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How realistic?30 days:SLC-YNP-SouthDakota-MesaVerde-SantaFe

Switzerland
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How realistic?30 days:SLC-YNP-SouthDakota-MesaVerde-SantaFe
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Dear all,

I would appreciate your comments about a 30 days road trip from Salt Lake City to Albuquerque, via Yellowstone, South Dakota, Mesa Verde. I am stuck with the planning and would appreciate your help and comments. Maybe I need to leave something out... Please tell me how realistic this trip is.

Here is a bit of background information. I am travelling with my son (21) in a simple van and I will be the main driver. I prefer to drive max. 200 miles per day (3-4 hours) or alternate large driving days and therefor be able to spend a full day (2 night) somewhere. I prefer to camp in National Parks or in the Nature between cities. Ideas as to where I should stop overnight are most welcome! Especially as I need to make reservations (Yellowstone is already booked, I took the first available dates in August, cannot change this easily).

Thanks for proof reading the detailed plan below.

Also I would like to plan one "buffer" day per region for contingency.

Many thanks for your valuable feedback!

PART I YELLOWSTONE

PART II SOUTH DAKOTA

PART III COLORADO>NM

PART I YELLOWSTONE (11 days. Date 14.08 means 14th of August 2022)

Day 1 Sun 14.08 Drive from Salt Lake to Dinosaur. (camping Dinosaur)

Day 2 Mon 15.08 Full Day in Dinosaur (camping Dinosaur)

Day 3 Tue 16.08 Drive Flaming Gorge, GreenRiver/Rocksprings (sleep where?)

Day 4 Wed 17.08 Drive towards YNP (via Dubois/BrooksLake? or Pinedale?) (sleep where?)

Day 5 Thu 18.08 Drive to YNP (camping GV 1 night, Canyon 2x, IndianCreek 2x). Four fulls days (Day 6,7,8,9) to visit.

Day 10 Tue 23.08 Drive to Cody (via Bearthtooth). Rodeo. (KOA Campground tbc ???)

Day 11 Wed 24.08 Full day in Cody, easy evening (hotel booked)

Part II SOUTH DAKOTA (incl. drive to and away. 8 days. No reservations made yet)

Day 12 Thu 25.08 Drive to RedGulch and Big Horn (camping in Big Horn?)

Day 13 Fri 26.08. Long Drive towards Devils Towers (where to stop overnight?)

SD Day 14 Sat 27.08 Devils Tower, Deadwood (sleep where?)

SD Day 15 Sun 28.08 Mt-Rushmore (on Sunday???) and then Badlands (sleep Badlands tbc)

SD Day 16 Mon 29.08 Full Day in Badlands (camping Badlands tbc)

SD Day 17 Tue 20.08 Custer - Mt-Rushmore?-Wind Cave? (camping where?)

SD Day 18 Wed 21.08 Custer - Wind Cave? (camping where?)

Day 19 Thu 22.08. Drive to Fort Laramie, Cheyenne. Sleep somewhere BEFORE Denver where? (I do not want to drive into a city early evening after a long drive)

Part III - COLORADO > Santa Fe (10 days. No reservations made yet.)

Day 20 Fri 23.08 Drive to Denver, visit. Drive from Denver Salida (where to sleep? is it cold?)

CO Day 21 Sat 24.08 Drive from Salida to Black Canyon of the Gunisson (camp there)

CO Day 22 Sun 25.08 Black Canyon, Monrose. Drive towards Silverton - sleep where?

CO Day 23 Mon 26.08 (Labor Day). Drive towards Durango/Cortez- sleep where Mesa?

CO Day 24 Mesa Verde NP (sleep in Mesa Verde if possible. No advance reservations possible??)

CO Day 25 Morning in Mesa Verde NP and drive off (a bit of desert, Navajo Nation?)

Day 26 no idea (somewhere where there is a bit of desert, Navajo Nation (camp where?)

