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Old 04-22-2019, 09:24 AM   #1
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NE Florida to Glacier summer 2020 help please

Hi, I am beginning to plan our trip to Montana for next summer. We have never traveled west, and the more I read, the more I wonder if it is realistically possible. We would like to either leave in June or July for 5 weeks. I hoped our plan would include Mt Rushmore, Yellowstone and GNP, adding in anything else is a bonus! While we would love to be able to take longer, work dictates when we will return. I have seen some of the routing suggested for this trip and am thankful to have a point to start from. Is this an unrealistic trip? We would need only to have firm reservations at GNP as my daughter and family will be flying to meet us at GNP for 5 nights. My thoughts for there were to find a campground on one side of the park and rent a cabin for 3 nights in Apgar and pick up family from airport in Kalispell? Other than that, it seems so challenging for timing and routes. Any suggestions are appreciated to see as much as possible in the time we have. We love our journeys to and from the destinations as much as the destinations themselves and realize there will be a lot of drive time. We would like to do some short hikes (3 miles avg), zip line, fishing excursions guided and or unguided, and have no firm plans as to where will we do these excursions yet. My daughter has requested a hike with a llama at GNP that includes a wine and cheese break (had no idea this was even possible). I am open to any suggestions in helping me get a good idea of the best route to take, stops to make, and suggested times it will take to see a little bit of this beautiful side of our country. I imagine this quick trip will create a bucket list of to do and to see places for when we retire in 5 short years! Our 5 days with family will include my then 15 month old grandson so any stroller friendly hiking suggestions will be wonderful! Thanks for any input!
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Old 04-22-2019, 10:59 AM   #2
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you have a wonderful trip in mind but IMO it's too ambitious. best case you have a roughly 2700-mi one-way drive between NE FL and GNP. at an average speed of 60-mph (that includes gas, food, etc.stops) you're looking at a 45-hr drive. and while 5-weeks seems like a long time 8-days of that will be consumed just getting there and back.

the Black Hills are in your way so you could spend a few days there...maybe as much as a week to 10-days but YNP is out of the way so i would skip that for now. in it's place you could add Badlands NP in SD, Devil's Tower Natl Monument in WY and Custer Battlefield in MT. and, again, IMO, you will wear yourselves out with all of the driving and go go go.

look at your available time the way you would a financial budget. the target is GNP. ask yourself how far to you want to drive each day? how many drivers? with at least two drivers swapping out every 2-3 hours you could realistically do 10-12 hrs per day but remember with stops that's still just 600-720 miles per day which is still a 4-day drive. 8-hrs per day is 500-miles or 10-11 days of driving. let's assume a 12-hr day... 8-days of driving.

budgeting 8-days of driving leaves 27-days, less 5 at GNP leaves 22-days. 3-weeks is a lot of time if spent wisely. 7-10 days at the Black Hills (12-15 days left), a couple of days each at Badlands NP, Devil's Tower and Custer leaves 6-9 days. when we were traveling while we were still working we would budget a few days for bad weather (we were "stuck" in Amarillo for a week last spring with high winds), mechanical issues, illness, etc. i'd budget 3-days which leaves 3-6 extra days. and please allow just plain old lazy days of doing nothing. 6-days in 5-weeks is roughly 1-lazy day per week.

adjust as needed but for us a vacation was not just about seeing new things but also about de-stressing, relaxing and re-charging. good luck, be safe and enjoy!
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Old 04-22-2019, 12:30 PM   #3
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My husband and I have made two cross country National Parks camping trips similar to what you're considering (and four cross country National Parks trips in all). The trips that are similar to your plan were for approximately 4 weeks each and our round trip mileage would be roughly equivalent to yours. (I figured mileage based on Orlando, Florida, to West Glacier, Montana.) Our first trip was a tent camping trip for our honeymoon 40 years ago. The second was with our two kids and a travel trailer about 12 years ago - basically a re-creation of our honeymoon. We visited Mount Rushmore, Devil's Tower, Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Rocky Mountain and the itinerary was pretty much the same on both trips.

I think your plan is ambitious, but certainly doable. And I believe that whether or not it's successful might depend on the type of travelers you are. My husband loves to drive and our kids were terrific on the road. We would routinely put in long days of between 8 and 10 hours of drive time, with one "R&R" day in the middle of the trip out and one in the middle of the trip back to give everyone a break from traveling. On our travel days, we would make it a point to stop for one special point of interest like the Corn Palace, a State Park with a swimming beach or a frozen custard sundae at Culvers. If your travel personality is similar, I think you'll have no problem. If you're content driving 200 or 300 miles a day, then your plan might be overly ambitious and you might want to consider just focusing on your top three.

Our trips were for fairly quick visits to those National Parks. We spent 1 day at Mount Rushmore (including a stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park), 2 days at Glacier, 4 days at Yellowstone, and 1 day each at Devil's Tower, Grand Teton and Rocky Mountain. Our intent was to get a taste of all of them so we would know which ones we would want to come back and spend more time at. If you're okay with long hours on the road, I would think you'd be able to fit in Mount Rushmore, Glacier and Yellowstone with perhaps a few other items on your list within a 5 week period and be quite happy with the outcome. Everyone in our family was thrilled with our journey of 4 weeks.

Good luck planning and enjoy your travels!

Mary & Alan https://reflectionsaroundthecampfire.blogspot.com/
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Old 04-22-2019, 05:00 PM   #4
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You, most certainly, can do the trip in 5 weeks. Many do it in 2 weeks! If that's the time amount you have then people find a way of doing it. We've done many 2-week trips when our kids were with us. We had a ball and they still talk about them!! Have a great trip!
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