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Old 08-14-2019, 08:47 PM   #1
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Lightbulb Yellowstone anyone?

My wife and I are in the early stages of planning a 1600 mile (one way) trip to Yellowstone possibly as early as next June 2020...in our Pop-up Coachmen camper. Preliminary plans appear to include frequent boondocking. It would also include several long drive days (8 hrs or more), parking, setting up, eat, sleep, tear down, take off on another drive day.

We're approaching 60. Two questions (and I would REALLY appreciate your opinions):

1. Have you done it? (In a pop-up, travel trailer, fifth-wheel, motor coach, etc.)

2. Would you do it (or do it again)?

And I would be happy to have any additional information that might help!


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Old 08-14-2019, 08:56 PM   #2
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Location: Everett, WA
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Originally Posted by MrT61 View Post
My wife and I are in the early stages of planning a 1600 mile (one way) trip to Yellowstone possibly as early as next June 2020...in our Pop-up Coachmen camper. Preliminary plans appear to include frequent boondocking. It would also include several long drive days (8 hrs or more), parking, setting up, eat, sleep, tear down, take off on another drive day.

We're approaching 60. Two questions (and I would REALLY appreciate your opinions):

1. Have you done it? (In a pop-up, travel trailer, fifth-wheel, motor coach, etc.)

2. Would you do it (or do it again)?

And I would be happy to have any additional information that might help!


Yep and yep. Did WA to NJ and back three years ago in a pop-up Alaskan NON cab-over! Two years ago got the Class C and did WA to the Grand Canyon to NC up to NJ and back. Last year went to Yosemite, NC, NM and then added Niagra before heading back back. Short trip this year, only to Four Corners and Arches/Mesa Verde.

We try and stay at KOAs since the kids like the pool. With the Alaskan I just got tent sites and it was pretty cheap; I think I averaged $35 a night.

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Old 09-17-2019, 09:32 AM   #3
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Yes and yes! June is a great month to visit Yellowstone. The weather can be a bit unpredictable (it can snow), but you'll be ahead of the huge summer crowds. The park is HUGE, so try to spend at least a week there.
Boon docking is great, but we'd normally stay at a campground every other day to enjoy a nice hot shower.
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Old 09-17-2019, 02:29 PM   #4
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We did the big solar eclipse and Yellowstone in the summer of 2017, a month long 4,200 mile round trip loop from Louisiana in a 28 ft class A. Stayed in a mix of public dry camping campgrounds, commercial rv parks, state parks, and even a city municipal park. I would certainly do it again, once you get to Wyoming, particularly at altitude there is rarely need for air conditioning after sunset. I would certainly do it again, though be aware soft sided RV's are not allowed at Fishing Bridge campground in Yellowstone (the only full hookup campground in the park). Also be aware RV site lengths in Yellowstone are marked as total length, so a 30 ft site is length overall, we had sites at 3 campgrounds in Yellowstone, each were advertised as 30 ft, and our 29'5" coach barely fit in all 3 of them, mostly due to saplings growing up at the rear edge of the pavement.
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Old 09-17-2019, 09:28 PM   #5
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Not sure I’m being overly cautious, but in a wild place like Yellowstone I would not have ANY food or snacks in the popup at all. Bears are nasty critters. Keep your food in the tow vehicle and throw out ALL trash at night before beddy-bye-time. If a hungry bear happens by, you want him to ruin your car and not your life!
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Old 09-18-2019, 05:53 AM   #6
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Yes and Yes, We did a Yellowstone trip when the kids were little with our pop-up and had a blast. If I remember correctly, there were some campgrounds we were not allowed to stay in because we did not have hard sides. Bear problems. Otherwise, follow the park instructions for food and such and enjoy the beauty of the park.
May your smiles be many and the miles be plenty.

