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Old 02-28-2008, 10:10 AM   #1
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Black Hills, Badlands, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons Trip

This July I am planning a trip for my family (8 people total) and would like advice on planning it. What should I see and how long should I plan to take at each place? I am leaving from TN and going for about two weeks. Anybody that has ideas for places to stay and dining or anything please let me know because it is my first trip out west and I am kinda overwhelmed with everything right now.
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Old 02-28-2008, 10:18 AM   #2
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I'll be watching this thread. This is similar to a vacation that we had wanted for this summer (we would add Glacier Park). I found a couple trip "plans" in a travel guide at the library that suggested how to do a week at Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier Park (Fodors I think).
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Old 02-28-2008, 10:26 AM   #3
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If you go to Mt. Rushmore, make sure you go see Crazy Horse!! They have an AMAZING laser light show on the side of the mountain at night. My parents and Grandparents live about 2 hours from there and we go every time we travel to see them. The Bad Lands are awesome, but if by chance any gets car sick or motion sickness, Be Careful!! The roads are really curvy and last for ever! There is a little restaurant at the end of the trail and the food is really good.
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Old 02-28-2008, 10:39 AM   #4
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Hotels inside Yellowstone fill up quickly, so if you want to stay in the park, start looking now! When we went 10 years ago, I was on the phone trying to get rooms. The reservationist would say "We have 5 nights at such-and-such hotel" and by the time I decided I wanted it, it would be gone. We ended up staying at 3 different places because we couldn't get 5 or 6 nights all together!
Yellowstone is beautiful, make sure you leave enough time to walk and enjoy the geyser basins. I would spend the majority of my time in Yellowstone (MY preference!).
Badlands can be pretty hot in July, have plenty of water with you.
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Old 02-28-2008, 10:41 AM   #5
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I am planning this same trip for the end of June. We are flying in and out of Denver and then renting a car.

Our first stop will be in South Dakota where we will spend several days going to Jewel Caves, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park and the Needles Highway and then the Badlands (with a stop at Wall Drug of course!) We will drive by the Crazy Horse Site but do not plan to actually visit it as I have read many recommendations not to waste the money to enter. If we have time we may also go to the Mammoth Site.

From there we will head to Devil's Tower with a short detor to Deadwood on the way (teen son is a history buff and really wants to go there though I don't think it looks very exciting.)

From there we will make our way to Sherdian, Wy to spend the night. Then it's off to Cody, Wy where we are spending two nights and plan on attending the Cody Night Rodeo and going to the Buffalo Bill Museum. From there we plan to drive the Bear Tooth Pass (assuming that it is open) and arrive at Yellowstone via the NE entrance. We are spending 4 days in Yellowstone and staying in the park. I know that is not enough time to see and do everything so we are picking the choosing the things that we most want to see and just enjoying our time there. When we leave Yellowstone we will meander through the Tetons to Jackson where we are staying 2 nights.

We have been to Jackson before and really wanted to go back. We plan to go WW rafting on the Snake River. After Jackson we will head back to Colorado, making a day or so stop in the Rocky Mountains. I only wish we could spend a month out there and not only 2 weeks!

Somewhere in our travels I am also considering a ChuckWagon dinner but am looking for suggestions/recommendations. I am also interested in any other places that people who have visited this area recommend.
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Old 02-28-2008, 12:06 PM   #6
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This was our vacation last summer. We are 2 adults in our early 30's.

Day 1: Fly Newark to Denver. Drive to Keystone,SD
Day 2-4: Jewel Cave, Wind Cave, Badlands, Mt Rushmore, Minuteman Missle Silo tour
Day 5: Drive to Laurel, MT - stop at Devils Tower
Day 6-10: Drive Bearthooh Hwy into Yellowstone - spend 2 days exploring the north end of the park, 3 days exploring the south end of the park (1 whole day devoted to gyser gasing)
Day 11-12: Drive to Jackson Hole, WY - Grand Teton National Park, Bar-T-5 cookout (in the pouring rain but fun), our white water raft trip was cancelled
Day 13-14: Drive to - Estes Park - Rocky Mountain National Park
Day 15: Fly home

I used www.nps.gov to get information on all the national parks; purchase a national park pass so you don't have to worry about paying the fees when you enter each park.

