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Old 12-12-2009, 04:45 PM
 
Location: Spring, TX
107 posts, read 366,645 times
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My family is going on a road trip from the Seattle area to visit family in Indiana. We're going to camp for part of the trip especially as we work our way through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Would it be wise to go ahead and plan it out and make reservations for camp sites along the way? Obviously, the National Parks can get a bit crowded during the time we'll be on the road (late June through early/mid July.)

I've also been looking at travel distances and what to see/do along the way. Ideally, we'd like to visit both Glacier N.P. and Yellowstone. If we can only do one, it will be Yellowstone. Based on how we plan it, we could do one on the way out and the other on the way back.

After we get past Mt. Rushmore/Badlands N.P. we'll probably set the cruise control for highway speeds and just make a mad rush for Indiana. Is that the right attitude or is there anything else worth making a concerted effort to see between South Dakota and our final stop? We're looking at

Our kids are 3 and 5 so we don't need too much to make them happy. Getting out of the car to stretch their legs is pretty much all they want to do. It's 2300 miles (+/-) each way. They're both good car travelers since we do a bit of driving with them now. But we've never done a multi day (or at least more than 2 days) driving trip with them.
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Old 12-12-2009, 07:48 PM
 
Location: Way on the outskirts of LA LA land.
3,040 posts, read 10,444,463 times
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Glacier National Park is something that should not be missed, if you have the time to get there. Here's a link to the park website:
Glacier National Park (U.S. National Park Service)

The scenery over the Going to the Sun Road is spectacular, and should be particularly beautiful when you would be going through there. When I went last year, it was later in the summer, and the "weeping wall" was nearly dry. In the early summer it should be flowing nicely.

I would recommend seeing both parks, as you suggest, since both are gorgeous, and shouldn't be missed. I like your idea of visiting one on the way, and the other on the way back. It's a bit of a drive (~10 hours), but you can probably make Glacier in a day, and camp at Apgar campground ($20/night), just a few miles in from the west entrance to the park. If you get a very early start, you could be there before sundown. It's a big campground with a lot of spaces, so you should be able to find a site there. Be warned, though, it's first come, first served, so the earlier you get there, the better. Camping there would also permit you to drive over the "Going to the Sun" road the next day, before continuing east or south to continue along your way.

One option, would be to then head south from St. Mary's toward Three Forks, where you can visit one or both of the nearby State Parks: Missouri Headwaters or Lewis and Clark Caverns. Both have campgrounds, though I don't know the cost for certain (I think it was $15 at the caverns).

From there, you can take I-90 east, where you can visit the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. It's about a half day drive from Three Forks.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (U.S. National Park Service)

To finish your day, you can head into Wyoming, and on toward Devil's Tower, near Sundance. There is a campground there, too, but I couldn't find any info about it, except that it's closed for the season.

Devils Tower National Monument (U.S. National Park Service)

Depending on the route you take, Mt. Rushmore is about 2-3 hours away. It is definitely worth seeing, especially for the first time. Be aware, there is no camping at Mt. Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial (U.S. National Park Service)

From Mt. Rushmore, Badlands National Park is only a couple more hours, and also has campsites available on a first come, first served basis. According to their website, they rarely fill up completely.

Badlands National Park (U.S. National Park Service)

From there on, I don't really have any suggestions.

The other alternative to heading south out of Glacier is to head east, across Montana and into North Dakota. This will take you towards Teddy Roosevelt National Park, but that works out to over 12 hours of driving. Here's a link to TRNP:

Theodore Roosevelt National Park - Directions (U.S. National Park Service)

At about the 8 hour point from exiting Glacier, you would reach Ft. Peck lake, which has numerous camping opportunities. Near Ft. Peck Lake, there's another Montana State Park that offers camping:

Hell Creek State Park - Montana FWP

If you've driven over the Going to the Sun road already this day, you probably wouldn't even want to go that far. Perhaps Black Sandy State Park at Hauser Lake (near Helena) would be easier in that case. Here's a link:

Black Sandy State Park - Montana FWP

In case you haven't seen my theme here, I like state and national parks, and enjoy viewing these park websites to learn about various campgrounds in the areas I like to visit. I've only visited a few of them, though I hope to visit many more in the future. Hopefully, these links will provide you with some suggestions on places to camp along the way. There are plenty more to be had on the way back, too.
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Old 12-12-2009, 11:03 PM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
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Make reservations Jan 1 for National parks, otherwise just plan you trip and take your risks (unless you have 'must-see' places)

for kids... I like to drive boring places at night, then pull off during the day for them to enjoy parks and swimming pools (like the Lusk, WY 'Plunge') while the night driver sleeps. Good way to get showers too. Many motels offer reduced rates to stay during the day. Most towns in WY, SD allow overnight camping, many fairgrounds as well. Powell, WY is great camping park!. In the Black Hills, enjoy Custer State park, and the wild donkeys (kids will remember that), and look for side trips like this EnchantedHighway.net -- Enchanted Highway in Regent, North Dakota
http://www.byways.org/

