I pull about 8,000 pounds. It feels right.
Thank your dealer for being honest. You need at least a 1T tow vehicle to safely tow a 14,000 5th wheel.
Differences are probably in springs, wheels and tires. Could be more; I don't know about Dodge.
Do the Yellowstone campgrounds get more crowded on weekends or are all days the same? Off season most of our state parks get crowded on weekends but are deserted during the week. If I were to try for a site at Norris on a Saturday in mid Sept, how early do I need to be there? I'm at Canyon the night before. And if I try to get in Mammoth?
I can't swear what Norris is like, but many of the larger campgrounds in Yellowstone start closing off sections in September. If I were you I'd check at the station in Canyon as you leave and ask if there's space at Norris. Chances are there will be, but it's easier to check ahead. If Norris is full, you can be directed to others with space.
I've been to Yellowstone many, many times, spring, summer and fall. I think my favorite time is early June. The babies are out playing then and crowds don't arrive until late June. Late May is okay, but it's still pretty cool and wet in May, and every week you can put it off the better it gets until the crowds descend.
I've towed 5th wheels over Hwy 12/Lolo a few times. It's a beautiful drive, but it's slow going -- lots and lots of 30-35 mph curves, almost continual. My biggest concern is bicycles on the road. I nearly hit a couple of them the last time -- coming around a curve and there they were, peddling about 5 mph with no shoulder and I was meeting another camper. I slammed on my brakes and was able to get stopped (or slowed to 5-10, but it could have been ugly. The highway gets lots of bicyclists, and there's often very little shoulder for them, so beware if you go that way.
West Yellowstone, MT would be my pick if I wanted to stay outside the Park. It's right AT the west entrance, and the road from there to the main loop is a pleasant drive. If you find the traffic to be heavy going in, leave earlier in the morning. Yellowstone is best seen just after sunrise. Even during the height of tourist season, the roads are empty then. It's also the prettiest time of the day, especially for photographs.
I'm a retired guy ... Ole Fart (71) ... A must is a bed with open sides to make for easier making....
As one ole fart who fights with making beds to another, I'd also look for a comfortable height ceiling in the bedroom, and that becomes more rare as the campers get shorter. Our first 5er was something like 24 feet. It had a very low bedroom ceiling (low profile). The next one was 30 feet and had room for my wife to stand up straight (5'7"). Our current one is a 26 footer, and we just don't have quite enough head room again. It's what they call a "mid-profile". In my opinion, it's not the best for old people with cricks in their backs. The next one will be a high profile, and it'll have a slide out in the bedroom for a little more elbow room.
I've yet to see one that's as easy to make as the one in our stick-built house, but some are much easier than others. I suggest you go through the motions of bed-making in any you consider. Those that won't let you stand up straight are not easy. I have to be on my knees, then reeeeeeeaaaach to get the lower sheet in place at the head of the bed.
Jayco makes an excellent medium priced camper. They've been around for a long time. Our last one was a Jayco, but an old one. My wife and I were just talking about it tonight. We liked it. Ours was an '89.
We bought it used but camped in it for several years until we broke an axle on it while on a trip in 2006. Rather than wait from Saturday morning (when it happened) until Monday afternoon (when techs got back to work and would have it ready to go), we traded it for a new one. It was time. When we stopped back at the dealership a week later on our way home, it was just pulling out. Some lucky person had bought it. :)
Best time is early to mid June, as many of the attractions don't open until Memorial Day, and tourist traffic starts getting heavy towards the end of June and keeps building until the Sturgis Rally (Aug 4-10). It's also nice after mid-August, however it can start getting a bit cool after mid-September, and any time after July 1 you may run into high fire danger (campfire bans and smoke in the air).
I'd recommend Custer State Park for a nice variety of campgrounds and good access to Black Hills attractions. There are many other great places, however.
When I had my last truck camper I added overload springs to my '89 F250. I liked them. They don't affect the ride at all unless they're needed. I've never tried airbags.
But like others have said, wait until you get hooked up, then weigh the whole thing, especially the rear axel, and go from there.
2. Blackhills & Bandlands, South Dakota, 14 hours, 895 miles, electric hookups (5 nights-reservation required) – Custer State Park
3. Yellowstone National Park, 10.5 hours, 620 miles (9 nights, reservation required)
4. Grand Teton National Park (3 nights)...;
Since I live near these, I'll comment on this portion.
The Badlands, Southern Blackhills, Northern Blackhills and Wyoming Blackhills are all good, but they're pretty spread out. You might want to consider spending the first night in the Badlands rather than bypassing them, then driving back there later. It would be quite a drive from Custer SP to the Badlands and back. I've never stayed there, but I've heard the KOA at the east edge of the Badlands is good.
Likewise, you might want to spend your last Blackhills night at Devils Tower, as it's quite a long trip from Custer, and it's probably worth a visit. There's a nice NPS campground (no hookups) inside the Devils Tower Monument grounds, or if you need hookups, there's a decent KOA just outside the park gate.
The Blackhills are GREAT for family vacations! Use Google to get some ideas, but I'd highly recommend Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, Jewel Cave near Custer, and Bear Country and Reptile Gardens in Rapid City. There are dozens of other attractions. Let everyone in the family pick their favorite one or two to have a voice in your plans.
You'll be traveling over (or long trip around) the Bighorn Mountains on your way from the Blackhills to Yellowstone, so you may as well make use of one of the many NFS campgrounds in the Bighorns. This is a very nice mountain range that's often overlooked by tourists simply because they're in a hurry to get from the Blackhills to Yellowstone. It's a shame, because they have a lot to offer. We have friends and family from Oregon who spend a week in the Bighorns nearly every summer. They avoid the crowds of Yellowstone and the Blackhills and just enjoy the mountains -- fishing, hiking, sightseeing and always a big campfire at night for a bbq, burnt marshmallows and memories retold.
