RV.Net Open Roads Forum: Hill City SD to Yellowstone NP June 2010 (UPDATED PG2)

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 > Hill City SD to Yellowstone NP June 2010 (UPDATED PG2)

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GreenSalsa

Fort Bragg, NC

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Posted: 01/18/10 12:38pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Quick question for the board...

Using my signature rig (F350 PSD, dually) and rig (40 ft, 5er, 19K lbs) what route would you recommend to travel from Hill City South Dakota to Yellowstone NP?

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* This post was edited 05/14/10 09:28am by GreenSalsa *


GreenSalsa lives in North Carolina, but dreams of life on the road...


DesertHawk

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Posted: 01/18/10 01:22pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

If you are wanting to keep from pulling steep passes, the first route would be the one. We used about the some route last year going to Yellowstone, but was coming from North Dakota and T. Roosevelt Nat'l Park. Very easy.

We almost did your 2nd route years ago, but got brave and used the US 14-A on down to Lovell and Powell. Not an easy drive, scary in fact. We did the downward drive on US 14A after the split off of US 14 from Ranchchester, WY heading down hill to Lovell, pulling a 1983 20' Komfort Lite Travel Trailer with a '83 Ford F250 4 speed manuel with granny gear. I had to hold granny in gear and ask my wife to manually apply the trailer brakes now and then. They had a sign warning of the steep down grade, I should have taken the fork to Shell/Greybull. Most of the route was neat, all very pretty execpt for the 14 miles with 10% grade and sharp curves which I am sure was also pretty but I was to occupied to really notice the scenery. US 14A

Never gone from Buffalo, but I believe it is not too stressful. Not for sure, however. We did go to Cody from Yellowstone last year but turned down to Thermopolis and on to Casper. All good roads which we used.

Perhaps, a short recap of our trip will be of help to you in making plans.

On a Monday, we drove to the north entrance to Yellowstone near Gardner, Montana. We got there around 5 pm. All campgrounds were full. A nice lady gave us a paper where one could find a place to camp outside of the park. We looked around, stopped at one commercial campground, full. But the man was friendly and gave some advice. I mentioned boon docking in leaving. He called to me & told me the town would not say anything if we just boon docked along the main road to the park. We did, but the small parking lot to the Forest Ranger Station was just there. We did an over night in it. A little traffic nose, but not too bad.

We got up at 6 am Tuesday, dressed & headed to Mammoth Campground. We got there by 6:30. We were the first in line. Linda cooked breakfast & made coffee. We took the man’s advice on a nice sit. It was very nice, at the end of the campground, two nice trees. Very quite. After setting up & showering, we went on a drive to see the sights. We decided to drive the upper loop with a side trip toward the northeast entrance.

From Mammoth Campground we drove through Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris without stopping to visit anything. At Norris junction we turned toward Canyon Village area. We saw one lone bull Bison beside the road. He was in poor shape. We started visiting the over looks and did some hiking to see the Canyon & Falls. Then we did a U turn & went north toward Tower-Roosevelt Area. At Tower we hiked to see the falls there. Then we went into the large store & got ice cream, yum. It was good. It also rained very hard while we were there & was raining as we left. At Roosevelt we made a hard right turn to do the road out to the NE entrance. We began to see some Bison alone this route all out at a distance. Then we notice a black bear right off the road. It was raining again, the bear was wet, but he was very close. He was eating berries off bushes beside the road. It was a neat drive. After getting to a sign warning of road construction coming up, we turned around. At Roosevelt junction we turn north again, heading back to Mammoth Hot Springs. It is a very curvy road, goes up high, very pretty country. This Loop took us 7 hrs 19 min, we drove 141.5 miles, 4 hrs 48 min moving, 2 hrs 31 min stopped. 20.8 mpg on the trucks computer. Top speed in the park is 45 mph, some 35 mph and some 25 mph or slower.

After a good night sleeping, we did the lower loop on Wednesday. From Mammoth we drove to Norris stopping at a few attractions after getting past Norris, mainly geysers as we worked our way to the Old Faithful area. We lucked out, after a long search for a parking spot, as we walked up to the Old Faithful viewing area, it was going. After walking just a little we left. All the geysers & things just did not seem as active as we remember them from years ago. From there, we headed to West Thumb area, stopping to see some of the attractions. West Thumb is on Yellowstone Lake. Very pretty area. From there we headed north again toward the Canyon area. Very neat along the lake, then the road follows the Yellowstone River & through the Hayden Valley to the Canyon area & the Falls. There were a few Bison in the Hayden Valley, not as many as we remember from the other times we have been there. Five Bison along the road created a 5 miles traffic jam for the cars heading down, but not for us. At the Canyon area we turned west to Norris. We stopped at some of the attractions, mainly geysers around Norris, took a side tour to see a falls. At Norris, we turned north to Mammoth, taking a tour by the Upper Terraces. We also spotted a bear along the way, across a valley. A very large grizzly. This Loop took us 9 hrs 5 min, we drove 153.7 miles, 5 hrs 7 min moving, 3 hrs 58 stopped.

