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> The West Trip To Montana And Wyoming! Help!
A.E.Michell
post Dec 13 2009, 03:49 PM
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Hi! We like to plan ahead and have now purchased a 45 ft. motorcoach. We are planning a trip that will be 2 months long and want to include Glacier NP,Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP.This will be in Aug and Sept. so reservations will be needed I know. My dilemna is trying to decide how to plan how many days at each stop. In looking at the maps this is my plan..to Glacier, then to Teton,then West Yellowstone and to Gardiner for the eastern side of Yellowstone. Or do we need to move around this much? Can we stay at one or the other without too much driving the toad? Also how many days at each? How about a place to stay to see Grand Teton with FHU's? I find this part of planning difficult but also fun. Any help will be Greatly appreciated as we travel this beautiful country. Thanks!
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Florida Native
post Dec 13 2009, 09:14 PM
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We have camped now in 44 sates and have rarely made any advance reservation (Defined as more than 12 hours.). The exceptions are on the major holiday weekends. (Then we usually boondock.) We find that it is more fun to go where the road takes us. A ridged schedule is a bummer for us. I can't even count times we have gone somewhere and found something interesting and changed our plans. We have changed plans literally 100's of times. Somethings that we thought were going to be a lot of fun turned out to be too commercialized and no fun and other things that we had never even heard of were great. We rarely have problems finding a spot. This is unfortunately now even easier with the current state of RV’ing and the economy in general. My wife keeps her 4 books by her navigators chair and we start thinking about where we will stop about 2 PM or so. For example, we stopped in Berlin, OH recently with a slow leak on a valve stem and intended to just overnight. We stayed 7 days and had one of the best times we ever had. (Amish area). We went to Gettysburg, PA thinking we would stay a days and left after 4 hours. (They had the Damn Yankees winning everything.). I think many campers start with the rigid schedule and quickly become more adventure oriented. I think you could easily cut your scheduling back to several days in these times also. The bad part of the rigid schedule is you get stuck in places that are not that much fun and have to leave places were there is a lots more to see. Life is short, spend it well.


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Lindsay Richards
http://www.linandnancy.com
Formerly Lindsay Richards
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Jerry S
post Dec 13 2009, 10:49 PM
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A.E.,

Helpfull responses to your request for info on visiting GNP, GTNP, and YNP depend on a variety of things:

Time of year: There will be a huge difference being at these parks in August and being there in mid-to-late September. For less congestion, I would suggest September but early-to-mid September for weather related reasons. After about 9/1 most family visitors disappear. By the end of the month weather can turn nasty and facilities start closing for the season. It may be even earlier for GNP. I've been in West Yellowstone at the end of September with daytime highs of 40F and lows less than 10F plus snow. I'd check with potential RV Parks about their closing dates. Even if the RV parks stay open, bad weather can close the national parkroads ruining your visit.

Days per park: You mention a 2 month trip which would lead one to believe you can allot several weeks to see the 3 parks. The amount of time you plan to spend at each park depends on what you want to do in the parks. Are you hikers, jump out of the car and take a picture types, do you want to see everything, etc.? For example, if you just want to see the easily accessible sights of Glacier, you can cross Glacier on the Going-to-Sun Road taking 6-10 hours by car and enjoy most of the vistas at a liesurely pace. On the other hand, if you want to take a couple hikes, you will need at least 2 full days (or more if you want to do more exploring). YNP is another story. It will take 2-3 full days just to hit the highlights of the figure 8 road that covers most of the park. Finally, the Tetons require just one day to get plenty of views of these peaks. If you are interested in things like bus and/or bus tours, dinners at park lodges, hours at visitor center presentations, etc., the planned length of stay must increase. My minimum suggestions would be GNP - 3 days, YNP - 5 days, and GTNP - 2 days. Then add in 3 days of travel time between your arrival at GNP and when you leave the YNP/Teton area. That comes to about 2 weeks.

