West - Driving from DEN to Mt Rushmore/Yellowstone
I'm planning a vacation next March and will be flying into Denver and hiring a car for four days. I've always wanted to visit Mt Rushmore and have been told it's approx. 8 hours drive from Denver.
Would it be too much to try to plan a driving trip from Denver to Mt Rushmore then to Yellowstone National Park and back to Denver in four days?
Is there much to see in Yellowstone?
Are there any other worthwhile tourist sites to see around the Wyoming/Rocky Mountains area?
Any suggestions would be appeciated.
- Gary -
Sep 14, 01, 11:54 pm
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Is there much to see in Yellowstone?
Ummmm, 70+ miles of very cool (hot!) geothermal stuff?
I believe you could spend a month in Yellowstone and not see it all. I regret only having two or three days the one time I was there. The most wildlife I've seen in any of the parks, bubbling mud, hot springs geysers and steam everywhere, nice lake, cool geological formations, and the biggest log cabin structure in the world.
Mt Rushmore was a bit of a disapointment. Definitely worth seeing if you're close, but the view from the visitor center makes it seem much smaller than pictures that you see. It's a bit like Niagara Falls. Spend five or ten minutes looking at it and you're done. Then, you realize you're in South Dakota, which is full of wonderful people, but offers only Wall Drug and the Corn Palace as other options for sight seeing (not meant as a slam, just trying to point out how wonderful Yellowstone is compared to Rushmore).
For my money, I'd spend the time in Yellowstone. I wonder if Denver is your best place to fly into, but then again, you should have a beautiful drive up!
Sep 15, 01, 2:48 am
Why not fly into Jackson WY instead? Yes, Yellowstone is absolutely amazing! BUT. . .you will only find it amazing if you love the outdoors, camping, hiking, looking at untouched beauty, etc.
I've always wanted to see Mt. Rushmore too, but like the other poster mentioned, outside of Mt. Rushmore, there isn't a whole lot to do in South Dakota. Also, mileage out here in the west may take longer in certain places. e.g., driving from DEN to Beaver Creek last summer took longer because the roads were so narrow and curved.
My vote is for your 4 days to be spent in Yellowstone.
My partner and I are flying from LAX on UA. To fly into Jackson WY or Rapid City SD we would need to transfer in Denver and burn a total of four more return flight coupons @ $80 each. Doing this will add $320 extra to our ticket costs.
My preference is to fly into JAC or RAP, however to cut costs I thought driving from DEN upto Mt Rushmore and Yellowstone would be a cheaper option and will allow us to see some sights along the way.
Thanks for your advice about Mt Rushmore. Although it's in the middle of nowhere, I can appreciate that once you arrive there, spend an hour there to see it, then there's not a lot else to do in SD. What about the Black Hills region of SD? Is there much to see and do there?
I would still like to keep it on my itinerary. It's one of the places I've wanted to visit for a long time.
- Gary -
[This message has been edited by Gary (edited 09-16-2001).]
Dec 27, 01, 11:36 am
I just came across this thread. Although it's a few months old, I notice that you're not traveling until March, so I thought I'd add my two cents.
I did a cross-country trip a few years ago and went to Mount Rushmore. Although, it definitely is off the beaten track, it's definitely worth seeing. In fact, I think the fact that it's somewhat remote is part of its allure. And, of course, the monument itself is awe-inspiring. Although I was there during the day, I've been told that the evening ceremony where they light up the faces on the mountain is absolutely spectacular. Just something to consider.
As far as other things to see in the area, Badlands National Park is a little east of Mount Rushmore, with a couple of entrances off of Interstate 90. Wall Drug is also kind of a nifty place to stop, have dinner, and pick up a couple of souvenirs. The towns of Deadwood and Lead are also very close to Mount Rushmore and are interesting to visit, if a bit touristy. The cemetery where Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane are buried is probably the highlight - it's a short hike up a small mountain next to the town and offers a nice view of "downtown" Deadwood. I'd also highly recommend seeing Devils Tower, which is in Crook County, Wyoming (the northeastern-most county in Wyoming). It's a couple of hours west of Mount Rushmore and is on the way to Cody/Yellowstone National Park. It's easily accessible from I-90 west (I forget the number of the highway you take north from the interstate) and you get an absolutely spectacular view of the monument, which sort of looms in the distance all by itself and gets larger and larger as you get closer. I thought it was one of the coolest things we saw on our entire trip (we drove from Boston to Los Angeles and back, stopping in most of the major cities and national parks in between).
Anyway, just some thoughts! Enjoy your trip!
I'd like to add a few more good things for South Dakota in the Black Hills area.
See the things mentioned by eschwarz above, all east of Mt Rushmore. Then exit Rushmore to the south and take the Iron Mountain Highway to the west. The pigtail bridges are cool, and the views from along that road are spectacular. This will take you out near the Crazy Horse monument. Rushmore pales in comparison. I highly it.
Head further west and tour the Cave of the Winds. Amazing stuff!
The only bad part about doing this is having to drive across Wyoming -- And I don't mean to slight our least-populated state! It's just a really boring, flat drive until you get to the western portion, around Jackson and Yellowstone.