We had a great time and want to go back!
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Old 02-28-2008, 01:36 PM   #7
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Oooh, I am so envious!! You guys are going to have such a great time.While you are in Yellowstone try to explore various parts of the park. We used to stay at the Lake area (great place to view wildlife) for a few days and then move on to the Canyon area. This area is absolutely amazing!!! We would also stay a few nights at the Old Faithful Inn. I loved it!!!!

I also highly recommend checking out Jenny Lake, which is in the Grand Teton NP. It's by far the most beautiful lake I have ever seen! It's gorgeous in that area. You should also check out Jackson Hole, Wyoming if you have the chance. The downtown area is great and the antler arch is really cool to see in person.

South Dakota is another one of my favorite places. The Black Hills are spectacular. I'd also recommend going to Custer State Park. It was an interesting place to visit and had wild donkeys/horses roaming around everywhere (they were really friendly). Mount Rushmore was great and not to be missed either.

Have a great time!!!!
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Old 02-28-2008, 01:52 PM   #8
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Smile western swing

We have been to this area too many times to list, my dad was born and raised in Sheridan WY and we visited one month every year until his mom passed away. Love the mountains, not many here in Iowa. Badlands are nice as well as Wall drug but don't plan on eating here, food is expensive and not all that good, nice place to stop and visit. Rushmore, don't waste your time on the night lighting, waste of time but the paths around the base are a nice walk. I agree, Crazy Horse you can see from the road all though if you like Indian art and history, the cost may be worth it to visit the museum and shops. Make sure you do the Spearfish canyon drive, Spearfish Canyon Lodge is beautifull and not too terribly priced. Devils Tower is a neat place to walk around the base, watch out for yellow jackets!!! Sheridan is a nice town, stroll down main street, a little wild at night. Better yet if you like the mountains plan a night at Bear Lodge in the big Horns, very restfull. Cody is really nice, don't miss the museum. I don't think Yellowstone takes that much time but then I have been there quite often so not sure for a first timer. Jackson hole, I would recommend the Bar J Wranglers chuck wagon show, it was a GREAT time. Colorado around Winter Park I would suggest the YMCA camp , Snow mountain Ranch, tons to do and great rates. Hope this helps, feel free to e-mail for more personal advice. Don
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Old 02-28-2008, 03:28 PM   #9
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I highly recommend doing the cookout at Yellowstone. You can either ride a horse in or ride the wagon. The steak is great and the entertainment fun. Our kids loved it - definately a highlight of our whole "wild west" trip. You have to reserve this before your trip - way in advance is better.
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Old 02-28-2008, 06:38 PM   #10
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Gaper Guide

My mom and dad went last fall with my aunt and uncle. Their favorite thing was something they rented called the Gaper Guide. (I hope I spelled it right!) It is a GPS type unit that you rent. It is loaded for the area. My mom said it gave a lot of background info. about the area and showed them really nice places that they would have missed. It had a fee (daily or weekly I think). She rented it over the net before she left home. They picked it up, used it, and returned it before they left. She said that was a great investment in their trip.

Have fun! Her pictures were astounding.
Me Dh Ds 11 Ds 7
82 Fort Wilderness 87 off property 89 Fort Wilderness
96 Grand Floridian - honeymoon/Dh's first trip
04 Vacation Villas - Ds7 first trip
June 07 - Cypress Pointe - Ds3 first trip
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Old 02-28-2008, 06:47 PM   #11
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We went to the Black Hills and Badlands in June 2003. We tent camped at a KOA in the Black Hills. It was a great trip and I'd love to go back.

Climb the 250 steps up to the base of the mountain to get as close as you can to the Mount Rushmore faces. The trail is handcapped accessible in several viewing areas if you can't climb the stairs.
If you have kids that are old enough, they may enjoy getting a Jr. Ranger Badge. Get the booklet from the information desk area, answer the questions, go back to the information desk area where they'll ask a couple of questions, look over the booklet and stamp it and give your child the badge.

Visit the Crazy Horse Memorial. Pick up a free stone or 2 and a business card listing the colors in the granite. The visitor center is really interesting to go into.