The next day, Thursday, we drove from Mammoth, to Norris to Canon to Fishing Bridge and on out of the park to Cody, WY. We had entered from there the last time, but I did not remember how steep and high one goes to do so. In Cody we stopped at a visitor center to get a WY map then after eating a late lunch we went to the Buffalo Bill Museums. There are five different one there. We did 3 of them before it closed. We spent the night in a very nice Wal-Mart parking lot with a great view of the mountains.

Friday, we finished the other 2 Museums. Then drove to Thermopolis, plus a few miles to the first campground along the Wind River, after setting up the camper, we went for a soak in the free hot spring pool at Thermopolis Hot Springs State Park. We found out why the river is called the Wind. We had a good blow from a small thunderstorm during the night. Very nice night over all.

From Cody to Fishing Bridge Area of Yellowstone, you will be doing some steep grades with some curves, but the road was good and pretty wide, nothing toooo scary, but one must use some caution, don't over heat the breaks, use lower gears, watch speed, etc. We came out that way and have gone in that way years ago, same time as when we used US 14A. It was so hard, this other route did not stick into my memory.

Cody and the Buffalo Bill Museums are worth a see for sure.

I would suggest detouring a little to see Devil's Tower if you have not seen it before. A neat place. Devil's Tower Nat'l Monument use exit 185 I-90 by Sundance, WY and then return to I-90 by Moorecroft. By taking this detour to Devil's Tower off I-90 at Sundance & taking US14 to Route 24 to the Park, then return to US14 but go toward Moorcroft & I-90 about a 24 mile detour.

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Leaving Campground Devil's Tower

The Tetons are really a must see as well. Colter Bay Visitor Center & Indian Arts Museum is a must see there. Tetons
Special Programs
From June through September craft demonstrations and museum tours are offered, as well as other interpretive programs.
Exhibits
The Indian Arts Museum displays some of the David T. Vernon Collection, an impressive variety of American Indian artifacts donated by the Rockefeller family.

We did not go there last year, but hope to go back up there in June this year and enter via the Tetons. We made our 3rd trip this summer, first one in 1986 and the second one was a year or two after the bad fire in early '90s maybe. So no experts here at all. My back was hurting, therefore we did not do a lot of walking, nor did we stay very long. We were planning to go back next year anyway.

We did not visit alot of the things along the route between West Thumb & Canyon and did not go down south of West Thumb. It is a big place, lots to see. Too bad they had a fire again this fall. But it will recover.

Hope some of this will be of help.

Wyoming State Parks with Lakes

Glendo State Park is located off Interstate 25, Exit 111. We have driven by this one many times, my son stayed at it a year or so ago. Very nice campgound he said.

Buffalo Bill State Park Headquarters, nine miles west of Cody on US Highway 14-16-20. The majestic peaks of the Absaroka Mountains dominate the scenery. We drove by this lake & campgrounds this Aug.

Boysen State Park is one of the larger parks in the State Park System. It is a lake-orientated park at the south end of the Owl Creek Mountains at the mouth of Wind River Canyon now part of the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway. And offers 3 entrances: U.S. Highway 20 (east side), U.S. Highway 26 (south side) and Bass Lake Road (west side). It was very near Hot Springs State Park in the town of Thermopolis. There is no fee for using the State Bath House. Very neat. We over nighted in the Wind River Canyon in Aug. & at one of the campgrounds by the lake some years ago.

Key Hole State Park is located on the western edge of the famed Black Hills, between Sundance and Moorcroft, and is easily accessed off Interstate 90, Exit 165, or take Exit 153 or 154 in Moorcroft, then U.S. Highway 14 north 6 miles, then take State Route 113. We used it years ago to over-night & base to go see Devil's Tower on our way to Yellowstone.

A smaller lake, but very neat one: Guernsey State Park provides seven campgrounds. Five are around the lake; located off Interstate 25, Exit 92 to U.S. Highway 26 and then State Route 270. We stayed at this one years ago near the canyon area of the lake. Close to Ft. Laramie and Oregon Trail sites.

An even smaller lake, but in a neat setting: Curt Gowdy State Park located just 24 miles west of Cheyenne and 24 miles east of Laramie; seven sections of richly varied landscape, flora and fauna decorate the foothills of the Laramie Mountains. The beautiful attractions within Curt Gowdy State Park are near the crossroads of two major interstates, I-80 and I-25. There are three reservoirs, Granite, Crystal and North Crow. Granite offers excellent rainbow trout and kokanee salmon fishing as well as space for water sports. Crystal, the smallest of the reservoirs, has shoreline fishing for brown trout, rainbow trout and kokanee salmon. Also, enjoy boating while at Crystal (15 horsepower limit). North Crow Reservoir is located 5 miles west of the Headquarter's Building. This is an unimproved fishing area. There are no picnic tables, water supply, comfort stations, and is day-use only—very natural. We stayed near the small lake years ago, the park was fairly new at the time.