Kids are a bit young to remember much so just make it a fun and flexible trip for mom and dad. There will be time for hitting EVERYTHING later in life. (we did a 7500 mile VW camper trip at ages 2&3. By 5 we were doing international trips and living. The kids remember the stuff they really had fun doing (Like living on Thetis Island in BC and the eagles and sea lions), having the monks and everyone in Thailand go out of their way to rub the kid's red-hair. Wall Drug in SD. I like the Corn Palace in Mitchell also (redecorated every year).

I highly recommend getting a private guest home directory for travel. Last week I was in TX and stayed on 2 farms. Our kids always enjoyed it and there were frequently kids to play with, chores to do, and adventures only the kids appreciate. We used a 'Home School guest directory for many years, and several other varieties. ~$10-$20 per night for family and many places have guest homes or entire basements for privacy.

The kids will never forget the Dairy Farm we stayed at in Maine (they had 20,000 rabbits too!, we also rode horses to see fall colors everyday + helped with chores (we stayed there for a week since we all got along well and they needed the help). The hippie commune in Boston is a dear memory too... 47 members of 'the-family' + 4 of us! + the spectacular homes on Islands and in the mountains that we would have never got to see. (and a couple crummy ones, but very few)

Something else that impressed the kids was staying in Farm Homes in Europe where the cows live on the main floor of the house, and 'people' above ! There are 'trap-doors' in the house to drop hay / feed / kids... into the barn

Have fun!!

Last edited by StealthRabbit; 12-12-2009 at 11:20 PM..
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Old 12-13-2009, 01:40 AM
 
Location: Spring, TX
107 posts, read 366,645 times
Reputation: 77
Thanks to both of you. Awesome amount of info here. Some great suggestions.
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Old 12-14-2009, 09:35 AM
 
Location: Wyoming
9,416 posts, read 17,382,101 times
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Your plan sounds about like what I'd do. Yes, make your reservations now for Yellowstone. You can also reserve ahead for many of the forest service campgrounds, but this might be a little early for them. Reservations can tie one down to a schedule, which I don't enjoy on a vacation, but it's better than not being able to find a place to camp for the night.

Depending on how you're scheduling this trip, you'll probably want to either camp in the Bighorn Mountains or at Devils Tower the first night after leaving Yellowstone. Both have nice, quiet campgrounds. If you want to take your time leaving Yellowstone, maybe spend some time in Cody at the Buffalo Bill Museum, etc., the Bighorns would make the logical stopping place. You can either take Hwy 14 or Hwy 16 over them. Both routes are nice drives and the same distance. Hwy 14 is probably a little more scenic, but its campgrounds would leave you further from Devils Tower and the Black Hills. I'd recommend Hwy 16 through Worland and on towards Buffalo. My favorite campgrounds in the Bighorns are South Fork and Middle Fork. These are about 15 miles from Buffalo, just off the main road but far enough that road noise isn't an issue, and they both have nice mountain streams running through them. South Fork has a separate area for tent campers -- across a little walking bridge that spans the stream. Both are very small campgrounds -- maybe a dozen sites each. There are water and toilets, but no showers, no electric. Oh yeah, and the elevation at both isn't too high, so your chances of freezing nights is remote. Still, be sure to have warm sleeping bags.

If you need showers at this point in your trip or if the weather is too cool for mountain camping, there's a good selection of commercial campgrounds in Buffalo that all have good reputations. The Buffalo KOA and Deer Park are good ones, and I've read positive reviews about Indian Campground.

Again, Devils Tower has a very nice campground inside the monument's borders. Like the forest service campgrounds, it has no showers nor electric, but it has lots of big trees for shade. The KOA just outside the entrance is also pretty nice if you need showers, etc.

Rafter J seems to draw the most praise of any campground in the Black Hills. And I agree with the poster uptopic who suggested that you visit Custer State Park, especially the wildlife loop. It also has a wide selection of campgrounds.

