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Old January 21st, 2016, 10:20 AM   #1
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Default Best setup for driving to Yellowstone park

Hey all, Looking for thoughts and advice on the best way to set up for a drive to Yellowstone with my wife and toddler. (4yrs old) Ideally we'd use my Dodge 4dr, cummins 8ft box to make the trip, since it could haul the most ppl and gear comfortably... For anyone who's done it, would you buy a camper for the back, or just one of those old man grandpa caps. Either way i think we'd be camping most of the way, with possible hotel stays, not really sure at this point. If we go the "grandpa cap" route, we could sleep in that... Also, how long would you go for? Its a long drive...will i be a grumpy dad with that much road time and will it diminish the fun and sightseeing for me with that long of a drive?
Thanks for any advice, cheers!
Jay
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Old January 21st, 2016, 10:31 AM   #2
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I did the trip by myself last summer. Only advice I can give you is if you want to get a hotel near Yellowstone make sure you reserve it. I tried every nearby hotel and ended up sleeping in my car since they were all booked. Other than that I just took my time getting there and made random stops go keep it interesting. Oh and going out of your way to see chimney rock isn't really worth it lol.
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Old January 21st, 2016, 10:38 AM   #3
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grandpa cap = far better mileage than camper
camper = more comfortable than tent or grandpa cap.

ask your wife, not us :)
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Old January 21st, 2016, 10:50 AM   #4
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I would recommend going for a minimum of 17 years.
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Old January 21st, 2016, 11:20 AM   #5
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We spent 8 days in Yellowstone last summer. We drove the motorhome and stayed in West Yellowstone and rented a car. Just for giggles we did a comparison price of flying out, renting a car and staying in a hotel. Our cost of driving the motorhome and camping, along with all expenses, several meals out, etc was just over $3000. To fly and hotel was over $6000.

The campground at West Yellowstone was fairly expensive ($40-50 per night) and more than staying in the national forest campgrounds inside of Yellowstone. The rub with staying in Yellowstone is that you CANNOT make reservations. It's first come, first served and I don't think you can stay more than a few days. (not sure on this)

As far as how long, it depends on what you want to do. With a kid along, it will be more difficult. We did a lot of photography and hit almost every place. The thing that's interesting is that Yellowstone is sensory overload. After 3 days of hitting the road at 8:00 am or earlier and not getting back till after 6, we were burned out and ended up killing a day in town window shopping and hanging out. We spent a total of 8 days in Yellowstone and did not feel we saw it all. Close but not all.

Trying to tell you how long you will spend is really difficult. We stopped at different spots where we spent an hour doing photography, looking at different colors, etc. We have neighbors who winter in Jackson Hole and hit Yellowstone every spring. They told us we had better quality wildlife and geyser photos than they had ever seen. But it takes time. I have video of a group of otters swimming upstream and catching fish to eat. My wife has high speed action shots of an Osprey diving down and catching a trout in a stream, right next to where a geyser is dumping hot water into the stream. We have pics of Bison, Elk, Moose, coyote, pronghorn, grizzly, mountain goats, mountain sheep, otters, eagles, osprey, prarie dogs, and birds. The only thing we didn't get were wolves, mountain lion or black bear. Awesome pics! Sooner or later I should do a pic thread.

We also took a spotting scope on a tripod. Don't go without this!!!!!

In the same vein, while we were at a spot for 30 minutes, we would see family's get out of a car, walk up, look, snap a selfie with a stick and be back in the car in less than 5 minutes. Which are you? You can spend a day at the Yellowstone Grand Canyon alone. We also drove NE of Yellowstone and did the Bear Tooth Pass.

One other point, we went immediately after school was out in the spring. The first few days there, we were the only ones at some of the turnouts. A week later, those turnouts were packed. Go as early in June as possible. The high passes are still closed in May.

As far as route, we went north through the UP and across the upper states, then down south into West Yellowstone. When leaving, we left to the south and spent 2 days around Jackson hole. Then we left from the north end of the Tetons and east through the Wind River valley of Wyoming, then down south to I-80 and back home through Illinois.

Last edited by whiterhino; January 21st, 2016 at 11:25 AM.
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Old January 21st, 2016, 11:29 AM   #6
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We did a 3 week trip when I was younger. 2 would have probably been plenty, but we took our sweet time getting there and back.

Most of what White Rhino said is true, but at least back then we were able to reserve a spot inside Yellowstone. Each campground had different rules back then anyway. We had to use a certain one because we had a pop-up camper.