Comments in your post:

I am not sure how necessary reservations will be after 9/1. Considering your size, howver, may make reservations a good idea.

You will absolutely have to use the toad in GNP - you cannot do the entire Going-to-Sun road in your RV. Personally, I prefer parking at the east or west side entrance lot and taking the free shuttle to various points in the park. In YNP you can travel the park by RV but I would recommend staying in one of the private RV parks near one of the various entry points (West Yellowstone, Gardiner, Cody) for 2 or 3 days and tour the park by toad until you are ready to go to one of the other entry points. With a 45' RV you will be driving the toad a lot no matter where you stay. There could be many viewpoint parking areas where you won't be able to park if there are already a couple vehicle there.

By the way, Gardiner is at the north entrance, not the east. Cooke City is the northeast entry town and Cody, WY is about 30 miles east of the eastern entry.

You say you are going from GNP to GTNP to YNP. Unless you are going hundreds of miles out of your way, you have to go through or skirt YNP to get to GTNP from GNP. Going to the Tetons before YNP doesn't make sense to me unless you plan to leave the area via the east or north entrances of YNP. If so, you could stay around YNP for 2-3 days, go down to the Tetons for 2-3 days, and return to YNP for 2-3 days before leaving the area.

Others might disagree, but I don't think there is a really good park to use as a home base for both YNP and GTNP. There is one park on the JDRockafeller Pkwy between the 2 parks, but that is really a lot of driving. I haven't stayed near GTNP for years, so I don't know how many parks near there can handle a 45 footer with a toad. I know Grizzly in West Yellowstone is well reviewed by big rig owners.

Last point for now: Don't over plan/schedule and make sure you build in down time and extra days for problems (weather, closures, accidents, etc.). I've been to all three parks several times in the past 3 years. No matter how much time you spend at each, you'll want to return.
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A.E.Michell
post Dec 14 2009, 09:16 AM
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Thank you both for the replies,good food for thought as always. We are going to GNP first as I am thinking the weather could be a factor in Sept. Plan to get there mid August and stay for 4 days. Yes we are active,hike,rafting etc. but I don't want to run all day long either. Then to GTNP ,stay 4 days, then West YNP for 5 days, then Gardiner to see the sights and whatever we see. The reason for that order is we want to go to S. Dakota and see what we missed last year-Spearfish, Badlands, etc. I plan on reservations just because we were in S. Dakota last year and there were plenty of RV's on the road and in the parks. Due to our size I worry we won't find a park that will suit our needs. Any help is appreciated. A.E.
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Tucsonbenz
post Dec 15 2009, 09:59 AM
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We have a 45' motorcoach and we've been to I dunno 45/46 states in the last 5 years or so. I agree with the other replies about reservations with a couple of caveats. Major Holidays (i.e. July 04th, Memorial Day, Labor Day etc). Things can get tight in more popular parks during BIG holiday weekends.

We like Grizzly RV park in West Yellowstone, but it's a long way from Jackson and the Tetons. Very poor parks in the Jackson area. We love Jackson; albeit it can be touristy downtown. We also think 4-5 days is enough time there. More time can easily be devoted to the Yellowstone portion of your adventure. We've spent as much as 3 weeks in Yellowstone, at a time, and are never bored by what there is to do.

Someone noted not many folks in either place after Labor Day, (a lot less kids too). This is a wonderful time to visit, but be watchful of the weather. It can snow anytime in that area and we in fact had snow in mid June on our drive from Jackson to Yellowstone.

The campgrounds inside Yellowstone, while great are a bit too small for your sized rig, forcing you to stay outside the park. We like Grizzly (West side) because it is only a few blocks from the entrance and it's very well maintained, paved and easy to access from many different directions.

Also it can be quite windy in Yellowstone so be aware of having awnings up/out on the motorcoach.

