Its been quite a while since I have traveled west and its getting about time to make a trip. My family and I live in east Nebraska and are slightly torn about where to go.
Its kind of a brawl between Rocky Mountain National Park and the Black Hills. We have been to both places, to the Black Hills several times as a quick stop on the way to Montana and to RMNP as a vactaion destination.
I think the Black Hills would make a great destination as there is plenty of interesting things to do and look at. DW does not and is convinced that its not the mountains and not a great destination. We have been through the BH several times and have been to most of the 'big' things like Rushmore and Needles Hwy. I Think there is a ton more to do.
The thing is, we have not been there since having children and they are finally ready to travel (sort of, more like we are ready to try an travel with them ) Given that we have kids, I would really like to find a campground that would have some great stuff to do for 'down time' (time not spent touring the countryside).
One of the places at BH is the Rafter-J-Bar. Its a interesting looking place. The web site looks great. What I am curious about is the mixed reviews. There are some good reviews but some upleasant ones as well. Sounds like the bathrooms are kind of a mess and that bothers me. It also sounds like they overbook at times and you end up not getting the campsite area you signed up for. Dont care so much about unfriendly staff, especially if its teens. Never met a teen working in the summer and happy about it. Most act like they just as soon go take a nap as help out. (At least thats how I felt when working as a teen).
Are there any other campgrounds that might be a little more enjoyable? What we like as campers is shady sites and some room between sites. I despise close sites where you can take 5 big steps and be touching your neighbor. Dont like going from being packed like lemmings in the burbs to backed like lemmings in the countryside. Not really getting away from it all.
On to RMNP. I love the park and all that is there. And yes, to my DWs point, these are definetly 'real mountains'. What I dont like is the crowds. Calling Estes Park a zoo is an understatement. Just driving through that town gives me a headache. Another problem is I have not been able to find many campgrounds that dont fall into the packed like lemmings category. Last summer, we made a reservation at the RMNP Jelleystone campground. I went to Loveland for a job interview and decided to go check on it to see what it was like. OH my, I didnt like what I saw. The facilities looked to be in good repair but the campground was not someplace I wanted to stay. Built up a steep hillside. We canceled the reservation and ended up going to Iowa and visiting the Clay County Fair instead (a lot of fun by the way). While in the area (RMNP, not Iowa), I looked around at some the campgrounds. Not sure I liked what I saw.
So, after rambling forever, my questions.
Is the Rafter J Bar going to be a good base camp for the Black Hills? Enough there to keep the kids happy when not touring the BHs? Bathrooms ok? I dont want to stand in line forever to use the restroom. I have been to a lot of state parks so have seen some not overly clean bathrooms. That doenst bother me to much. I want to make sure these are not a disaster.
For RMNP, what are some campgrounds that have a little more space for each campsite? Will need some activities for the kids (4 & 2). What about the 'National Parks Campground' right next to the back gate to the RMNP. Is there a good place to get away from the insanity at Estes Park?
Thanks for any input.
P.S. - We are in a 29ft travel trailer with not a whole lot of ground clearance. Its a Jaco Jayfeather 29Y