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Old 10-04-2019, 07:52 AM   #7
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This summer dw and I camp hosted 4 months for buffalo bill state park in cody wy. 30 mi from Yellowstone. We drove 2600
Mi from vt to wy. 32 ft tt. 2 Basset hounds.
GPS says 8 hrs count on 10. Plan accordingly. 4 days to do this was too much. We took 10 to get home. Being in a hurry just makes for tired grumpy campers.
Yellowstone is great. Tetons close by
Glacier is 7 (9) hrs saw them all.
Would reccomend craters of the moon
National monument west of Yellowstone as well. Well worth the drive into idaho.
There are many national forest campgrounds just outside each exit of Yellowstone which can accommodate smaller hard sided (bears) campers.
First come first serve 10 bucks a night and close.
We of course were at BB state park. Which is nice as well
But costs 35 a night. Our site was comped for our volenterrism.Bring bear spray.
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Old 10-04-2019, 11:18 AM   #8
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From Texas, we have done South Dakota, Colorado, Florida, Jackson Hole and Glacier NP. Thinking about Grand Canyon this Thanksgiving and maybe the PNW next summer. We have a Flagstaff HW pop-up which usually takes about 1/2-3/4 hour to set up and break down, obviously longer if were breaking down from our destination spot.

We always try to get a inexpensive motel room on our travels because it allows us to drive longer and leave earlier. Plus, it's really nice to be able to swim or get in the hot tub after a long days drive. Plus it's a good bribe technique for my son.

A lot of the parks in the Rockies are in bear territory and the ones we've been to haven't allowed us to keep food in the camper, or a non bear-proof ice, which we have, but even then it's kinda frowned upon. There are even some campgrounds that outright ban "softsided" campers totally.

It's a PITB to do, but they don't want the bears to be use to going to the campground for easy meals, otherwise they will eventually have to be euthanized. Everything goes inside the locked truck every night.

If you don't have school age children, I'd personally try to plan it before they get out in May or after they go back in August
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Old 10-04-2019, 11:48 AM   #9
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How many days have you accounted for this trip. Eight hours on a gps turns into 9 or 10 with pee breaks and dog walks. On top of this you have to set up the camper after you arrive. Also, if you plan on boondocking, sometimes these places can take a bit to find. We have done many long trips, and we try to make the journey part of the holiday. Too much driving will take the fun out of a holiday fast, and you are probably driving past many interesting things. We try to limit our travel to 2 to 300 miles per day, then do some local site seeing. We usually drive a long day the first day, then slow things down. Maybe you don't have that kind of time, but trying to pack 8 to 10 hrs a day of driving, for weeks on end, doesn't sound like much fun. We have done it, but we learned the better way to holiday. Enjoy your trip, its one of my bucket list ones I haven't got to yet.
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Old 10-05-2019, 03:38 AM   #10
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Yes and Yes. Check with the park about which campgrounds to avoid due to bears. Also keep all food items in the vehicle. We had a blast and you should too.
May your smiles be many and the miles be plenty.

Karen & Allen Van Zandt
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:06 PM   #11
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I live two hours north of yellowstone...
Some advice.. reservable campgrounds (state, federal) fill up fast.. as in the winter months being booked for summer.. Camping in MT is a popular hobby... So plan ahead.

Boondocking is not allowed in Yellowstone. There are tons of campgrounds there and majority you can not reserve. First come first serve.

Good Place to check campground status (https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm).

Most campgrounds in yellowstone do not have hook ups. so plan accordingly.

There are campgrounds that only allow Hard side campers because of bear activity. Coolers should not be left out side no matter what is in them.

Beautiful country up here but weather changes fast and best time to avoid crowds is early June... Its Oct 7 and we are expecting 12" of snow coming in two days with a low of 3 degress one night.... Happy Halloween! HA HA

All I can say is go for it but Plan Plan Plan.. You will have a great time and see some great things...

Bears are no joke out here.. Be Bear Aware..