Yellowstone is a lot like Disney World. Lots of great things to see and do and it's best to plan out your time there or you may be disappointed. If one looks at a map of Yellowstone it's like a giant number 8. Seventy percent of the interesting things to do are on the bottom portion of the figure 8; however having said that some of the best animal viewing we've seen are in the top portion of the 8 and not to be missed. Additionally there are places to go just north of the 8 up into Wyoming and Montana. For example the Bear Tooth Highway, probably the best high mountain drive in the US is located there. Extremely scenic and well worth the day it takes to go up and back.

Moose are not generally seen in the Yellowstone area, but just a short 20-30 minute drive north of West Yellowstone towards Montana there are lots of moose easily seen from the road. Also well worth doing and very few crowds doing that.

Probably the most utilized RV park at Jackson is at the Virginian Motel/RV park. Extremely tight for a 45 footer, but very convienant to the area. Drive the back roads around Jackson and the Tetons, don't miss Jenny Lake or "Moose Road". The locals will tell you how to get there.

You'll love it.
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A.E.Michell
post Dec 15 2009, 06:08 PM
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Thanks for the input. We are going to Grand Teton as well and do you have any parks in mind for there? Also plan on staying in Gardiner,Montana for a few days to see the Nortern part of the park and the Beartooth hwy as well. It looks as if there is a park to stay there that we can fit in also. I am sure we could spend weeks out there but the husband has to work for "fuel money" Ha! Any other suggestions For RV parks or things to do and see is greatly appreciated. A.E.
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John316
post Dec 29 2009, 08:38 PM
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Just a little side note. My guess is I will get flamed, but here goes.

We love staying in Walmarts. They are often easy to get in and out of. Shopping is close. Usually not too loud, etc. But that is usually just for the in motion days.

Otherwise, you are correct. Often RV parks don't understand what size rigs we have. Ours is 45 long and a little over 13 tall. We have been in some parks that have "big rig access" and it is a joke. However, we have been able to get in just about everywhere there isn't low hanging tree branches. And yes, we do carry a electric pole chainsaw. We always get permission, but we have done a fair amount of trimming.

FWIW

God bless,

John
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A.E.Michell
post Dec 31 2009, 06:35 PM
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Thanks for the reply John. I don't think you will be flamed for Walmart..it is a hot topic at times here! I did make reservations in West Yellowstone already and I was unable to get my choice of sites..so I may too need a chainsaw! Ha! Sounds like you have an H3 45 as are over 13 ft. tall. Happy travels to you. A.E.

Thanks for the reply John. I don't think you will be flamed for Walmart..it is a hot topic at times here! I did make reservations in West Yellowstone already and I was unable to get my choice of sites..so I may too need a chainsaw! Ha! Sounds like you have an H3 45 as are over 13 ft. tall. Happy travels to you. A.E.
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Bud in Florida
post Jan 11 2010, 04:50 PM
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QUOTE(A.E.Michell @ Dec 14 2009, 10:16 AM) *

Thank you both for the replies,good food for thought as always. We are going to GNP first as I am thinking the weather could be a factor in Sept. Plan to get there mid August and stay for 4 days. Yes we are active,hike,rafting etc. but I don't want to run all day long either. Then to GTNP ,stay 4 days, then West YNP for 5 days, then Gardiner to see the sights and whatever we see. The reason for that order is we want to go to S. Dakota and see what we missed last year-Spearfish, Badlands, etc. I plan on reservations just because we were in S. Dakota last year and there were plenty of RV's on the road and in the parks. Due to our size I worry we won't find a park that will suit our needs. Any help is appreciated. A.E.