We did a Suburban with the middle row folded and used that as a 'play area' and then had the pop up for sleeping.

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Old January 21st, 2016, 11:38 AM   #7
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Kickstand: indeed a good idea.
Mr. green: i agree on 17 years.
Whiterhino: thank you! Good info for sure.
Jeepfreak: thank you. good info. No play area in my truck for the little man unfortunately. haha
Cheers guys, thanks.
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Old January 21st, 2016, 03:33 PM   #8
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My wife and I did the trip tent camping out of my CJ5 over two weeks. My suggestion would be that you look at Flagg Ranch for camping. It is located outside of the south entrance to Yellowstone. The cost is less, the view of the Tetons is relaxing, and you are close to Jackson (which is a great diversion on a bad weather day, or an evening out). If you are going to need WiFi for the kids, they have a camp called Colter Bay a bit further south that I was told has it. The only disadvantage to staying outside of the park is that it adds 20 miles of driving on per day, The upside is that places like Jackson will give the kids extra things to do. Be sure to show them the shed antler arches to the park in downtown. They'll remember it, and it never hurts to stop into the Million Dollar Cowboy Club across the street for a beverage.

Another suggestion would be that you look at maybe spending the night before Yellowstone in Cody. They have a rodeo every night. You can use it as a "look forward to" for the youngsters for the long drive. Plus it will help you to decompress before hitting the park.

The park might not look so big on a map, but it is massive, and there are no quick destinations. Do your research ahead of time. It also helps if you stay on our time instead of switching to mountain. By doing so, you can cover some of the miles between attractions before having to wait in line for thousands of foreign tourists to take a photo if a bison. You'll see more wildlife in the mornings, but have a harder time finding stuff like food, gas.... Keep in mind that if you are spending several days in the park, the routes are giant circles. If something is to congested and you are going to pass it the next day, save it, move on, and keep relaxed.

In regards to the drive, my choice has always been to bite the bullet with the long, flat, drive the first day, and then follow with two easy days getting to Cody or the park. My favorite place to stay the second night is actually a real dump at the base of the Bighorn range. We decompress, have breakfast with the locals in the morning, and then enjoy the drive in. Note though, they do not allow you to take a trailer over the bighorns if you do not have trailer brakes. It's a beautiful drive though, especially in an old CJ5 with the top off. Damn, now I think I need a road trip!
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Old January 21st, 2016, 08:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by whiterhino View Post

.... The only thing we didn't get were wolves, mountain lion or black bear and bigfoot.
fixed
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Old January 22nd, 2016, 10:23 AM   #10
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Yeah, I wouldn't want to take a 4yo to Yellowstone. Too limiting.

This is how my wife and I got out there a couple years ago.

[IMG]Untitled by mikesova, on Flickr[/IMG]

Last edited by mikesova; February 3rd, 2016 at 08:35 AM.
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Old January 22nd, 2016, 10:33 AM   #11
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That's one of the things I noticed. Those with kids didn't really get to take in the sights. Everybody was in too much of a hurry. Yellowstone is memorizing. How old is your little guy? If you will have to carry him everywhere, I would suggest leaving him home with the grandparents if possible.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, we have pics of chicks in an Osprey nest from above. We were on the rim of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon and there were 2 nests below us on spires. My pics aren't very good because I was zoomed all the way in and with the wind and heat waves I couldn't get a good focus.
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Old January 22nd, 2016, 10:56 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Outdoors View Post
My wife and I did the trip tent camping out of my CJ5 over two weeks. My suggestion would be that you look at Flagg Ranch for camping. It is located outside of the south entrance to Yellowstone. The cost is less, the view of the Tetons is relaxing, and you are close to Jackson (which is a great diversion on a bad weather day, or an evening out). If you are going to need WiFi for the kids, they have a camp called Colter Bay a bit further south that I was told has it. The only disadvantage to staying outside of the park is that it adds 20 miles of driving on per day, The upside is that places like Jackson will give the kids extra things to do. Be sure to show them the shed antler arches to the park in downtown. They'll remember it, and it never hurts to stop into the Million Dollar Cowboy Club across the street for a beverage.

Another suggestion would be that you look at maybe spending the night before Yellowstone in Cody. They have a rodeo every night. You can use it as a "look forward to" for the youngsters for the long drive. Plus it will help you to decompress before hitting the park.

