US89 – An Epic Two-Lane RV Road Trip through Six National Parks

When you get the yen to slow things down and leave the interstate behind, America’s two-lane highways can lead to some pretty amazing places. US89 traverses the Western US from northern Montana to Flagstaff, AZ, with the chance to visit six of our country’s national parks along the way. Ready to find out why US89 is on many an RV traveler’s ‘got-to-drive-it’ list?

US89 RV Camping Itinerary

Let’s start our journey at the highway’s northern US terminus—Piegan, Montana. You’ll be skimming along the eastern side of Glacier National Park, so don’t miss the chance to experience the Northern Rockies by camping in Glacier NP and hiking at least one of the park’s seven hundred miles of trails. There’s nothing quite like topping a rise to be greeted by the sight of a glacial lake!

Bonus Glacier National Park RV travel tip: if you’re coming from the Pacific Northwest, swing through Seattle to pick up your RV rental as you come.

Let’s keep moving! Quaint mountain towns like White Sulphur Springs, MT will keep things interesting as you make your way south on US89 to Wyoming and the wonders of Yellowstone National Park. On the way, you’ll have passed through Lewis and Clark National Forest, another natural treasure worth spending time getting to know.

Picture of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Once US89 reaches Yellowstone at Gardiner, follow the Grand Loop Road south through Mammoth to Old Faithful (not clearly marked as US89 within the park). Take the time to visit as many of the national park’s scenic wonders as you can, including Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Camping in Yellowstone is also a ‘don’t miss’, so make your reservations before you come.

Get ready for the jaw-dropping splendor of the Teton Range as you follow US89 (marked as John D Rockefeller, JR Memorial Parkway) from Yellowstone’s southern border into Grand Teton National Park. The rugged beauty of this national park will lure you to hike one more trail, take one more photo and wonder why it took you so long to visit. Whether you prefer ‘dry camping’ in the forest or a full-hookups site at the foot of a mountain, there’s the perfect place to come RV camping in Grand Teton NP.

When you’re ready to roll south again, the scenic route continues to the famed mountain resort town of Jackson, WY, continuing along the spectacular Grand Canyon of the Snake River and through Star Valley, surrounded the entire time by national forests. You’ll cross over into Idaho and then swing south toward the bright blue waters of Bear Lake at the Utah border. If you’re ready to stop for the night, numerous campgrounds in the Bear Lake State Park area will be right along your route.

Keep following US89 south from Bear Lake as it becomes Logan Canyon National Scenic Byway and then south through iconic Utah towns like Brigham City and Ogden on your way to Salt Lake City. The Wasatch Range, Temple Square, the Great Salt Lake and Wasatch-Cache National Forest offer RV travelers along US89 in Utah plenty of places to stop and explore.

And then it’s south again along the Jordan River, through valley towns where Utah’s Mormon heritage is celebrated and the cool, green beauty of Manti-La Sal National Forest. Palisade State Park’s RV campsites come highly recommended, if you need a place to stop just off the highway.

From Palisade State Park to Utah’s southern border, your RV trip along US89 will be, in a word, “breathtaking.” Utah’s southern National Parks are unlike any other region in the country. Take the quick side trip east to Bryce Canyon National Park to photograph red rock hoodoos and spires and hike a canyon trail. Spend the night in one of this park’s inexpensive campsites before swinging back west to US89 and Zion National Park.

The canyon trails, waterways and multi-colored vistas that bring visitors to Zion National Park will encourage US89 travelers to stay awhile. Whether it’s a scenic drive through Kolob Canyons or a hike through The Narrows, there’s a way for everyone to experience the wonders of Zion. Campgrounds fill early in warm weather, so plan to arrive in the morning.

We’ve saved the best, or at least, the best-known, stop along US89 for last. Grand Canyon National Park north of Flagstaff, Arizona is the final stop on this itinerary. But before we reach the ‘big one’, enjoy the trip as US89 swings east through the magnificent cliffs and canyons of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to cross Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell/Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Your camera will be clicking as the blue waters of Lake Powell contrast with surrounding red rock formations for one-of-a-kind vistas.

