I've camped at Falls Campground, 25 miles west of Dubois, a couple times. It's nothing too special but I've enjoyed it. I do remember once that it was infested with a hatch of some kind of flying insect, but I imagine that's a rare occurrence.
I've never camped there, but I've been to Sinks Canyon State Park just outside of Lander. It's kind of a neat area, and I've heard good things about the camping. It would be a little closer to the halfway mark and wouldn't be out of your way much.
Sorry, I probably shouldn't have mentioned my distaste for ATVs. I'm sure they're fun, and they don't usually bother me. I was on a deserted logging road last year taking a picture of a moose. All of a sudden a pack of ATVs came roaring down the road at about 50 mph. Needless to say, that moose high-tailed it back into the cover of the forest. I just wish they'd make them quieter; then I wouldn't mind them at all.
Shortly after my wife moved in with me, she'd fallen asleep and I was watching TV from the bed. All of a sudden my vision is filled with my Yorkie summersaulting through the air, off the foot of my new partner onto the floor. I yelled, "You just kicked my dog!" LOL
She still claims she was dreaming about some big bug crawling on her leg. And I still don't believe her.
The dog was pretty careful about choosing its route across the bottom of the bed after that.
RLGetman: To avoid any steep grades, yes. Just head north for I-90 and follow it to Gillette. I've not hauled a big rig, as the biggest 5er we've had is a 30-footer. With it, and all others we've had, we've just pulled it through Yellowstone and exited the East gate. It's a beautiful drive, and it's done by hundreds of RVers daily. You'd get to experience Cody that way, and maybe enjoy the Buffalo Bill Museum, etc., then take a nice easy mountain drive over the Bighorns on Hwy 16 (Worland to Buffalo). But if you prefer flatlands and interstates, it probably won't take much longer to just go north and grab I-90 eastbound.
AuntE: We dry camp at least 95% if the time and don't have a generator. You won't need A.C. in the mountains, so if you can do without a microwave, hair dryer and electric coffee pot, you can make it on batteries. If you only have one in your RV, this might be a good time to add one. We can get by about 4 days with our two batteries, and much of that use is to run the furnace at night. In the old days, when our small RVs didn't use furnace blowers, one battery could last that long with ease.
kfp673: I'm thinking probably not. Colter Bay is, if I'm not mistaken, inside Grand Teton NP, and I'm pretty sure ATVs are not allowed on any of the trails. If you want to ride them, plan on camping in NFS campgrounds instead. Most have access to ATV trails, logging trails, etc. I'd make sure of access to ATV trails before making reservations, however. I don't ride those noisy things! (Don't like 'em either, to be perfectly honest.)
Maybe the NPS should turn over more of its campgrounds to private enterprise to run. There's no valid reason that a campground, on free land, in an area frequented by RVers, shouldn't easily be able to break even. If the government can't figure out how to do it, I'd bet my last cent that private enterprise can, even though they have more obstacles than if the gov. was running it.
I ran some numbers recently when Yellowstone announced it was going to open two weeks late to allow snows to melt from the roads rather than spend the money to plow them. I don't recall those exact figures now, but I took the number of visitors to the park the first two weeks of May last year and compared the cost of opening the roads against the gate fees. Again, I don't recall the exact figures, but there was no way it made sense to postpone opening the park. No way to a business owner. To the government, I'm sure it made perfect sense.:h
Luckily for those who wanted to visit the Park in May, the Chambers of Commerce in Cody and Jackson are run by business people, not government workers. Though the cost wasn't cheap (thinking $200K for Cody and $80K for Jackson), they knew they needed tourist traffic for income. Yellowstone management apparently doesn't have any incentive to keep tourists coming in the gates, as they get paid the same with or without visitors.
I'd recommend a combination of the two above posts. Colter Bay for a few days and West Yellowstone for a few days. Even in light traffic, it's a long, long drive from Colter Bay to the north end of the Park (Mammoth). But if you don't want to move to another campground, commuting from Colter Bay is certainly doable. As Jalichty suggested, leave early and avoid the heavy traffic. I always recommend early sight-seeing. As a bonus, it's prettier just after dawn and just before sunset too.
Yellowstone planned to open late, due to snow pack and the "reduction" in funding, but the Chambers of Commerce in Cody and Jackson raised enough money to pay the costs for WYDot to plow the snow off the roads. The road from Cody opened last week, and I believe the road is now opened from Jackson. Only the Beartooth Pass route isn't open, and it normally doesn't open until after Memorial Day.
I think the Park is curtailing a few things but nothing that most visitors would notice.
I'd take the quickest route from Custer to Dubois, which would be
Hwy 16 through Newcastle to Hwy 450, then
Hwy 450 to Hwy 59, then
Hwy 59 to Wright/Hwy 387, then
Hwy 387 through Midwest to I25, then
I25 to Hwy 26/Casper, then
Hwy 26 through Riverton to Dubois.
It'll be a full day's drive. Not sure of mileage, but Custer to Dubois I'd guess 400-450 miles. Without stops you'd be doing well to average 60 mph.
At least I think that would be the shortest/quickest. All those roads (except I-25) are fairly good 2-lane highways -- no mountain driving but a few curves and hills as found on most rural highways.
If you need to get to Worland/Thermopolis, you could cut a day from the Black Hills and either cut off from Hwy 20/26 and take Hwy 20 north through the canyon to Thermopolis and Worland...
or change the route completely by taking I-90 west to Buffalo, then Hwy 16 over the Big Horns and maybe camping in them, then proceeding to Worland, Thermopolis and on to Riverton and Dubois. If you want to take the two days to Dubois, I'd choose the second route -- and spend a night at a Forest Service campground in the Big Horns. That's just me.