The park might not look so big on a map, but it is massive, and there are no quick destinations. Do your research ahead of time. It also helps if you stay on our time instead of switching to mountain. By doing so, you can cover some of the miles between attractions before having to wait in line for thousands of foreign tourists to take a photo if a bison. You'll see more wildlife in the mornings, but have a harder time finding stuff like food, gas.... Keep in mind that if you are spending several days in the park, the routes are giant circles. If something is to congested and you are going to pass it the next day, save it, move on, and keep relaxed.

In regards to the drive, my choice has always been to bite the bullet with the long, flat, drive the first day, and then follow with two easy days getting to Cody or the park. My favorite place to stay the second night is actually a real dump at the base of the Bighorn range. We decompress, have breakfast with the locals in the morning, and then enjoy the drive in. Note though, they do not allow you to take a trailer over the bighorns if you do not have trailer brakes. It's a beautiful drive though, especially in an old CJ5 with the top off. Damn, now I think I need a road trip!
You drove to Yellowstone from Michigan in a CJ5? Give this guy a medal.
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Old January 22nd, 2016, 11:29 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikesova View Post
You drove to Yellowstone from Michigan in a CJ5? Give this guy a medal.
For our Honeymoon, I took her for a two week trip that included the Grand Canyon, Arches, Bridges, Moab, etc... Again in my CJ5. It's a daily driver, I'm 58, and this message got us talking about trying to do Yellowstone again in the 5. We'll just say we don't set any speed records on our trips.
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Old January 22nd, 2016, 12:12 PM   #14
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We are basically the same age. I travel in a 35' motorhome. Screw that rough ride.
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Old January 22nd, 2016, 12:52 PM   #15
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Quote:
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We are basically the same age. I travel in a 35' motorhome. Screw that rough ride.
Not having A/C is a lot worse than the rough ride
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Old January 22nd, 2016, 01:19 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by whiterhino View Post
That's one of the things I noticed. Those with kids didn't really get to take in the sights. Everybody was in too much of a hurry. Yellowstone is memorizing. How old is your little guy? If you will have to carry him everywhere, I would suggest leaving him home with the grandparents if possible.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, we have pics of chicks in an Osprey nest from above. We were on the rim of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon and there were 2 nests below us on spires. My pics aren't very good because I was zoomed all the way in and with the wind and heat waves I couldn't get a good focus.
Depends on the kid, my son's 10 now, but i've been taking him with me everywhere since he was an infant. He's road tripped like crazy, loves hikes, outdoors, etc.
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Old January 22nd, 2016, 09:10 PM   #17
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I'm planning this trip in june. Besides Mt Rushmore where else has good sights on the way thru. I planned on a three day drive out and a week in southern Montana.
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Old January 23rd, 2016, 06:49 AM   #18
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You can spend a week around Mt Rushmore alone. If you are stretched for time, make sure you at least make the needles road trip. Around the area, there are caves, Badlands, a cool dinosaur dig and other stuff to do. Hit Mt Rushmore at sunrise right when they open. Sit in the bleachers and look at the monument, it's amazing.

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Depends on the kid, my son's 10 now, but i've been taking him with me everywhere since he was an infant. He's road tripped like crazy, loves hikes, outdoors, etc.
Note I said "carry" age. Once they are older, it's kid dependent for sure. Some kids like the outdoors, some kids want to stuff their face in a tablet.
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Old January 23rd, 2016, 08:15 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikesova View Post
You drove to Yellowstone from Michigan in a CJ5? Give this guy a medal.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Outdoors View Post
For our Honeymoon, I took her for a two week trip that included the Grand Canyon, Arches, Bridges, Moab, etc... Again in my CJ5. It's a daily driver, I'm 58, and this message got us talking about trying to do Yellowstone again in the 5. We'll just say we don't set any speed records on our trips.
In "76" friend of mine and I drove my CJ 5 to California. We were much younger than. I do not think I would ever do that now. We were not in any hurry either so it was not to bad a ride.
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Old January 31st, 2016, 09:21 PM   #20
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A few year back the wife and I flew to Billings MT and rented a car. This was Memorial Day weekend. Some mountain roads were not open yet because of the deep snow. We visited Bull Run, Yellowstone, Jackson, Grand Tetons and Craters of the Moon. I think we spent about 4 days in Yellowstone and could have spent a few more. It really depends on how much walking you want to do. I enjoy driving trips and we debated on driving out there or flying. Because of our limited time an the cost of gas we flew but there is a lot to see between here and Wyoming.
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