Once you’ve made your way to the Grand Canyon, choose your favorite campground and set up camp, then let the convenient shuttle service transport you to the national park’s most famous attractions. From Yavapai Point to the Skywalk, there are trails, scenic overlooks and photo opportunities enough for a lifetime of exploration.

Ready to find your own treasured travel memories on US89? There’s no better way to experience the American West than with an RV camping trip from point to point, national park to national park, on this iconic roadway. You can even explore further south along the ‘traditional route’ of US89 all the way to Nogales, Mexico!

No matter where you choose to travel on US Route 89, there’s an RV rental nearby, so don’t let lack of a motorhome slow you down. It’s an epic journey and one every adventurous RV traveler should embark upon at least once. Let us know about your US89 adventures!

Posted in Arizona motorhome trips, Arizona motorhome vacations, Grand Canyon NP, MT RV Vacation, UT RV Vacation, Yellowstone National Park | Leave a comment

A Yellowstone Vacation with an RV

Picture of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

A vacation in an RV to Yellowstone National Park is a completely captivating experience. This park is a most unusual landscape, filled with geysers, mud pots and colorful geothermal features. Hot springs and pine forests attract wildlife, and the picturesque waterfalls and canyons intrigue millions of visitors from all over the world.

Drive your RV into the Yellowstone North Entrance at Mammoth. On the way you must stop at the famous Roosevelt Arch. This soaring basalt stone arch is a special symbol of Yellowstone, welcoming travelers to the most popular park in the U.S.

You will come to Mammoth Hot Springs as you move into the park from the North Entrance. The terraces are not to be missed, with the colorful formations amazing in their beauty as hot water and limestone work together to create this natural artwork.

To really get the most out of your visit to Mammoth Hot Springs, you should take the Lower Terrace Trail. You will hike an easy one-mile path and come to an overlook that gives you the best view. You can also access the Upper Terrace and witness how these hot springs are forever changing as the water flows every which way, leaving mineral deposits and making living sculptures.

Absorb some the history at the park by taking a walking tour of Fort Yellowstone. The buildings here were built in 1891, with quarters for officers, guards and enlisted men. At Albright Visitor Center and Museum you can get more history and study the early settlers, mountain men and Native Americans who made this area their home. Ensure you visit the Moran Gallery for amazing watercolor sketches by Thomas Moran.

The Grand Loop Road offers most of the major attractions of Yellowstone only a few hundred feet from the road. Easy access means you will use this as your main route through the park so you don’t miss anything. One place you don’t want to pass up is Mesa Falls, a spot at the headwaters of the Snake River and containing amazing views. Bird watching here is really fun, and you may see an eagle fly overhead.

A must-see is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, carved by great glaciers and the water of the Yellowstone River. Watch the gorgeous cascade of the Lower Falls just east of Canyon Village. The views are indescribable. This is the largest waterfall in the park, as well as the second most photographed attraction (after Old Faithful).

Stopping at Lake Village is a wonderful respite in your RV trip through the park. You’ll find all the supplies you need to continue your travels. At the Fishing Bridge you will see a log bridge built in 1902 that was a favorite of fishermen to go for a trophy catch. You can stand on the bridge and watch the fish swimming below you. Don’t forget to stop at the Fishing Bridge Museum to learn more about this area. The Fishing Bridge RV Park is the perfect place to park your RV for a while and explore the surrounding wonders of Yellowstone.

Now it is time to get yourself over to Old Faithful and watch the impressive display of Mother Nature. As the spray flies sky-high you will find it hard to believe that a geyser can have that much power. Afterwards, explore the Upper Geyser Basin for a wealth of sights such as hot springs, mud pots, more geysers and pools. Walk around Geyser Hill and enjoy the eruptions of Amemone and Beehive Geysers.

Lower Geyser Basin also offers plentiful thermal features to delight and inspire the whole family. You can see massive displays of water shooting up to 150 feet in the air. The multi-colored mud pots bubble and gurgle, making you curious as to what is below your feet in this amazing Yellowstone National Park.

Head north to Madison and see all the sights there are here. From natural highlights like Gibbon Falls to the Madison Museum, you will want to take it all in. Drive towards Norris and stop at Terrace Springs to walk the short boardwalk through this thermal area. Further on you will come to the Artists Paintpots. There is a one-mile trail that will take you to hot springs and large mud pots as well as some backcountry geothermal areas to explore.

