PM
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yes we stopped at Many Glaciers. Personally I thought it was too isolated. Post again if you have specific questions, we were there half an hour. People said the dining room food was good. If you want to do lots of hiking its good. We were at Glacier Park Lodge but we liked the Lake McDonald lodge the best.
hilda is offline  
Jun 27th, 2005, 04:51 AM
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There is one good reason for driving all the way--to truly show your children how vast this great country is. I don't see it eating up half of your vacation, particularly when you can see so much en route without having to return to Denver, for example.
We approached the Tetons from Salt Lake City through one of the most beautiful canyons we saw the whole trip--it is in northern Utah. Can't call the name at the moment.
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Jun 27th, 2005, 06:38 AM
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We took two trips that involved many of the places mentioned. We live in St. Louis BTW. We drove to Golden the first day (around 15 hours but gained an hour), Provo the second, stopped in Vail on the way, Salt Lake City the third. Fourth day we toured the Morman Church area, went to Antelope Island for a couple of hours and completed the beautiful drive to Jackson Hole. We took a whitewater trip on the Snake river one of the days in Jackson and the Jenny lake hike, etc. on the second day in the Grand Tetons. The sixth night, after another day through Grand teton, we spent at Flagg Ranch Village between the Tetons and Yellowstone and we worked in a horseback ride at Flagg Ranch.
The seventh day we were on the road to Yellowstone by 5:00 a.m. and we spent the entire day exploring the lower loop.
We drove out the east side of Yellowstone that evening and stayed at a very rustic lodge between the east entrance and Cody Wyoming. It was a very secluded place with cabins, a restaurant, horseback riding, fishing, and the most beautiful stars we had ever seen. I wish I could remember the name!
Day eight we went to the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, Badlands and stayed in Deadwood that night. We drove home the ninth day. It was a 3000 mile trip and we covered a lot of territory but the kids will never forget it.
I just thought I would post this to show what you can do in that amount of time if you really haul it!
Our kids were great travelers, they were 12 and 16 at the time.
I will do a separate post of our Glacier/ Yellowstone trip since this is getting long!
jet519 is offline  
Jun 27th, 2005, 06:58 AM
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Thank you so much for all the wonderful advice. I have thought about flying to Denver and renting a car. I am still also considering making the drive from here. I appreciate all your opinions. By the way, I'm in Newnan which is 20 minutes south of Atlanta.
ugadog99 is offline  
Jun 27th, 2005, 07:02 AM
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I am back with our Glacier/ Yellowstone trip which was also nine days, but we flew into Boise, Idaho. The first day we drove from Boise to Missoula after getting into the Boise airport around 11:00 a.m. I thought it would only be around seven hours according to the mileage but it turned out to be 10 because of the winding two lane road along a creek. The first hour was neat and then my husband started complaining! We didn't get to Missoula until 9:00 that night but at least we were still on schedule!
Day 2 we finished the drive to Glacier and went on Going to the Sun road, spent all day working our way through with several hikes along the way. We ended up on the east side and stayed in a cabin at St. Mary's area. The cabins were pretty sparse, not as nice as the description led me to believe, but the lodge looked nicer and had a good restaurant. I imagine there are more places to choose from in that area now because this was over six years ago.
Still, we have something to look back and laugh about.
The third day, we went to Waterton which is the Canada side of Glacier already mentioned. We saw more wildlife there than anywhere else and the town of Waterton is really neat for lunch, a little shopping and the big hotel on the lake, Prince ????.

The 4th day we drove all the way to the north edge of Yellowstone and had a hotel booked in Gardiner for that night. I can't remember name but it was right on the river. The drive does take all day but you really understand why Montana is called Big Sky country!
The 5th day we explored the upper loop of Yellowstone and then the lower loop again which we had seen before. We stayed in West Yellowstone that night.
The 6th day we drove to the Sawtooth mountains in Idaho and stayed in a little town known for being a put in spot for whitewater trips on the Salmon River. We stopped in Sun Valley on the way for lunch and shopping.
The 7th day we did the whitewater trip. Both the Snake and Salmon trips are great!
The Sawtooth Mountains and that area of Idaho are very beautiful. Great star gazing there too.
The 8th day we drove back to Boise and stayed all night there so we would be ready to fly out the next day.
As you can tell, we really stay on the move on our trips and like to work in a lot. we are not lay on the beach types plus my husband doesn't like to be gone much more that 8 days!
Also, the lower loop of Yellowstone is definitely our preference over the upper. There is much more to see. Mammoth Hot Springs seemed pretty dried up when we were there and that has always seemed to be one of the main attractions of the northern part of Yellowstone.
If you like a more leisurely pace, my plan is not for you but at least it helps you see what can be accomplished. I spend many hours planning and researching and have all the reservations made before we leave.
Every trip I have ever planned (and there are many more) has turned out almost exactly how I planned it because of the research. Many people like to just go and see what happens because it is more spontaneous but I have found that we get to do and see so much more by knowing exactly where we are going and what we plan to do. You can always add or delete as you go anyway.
So it is good that you are planning so far in advance, especially since you want to stay in some of the NP lodging which books way ahead.
jet519 is offline  
Jun 27th, 2005, 04:14 PM
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I agree with previous posters who suggested flying to a gateway city and then exploring. We have done that several times with great success. You can also get multicity flights so as not to backtrack. Whatever you can afford this trip will be wonderful
hilda is offline  
Jun 27th, 2005, 04:23 PM
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Showing the girls the wide open spaces and how big the USA is is a fine reason to drive all the way. But ugadog99, you won't have anyone to spell you and will have to do every mile of the driving. I absolutely LOVE long road trips but if I had to drive an extra nearly 4000 miles just getting to/from where I wanted to go - I would be totally exhausted.
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