We made a similar trip last year. I would stay longer in GNP-- lots to see, but distances are long between sights. We stayed at the West Glacier KOA and loved it. The Going to the Sun Road had not opened in June. Yes it might get cold! We stayed between GTNP and Yellowstone and then moved to West Glacier-- I would avoid West Glacier and stay at Fishing Bridge campground in the park. Great location for sightseeing. If you stay in West Glacier, the nicest park, I think is Grizzley was much nicer than where we stayed. If you head out to South Dakota, you should take advantage of the 3 night for $39 stay at Hart Ranch. Nicest campground I have ever stayed at the the sales presentation is very low key. Have a great time!
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kcmoedoe
post Jan 13 2010, 12:20 AM
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Show up at Yellowstone without reservations in the size rig you have between late May and Mid September you will have to scramble around at best. Often the nearest available sites are 20 to 30 miles out and even these are often sold out. There are VERY FEW full hookup sites that have 50 amp electricity and the size you need. There will be even less sites this year since Fishing Bridge will not have electricity, so those needing power who usually stay there will be staying outside the park. There are really only two viable towns with close access to Yellowstone, Gardiner and West Yellowstone. Expect them both to be completely full all summer long.
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A.E.Michell
post Jan 13 2010, 05:28 PM
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Thanks for the info...I did make reservations at Grizzly in West Yellowstone and in Gardiner Montana. I expect that the private camp grounds will really be full this year. I have my confimations in hand! Looking for advice though on staying around glacier..have read the reviews and plan on staying at North American Rv Park but can't seem to get through to them as yet. The other alternative would be the KOA West Glacier but the price difference is noteworthy. We plan on staying 5 nights there. Can't wait! Thank you all... A.E.
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Jerry S
post Jan 13 2010, 11:07 PM
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A. E.:

Because of the size of your rig, I would suggest North American RV Park for your stay over West Glacier KOA unless you have kids with you. It is well laid out for big rigs and has FHU but no cable. If you have satellite, most sites are very dish friendly. I haven't stayed at the West KOA but did stay at the East KOA last year and enjoyed it. The location of the West KOA (off the main road (US 2) and up a hill) makes me question how good it would be for big rigs. Even though the KOA is a little closer to GNP, North American is closer to more eateries and shopping.

Here's a bit of additional advice: If you do use a park west of the park as a base camp for your trips into the park and go all the way to St. Mary on the east side, going south from there to US2 and taking it along the south border of the park back to West Glacier is a nice drive. Granted, it is not the same as the Going-to-the-Sun Road, but it would be considered spectacular most other places in the country. It's about twice the miles as returning via the park road, but may not take much more time.
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A.E.Michell
post Jan 14 2010, 06:28 PM
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Hi! Thanks for the advice about North American Rv Park. We hope to stay there but have no luck reaching them so far. Does anyone have any experience with Mountain Meadow Rv Park as they say they can accomodate a 45 ft. and also have 50 amp service. I read the reviews but they seem mixed. sometimes it's really hard to tell! Just like to keep me guessing! Ha! thanks as always.. A.E.
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Jerry S
post Jan 14 2010, 11:24 PM
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A.E. :

One of the many problems when dealing with a truly short season RV park this far in advance is getting in touch with them in the off season. I checked their website which indicates that that their season is mid-April to mid-October. The website shows both a telephone number and an e-mail address. Have you tried both? I can understand them not monitoring the phone during the winter, but I would think they might check the park's e-mail on occasion. I wouldn't think that there would be that much of a problem getting a 5 day reservation for early September in a few months rather than right now.

I also looked at the google map view of the KOA. It does appear that they have pull-thru sites that are in the open which would be conducive for satellite reception. As you mentioned, however, the KOA is considerably more expensive. I haven't stayed at any of the other area parks except the one in Columbia Falls. I do not see that as being big rig friendly and some of the other parks would appear to have questionable satellite capabilities.
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A.E.Michell
post Jan 15 2010, 11:40 AM
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Jerry, Thanks for the reply.I have tried the email and the phone numerous times but no luck yet. So,I guess I should be patient! If I can't get them I will have to decide on a different park. The KOA google map does show it to have wide open spaces so that will probably get my vote. Thanks,A.E.
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