My boyfriend and I are heading to Denver, CO from Nov. 1st to 9th 2013, so 8 days total.
We have rented a car for the duration of the trip. We wanted to stay in Denver for a couple of days and then explore the "surrounding" areas. We have come up with Salt Lake City, Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore (in that driving order) as potential destinations.
Does anyone have any thoughts on:
- Interesting points between these cities/points of interest that we should not miss?
- Is it feasible in, say, 5 days on the road (Mon - Fri) without feeling rushed or feeling like we are spending our entire vacation in a car?
- Any other considerations (weather, car type, traffic, night driving) that we have not considered?
Thank you all in advance for taking a look and any suggestions you may have.
I took a look at Yellowstone NP and not much is open after Oct. You will have to decide if it is worth the time/expense with so little open. You might take a look at Devils Tower. Used as a backdrop in the film, 'Close Encounters of a Third Kind'. Worth a couple of hours IMO. Not too far from Black Hills area of South Dakota.
There are many things to see in the Mount Rushmore NM area. Crazy Horse, Jewel Cave, Wind Cave, Custer State Park, Badlands. If you pass on Yellowstone, you will have time to explore the Rapid City area. Good luck with your planning.
I think you can use a car for that
When heading west to Salt Lake City from Denver, you have a choice of either staying on the northern route (U.S. 40), a small highway that passes through Steamboat Springs (a well-known ski resort), and then close to the Dinosaur National Monument, and then through Utah's largest ski resort (Park City) or else taking the more southernly route (Interstate 70) a large highway that will take you over Loveland Pass, through the ski resort of Vail, past the hot springs of Glenwood Springs (which is also just 30 miles from the ski resort of Aspen), and then down towards the city of Moab, next to 2 of Utah's 5 national parks--Canyonlands and Arches are here; Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capital Reef are another day's drive away in the opposite direction from Salt Lake City). Note: Only the state of Alaska and California (both with 8) have more national parks than Utah. Also, Colorado has 4 national parks, but only 1 (Rocky Mountain National Park) is on these routes (it is near the northern route)--and it would likely be closed in November.
You need to know that if you go to Dinosaur National Park you will not see the dinosaur skeleton's--those get shipped to museums in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, and Los Angeles;--but you will get to see where they dig them up from. It is for this reason that I strongly suggest going the southernly route (which is also faster, and better to travel across during the winter months). The Arches National Monument is fantastic to see anytime--and stopping for a hot tub time in either Vail or Glenwood Springs would appeal to me. Also, Dead Horse Point--featured in a few movies is just south of Moab. Lastly, heading north from here, you go through the mining town of Price--and then past the Bridal Veil Falls (just a slight detour off your main route once you get to the large city of Provo).
This covers the trip as far as Salt Lake City. The only things to see heading when going from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone are in my next post.
From Salt Lake City to Yellowstone, the main thing to see is the other national park near Yellowstone, which is Grand Tetons. It is close to Jackson, Wyoming (also known as Jackson Hole). This town is kind of two towns in one. In its center, it is the old wild west town you read about in the movies, while over by the ski resorts on the west side it is similar to the upscale European resorts of Zermatt or St. Moritz.
About halfway in the drive from SLC to Yellowstone is a town called Montpelier. This town is famous for having its local bank robbed by the "Hole in the Wall" gang. You probably know the leaders of this gang better than the gang name. The leaders were Butch Cassidy and Harry Longbaugh (better known as the Sundance Kid). Yep, the same guys played by Robert Redford and Paul Newman in the movie by the same name. They still have lots of signs and memorabilia noting this robbery--and the local diner still features special items on its menu named after the various members of the gang. This city is also right on the main route of the old Oregon Trail (leading settlers from the east to the west of the US. Before gold was discovered in California, this was the main trail settlers took. Once gold was discovered, most settlers (mainly the miners) went south (through Salt Lake City) instead of north through here.
Just a ways to the northwest of here (about 50 miles) is Soda Springs, a nice place to stay a night and enjoy the local springs--and just southeast of here (about 60 miles) is Fort Bridger--a main stop on the settlers' route west. Both of these are not on the main road from SLC to Yellowstone, however.
I won't post about going to Mount Rushmore other than to note that the route passes by the Custer National Battleground (where the US Indian leader Crazy Horse led a group that wiped out an entire US Army Calvary unit led by General Custer back in 1870 or so. Custer became famous during the US Civil War--but had a real ego problem that prevented him from realizing that others besides him can plan strategically also. Let me also highlight the Badlands National Park just east of Mount Rushmore. Both of these locations, as well as other key spots to visit were mentioned in Anca's post. One last one not mentioned is Deadwood--an old west town that is about 30 miles west of Rapid City. It is probably out-of-the-way if you visit Mount Rushmore, but thought I'd at least bring it up for you to know about.
Enjoy your trip.
[ Edit: Edited on 30-Oct-2013, at 16:20 by Calcruzer ]