If you pick up a AAA map of South Dakota it has the most scenic drives laid out for you.
I'm planning to fly into Rapid City, rent a car, visit Mt. Rushmore + Badlands NP + Mt. Devil and continue along I-90 to the Yellowstone NP. This thread already gives lots of information about the area around Rapid City. I'm planning to go there in November so it may be already quite cold and snowing as my travel book educated me.
1.) Is there anything worth while to see along the I-90 (or better drive straight into the Yellowstone NP without loosing time)?
2.) Do you have any ideas if Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, (or other points earning properties are in the area)
3.) Where do you recommend (see also 2.) - if possible and not far away) to stay for easy access into Yellowstone NP? (preferred: rather new rooms; accomodation with own shower/tube; no shared rest rooms)
Any comments/ideas appreciated.
Pictures from hotel stays (http://www.e-traveller.net/lh738/triprep/hotel.php)
Basic Hotel stays/nights/points calculator (http://www.e-traveller.net/fgp/fgp01calc.php)
Short overview: KLM FD, LH M&M (http://www.e-traveller.net/ffp/kl01.php)
[This message has been edited by LH738 (edited 08-11-2003).]
Aug 12, 03, 12:15 pm
I live in DEN and can recommend TONS of things to do here. But like the others, I can't really recommend going to Mt. Rushmore from here, since you're signing up for 16 hours of driving for a one hour stop.
Driving to Yellowstone from here is nearly 10 hours one way, and as one of the other folks mentioned, not real scenic until you near the Tetons.
You might consider flying to SLC instead of DEN. That cuts your one-way drive time to about six hours instead of 10, and it's usually cheaper to fly to SLC from LAX than to DEN or Jackson Hole.
In addition to the info above --
1) Suggested sites to visit:
* Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation (south of Rapid City), which will cast Mt. Rushmore in a different light, and driving around the reservation is sobering
* Eat at the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park (near Mt. Rushmore) -- bison steaks and pheasant are the specialities
* Take the cave tour at Wind Cave National Park (south of Custer State Park); there's a resident bison herd also, but you'll see plenty of bison in Yellowstone
* Thermopolis, WY: take a dip in the hot springs there
* Stop in Cody, which somewhat retains the feel of a frontier town
* In Yellowstone, that time of year the Lamar Valley (NE corner, near the Cooke City entrance) should be teeming with wildlife; they know it's the warmest spot in the park.
* Returning to Rapid City, you may want to take a northerly route, hitting Bozeman (take Route 191 to drive along the Gallatin Range), Billings, and Little Bighorn Battlefield (Custer's Last Stand) near Crow Agency.
2) Lodging possibilities:
* In Yellowstone, the newer wing of the Old Faithful Inn has en suite bathrooms; the rooms in the original lodge are authentic but have shared bathrooms. Staying outside of the park will eat up precious time -- you'll have limited daylight in November. The other lodges in the park, if open, are less interesting but well located.
* In Jackson (south of Grand Teton NP), I like the Alpine House (http://www.alpinehouse.com/). Eat at the Cadillac Grill and quaff a beer in one of the saddle bar stools at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.
November will be a nice time to visit the area. Keep in mind that you can make good time on the backroads of Wyoming and Montana (except over mountain passes and in foul weather), so there's no need to stick to I-90 unless you're really short on time. Depending on how many days you have in Yellowstone, you probably can't see and do everything, so, in consultation with a ranger, decide what interests you the most and try to achieve a depth of experience in that particular area while touching on the park's other sites/activities. And pack your binoculars.
Aug 13, 03, 3:48 pm
One more idea....see Sunlight Basin.
Aug 18, 03, 5:32 pm
My wife is from Deadwood, SD, and we go back there often to visit her mother, who now lives in Sturgis, SD, home of the famous Harley-Davidson motorcycle rally. If you are going to do the Black Hills, I really recommend flying into Rapid City -- it doesn't make sense otherwise. I highly recommend seeing the South Dakota caves that are run by the National Park System, i.e., Wind Cave and Jewel Cave. I also recommend seeing Deadwood if you want the Wild West thing. There are enough authentic things to still see there that the gambling hasn't ruined to make it worth your while.
You asked about hotel stays with Hilton, etc. Rapid City and Deadwood have Hampton Inns. We have stayed at the one in Deadwood and recommend it -- I posted a review of it in the Hampton Inn review thread in the Hilton forum.
It is a fun drive from the Black Hills to Yellowstone -- fun because every conceivable route has signs from the local tourism promotion folks trying to get you to drive via their town. The signs claim that going via Route A is the "shortest route" while the towns along Route B is the "fastest route" and the folks along "Route C" want you to know that their way is the "most scenic". Personally, I recommend going via Newcastle, Wyoming, and stopping by the Blue Moon Boutique there and making a large purchase from their extensive selection of authentic western art. (Why? Because a sister of mine is a part owner of the gallery.) <grin> Truthfully, however, they do have the fair dinkum article, unlike many stores in the Black Hills that sell only tourist kitsch.
If all you want to do is Yellowstone, then I recommend flying into SLC instead of DEN, or into Idaho Falls, ID, or Jackson, WY, if you have the money or miles to burn.