Explore Custer State Park - those Bison are fantastic to see up close. Drive on the Needles Highway to get there and stop at the various viewing areas.

Ride the Black Hills Central Railroad from Hill City to Keystone. That was a blast. Hill City also had places where you could dig for gold although we didn't do that since it was wet and cold the day we were there.

Visit Mt. Rushmore Cave. Logs of stalagmites and stalagtites but no bats much to DS's disappointment.

Head to Deadwood and visit the Saloon No. 10 to watch a reinactment of Wild Bill Hickok's death. Plus there are daily shows in the streets. Make sure you talk with any characters you see in the streets. DD got a Deadwood Deputy Badge from Wild Bill. Also head to the Mt. Moriah Cemetery to "Boot Hill".

The Badlands National Park is just fantastic. The wind blows constantly and it was so beautiful. There is an area called Fossil Way that you can see Fossils preserved under glass and then wander around climbing the rocks. I still look at the pictures in wonder. There's just something about that area that is amazing to me.

We also stopped in Wall Drug for fun. Lots of tourist trinkets but it was fun seeing the Roaring T-Rex and taking pics of the kids on all the stuff like the covered wagon and Jackalope.

We also did Bear Country USA which is south of Rapid City. I wouldn't recommend it though. We thought it was cool until we watched several bears pull the bumper off a van 10 cars or so in front of us. Then we had a bear climb on the hood of our van. Left a really nice claw hole in the bumper which the kids think is cool but I'd rather pass on that next time.

A note about the weather - it was strange that June - we had pouring rain every night and nearly ever day - it hailed late one afternoon which luckily our tent survived - and snowed another day. One of the other campers said she'd never seen anything like it and she'd been going for 10 year.

I wish I could post pictures from the trip but I didn't have a digital camera at the point so nothing's on my computer. If I get a chance I'll try to work the scanner and post some.

The Convention and Visitor bureau in Rapid City is really helpful. You can send away for all kinds of info. Oops sorry this is so long. We just had such great trip.
You'll have a wonderful time.
Me DD15 DS19 DH Lola Rocky Shadow


Doing a quick weekend trip to see the Osborne Lights in December - staying offsite this time.

WDW: 16 family trips, 9 solo trips - resorts stayed at: offisite(6) AoA, AKL(2), BWI, CR (2), WL (2), CBR, CSR, POFQ (3), POP (2), POR (6) ASMo, ASMu
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Old 02-28-2008, 07:26 PM   #12
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Can someone see if this makes sense to them?

I am working on a trip for July.

Right now I have two nights in Cody,
2 nights at Canyon village (in Yellowstone)
1 night at Grant village (in yellowstone)
2 nights at Coulter Bay Village (which I am really not sure about)

I think I need help after Yellowstone, where would you stay if you wanted to see the Tetons and Jackson... but my husband isn't going to love Jackson so we don't need much more time there.
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Old 02-28-2008, 07:48 PM   #13
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Our absolute favorite U.S. vacation destination...Jackson Hole and GTNP!!! (That's right Dis folks, even more so than Disney!)

There is SO much to do in Jackson Hole....

Tons of amazing hikes in the park. Probably the most popular (read: most populated) hike is up to Hidden Falls at Jenny Lake. You can either take a boat across the lake then hike up to the falls, or hike around the lake (a fun hike) then up to the falls...then boat back or continue the loop around the lake. For a little tiny more difficulty (well worth the effort) go past the falls up to Inspiration Point - the name is perfectly appropriate as it takes you up for a beautiful view of Jenny Lake. My favorite hike is taking the tram to the top of Jackson Hole Mt. Resort, then hiking down the backside of the mt. It's lengthy - like 13 miles, but if any of you really like hiking it is awesome - incredible views, scenery and often wildlife. Lots of amazing hiking for all levels.

Whitewater rafting on the Snake river is awesome. So much fun. Our favorite trip was with Barker-Ewing river guides.

Another great activity is to take a scenic float trip - no whitewater on these trips but usually a lot of wildlife, beautiful views of the Tetons, and you can even do a trip that includes breakfast or lunch. We have always booked with the Grand Teton Lodging Co. - go right to the Jackson Lake Lodge in the park to reserve your spot (or call and book it ahead of time), you'll leave from the lodge by bus and return there after the trip. We love the morning float trip that ends with a BBQ lunch and the view from your picnic table is an Ansel Adams print - literally. His famous shot of the Snake river and Tetons was taken at a spot right above the picnic area! A great day!

