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Yellowstone, Badlands, Custer Park Itinerary (June 2016) - Need Suggestions

Yellowstone, Badlands, Custer Park Itinerary (June 2016) - Need Suggestions

Old Sep 5th, 2015, 10:05 AM
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Yellowstone, Badlands, Custer Park Itinerary (June 2016) - Need Suggestions


We - a family of 4 including 7 year old twin boys - are planning a 12 day trip to Badlands, Custer State Park, Yellowstone, and Tetons park in June 2016.

We will be driving from Milwaukee, WI. Here is the itinerary we have planned so far .... We have already booked our acco at all the NP lodges (whew!!) .... would greatly love suggestions on the things that we could do/see at each place ... the twins are crazy about animals and dinosaurs - and we could do some easy trails but are not too much into hiking ..

Day 1: Milwaukee to Sioux Falls - about 7 hours drive (visit Falls Park in the evening?)
Day 2: Drive to Badlands: Corn Palace (?), Stay at Cedar Pass Lodge (do some easy trails?)
Day 3: Scenic drive to Wall, Dinosaur Park (?), Mt Rushmore, and onto Custer Park (Stay at Legion Lodge)
Day 4: Wind Cave, Mammoth site, etc. (Stay at Legion Lodge)
Day 5: Drive to Yellowstone - around 8 hour drive - (stay at Canyon Lodge)
Day 6: Lower and Upper falls, Crawfish creek falls, Tower falls; Hayden valley ..?? (stay at Canyon Lodge)
Day 7: Grand canyon of Yellowstone, Dragons mouth, Sulphur caldron, ?? (stay at Canyon Lodge)
Day 8: Old Faithful, Geyser Hill Look Trail; firhole lake drive, ..?? (stay at Canyon Lodge)
Day 9: Drive to Tetons Park, Jenny Lake Boat trip/hike (stay at Jackson Lake Lodge)
Day 10: spend some time in Tetons Park, Start return trip at noon (overnight stay at Casper, WY?)
Day 11-12 (Return trip to MKE)

Thanks in advance for all the suggestions ...
wistraveller is offline  
Old Sep 5th, 2015, 06:15 PM
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I like The Notch Trail in Badlands. There are a couple of dropoffs. There are a couple of safe ladder climbs that are fun. Be sure and see Praire Dog Town. I think it's called Roberts Prairie Dog Town. Frankly, 1/2 a day in Badlands is probably enough for most folks.

Mammoth Site is out of the way, but pretty interesting. Not sure 7 year old would fully get it though.

We liked Wind Cave and Jewel Cave both. I think Wind is probably the better of the two. We didn't like Crazy Horse at all. A lot of wildlife seems to be on the Southern end of Custer and then also into wind cave. Praire Dogs, Buffalo, etc.
Be sure and have some carrots to feed the wild burros.

Consider seeing Devils Tower on your drive to YS. Also consider driving thru Bighorn National Forest.

Uncle Tom's Trail is spectacular and I think can be done by anyone in reasonable shape...even 7 year olds.

Be certain to drive Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley for wildlife. We always see the most bears and wildlife right around Tower Falls area.

Mystic Falls and Fairy Falls are both nice hikes.

I like Morning Glory Pool and Grand Prismatic are my favorite pools to see.

While Old Faithful is very good.. I find Riverside, Castle, and Grand Geyser. These are all very different. Check at Ranger Station as they predict the times on a handful of geysers. The only one that is really truly on time is Old Faithful.... the other 6 or 7 they predict require more patience. The other 1000 in the park are a total luck of the draw on seeing them go.

Personally, I wouldn't waste my time going to Mammoth area in Yellowstone....everywhere else you are going is better, IMOP. My daughter would disagree with me....she loves Mammoth. The Petrified Tree is a bit disappointing as well, IMOP.

Be sure and see Old Faithful Inn. Lake Hotel is nice for a meal. Roosevelt Lodge is nice for a meal. I'm not a breakfast person, but we always have breakfast at Roosevelt Lodge. I think the Roosevelt Cookout/Horse Ride/Carriage Ride is good, but I wouldn't do it unless you had tons of time. You would need to make reservations now if you wanted to do the horse ride.

Make your Jenny Lake boat reservation early, so you don't have to wait on boats for 2 hours.

I like the Jackson Lake Dinner area.