Your kids would enjoy Wall Drug just before you enter Badlands National Monument. It's basically a souvenir shop, but it's the granddaddy of 'em all. If you decide to camp in the Badlands, I'd suggest the KOA.

After that there's not too much. The Corn Palace in Mitchell is an interesting diversion that won't take a lot of time, and you might consider the Enchanted World Doll Museum across the street from it if you've got some time to kill.

If you drop down to I-80 on either I-29 or I-35, you'll be close to the Amana Colonies (Amana, IA), which might be worth a couple hours. Oh yeah, and the Danish settlements of Kimballton and Elkhorn, IA would be good if you have any interest in Denmark.

I'm sure others will have more suggestions. And/or you can get lots of ideas from visiting the forums at RV.Net.

Last edited by WyoNewk; 12-14-2009 at 09:44 AM..
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Old 12-15-2009, 06:38 PM
 
8,180 posts, read 11,284,991 times
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I would definately recommend trying to get a spot in Custer State Park - specifically Sylvan Lake or Stockade Lake North sites. You will not regret it -- but be sure to put your reservations in on Jan 1. Both places have electric and modern restrooms. Stockade has a great playground for the kids plus nightly ranger talks.

As to the Rafter J -- I honestly don't know what the hubbub is about them. It is crowded and overpriced and not especially treed....just my opinion of course. We have been camping the black hills for over ten years and we haven't been disapointed with Custer State Park yet.

Good luck and have fun!
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Old 12-15-2009, 11:44 PM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
22,537 posts, read 39,914,033 times
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After your great trip through Custer State park (don't feed the wild donkeys or they may jump right in your car... BTDT.).. (the kids are probably a bit too young to enjoy the wind cave...)

& you decide to drop down to I-80 (not a bad choice). You should go through the Nebraska Sandhills and maybe see Car Henge, The official website for Carhenge
but at least try to see the Cabela's (Sidney or Kearney, NE) Great displays of mounted game. Also the Windmill state Park Nebraska Game and Parks Commission - Parks - Area Search
RV Park Reviews :: Gibbon, Nebraska ( NE ) - RV Parks and Campground Reviews
I really like camping and visiting Pioneer Village (I've only seen a 'dog-powered' wash machine one other place) free admission with camping IIRC. Pioneer Village
The Hotcakes are worth the 12 miles out of the way, (I remember them from the 1950's!) + you want to take as many back-roads as possible to spread economic stimulus (and meet fun people).. Drop in a few cemeteries and take a crayon and some paper to transfer the imprint of an 'old headstone'. Kids may like that better than Mt Rushmore.

This might be a handy site to have along (if you take your broadband card)
http://www.freecampgrounds.com/index.aspx
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Old 12-16-2009, 11:29 PM
 
Location: Wyoming
9,416 posts, read 17,382,101 times
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Not to discourage you from taking I-80, but there's also a new Cabellas in Rapid City just next to I-90 and one in Mitchell, also just off the interstate. I also concur with the suggestion to camp in Custer State Park. I've never tried Rafter J, just hear a lot about it.
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Old 12-17-2009, 10:49 PM
 
Location: Way on the outskirts of LA LA land.
3,040 posts, read 10,444,463 times
Reputation: 1927
Quote:
Originally Posted by WyoNewk View Post
Not to discourage you from taking I-80, but there's also a new Cabellas in Rapid City just next to I-90 and one in Mitchell, also just off the interstate. I also concur with the suggestion to camp in Custer State Park. I've never tried Rafter J, just hear a lot about it.
For that matter, there's also one just off I-90 in Billings,Montana, another just off I-90 in Post Falls, Idaho, and one very close to the OP's starting destination, about 60 miles away in Lacey, Washington. Of all the Cabelas stores I've visited, almost all are similar, and have much of the same merchandise. Unless the OP has a fascination with visiting as many Cabelas stores as possible, it may not be anything particularly special to go there.

If it were me, on the other hand, I'd like to visit as many of their stores as I can! I don't really know why, but I like going there.
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Old 12-19-2009, 01:17 AM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
22,537 posts, read 39,914,033 times
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I still feel Sidney is the grand-daddy of Cabela's (and the only one when I was of shopping age), The restaurant and displays are quite nice and large + good sized 'outlet' store.

For a more 'authentic' experience with mounted game stop by Paxton, NE for a steak (or burger) (between Sidney and Kearney, west of North Platte) Ole's Big Game Steakhouse, Lounge, & Restaurant offering great Pheasant Hunting, Fishing, a Days Inn Motel for lodging, an RV Park, and Campgrounds - Paxton, Nebraska!
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