Anyone like to do the spa thing? The Snake River Lodge and Spa has a great spa!

Nightlife...don't miss a night at the Mangy Moose in Teton Village (especially if there's a band in town), you have to visit the Cowboy bar at least once (just to say you've been there :-), we've had many fun nights at the Rancher, and we've enjoyed a few cocktails at the Silver Dollar Bar at the Wort Hotel. All pre-kids of course.

Another tradition for us is getting some Bubba's BBQ to go, having a picnic at the base of Snow King Mt. resort. After our picnic we ride the chairlift to the top of Snow King to enjoy the view. Sometimes we ride back down, sometimes we hike.

Plenty of shopping and GREAT dining in town. Our faves are Old Yellowstone Garage, Snake River Grill and a great sushi place (can't remember name) up at Teton Village. There are so many other great restaurants, but those are a few highlights.

Ooh! Just remembered another fun activity (I could go on and on and on...) - head up to Moose and rent a kayak at Dornan's. Grab a sandwich, snacks and drinks while you are there, and head to String Lake. Kayak through String Lake to a small portage where you walk the kayak to Leigh Lake - a BEAUTIFUL lake to kayak. We ate lunch in the middle of Leigh Lake while enjoying the view of the Tetons all around us. Stunning.

Like I said, I could go on and on (sorry for the novel!!!). There is SO much to do in JH - we've gone for 10 days and could have stayed much longer! It is truly "God's Country". Absolute perfection.

ETA - one other thing, be prepared...JH is NOT a budget vacation! Though we have found some ways to save a little money (thought still not 'budget'). SOOOOO worth it though. We do save by flying in and out of Salt Lake then driving to WY - a beautiful drive and a huge $$$ savings.

Last edited by ekball; 02-28-2008 at 08:06 PM.
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Old 02-28-2008, 08:39 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by lastminutemom View Post
Can someone see if this makes sense to them?

I am working on a trip for July.

Right now I have two nights in Cody,
2 nights at Canyon village (in Yellowstone)
1 night at Grant village (in yellowstone)
2 nights at Coulter Bay Village (which I am really not sure about)

I think I need help after Yellowstone, where would you stay if you wanted to see the Tetons and Jackson... but my husband isn't going to love Jackson so we don't need much more time there.

Two summers ago we did a big western National Parks trip (Yellowstone, Tetons, some time in Colorado Springs, Arches, Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon). While at Grand Teton, we stayed at the Jackson Lake Lodge. Not in the main lodge building ($$$$$) but in one of their cottages (or whatever they are called), non-view. It was really nice, especially for a National Parks facility. We did have to book way in advance so they might be full for July.

In planning our trip, I used tripadvisor.com forums and the various state forums at fodors.com
Two weeks in California ending with four days at DLR-----first time for dh and the kids
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Old 02-28-2008, 08:48 PM   #15
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This is about 1/2 of what we did last summer!

We stayed at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone.. but that fills up about 1 year in advance. It was so relaxing there, and just wonderful. We spent about 5 days in Yellowstone.

One of our days in Yellowstone, we drove down the Grand Tetons, and spent the day there. We really enjoyed it there, and would like to go back, ans spend more time there. It too, very peaceful.

We did the badlands last.. last of 13 national parks and monuments.. we were wow-ed out. I'm sure it's lovely, but we had been on the road, in the car for 2 1/2 weeks and saw many amazing thing, and by that point, we were just tired.

In the black hills I would recommend Wind Cave.

It has 95% of the world's boxwork right there. It's very cool.

We also did Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower and drove past Crazy Horse. Wall Drug was done, but there's only so long you can hang out there drinking free water.

We didn't stay in the parks in the badlands or black hills, just went with cheaper hotels, no great advice there.

I agree with other posters... get the national parks pass. it will pay for its self quickly.

If you have children.. make time for the junior ranger programs. The kids learned so much, and we all enjoyed going to the ranger programs. They couldn't wait to get more and more badges.
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