* This post was last edited 01/18/10 02:20pm by DesertHawk *   View edit history


">DesertHawk- Las Cruces, NM USA
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kknowlton

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Posted: 01/18/10 01:51pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

If you don't mind mountains, the 3rd route you post will be scenic and easier than the middle one (which I'd avoid - did it once, don't want to do it again.) 14 is doable but the toughest of the 3 routes. 14A is not recommended for most RVers, especially those not from mountain country! Some 10% grades, lots of switchbacks, etc.

Dick_B

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Posted: 01/18/10 02:52pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

You might want to buy Mountain Directory West for a heads up on the steep roads in eleven western states.


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Alspa

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Posted: 01/18/10 03:05pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We like quiet spacious campsites for our dog with room to run and campfires when permitted. However, we do have a generator, and do not need to dump daily, but within 3 days, and a dumpstation on the way out of camp and fresh water to fill tanks is appreciated. For these reasons, Buffalo Bill Reservoir has two nice campsites, North Shore Bay and North Fork are neat sites. On routes US 14,16,20 at 6 miles West of Cody and 37 Miles East of Yellowstone's east Gate you have real camping near the water well kept. You can get a Buffalo Bill State Park Map as you head West before the campgrounds at The Dam Visitor Center. I am new on computers, but the Maps by our SF friend of Iron Mike are great and any thing he says is solid Gold from a trooper.

GreenSalsa

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Posted: 01/18/10 03:28pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

DesertHawk, kknowlton, and Dick_B,

Thanks for the advice. I knew one of the routes was supposed to be VERY difficult for larger / heavier RVs and another MUCH easier. I believe we took the "Southern Route" three years ago and had no problems with my truck / rig combination.

I will keep my eyes open for a "Mountain Directory West" but honestly I appreciate the feedback here--usually it is SPOT on and updated with road closures, construction, or other delays that printed materials are incapable of predicting / forecasting.

DesertHawk thanks for the suggestions, but we are pretty sure of what we intend to see. We have a separate thread detailing what and when intend to do while on our trip and some of the things you identified are identical to what we want to do.

UPDATE...I have been a member here now over 3+ years and JUST discovered the search function for posts OVER a year. I found some advice from "Jim Shoe"

"From Hill City to Cody - 16 out of Buffalo is the easiest, 14 out of Ranchester to Greybull is "exciting", 14a is scary and no place for your rig."

* This post was edited 01/18/10 03:52pm by GreenSalsa *

Vakeel

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Posted: 01/18/10 08:57pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Last August we went from Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone to Devils Tower and Mount Rushmore out the east entrance of the park and then through Cody. We drove the 14/16 thru Emblem, Greybull, Shell, Burgess Junction and got on 90 at Ranchester. They say 14/16 is easier than 14A, and I am sure it is, but I would not recommend this one either in anything but just a regular car. With all the construction that was going on back then, it literally felt we were going up one side of the mountain - not on paved road but on packed dirt and mud - and coming down the other. Even if all the construction is done, which I doubt, I still would avoid it. On the way back we took 90 all the way to Livingston, Montana and then 89 South to Yellowstone. Even though mileage wise it was longer you can go a lot faster so it was not that much different time wise. And, it was a lot less stressfull. So on the three routes that you have mapped, I say go the first/top route. Have a safe trip.





rayhough

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Posted: 01/19/10 11:31am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

#3 the southern route. we did that early June last year. We've heard it is very scenic but I couldn't tell you that as it was cloudy and snowy when we went through the Big Horns. The grades were not that bad. We stayed a night in Ten Sleep then a few days in Cody before going into Yellowstone in another snow storm. Great trip though.


Life is like a roll of toilet paper
the closer you get to the end the faster it goes.
Enjoy it what's left.
Happy traveling, Ray ">

newk

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Posted: 01/19/10 10:20pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I agree on the (#3) southern route with a couple exceptions. I don't know about that stretch of road from Ten Sleep to Basin and Basin to west of Greybull. I always just go to from Buffalo to Worland if I'm going that way, and from Worland to Greybull before heading west towards Cody. It might be an alright stretch of road, but I couldn't say for sure. It's been 35 years since I travelled that particular road.

While I don't think the (#2) middle route (Hwy 14) would be too hard, it is a little steeper going up and down both sides of the mountain. We've been over that route many times in a 30-foot 5er without any problems, but yours would be considerably heavier and longer, and you're probably not as comfortable as I am with mountain driving. (Do NOT take 14A!)

And the long route? Wow, that's a lot of extra miles across some pretty boring countryside. If you want to eliminate some curvy roads, go from Hill City to Rapid City and get on I-90 there. That'll save you some time and tension.

bsinmich

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Posted: 01/20/10 06:54pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I have taken all 3 of the choices. # 1&3 are the best for towing. Going to Gardiner down that highway I don't think I even shifted out of OD. The Southern route has some great scenery also. You get to go through the Tetons that way. You don't have to go the same way in both directions.


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