Denver to Yellowstone in a rented RV
July 18, 2013 12:23 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I want to visit Yellowstone National Park in September. We have two weeks and we're thinking about flying into Denver and renting an RV, which we've never done before. We'd like to get input from others who have rented one (like what size and what companies to use or avoid) and hear any other suggestions that will help us have a great vacation.
posted by 14580 to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have rented an RV to go to Burning Man waaaay back in the day. We got a decently small one from Cruise America and I was surprised how big and unwieldy it seemed on the road. If it's just the two of you I'd suggest getting the smallest one you can find (19'? smaller?) unless you really need the bigger RV stuff like separate bedrooms or multiple TVs. The biggest deal for us was that we got the thing with water tanks supposedly full and they were not full. This was a bit of a hassle in the desert, probably less so where you are. Call your car insurance company to see if you need to purchase a rider for insurance on the thing. I wasn't the person who rented the RV we got so I'm not sure how that was handled. These things suck up a lot of gas, so keep that in mind when you're thinking about who to rent from. There may be options nearer to Yellowstone that would work for you.

Think a little bit about whether you have any special food stuff you care about. The kitchens on these things are pretty barebones and aren't appointed terrifically well so if there's something you care about (stovetop espresso maker, extra tupperware for leftovers) you'd need to bring it or get it. Otherwise I was surprised how basically easy they were to drive once you get all the mirrors adjusted and I hope you guys have a great time.
posted by jessamyn at 12:52 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Having just driven from Oregon to Yellowstone and back in our family car, make sure you are comfortable with the distances involved.
posted by nostrada at 12:57 PM on July 18, 2013

My Dad flew into Denver last summer, met me in Vail where I was for work, and we drove up to Yellowstone, stopping to spend two days in the Grand Tetons, which are still my favorite place that I've been. The sky really opens up in Wyoming and the views were gorgeous, making it feel as though we were only in the car for a few hours instead of 7 1/2 that first day. I'd highly recommend the Tetons and conveniently Grand Teton National Park leads right into the southern entrance of Yellowstone.

After Yellowstone we headed east along the Beartooth Hwy and over to the Badlands, making stops along the way over three days before heading back to Denver to return the car. If you feel like venturing out of Yellowstone, I have an excel sheet with travel distances/times between each tourist stop that I'd be happy to share. (Once a planner, always a planner).
posted by icaicaer at 1:58 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Search my history/activity for my past comments on Yellowstone, since I've made a few based on first hand experience working there for 2 summers.

Specifically, and I thought I'd said this here before but I can't find the comment/answer, about Rental RVs.... we saw these in Yellowstone a fair bit. More often than not, their presence, be it on the road or in a parking lot or a pull out, made people like us, who had been there more than a week or two, very nervous. They were notorious for being driven by people who put them into bad situations, got into fender benders, blocked roads/traffic, and potentially hurt people.

An example of a bad situation that I personally witnessed was one where a driver of the rental RV (1-800-RV4RENT of course, that's all we saw) tried to do a three point turn on a 2 lane road without any pullout/curb/embankment whatsoever. The driver ended up holding up traffic while he did a 400-point turn which actually ended with him completely straddling the highway with the front axle off the front end of the pavement on the right side of the road and the rear axle off the pavement on the left side of the road. Stuck. Blocking traffic solidly. In Yellowstone a detour is often 2 to 4 hours, depending on where you are. Why was this necessary you ask? Because the driver wanted to turn around to see some wildlife and couldn't bear to go to the next pullout.

The fender benders were more from people who just weren't familiar with driving RVs. You say you've never rented one before. Have you driven larger vehicles before? What kind and in what situations? Be aware they are different, very different from a normal sedan with respect to driving, forgiving you if you stray to the shoulder, parking, turning, etc.... That's not even getting into the mechanics of the RV aspect of things like setup and usage...

Regarding the fender benders and not knowing how to drive/anticipate for the width of RVs, RVs in general can be deadly in situations like Yellowstone. Specifically with regard to biking in the park. The roads are normal -> narrow 2 lane in all but the most front country of areas (old faithful and such for a few hundred yards here and there) and when sharing the road with bicyclists RVs win every battle.

Motorists frequently do not see bicyclists or fail to give them sufficient space on the road. Drivers sometimes pass on hill crests, blind curves, or in oncoming traffic. Vehicles, especially motor homes or those towing trailers, may have wide mirrors, posing an additional hazard. For more information about bicycling, stop at a visitor center.

Mirrors on vehicles, doubly those on wide RVs that may not have room to maneuver and/or drivers experienced with their vehicles, kill cyclists in Yellowstone. A mirror to the back of the head is deadly.

Sorry to be a party pooper but I'm not a fan of these things. I'd say get a rental car and car camp or stay in some of the amazing lodges in the park itself or in perimeter towns, you'll have a great time either way, really. Plus you won't have to worry about all the baggage surrounding having the rental RV to deal with.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:51 AM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

*Feel free to ping me on Memail for other YNP questions/tips, glad to help, really.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:52 AM on July 19, 2013

Oh, and in Yellowstone, it is absolutely not uncommon to get caught in a bison jam.

I've seen vehicles kicked and rammed by bisons by people that either A) were in too big a hurry to get through and scared the animals, B) didn't know where their vehicle ended and encroached on the bison's personal space, or C) just got unlucky. This goes for any rental vehicle, not just RVs, of course but having coverage or a rider or whatever that isn't going to leave you paying for a door/fender replacement is a *very* good idea.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:03 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have rented an RV in Denver from Ride the West and I would strongly recommend not renting from them. It was a nightmare, they were dishonest, the whole experience was horrible.
posted by medusa at 7:48 AM on July 19, 2013

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