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Old 01-11-2021, 04:30 PM   #1
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Yellowstone?

We planning a trip in May to visit our son and his family in northern California. We live in Kansas. In the past, we "traveled" with our little Casita and haven't really been "campers". The most direct route from Kansas to California takes about 5 days driving, about 400 miles a day.

This year (we get our new 19 Escape in March), we want to detour through Bend, OR., and treat the drive as a more leisurely trip before ending up in California. We've never been to Yellowstone, the Wind River Range, the Shoshone Forests etc.
I doubt we'll stay anywhere more than a day or two.

Does anyone have any advice to offer about any of the Wyoming parks? Best access? Low key things to do? Particular campsites?

Our new Escape will have solar, dual 6v batteries, so we could park in the less developed camps, but I don't want to drive any real difficult "backroads" types of routes.

Any and all suggestions welcome.

R.
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Old 01-11-2021, 05:14 PM   #2
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I can help a little.

Coming from Kansas, out I-80, I would go to Rock Springs Wy. and turn North on Hwy 191. I would drive this in the day as the night has MANY animals on the road. And other things.

Take 191 past Eden (my favorite), and go to Farsen for a milkshake at the Mercantile. Then drive up to Pinedale, WY and start to make your choices.

Pinedale has many choices. Freemont Lakes has a nice campground you can crash at. Half Moon Lake campground is another. Good place to stock up on whatever you need.

Just past Pinedale is the Green River Lakes turn off. This is open range camping with a campground at the end of a 30 mile dirt road. Easily driven, just go slow. This place is stunning! It could be a national park. It is VERY wild too. The Green river offers excellent fishing. I stay here A LOT! Lots of animals and big birds like eagles (ones that are bald).

Slightly farther West is Warren Bridge Rec Area. Fewer sites, more removed from each other, dirt road but not bad. You might want to stay here more than two nights. Again major beauty.

20 miles farther down 191 brings you to Granite Hot Springs. Always open. Bring everything cause they offer nothing but a changing room and a hot pool. Love this place. Wild great scenery. This is the Bondurant in the Gros Venture range, Sacred mountains to be sure. Big campground. Watch out for Morman or state holidays!!!!!!!!!!!

From there, you shoot right into Grand Teton N.P.. Campgrounds can be tricky. Gros Venture (pronounced grow vaunt) offers the most sites. You can usually get in here too. Colter Bay offers hookups and services and huge views of the range. Jenny Lake is tents only. There are a few really good open range campgrounds near Moran Junctions too.

In Yellowstone, you might want reservations. Grant Village is very nice. Grant Village is on the big lake and has some services and access to Fishing Bridge. Madison campground offers hook ups and easy access to the hot springs and geysers.

Canyon Village offers great access to the Grand Canyon and Artist Point (do not miss this). Tower junction is small and weird. I stay here but it is compromised. Norris Basin offers good access to the Gibbons river, and hot springs. Mammoth offers camping and you will see elk there. Squaw Creek is tents only. Pebble Creek offers camping right outside the Lamar valley, excellent for wildlife.

Outside of West Yellowstone there is a lot of camping and it is all good. I like it down by the Henry's Fork at Box canyon and Riverside campgrounds.

Watch out for the eastern side of the park, up in the Absorka range. It is full of grizzlies and hard shell camping is the only kind allowed. Anything East of the park is like this. Particularly around Cook City in Sunlight Basin. Watch out there! For sure.

Make all camping moves before 9 am! Particularly if you do not have reservations. The big campgrounds like Madison and Canyon Village can usually get you in. Reservations are best here.

All restaurants suck! Services are generally bad. Bring all your own food. I have been to Yellowstone over 75 times.

Paradise valley is North of Gardner and contains Chico Hot Spring. Reservations are a year out but this place should not be missed. Camp nearly and go for dinner and a soak.

Tim -out
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Old 01-11-2021, 05:29 PM   #3
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UncleTim covered it rather nicely. The only thing I would like to add is that it could (will?) be cold in May. I have seen it snow in the higher elevation areas and some snow/ice in the lower elevations. It might be different when you visit but do not be surprised by it.
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Old 01-11-2021, 06:02 PM   #4
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May 5th is usually the first day ANY roads are open (snow). It is super limited and only the northern routes are open, but you stand a great chance of seeing bears then.
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Old 01-11-2021, 06:13 PM   #5
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UncleTim covered it rather nicely. The only thing I would like to add is that it could (will?) be cold in May. I have seen it snow in the higher elevation areas and some snow/ice in the lower elevations. It might be different when you visit but do not be surprised by it.
We went to Yellowstone May 20, 2017. Below is a pic of Grant village. The snow got deeper as we went west. The lakes were just starting to thaw but still frozen. Conditions were white out coming in over the pass.
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Old 01-11-2021, 08:08 PM   #6
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It can snow there on the 4th of July

Be advised. Lots of snow.