Day 27 no idea (somewhere closer to Santa Fe)

Day 28 Sat 10/09 Santa Fe Area and sleep in Santa Fe (maybe hotel)

Day 28 Drive to Albuquerque (hotel next to airport)

IS IT REALISTIC? WHERE TO CAMP? TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK. THANK YOU!

Marie

11 replies to this topic
Atlanta, Georgia
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1. Re: How realistic?30 days:SLC-YNP-SouthDakota-MesaVerde-SantaFe
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Just a quick look now! Don't see Grand Tetons NP which is adjacent to Yellowstone. It alone is majestic and deserves at least a day or two.

Peachtree City...
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2. Re: How realistic?30 days:SLC-YNP-SouthDakota-MesaVerde-SantaFe
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I don’t have time at the moment to really dwell on this itinerary, and I can’t comment on the Yellowstone portion, but Parts 2 and 3 are feasible and you can probably trim things up a bit - I don’t see the need to spend an evening and the following full day in Badlands NP, and I’m a Badlands fan. But I’m mainly writing at the moment to let you know your Labor Day estimation is off - it’s the first Monday in September, so you’ll be leaving in advance of the holiday weekend.

Munich, Germany
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3. Re: How realistic?30 days:SLC-YNP-SouthDakota-MesaVerde-SantaFe
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Did you rent an RV or will you do tent-camping?

Vestal, New York
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4. Re: How realistic?30 days:SLC-YNP-SouthDakota-MesaVerde-SantaFe
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I think your Devils Tower/Deadwood day is light - both of these only require a couple of hours each. I recommend skipping Deadwood altogether and adding Spearfish Canyon. Sleep there.

For your Custer days, just camp in Custer State Park. Did you mean Jewel Cave on Day 18?

Is there are reason you are stopping in Cheyenne? I would just continue on the Fort Collins and sleep there.

I would spend night 23 in Durango and not stay in Cortez.

Tacoma, Washington
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5. Re: How realistic?30 days:SLC-YNP-SouthDakota-MesaVerde-SantaFe
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You are ignoring grand Teton national park. You will need to alter your plan.

Day 1 to vernal

Day 2 to jackson/ grand Teton

Day 3-4 grand Teton

Day 5 to Yellowstone.

Keystone is the area to stay for Custer/ windcave

Mesa verde has a campground. You can find places in cortexes or Durango.

Look at camping in monument valley at gouldings after Mesa verde.

Tacoma, Washington
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6. Re: How realistic?30 days:SLC-YNP-SouthDakota-MesaVerde-SantaFe
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Something you need to pay attention to is wildfires. It’s peak season in august so your routes might need to be altered.

Have you looked into camping in Rocky Mountain national park? Maroon Bells area?

Why one way and not a loop to Salt Lake City? You can easily do dinosaur after Colorado on the way back instead of Albuquerque.

Peachtree City...
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7. Re: How realistic?30 days:SLC-YNP-SouthDakota-MesaVerde-SantaFe
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Ok, looked closer at your post and have to correct myself, or rather both of us - I see you actually had the correct day for when Labor Day hits, it’s just that your calendar days got wonky as you went on. Anyway.

I agree with RJR about the Devils Tower/Deadwood day. If you’re coming from about 3 hours away to Devils Tower on the 26th, I see no reason why you can’t accomplish your Devils Tower sightseeing that day - most visitors are there for 2-3 hours at most. There’s a KOA outside there too.

Importantly, I’d spend that 27th starting from there perhaps (or Spearfish as mentioned earlier), see Deadwood if you must, and momentarily bypass the Black Hills and head straight to Badlands. Reason being the 27th is the New Moon, and you can take full advantage of being under their wide-open skies - I’d bet they will have their night program going on as well. With clear skies you’re in a great spot to see the Milky Way a bit later into the evening. As for the rest of the time at Badlands, the main things to do are drive the loop road and do a couple of trails, and the morning is great for both of those activities, before it gets too hot and before the sun’s positioning dulls some of the effects of the landscape.