Your RV trip does not have to end here. There is always more to do in Yellowstone. You may want to stay a week or two so you can enjoy this famous park to the max. Whatever you decide, you are sure to have a great time no matter how long you stay.

Picture credits: The picture of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is from the Wikimedia Commons. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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RV Camping Outside Yellowstone

With boundaries in three states, and millions of acres of forest land surrounding the Yellowstone National Park, there’s no shortage of scenic RV campgrounds outside Yellowstone. West Yellowstone, Montana, for example, boasts more than a dozen RV campgrounds.

Towns like Jackson and Cody, Wyoming also offer campgrounds close enough to use as your base camp. Many offer bus tours to the Park, so why not plan to spend at least one day getting familiar with Yellowstone with an experienced guide?

Use this link to choose the state and town you’d like to camp in and make your reservations early! The National Parks Service site also has a wealth of fascinating information to make planning your trip to Yellowstone easier.

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RV Camping Inside Yellowstone National Park

With numerous campgrounds operated within the Park itself, and a wide variety of private RV campgrounds nearby, finding a place to park your RV rental isn’t difficult. Here are some basic guidelines for finding an RV campsite within the Park:

  • The twelve campgrounds within Yellowstone are operated by a private firm, and several are on a first-come-first-served basis for campsites.
  • RV campers not planning to stay another night must check out by 10 a.m. at these campgrounds. Arm yourself with a plan for which campgrounds interest you and be there to claim your site.
  • Here is a wonderful website with comprehensive information about all Yellowstone campgrounds, as well as many RV campgrounds outside the Park. You can also use this site to find how to reserve campsites in campgrounds that take reservations.
  • Camping along roadways or in undeveloped areas isn’t allowed at Yellowstone. One more important rule to plan for: generators aren’t allowed after 8 p.m. at most campgrounds.
  • Yellowstone is a wild and wooly place! Bears, wolves, bison and coyotes are only a few of the species roaming the park. Food, cooking utensils, coolers and anything that might attract animals must be stored inside your RV unless being used.
  • Yellowstone is enormous! More than two million acres, spread across Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, make this Park the perfect place to camp for a week, or two. It also makes drive times outside the norm. It’s common for campgrounds to be twenty or thirty miles beyond the closest entrance, so plan your arrival times accordingly.
  • Your RV is a comfortable way to view the remarkable beauty of Yellowstone. Grand Loop Road takes you around the Park to most of the major attractions. Plan several hours to traverse this one hundred forty two mile series of figure eights, designed way back in 1883!
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Buffalo, Rainbows, and Dragons Breath

I recently led an RV Rental caravan from Las Vegas through Salt Lake City, Jackson Hole Wyoming, and into Yellowstone.

The trip itself was a blast and I hope to be able to post details about each major tour area here.

There was one day that made the whole adventure come together for me. We had just left Artists Point in Yellowstone headed back to camp and a brief rainstorm came and went. My wife and baby were seated in the back of the motorhome and she was still talking about the waterfall we had just seen.

Suddenly we saw coming toward the side of the motorhome what looked like a small wooly mammoth. Snorting and stomping as he came, the buffalo

Picture of a Bison in the National Bison Range

Bison in the National Bison Range

didn’t seem to mind cars, trucks, or motorhomes as he pushed across the road and stopped traffic.  The big fellow joined a herd on the other side of the street. The sun came out of the clouds and above the herd a rainbow grew.

We later came to one of the many geological features of Yellowstone, a hot springs area with a particular feature called Dragons Breath.  This feature actually puffed steam and made noise that made it seem like a dragon might really live at the bottom of this cave and be puffing steam up to warn us to stay away.

I suppose there are many memories I could keep in my head to remember this trip. I remember early mornings and coffee with friends, and the late nights with campfires and smores and songs and jokes. However, I suppose the lifetime memory I’ll take with me from this trip is sitting in a motorhome with my family after a rainstorm with buffalos, rainbows, and dragons breath.

If you want to go to Yellowstone or another national park and see these things for yourself check out the El Monte RV Rentals National Parks page.

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