Cody is a fun town and not as crowded as Jackson or as much of a cheap souvenier town as West Yellowstone. You might want to drive out to see the wild mustangs, don't need the tour - just ask someone for directions. In the evening, there's usually music on the Irma Hotel porch, as well as a shoot-out at 6pm. The most convenient but packed campground is Ponderosa -- can walk to the Historical Center which is a must-see. Two full days are plenty for Cody. If you go from Cody to the Northeast entrance along the Chief Joseph highway, when you get to the junction of 212, you could turn right and go up the Beartooth Highway to the top and then backtrack since the best views are on the west side anyway, and you wouldn't waste so much time. To be sure to get a site, you could spend the night at Soda Butte Camground just before Cooke City (and have dinner at the Beartooth Cafe to get the local flavor). You would only be about 6 miles out of the park and could drive in and see the Lamar Valley. The next day you could get up early and be at Pebble Creek campground by about 8:30am and probably get a site. Get up early to see the wolves just a few miles down the road from Pebble Creek. Then I'd try to get a site by noon at Mammoth for a night. The trick is getting up early enough to be at a non-reservation campground early to get a site. Then I'd have reservations for two nights at Canyon so you could do that area and then a night at Madison to do the Norris Geyser area and Old Faithful. We have reservations for several days of every week in June at Madison because we fish the Fire Hole and the Gibbon in June. I agree with only needing a couple of days in the Tetons. To use West Yellowstone as a base to see the whole park would be quite frustrating. And the Fishing Bridge campground is like a parking lot, unless you really care about hook-ups. Hope you have a good trip. If you have any questions, send me a message.
We spent 7 days in the Black Hills last year and didn't get to see all the sites we wanted to! We based out of RafterJ and tried to hit a loop/site each day, this worked pretty good and we had some duplicate routes, but it wasn't too bad. We also stopped in Sioux Falls and spent the day at the falls and visited a nice city pool (for kids, only 3ft deep). Sioux Falls is a nicelittle town, stealth camped, plenty of friendly residential side streets.
A few years ago we also did Yellowstone. Yellowstone is huge! If you base out of anywhere you will have hundreds of miles of backtracking. If you look at a map you will notice Yellowstone has 4 main loops. We drove 1 loop each day staying at a different inpark campground each night (reserved in advance). I highly recommend being on the move in this park (for truck campers) as you are able to easily stop at all the scenic views unlike the travel trailers.
We didn't spend much time in the Teton's, only a day, and stealth camped in Jackson Hole near the large city park. The trip was getting long at this point with our young kids (1 &4 at the time).
You have a huge trip, I think 3 weeks is plenty, but you might get burned out, I know I would. I would move a day from the Tetons and add a non-travel day in the Black Hills.
Pretty fair iternary, but here are a few things I would do different.
Until you get west of the Mississippi, stay on the interstates. If you are like me, once that far west, you can make just about as good of time on the back roads so no argueing there.
Unless you need power, I would stay inside Yellowstone. That early in the season, won't have a problem getting a site in the bigger place. From West Yellowstone to Bridge Bay area is about 2 hours if you don't stop along the way. Also, since you plan on going in via Chief Joseph Highway, you will be passing by Peeble and Slough creek campground, which if open would be a great place for an early stop. When we were there in 2000, we left Madison Jct and drove the upper loop. Didn't really take any hikes yet we were tired by the end of the day.
Think two days in the Tetons will be more than enough unless there is something you really want to do. Would rather have the time to explore other areas.
You will be early in the season, so I would not make reservations anyplace, unless you are the type that just has to have a detailed plan. No resevations will give you more freedom to move around at your leisure. Nothing worse than wanting to stay another day or can't or being disappointed yet have three more days to kill.
On my last trip, had to have reservations at Grand Canyon and Yosemite. Once we left Yosemite and had no schedule to keep, it became a lot more relaxing for me.
Good luck and remember, no matter how well you plan, you will wish you did it some other way. Have fun.
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If you like serious hiking climb Grand Teton. One of the top peaks in the 48. Note, it is tough and some rock climbing is necessary. This takes 2 days. I would also check out the Wind River Range se of the Tetons and hike into Cirque of the Towers, which can be done in one long day. Definitely see Devil's Tower.
Whatever you do, wherever you stop, you are going to have one wonderful trip. For me, plan a couple of "must do" stops, like Yellowstone, and play the rest by ear. Sometimes planning too much and too rigid, keeps you from finding those remarkable places to stop, like the bookstore in Gardiner,MT for a wonderful sandwich, free Wi-Fi and a few books to browse.
I would also offer a Trip Report I did, on Yellowstone and Tetons. Clicky Here.
Bring some rain coats, to be prepared for June showers. They typically come and go, quickly.
Would like to make same basic trip BUT do so in the Fall of 12 starting say Sept 9th, getting to Yellowstone by the 16th, will that be too late for early snows???
You should be fine, but typical nighttime temperatures are going to be in the mid 20s and sometimes lower. Weather can be unsettled towards the end of September and snows are often occurring, but they typically melt the next day. The other factor is that many facilities begin closing, for the season, the third weekend of September as well as some campgrounds. Be sure to check these season ending dates, for your trip planning.
Early fall can be a great time of year to visit Yellowstone and Tetons, with the smaller crowds and increase of wildlife activity, as well as exciting fishing opportunities. But, the weather can be a factor, where it would not be in August and July.
This June in Yellowstone will be much better than last year when we had so much snow and cold temperatures. It'll be in the 80's in Cody next week. Even in June it is difficult to get a site at Madison Campground without a reservation. Bridge Bay and Canyon may be easier. Canyon is a higher elevation and will be colder. Another campground that is an option for the Lamar Valley area if you can't get a site at Slough Creek or Pebble Creek is Tower Fall which the bigger motor homes can't get into. Indian Creek and Norris are our favorite campgrounds, although Norris is more convenient for touring. I wouldn't recommend the campgrounds at Grant Village or Lewis Lake for convenient touring. I was actually disappointed with our first trip to Yellowstone because I wasn't prepared for the number of people. But we now have lots of places within the park that we go that we don't see anyone, and we always carry bear spray.