If you could switch your lodging on Day 7 and 8 to Old Faithful area, I WOULD HIGHLY ADVISE YOU TOO.
You actually have a nice plan and it will work. Driving in Yellowstone isn't a bad thing as you see lot of wildlife. It can take a good 2 hours to get from Canyon to Old Faithful tho. I think you would be much much happier at any of the lodges near Old Faithful. I actually even enjoy the Historic Inns without a bathroom in your room. Your boys would likely get a kick out of having to go down the hall to shower and use facilities. Old Faithful Inn would be my first choice. Heck cabins or whatever you could get would be good too tho. Yellowstone is a big big park and you can't imagine what all you will see from the road.

What month are you going?
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Old Sep 5th, 2015, 07:16 PM
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Here are some comments on the Badlands/Black Hills portion of your trip:

Day 2: By the time you get to the Badlands from Sioux Falls (with a stop in Mitchell), you won't have a great deal of time for hiking. However, there are 3 short hikes which do not take long. Of them, I recommend doing the Notch Trail (1.5 miles RT) first. As Spirobulldog says, there are some drop-offs, so you will want to keep an eye on the kiddos, but there's no reason they can't do this hike. The log ladder which begins the hike may require some parental help, but the boys will enjoy climbing it. The other two hikes, the Window Trail and the Door Trail are near the Notch Trail and are quite short (0.25 miles and 0.75 miles, respectively).

Day 3: You are going to be tempted to stop at Wall Drug--don't do it. It will just be a big time-waster and your limited Black Hills time will be better spent at Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park and even Dinosaur Park in Rapid City. I would take the boys to Dinosaur Park as it is only a short detour out of your way to Mt. Rushmore. They are the perfect age for it.

Stop at Mt. Rushmore for an hour or so. (We spent much longer there, but the boys' attention span probably won't allow you to spend 2 hours in the museum like we did.) Plan to drive the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park in the late afternoon/early evening when the temperatures are cooler. The bison and other wildlife retreats to the trees and can't be seen during the heat of the day, so you don't want to drive this road then.

Day 4: Definitely take the kids to the Mammoth Site. My kids were 7 and 4 when we went and they really enjoyed it. The guide made an effort to include our kids (allowing them to hold a replica mammoth bone) and there are special activities geared toward children.
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Old Sep 6th, 2015, 04:45 AM
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Wall Drug is touristy, but we enjoyed the stop there.
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Old Sep 6th, 2015, 07:38 AM
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Thanks for all the suggestions ... these are quite helpful.

Spirobulldog, we are going in the last two weeks of June 2016 ... we have been told that it is a good time with regard to both weather (not too warm or cold) and crowd ...we will see about that ...

Yes, I think we will avoid Wall Drug this time and spend more time at Dinosaur park ..

I will take a look at the lodging near Old Faithful -- none of the NP lodges are available as of now (but that might change, I guess) ..

I read in some trip report that the drive thru Bighorn National Forest (scenic bypass?) involves some tricky driving ..switchbacks, some drop offs, etc ... I don't mind it but I would prefer to have a good idea of what I am getting into before reaching there ...

Longhorn55, yes, we are planning to do the Window trail and the Door trail ... I will look into Notch trail too ... the boys should be fine, I think (this is their first trip to a NP tho) ...and yes we prefer spending time at Badlands .... so we might ditch the Mitchell stop if we feel there is not enough time ....

And, yes Mammoth site is definitely on our list ....

Thanks again ...
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Old Sep 6th, 2015, 09:30 AM
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If you do any hikes at all in Yellowstone I would strongly suggest buying Bear Spray. You can now rent bear spray at Canyon area.
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Old Sep 6th, 2015, 12:37 PM
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Every hike in Badlands is pretty easy to be honest. They are all pretty flat with the exception of the Saddle Pass trail. I had read that the Notch trail is moderate to strenuous but that rating is a joke - there is nothing strenuous about it unless you are in poor health. The ladder receives a lot of attention but it is not a big deal at all.

I always recommend people stay overnight in Badlands, the evening and morning light makes the badland formations stand out better than mid-day, and your chances of seeing wildlife go way up as well. Those formations are the main scenery, so focus on that. I would skip the prairie dog town - you will certainly see them other places along the way and you're probably better off not spending that extra time to drive to/from them.

Keep in mind that some of the things you listed between Yellowstone and home can be done on the return trip....you're going to want to do something to break up the drive. That might be a good time for the Corn Palace and something touristy in the Black Hills area for the kids.
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