When heading back to the Black Hills I’d prefer camping at Custer State Park, which has everything great about the Black Hills within reach (except Rushmore, I guess, but then Iron Mountain Road starts essentially at CSP).

You were questioning visiting Rushmore on a Sunday - I don’t think it matters when you go there. It’s popular but it doesn’t feel crowded.

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8. Re: How realistic?30 days:SLC-YNP-SouthDakota-MesaVerde-SantaFe
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Regarding the Yellowstone portion on this trip, definitely don't skip Grand Teton NP.

Day 1 - drive to Dinosaur NM, evening exploring the Monument, walk the Desert Vouces trail and visit the Quarry Building. Camp ar Green River Campground. Unless you're going to do the long drives to the other units of Dinosaur NM, then half a day is plenty of time to see the Split Mountain area and the Quarry Hall.

Day 2 - drive Flaming Gorge starting on highway 191, then 44 to 530 to I-80 back to 191. This route is more scenic in my opinion and takes you on the Scenic Byway:

https://www.flaminggorgecountry.com/Flaming-Gorge-Uintas-National-Scenic-Byway

Then stay on 191 towards Grand Teton National Park. Go past Pinedale and do dispersed camping at Granite Creek, go all the way to the hot springs if you like a good soak. Personally, I wouldn't stay the night at Green River or Rock Springs, I would make the longer drive all at once to buy some time in Grand Tetons. But if you prefer to break up the drive, then camp at Swaseys Beach campground just north of Green River.

Day 3 - Drive to Grand Tetons, stop for lunch in Jackson, camp in the park if possible. If nothing is available in the park, ask rangers for suggestions on nearby National Forest campgrounds or dispersed camping options.

Day 4 - Grand Tetons, same campsite as night before.

Day 5 - Head to Yellowstone campsite, explore along the way.

You might consider making a post in the Yellowstone National Park forum in Wyoming for more suggestions on both Yellowstone and South Dakota, the experts there are knowledgeable about both areas as they are often combined. Another post in the Colorado forum will get you more input on that portion of your trip.

Switzerland
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9. Re: How realistic?30 days:SLC-YNP-SouthDakota-MesaVerde-SantaFe
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Dear Charlottem,

I have updated the plan for the part from Dinosaur to Yellowstone:

Day 1 - drive to Dinosaur NM. We wont be leaving Salt Lake before mid day. Depending on the when we arrive, we might be able to spend the evening exploring the Monument, walk the Desert Vouces trail and visit the Quarry Building. Camp at Green River Campground.

Day 2 - Explore the Monument at Dinosaur (half day max) and drive Flaming Gorge starting on highway 191, then 44 to 530 to I-80 back to 191. Unclear yet where we will sleep (Flaming Gorge, Green River or further North). I would like to see Pilot Butte on Day 2 or Day 3.

Day 3 - On the road to Teton. Maybe sleep near Pinedale (lots of good inputs from tripadvisor community members). I will keep in mind your input: Go past Pinedale and do dispersed camping at Granite Creek, go all the way to the hot springs if you like a good soak.

Day 4- Drive to Jackson. We found a campground in Teton NP (Gros Ventre) near Jackson. Jenny's Lake was fully booked (of course). But we can sleep at Gros Ventre and spend a full day in Teton on the way to Yellowstone.

Best

Marie

Switzerland
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10. Re: How realistic?30 days:SLC-YNP-SouthDakota-MesaVerde-SantaFe
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Reply to your question: Why not a loop from Salt Lake to Salt Lake? Well... I am disorganised.

Plus finding a van rental wasn't easy. And my son joins for a part of the journey, so I also needed to factor this into account. I fly to SF and pick up the van. A week later, my son joins in Salt Lake. We have Yellowstone, Badlands, Mesa Verde on our bucket list and the earliest where I could find campground in Yellowstone was around the 19th of August, this is why I put Dinosaur beforehand. We looked at where could we possibly be around mid September and figured out Albuquerque has a large airport for him to fly back to Europe. After Albuquerque I still have two weeks to relax and drive to Phoenix.

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