Good Reading https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019...cks-population
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Old 10-18-2019, 08:56 PM   #12
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I haven't done the high mileage trips, but I did spend over 20 years boondocking the Rocky Mountains in a popup before I graduated to a TT, including many trips to Yellowstone.
- Be sure to allow all the time you need to set up and break down the trailer each day. If you don't already, set a routine.
- Be bear aware. Keep a clean camp and store not just food, but anything else like toiletries, cosmetics and anything else with an odor, in the tow vehicle. June is spring in the Rockies, just after the bears have coming out of hibernation. They're hungry.
- get your reservations early for the campgrounds inside the park. June is a great time to avoid the crowds, but some of the campgrounds may still be snow covered, thus closed, so spaces may be limited.
-Be prepared for any weather. I have seen snow in Yellowstone and other places over 7000 ft in AUGUST.
-Allow plenty of time to look around. Take hikes off the beaten path for choice little surprises the masses often miss.
-Plan a second trip. One trip just doesn't do it justice.
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Old 10-19-2019, 08:57 PM   #13
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Some helpful information about YSNP (some general items apply to GTNP also)

YNP is BIG!, about 45 miles E/W and about 65 miles N/S (2.2 mil. Acres total). The “figure 8 grand loop” road inside the park is about 140 miles around. The lower loop is 96 miles and the upper loop is 70 miles around and yes, it is bigger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Whatever time that you think you will need to see YNP you better double it, or to say it another way is that you will see one half as much as you planned on in the allotted time. The Bison think that they own the road (they do!) and will slow down the traffic to walking speed or stop all traffic for 1/4 mile or more blocking both directions of travel, the thermal attractions also tie up traffic and with a 5 month long summer tourist season that coincides with a 5 month long road construction season and a 45 MPH radar controlled speed limit it will take about a full day to see each loop and then you will only see the main attractions. In addition to the occasional construction delays they will also sometimes close whole sections of road (for uninterrupted night construction) between 10 PM and 8 AM in the morning, if you are running late and get caught at night in the wrong area it CAN be a LONG way around to your CG! (The entrance stations will have current construction information or go on line to check it out)

Then there is the elevation- YNP ranges from a low at Mammoth- 6239 ft to 7784 ft at Fishing Bridge or higher if you go hiking and there are passes on the grand loop road that are close to 8000 ft or so! Drink plenty of liquids and pace yourself when walking.

I recommend that you get up EARLY, leave the CG and be back by 4 or 6 PM have dinner and be sitting in your recliner drinking a cool one when your neighbor drags himself back to the CG at 8-10 PM. Remember that from mid May to mid July in YNP the sun doesn't set until about 9:00- 9:15 PM then there is a long and bright twilight.

Cell Phone Service- Only at the major visitor centers, otherwise non-existent!

Clothing- Especially in the early or late season it is not unusual to have a 30 or even the occasional 40 degree temperature change throughout the day. Dress with easily shed layers of clothing. Also dress in bright easily seen clothing. I am sure that we all have been to a sporting event, parade or Disney World etc. and we blink our eyes and our partner/child has disappeared. My DIL was born and raised in HI, you guessed it, every Xmas, b-day or Father's Day I receive a Hawaiian shirt. One of them is shiny black with 4-5 inch dia. bright flowers. Not many of them in Wyoming and in YSNP, that is what I wear. If your partner has on a Violet blouse and a Orange scarf with a Pink hat I guarantee that she will be the only one within the boundaries of either NP. It can save you a few anxious moments.

Water- Now I will have to contradict myself, at the altitude of YNP yes, drink lots of water! HOWEVER, be aware that the flush toilet restrooms are in the major tourist areas- Mammoth, Canyon, Fishing Bridge, Lake Hotel, Bridge Bay, Grant Village, Old Faithful, Madison Junction etc. The geyser basins and other thermal attractions areas only have pit toilets. I have seen the pit toilet line at the lower Geyser Basin (2 R/Rs) 25 or more feet long (bless the tour buses) So be smart about drinking your water and use the major tourist area R/Rs before leaving the area! I.e. “Never pass up a flush toilet!”

Sun- At YSNP altitude the Sun is intense (uv) have and apply sunscreen, wear that old floppy wide brim sun hat, wear Sunglasses!