You're not in Kansas, anymore.
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Old 01-11-2021, 08:19 PM   #7
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OP here . . . It never occurred to me that there could be a lot of cold and snow around in mid-May. Shows what living in Kansas will do for you!

Let me ask a different question: if the goal is to take a leisurely drive to Bend, OR., before arriving in Northern California, (and a visit to Yellowstone was not mandatory), what other route options should we consider? Our 5 day route last year was not very interesting. We went through southern Wyoming, crossed the salt flats of Utah, through Nevada to Susanville, CA. The trip was in August. And it occurs to me that there could be snow in the mountains of California during May too . . . ?

What other routes should we consider? Or is May a complete crap shoot regarding the potential for snow and cold?
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Old 01-12-2021, 12:24 AM   #8
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Pretty Much

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OP here . . . It never occurred to me that there could be a lot of cold and snow around in mid-May. Shows what living in Kansas will do for you!

Let me ask a different question: if the goal is to take a leisurely drive to Bend, OR., before arriving in Northern California, (and a visit to Yellowstone was not mandatory), what other route options should we consider? Our 5 day route last year was not very interesting. We went through southern Wyoming, crossed the salt flats of Utah, through Nevada to Susanville, CA. The trip was in August. And it occurs to me that there could be snow in the mountains of California during May too . . . ?

What other routes should we consider? Or is May a complete crap shoot regarding the potential for snow and cold?
Pretty much if you are on or north of interstate 80
And or have significant elevations to navigate. Anywhere in Montana and Idaho on 90, for sure. Canít say for southern Idaho, have driven it several times but not in May. Bighorns in Wyoming in May can be very snowy.too. You have to be flexible and be able to lay up if necessary. Do not push your luck, Mother Nature can mess you up.
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Old 01-12-2021, 05:22 AM   #9
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Keep in mind the heaviest snow months for Colorado and much of the West is as follows (in order).

1. March
2. April
3. February

Snow storms are common in May at elevation. If you stay low you have a much better chance of avoiding snow. If you stay on the interstates, you have a 100% chance of a boring drive (except for I-70 thru Colorado).

Interstates are designed to be fast so they stay away from the interesting parts, even though they go right by them. Southern Utah in May is HOT HOT HOT!
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Old 01-12-2021, 09:41 AM   #10
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Just another note on camping in Yellowstone. We were there this past August with reservations at Madison CG. The line began forming before dawn each morning for what few sites might be available each day. Times have changed, as far as getting a site around 9AM. Way more people car-camping. We traveled lots of Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, and found much the same wherever we were. Good luck, and enjoy the journey with your new trailer. OBTW If you do I-80, about 30 miles west of Cheyenne you'll see a sign for Vedauwoo Recreation area. Just off the interstate on the north side. A great NFS campground, with boondocking just pass the gate if the CG is full.
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Old 01-12-2021, 09:57 AM   #11
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Just another note on camping in Yellowstone. We were there this past August with reservations at Madison CG. The line began forming before dawn each morning for what few sites might be available each day. Times have changed, as far as getting a site around 9AM. Way more people car-camping. We traveled lots of Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, and found much the same wherever we were. Good luck, and enjoy the journey with your new trailer. OBTW If you do I-80, about 30 miles west of Cheyenne you'll see a sign for Vedauwoo Recreation area. Just off the interstate on the north side. A great NFS campground, with boondocking just pass the gate if the CG is full.
Elmer Fudd would say Weally large wocks to throw at the wabbits.
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Old 01-14-2021, 12:20 AM   #12
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My thought would be to take I-70 through Colorado. See the snowy peaks, it should be beautiful. Then spend a day at Colorado National Monument, and a couple of days at Arches NP, to enjoy the fabulous sandstone features. I have only ever been able to be at Arches in June, and it was hot hot hot by that time. May might be better.