Whether you take Hwy 16 (Buffalo to Tensleep) or Hwy 14 (Sheridan/Ranchester to Shell/Greybull), you'll be going past more than a dozen nice, quiet campgrounds. Buffalo also has at least three nice ones right in town.
You might also want to spend a night in Cody before heading into Yellowstone. the Buffalo Bill Museum is one of the best "Old West" museums anywhere in the country. Plan on AT LEAST a half day for it.
Yellowstone and Teton NPs are basically side-by-side, so you'll be driving out of one and into the next. Unless your family is into long hikes on primitive trails, 12 days is quite a long visit for these magnificent parks, especially when you have similar visits planned for Colorado's National Parks.
(And southern Utah is hotter than hell in the summer. That's the SW desert. Daytime temps are HOT!)
You can often find campsites at any of the Yellowstone campgrounds if you call them the week before too. I've done that. We never plan our visits to Yellowstone far in advance so can't reserve a year or more ahead of time. In fact, we often go without any reservations and just get to the campground at checkout time and wait... in line. We don't always get our pick of campgrounds, but we've always gotten into one. But we do have a smaller 5er -- 28 feet. That probably helps too.
The big crowds don't hit the Black Hills and Yellowstone until mid-June. And fair warning: Despite what others have said about the Black Hills being fine in April -- I've lived here (just west of Black Hills) for 43 years, and late April snow storms are NORMAL! Big ones! Very true that the weather might be warm, even possibly dry, but there's always a real threat of BIG snow storms throughout April. I'm talking several feet! In Yellowstone they come even later. FWIW, April is my least favorite weather month of the year in Wyoming -- wind, clouds, rain, sleet, snow, and (more) wind. And all this without benefit of leaves on the trees! ;)
America's Snowiest Places
#5: Lead, S.D.
Average yearly snow: 201.4"
Population (2000 census): 3,124
Snowiest month: March (35")
Snowiest day: 52" (3/14/1973)
Record depth: 73" (3/1/1998)
Quick question: Name a region with a reputation for heavy snow? Did you answer the Rockies? New England? The Great Lakes snowbelts? Cascades or Sierra? Alaska? I'll bet the Black Hills of South Dakota wasn't one of your answers. But it should be.
Lead (pronounced LEED), and its sister city, Deadwood, are in the northern Black Hills. North winds circulating around powerful Plains storm systems are lifted by the hills, wringing out prolific snow totals well over 10" three to four days a year, on average.
An incredible 5-day snowstorm once dumped over 112" in Lead in late February/early March 1998. That's over 9 feet or more than double the average annual snowfall in Denver... in one snowstorm!
What other location in the U.S. averages over 20" of snow... in six different months (November through April)? Two spring months, March (35") and April (34"), are Lead's snowiest months!
How many places average almost 1" of snow... wait for it... in June? There was once 10" of snow on the ground on June 2!
Don't just contact TT to confirm. READ your contract. My wife and I got into Thousand Trails as a part of some membership she was sure she wanted. We never used it, so after 3-4 years I told them I wanted to drop it. I got the same answer as you -- you can't.
I read my contract and it stated that I could drop it anytime I wanted to. They insisted it wasn't so. I copied the contract and emailed it to them with parts of it highlighted. After a few days they said they'd spoken with their legal team and I was right.
Just check it out before you take their word for it. If you don't have your copy, ask them to send you a copy of theirs, the one with your signature on it.
The story I got was that they'd changed their contracts shortly after we signed up. Who knows?
Are you pulling that 32QB with the Ram 1500? If so, I might suggest the most moderate mountain driving to get to Fishing Bridge. If that's the case, you might want to avoid the Big Horns. I think I'd still go through Cody, but maybe by way of Billings. You'll still have a bit of mountain driving after entering YS, but there won't be any steep descents to speak of.
If I'm underestimating the braking abilities of the truck, or if you're using a bigger truck or smaller camper, U.S. 16 exits I-90 at Buffalo and is a fairly easy, scenic trip over the Big Horns -- wide, few steep stretches up or down, mostly gentle curves. It's the route I'd normally recommend, but it might be a bit much for a flatlander, a big trailer and a small truck. :)
...flip flops to boots.
I like that.:B But snow in mid-May would be quite unusual. I've lived just west of the Black Hills for 40+ years and can't remember a mid-May snowstorm east of the Bighorns. Chilly, wet, windy, yes, but can't recall any snow to speak of. You'll find most commercial tourist attractions closed until Memorial Day, but the caves and other gov't attractions will all be open.
Hwy 85 is fine all the way, as is Hwy 59. 387 is getting a little rough in spots, otherwise a good road. I usually turn off of 387 onto Hwy 50 and take that into Gillette. The road isn't better, but there's less traffic and it's a little shorter. It leads directly to Gillette's west interchange with I-90.
When will you be starting your trip in the U.S.? March is pretty early for any camping in the Rockies. We don't de-winterize our camper until May 1. I've seen it -20F in March in Wyoming and the Black Hills, and April is often our snowiest month -- when we get the gigantic blizzards, right up to the the end of the month. While it is the tail end of winter and April has some nice days, it's also the least predictable month weather-wise with lots of nasty, windy, cold and wet days. Two years ago we couldn't get into any NFS campgrounds in the Big Horn Mountains until late June!