If your luck is like mine Old Faithful will have just erupted when you get there and you will have up to a hour and 10 to 15 minutes wait for the next one. Tour the O/F Geyser basin while waiting. O/F INN is a must see, reportedly the largest LOG building in the U.S. (Meals in the O/F Inn dinning room are “A OK” also.

We have lived about 110 miles from West Yellowstone, MT since 1964, go to YSNP 3-4 times a summer (normally before Memorial Day and after Labor Day) and haven't seen it all yet! So don’t be discouraged that you didn’t have the time to see all of it. Just plan on coming back another time!

I honestly don’t mean to scare or discourage you but to give you a heads up as to what to expect! After all there was 4.1 million visitors in 2015! As far as I know we didn’t lose one of them. Except those who by their own stupidity step off the board walks into BOILING HOT water and ignoring the warnings about the WILD ANIMALS! That is called purifying the gene pool!

Now, for the early spring visitors, YSNP is closed to ALL wheeled traffic from mid November to mid March (Snow Machines, Snow Coach’s, Snowshoes, X-country Skiing etc only as of mid Dec) the first road to be plowed open in mid April is from West Y’stone, MT to Old Faithful. The last roads to be plowed is Norris to Canyon to Fishing Bridge, West Thumb south to GTNP. Other tourist facilities are open as the shelves are stocked, beds are made, winter debris cleaned up etc. All tourist venues are open by Memorial Day weekend the official opening.

Note I have seen on this blog and others about folks “day tripping” from YSNP to GTNP, it is done all the time (myself included) however remember this is BIG country and with the speed limits, animals and thermal attractions you will be doing a LOT of slow driving. From Grant Village Visitor Center (extreme S/E corner of the lower loop road) to Jackson, WY is about 80 miles with Coulter Bay being about 1/2 way, then from Grant Village you have to add the distance to your CG it will be a Long days trip!

A point of Coulter Bay (GTNP) clarification- there are two (2) CG’s at Coulter Bay, One the “Coulter Bay RV Park” a full service “RV Park” with FHU’S that takes reservations. The other is the “Coulter Bay Campground “ (FS CG) has no hookups and doesn’t take reservations. Both have about 300 sites and are basically across the road from each other.

The Gros Ventre FS CG in GTNP (about 5 miles north of Jackson and about 4 miles n/e toward the town of Kelly, on the right side of the road) is about 300 sites (including about 30 sites that are electric only) has no hookups and doesn’t take reservations.

When in the Jackson area I highly recommend seeing the Bar J Chuckwagon dinner show! If you go, MAKE RESERVATIONS and BE THERE EARLY TO PICK UP YOUR MEAL TICKETS/ TABLE SEATING ASSIGNMENTS! They seat you by when you show up to get your tickets NOT by your reservation number. Tim, their fiddle player has won the "Idaho state old time fiddle contest 7 times and the US open fiddle championship twice". If you decide to go you will sit at picnic type of bench seats/table, they get pretty hard, I recommend that you take along a blanket/pads to sit on. We day trip it there 2-4 times every summer just to see them! Disclaimer- We have no financial or other interest in the Bar J only that it will be the best $$ value for your money on your trip! Check out their website.


Also in Jackson check out the “COWBOY” bar, the bar stools are saddles and the # of Silver Dollars imbedded in the bar. The Wort Hotel Bar (just around the corner from the Cowboy Bar) also has Silver Dollars imbedded in the Bar
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Old 10-19-2019, 09:06 PM   #14
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We live kinda close by so we've done Yellowstone with ground tents, truck tents, and now our fifth wheel and enjoy it every time. As some people have pointed out, you are in bear country and some campgrounds will not allow soft sided campers. This also goes for some campgrounds outside of the park throughout Wyoming. If they have bear boxes then USE THEM! Bears have noses better than bloodhounds and aren't bashful about gaining access to food by whatever means possible. I'm not saying this to discourage you, but rather to encourage you to follow the bear country protocols and have a fantastic trip!

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