After that, not sure, I haven't been out that way much. All I know is, I would not want to visit Yellowstone in May. Too cold. We got snowed on in the Tetons on June 13, during our 1999 visit.
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Old 01-14-2021, 07:25 AM   #13
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There are so many different and interesting ways to get to your destination, it is hard to list them. Depends a bit if you want to go mostly direct quickly or do a site seeing versions.

What Mike G suggests is the most obvious and direct Southern route. The only caveat on his post would be that Arches, a beautiful park, is totally overrun. But, youíd want to see that if possible. There are other things around Moab - like the Isle in the Sky district of the Canyonlands national park. So, youíd want one day for Arches and the other day for Canyonlands.

There are other things you could do and see a lot more things - but they take some time...
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Old 01-14-2021, 11:03 AM   #14
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Camping at Canyon campground, June 7th, 2011, back in the days when we owned a Scamp 16'er. When we registered at the visitor's center to camp, they slyly said we wouldn't be able to use the fire pit at the campsite, failing to mention it was still under 3'+ of snow!
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Old 01-14-2021, 02:50 PM   #15
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So what would I do?

Well I did go get my 5.0 last May 20th, from Boulder to Sumas. I took the northern route and it was fine. I did the northern Cascade Hwy., first day it opened. No bigggie.

I did stay at Warren Bridge Rec Area (Pinedale) and enjoyed it. I sat out in the Sun and listened to pups of some kind.

It is only the greater Yellowstone area that is going to still be in deep freeze. I-80 to Salt Lake city will be open, somewhat warm and beautiful. You have to watch the spring storms track across Wyoming, but this is very doable. You can go up to Hoback Junction (Pinedale area) without much worry, and probably into Jackson and Grand Teton. Or you can easily go thru the Snake River Valley into Alpine, then Idaho and Swan Valley. Breathtaking for sure.

From there it is easy to get into Idaho Falls and either continue down I-84 or up thru the Bitterroot Valley. Do that! Stop at Challis Hot Springs. Then catch I-94 to Missoula if you want to go to Spokane or Hwy 12 at Lolo to work back towards Kennewick. Stop at Lolo Hot Springs.

I might do that one this time. You will encounter snow but not like in Yellowstone. You can drive out of it and stay lower in elevation. Again, no biggie!

The point is there are many workable paths. The problem with Utah South of I-70 is it's all going to be very hot by May. The whole place could be a national park, but it is already hot in May. Like don't leave the shade hot.

I can manage cooler weather, but i have no answers for big time heat other than to avoid it.
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Old 01-14-2021, 03:19 PM   #16
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Last time I was at Yellowstone nothing - no walk in's available. No surprise there. My fallback campground would be a couple miles north of West Yellowstone, at the Bakers Hole Campground. Otherwise, might end up going south to either Moran, or farther down to Gros Ventre, just north of Jackson Hole.
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Old 01-15-2021, 11:11 AM   #17
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In case you weren't aware, most of Yellowstone Nat'l Park is at a higher elevation than the surrounding country. Hence potentially snow there in June, while elsewhere it'll be springtime.
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Old 01-15-2021, 03:13 PM   #18
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If you end up going north up through the Bitterroot Valley in Montana, head west on US12 over Lolo Pass and then down the Lochsa River in Idaho. The river will be running high from spring runoff and will be spectacular. You will not encounter snow, other than the odd patch at Lolo Pass (not on the road). Stay at Wilderness Gateway Campground and spend a couple of nights there because it's beautiful and sublime that time of year. There are lovely large cedar trees at every camp. I go every May myself, and I live here. It's a Forest Service campground, and you should be able to get a riverside site, 14 bucks a night. No hookups but all the sites are flat, paved, easy to back into, and have picnic tables. There is water, a dump station on the way out, and trails for hiking.
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Old 01-15-2021, 03:42 PM   #19
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Just a note for those using Gros Ventre as their back up campground. They have switched to reservations only as of January 26, 2021.
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Old 01-17-2021, 07:35 AM   #20
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Just a note for those using Gros Ventre as their back up campground. They have switched to reservations only as of January 26, 2021.

Good grief! It is getting harder and harder to keep up with these changes. I hope this is temporary, but then again I hope this heavy surge in camping is temporary.

I try to look on the bright side of this and think it is good more people are getting out, but once the reasoning of isolation thru camping wears thin with people, I think they will fall back into familiar patterns and lose interest.

I am certain of nothing right now.
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