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Seeking route suggestions northern CA to South Dakota


amarie1
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After the 4th, I'm heading home from Oakland CA to Chicago but want to go a more northerly route than I-80 all the way (how I went home last trip out here). I have 2 weeks for the trip, no reservations anywhere. Here's my first stab at a route. South Dakota to Chicago is fine, it's northern CA to South Dakota I'd like some suggestions for. 30 foot Class C, me and my dog. I prefer state parks and scenic/cheap RV campgrounds, occasional KOAs. I guess a boondocking night or two is not out of the question. Not a fan of scary mountain switchbacks. Any help?

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It is kind of difficult to pass through mountain country without some steep roads, but since you have already been over Donner Pass on I-80, I would think that you could handle I-90 which is more mountainous but like Donner, it is interstate highway. Why not do something new and go farther north and then east? If you aren't up for going that far north yet, then why not leave I-80 at Rock Springs, WY and visit Yellowstone NP?  You could then leave the park from the east entrance and go via US14, then south from Greybull to Worland on US20 and on weast on US16 to meet I-90 at Buffalo.  Going east on 90 you could easily divert to see Devil's Tower and Mt. Rushmore and even Custer State Park.  As you then head east you would be back to your proposed route again at Rapid City, which is also worth some time to visit. 

The reason for the move south from Greybull to Worland is that US14 has much more steep grades and mountain roads than does US16 when you cross the Bighorn Mountains. The southern route would be 2 lane highways but they are good roads and not difficult. 

Edited by Kirk W
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Pick up US 97 at Weed and head north towards the Columbia River.  Plan on staying overnight in Bend Oregon area.  At the River, head east on I-84 for about 10 miles and stop at Le Page Park, a Corps of Engineers park right on the John Dat River where the River empties into the Columbia, just east of the John Day Dam.   Keep heading east on I-84 until you get to I-82, take that into the TriCities (Richland, Kennewick, Prosser) and pick up US Highway 395 towards Spokane.  At Spokane you can take I-90 across, OR pick up US Highway 2 and go across, which is a great trip and easy to do.  

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45 minutes ago, Barbaraok said:

Pick up US 97 at Weed and head north towards the Columbia River.  Plan on staying overnight in Bend Oregon area.  At the River, head east on I-84 for about 10 miles and stop at Le Page Park, a Corps of Engineers park right on the John Dat River where the River empties into the Columbia, just east of the John Day Dam.   Keep heading east on I-84 until you get to I-82, take that into the TriCities (Richland, Kennewick, Prosser) and pick up US Highway 395 towards Spokane.  At Spokane you can take I-90 across, OR pick up US Highway 2 and go across, which is a great trip and easy to do.  

Yup. We went across US 2 one trip as well. Lots of small city parks with camping along it, many of them right by the BNSF train tracks. You can take US 2 all the way to Duluth, Minnesota, then take I-35 south if you're ready for freeway traveling again by then.

Linda

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We've done 90 from Seattle to Richland then across 90 twice with a 36 foot fiver and Ram diesel one ton. No real challenges. We'd turn South near Cheyenne to 25 to Colorado Springs, then across Kansas on 70 and drop down to visit Branson then home to our winter quarters in Bossier City Louisiana. Good route.

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Thanks all! Great suggestions. I’ll look closely at a map and your suggestions. I did consider going up the west coast to Seattle then 90 East but that was when I thought I had 4 weeks to do the trip, now that it’s 2 weeks looking for something a little more direct. Kirk I like your idea of heading up to Yellowstone NP and then east. Are you suggesting I just drive through the park (since I doubt there are any campgrounds avail) … can you do that?

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5 hours ago, amarie1 said:

Are you suggesting I just drive through the park (since I doubt there are any campgrounds avail) … can you do that?

You could do that or you could probably dry camp in the area. You may want to look for possible reservations if you know when you will be there. A lot will depend on your timing. Do you yet know when you will be leaving to head back east? If so you could use one of the campground programs to see if you can find a campsite. 

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As an additional thought, you did enjoy your very short stop at the Grand Canyon so you would probably enjoy a drive through Yellowstone NP at least as much. If so you would pass north from Jackson, WY into Grand Teton NP and from it into Yellowstone. If you look at a map of the area, that route would take you through the heart of Teton NP and then into Yellowstone. At Grant Village in Yellowstone you would have the option to follow the route to your right along Yellowstone Lake and right again at Fishing Bridge to head out of the east entrance, or you could make a complete circuit of the park, depending on the time that you have to spend there. There are also national forest campgrounds outside of the parks which many people spend a night or two in.

If you drive through you would at least have seen a few of the highlights of that area. 

map of Teton & Yellowstone

Edited by Kirk W
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I have done many a trip across I 80 and agree it's not my favorite road, especially east of Des Moines, Iowa. Kansas and Nebraska are both flat and somewhat boring to drive through so it's a toss up 80 vs 70. I think 70 was better maintained in Kansas than 80 is in Nebraska. Iowa and Missouri both fall short I think for their interstate maintenance. 

I rode a motorcycle across Northern Nebraska once and it was also very boring. Nothing to look at except what looked like sand hills. 

Good Luck with your trip. 

 

Rod

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Yellowstone and Grand Teton are very busy with lots of traffic and delays to even get in, not to mention crowded camp grounds. It will be a zoo without advance planning even just driving thru. I have heard rumors that the lines of vehicles at the entrance stations are hours long. You could easily take I-80 to Cheyenne and then I-25 North towards Casper to Hwy 18 East into So Dakota towards Hot Springs. From there it is easy to connect on I-90 at Rapid City. Wind Cave National Park is at Hot Springs as well as Angastora State Park and just to the north is Custer State Park. Mt Rushmore is just up the road on the way to Rapid City and I-90. Lots to do and see in the Black Hills. 

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Well I'm happy. Thank you for all the suggestions. I wasn't able to get a res near Teton or Yellowstone or even Hot Springs, though I'm sure I could've found some BLM for boondocking. My mind is just not there yet ... what with my trouble with the batteries (diff thread) and no solar.

So now I'm taking i-80 east to Cheyenne, then heading north to Angustora State Recreation area (just south of Hot Springs SD) and then east to Lewis and Clark Recreation area (other side of the state) for a few days. That's my longest drive, 6.5 hours, but I can rest up once I'm there. I just need one more overnight place in mid-Iowa on highway 20, then on to last stop in Rockford, and from there to Chicago. 

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1 hour ago, amarie1 said:

So now I'm taking i-80 east to Cheyenne, then heading north to Angustora State Recreation area (just south of Hot Springs SD)

Nothing wrong with that plan either. We lived in Cheyenne for 18 years. Just be aware that the last week of July is the big Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration but you should be past there before that starts. We spent the summer of 2014 as campground hosts at Angostura SP and had a really great summer. 

Travel safely!

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