One more opinion like the others. You've got way too much planned. The Black Hills, Yellowstone and the Tetons are too much but doable (barely). Try any more than that and I KNOW you'll be kicking yourself.
Northeast Iowa is really nice, Decorah, Waukon, Prairie du Chien (WI), down to Dubuque. It's the prettiest part of Iowa I've seen. I grew up in west central Iowa.
I think you have a great idea, photographing all the court houses. Iowa has some nice old ones, many with a "square" of businesses around them.
We need to talk. ;)
You must have a particular reason for going to Worland. Yes? It's one long drive from Jackson.
I'm really confused with your routing. I understand your wife is flying into Riverton. Is she flying home too, or riding with you home?
I'll try to get back on here to offer some routes and ideas later.
For now, the advice that the highway from Rawlins to Riverton is difficult? I don't know where that came from. It's a piece of cake -- prairie driving.
And the Big Horns? Not bad at all if you take Hwy 16 from Buffalo to Worland or vice versa. You will go over Powder River Pass at something like 9600 feet, but it's a good, wide, all season road that's used by all kinds of RVs. (I would suggest that, on your way down, you pull off the highway onto one of the many pull-outs to check your brakes for heat build-up. If they're hot, take an hour to have a picnic.) All but two curves (on the west slope) are fairly gentle, 30-35 mph at the least. Those two are 20 or 25 mph hairpin curves as you enter/exit Ten Sleep Canyon. Honestly, if you and your rig can't handle Hwy 16 over the Big Horns, you shouldn't be going to Yellowstone with it.
Don't think of Mt. Rushmore as just Mt. Rushmore. Think of it as a small part of the Black Hills. The Black Hills have lots to offer. I'd highly recommend Custer State Park, both as a sight-seeing trip (Wild Life Loop) and as a camping spot. You could easily be entertained in the Black Hills for a few days.
I'd also include Devils Tower in your visit to the Hills. It's unique and not far off the main road. Plan to take an hour-long hike around the base. There are a couple nice campgrounds there -- a KOA just outside the gate and a nice sans-hookups campground about a mile inside the gate.
:S Just went back and did some more reading of your posts. So you're planning on 4 days in Dubois, right?
Whew. Jackson and Worland are both long drives from there, especially since you'll be going that way later. :h
While in the Dubois area the mountains just west of there are nice. The Lander area is nice. There are some interesting old ghost towns not far from Lander and there's Sinks Canyon -- where the river disappears underground for a mile or so.
It is a beautiful drive, but in an RV don't count on making good time. The curves are one right after the other, 30-35 mph in most cases.
One important word of caution: Look out for bicyclists. That road attracts lots of them, and the road's shoulders are narrow to non-existent. We were going around one curve last summer, up a slight hill, and suddenly we were greeted with a pair of cyclists dead ahead and an oncoming RV on our left. The railing on the right was pretty tight against the highway so there was little room for the bikes. I had to get on the brakes pretty hard to avoid a very serious accident. Pucker time!
If you're sure you want an HD truck, Tetons are about the best there is. Or was. They closed up shop sometime around 2008 or 2009. $40 still won't touch many of them, but it might find a smaller 2005-2007 or so.
I can't recall the exact cost, but I believe for Cody it was in the neighborhood of $275,000 -- not a small sum for businesses in a town that size. Jackson didn't have to raise as much -- less road to clear.
Funny, I'll bet the businesses in Washington, DC never considered raising money so tours of the White House could continue. (Stopping there before I get political.) ;)
The only thing that is really bad would be if you cross the Bighorns....
Have you guys who've said this ever been across the Bighorns? Most of the roads across them are quite good, certainly not narrow and not too winding.
I usually suggest Hwy 16 across them, exiting I90 at Buffalo, WY and going across to Ten Sleep/Worland. Yes, they're good-sized mountains and have some grades and some curves, but the grades are generally not steep and there are only a couple curves where recommended speed is under 30 or 35. (Those are two hairpin curves on the west side, just as you enter Ten Sleep Canyon -- after crossing Ten Sleep Creek. I think they're now 20 mph curves, one right after the other.) This is a major highway used by hundreds if not thousands of cars, trucks and campers daily, year around.
If you use some common sense (and lower gears heading down either side) you should have no problems. I do suggest, if you've been using your brakes much, to pull over on one of the many pullouts to check your brakes for heat buildup.
If you can't handle Hwy 16, you shouldn't be going to Yellowstone. It DOES have some narrow and curvy roads and a lot more traffic.
Hwy 14, between Greybull and Dayton/Ranchester, is also a good road but does climb and descend rather quickly on each side and has more and sharper curves. Even then, it's a good highway and is used year around by all manner of vehicles.
Hwy 14 A (alternate) branches off from Hwy 14 at Burgess Junction on the top and goes to Lovell. This is a steep and winding highway, open in summer months only, and I DO NOT recommend it for RVs.
Hwy 16 is a pleasant drive -- no sweat, just pretty.
The last time we did Hwy 16 from Buffalo to Worland then north on 16/20 to Greybull and west to Cody. Also, definitely take in Grand Teton Nat'l Park after you finish Yellowstone. They are completely different in looks.
Hwy 14 from Ranchester/Dayton to Greybull is okay too (NOT 14A), but Hwy 16 west from Buffalo is more gentle in both grade and curves. It's an easy route that no one should have trouble with, and it's scenic too.
Both 14 and 16 are the same distance. Hwy 16 is probably 15 minutes faster with a camper due to slowing for the climb and descent on 14. In a car it's the same.