Winging it in Wyoming
December 18, 2017 3:50 PM   Subscribe

I've got a road trip planned for the first 2 weeks of June from STL to Nebraska, SD, and Wyoming. The trip out is solid and my last booked stop is in Jackson, leaving there on the 13th, but then...

where do i go on the way back to Missouri? Medicine Bow? Cheyenne? Casper? Back up a 2 lane road to Thermopolis? Dip down into Ft. Collins for goodies? I have 2-3 days to play with here. I need to be back in STL sometime on the 16th. I have a car, camp gear, and a Nat'l parks pass. No objections going back home through Nebraska again and going 80-29-70 because the 70 drive across Kansas sucks.
posted by fluttering hellfire to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Neither Casper nor Cheyenne is particularly interesting, as cities go. They're fine.
Thermopolis is pretty cool. Grand Teton Park is cool.

One route from there would be a day in Gros Ventre, drive down to Flaming Gorge, a day between there and Dinosaur National Monument, then either 13 to Rifle and stay the night in Glenwood Springs or go across to Steamboat Springs. Either way the next day you could drive that strip of 82 between Glenwood Springs and Twin Lakes because it's beautiful, and head down 285 to Salida and take 50 out through Pueblo.

Another interesting drive is up through the park to the 26 junction and then down through Wind River / Lander / Rawlins - if you've never seen any of that territory it's amazingly desolate. Muddy Gap literally runs out of gasoline pretty regularly. Rawlins and Laramie are pretty interesting towns. The drive the "back way" from there to Fort Collins via Saratoga / Ryan Park / Medicine Bow is pretty cool.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:55 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I should emphasize that anywhere you go in WY you need to bring a shitload of water, more than you think, and make sure there's a spare tire, your jack works, spare oil, flares, more water, an actual physical compass, enough layers in case it freezes (yes). Do not count on mobile phone service in much of the state.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:00 PM on December 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh hey I sorta did this trip in September except I started in Milwaukee. If you're in Jackson, then I assume you're going to the Grand Tetons? I would hope so.

I drove from Jackson all the way to near Steamboat Springs, CO in one day via 191. There is nothing redeemable before Colorado. Just copy and paste this picture for 200 miles. I had to pull over and take a nap because I was becoming numbed by the lack of visual stimulation. I agree with aspersioncast, make SURE you have a safety kit in the car. (Wyoming is also pretty empty from South Dakota to Cody except for the Bighorns.)

Anyway, I would still do that terrible drive because this campground is at the end (Pearl Lake State Park) and it is dropdead gorgeous. By the way, Google doesn't tell you this, but the last 35 miles of road from the Colorado border to there is dirt and looks like this. I wasn't expecting that and it was a rough day.

Steamboat Springs is a great town. Another place to camp nearby is Stagecoach State Park. After that, I drove through Rocky Mountain National Park and into the town of Estes Park, which is charming. I stayed at Olive Ridge Campground but there's nothing special in particular about that one - anything in that area will have amazing views. From there, you've still got a 2 day drive to St Louis (~900 miles). You could cut that down by going farther east the day before, but east of Denver just looks like Wyoming again.

It is not possible for a solo driver to leave Jackson on the 13th and arrive in STL on the 15th and see anything worthwhile. So here's my suggestion.

13th - leave Jackson, go to Steamboat Springs area
14th - Steamboat Springs to Estes Park/Boulder/Ft Collins etc
15th - stay somewhere in Nebraska
16th - leave Nebraska, arrive STL
posted by AFABulous at 5:37 PM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I recommend you stop at at least one one-stoplight-2-bars town’s bar.
posted by Grandysaur at 6:05 PM on December 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Laramie is a nice college town, and the drive along US 287 connecting Laramie to Fort Collins is a small, yet pleasant detour.
posted by stannate at 7:22 PM on December 18, 2017

Up through Tetons and Yellowstone, over to Devil's Tower/Badlands on 90 in SD. 90 across SD to 29, down to STL. There's an 80 mph speed limit in parts of SD so you can make time.
posted by 445supermag at 9:01 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Depends on what you're looking for.

Sciency stuff? Museums? Fossil Butte NM for sure, Cody has a great museum (four in one, actually), Thermop has an interesting private dino dig/museum, there's a dino trackway site near Basin.

A pretty drive, scenic photo ops? Stay off the freeways, they go through the ugliest parts of the state. And the drive between Riverton and Casper is mind-numbingly boring (we call it "The Void.") Out of Jackson, Togwotee Pass is pretty, Yellowstone obviously, down through Cody, colorful badlands, and over the Bighorn Mountains.

History? Maybe Oregon trail sites and South Pass, Maybe the Medicine Wheel out of Lovell.

A fast drive? The freeways. A lot of them are 80 MPH.

City stuff - restaurants, night life? Probably just go through Colorado instead.

If this gives you any ideas, I could probably provide more specific suggestions.
posted by dono at 7:27 AM on December 19, 2017

If you end up passing through Rawlins, there's actually pretty legit Chile Verde at Su Casa (Southern WY is the top of the Green Chile Belt).

There's also the weird Wyoming Frontier Prison, and a surprisingly decent Thai place called Anong's.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:50 AM on December 19, 2017

Response by poster: Itinerary set so far is this:
1. STL- Somewhere in Nebraska. Probably Kearney. Ogllala if I'm really ambitious. Could possibly leave the night before and make it to KC/St. Joe and pick up to NE the next day.
2. Somewhere in Nebraska to Custer State Park. Stops on the way in Scotsbluf, Agate beds.
3. 3 Days in Custer.
4. Custer to Bighorns. Detour to see Devil's Tower. Camping in either Tie Flume or Shell Creek. 2 nights
5. Stop overnight in Cody. I will want a real shower and do laundry and shop.
6. Yellowstone. 3 days at Canyon Village camping
7. Jackson. 2 days. Have hotel.
8. (This is where you come in)
posted by fluttering hellfire at 8:10 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend Shell Creek in the Bighorns, though it's primitive. Try for sites 7 or 8, they're right next to the creek and there is lots of shade.

Personally, I don't know why you'd waste a night in Cody; Shell Creek to Yellowstone was not a difficult drive and there are pay showers at Fishing Bridge if there aren't any in Canyon Village. I'm pretty sure there are laundry facilities too. I spent a couple hours shopping and eating in Cody and still had plenty of time to get to my campsite (at Bridge Bay) and set up. (PS if you need camping supplies, skip Sierra Trading Post in Cody. Their site is awesome but their selection in store was shit.)

By the way, Cody is your last chance for decent cell/data. I used to sit outside McD's or Starbucks and leech their wifi to download maps. Yellowstone has wifi in some of the lodges (but not all) but it's an egregious rate. I almost never had cell service in the park, or really for 90% of my trip. Do not hike without paper maps!!!

I could go on basically forever but I'm worried I'm mansplaining at this point. Feel free to memail me if you have any questions about Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Rocky Mountains in Colorado or camping/hiking in general. I did a lot of research for my trip.
posted by AFABulous at 9:39 AM on December 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I don't know if any of you are still looking at this but it's currently a tie between

6/13 Jackson - Steamboat via 191 to Rock Springs and on
6/14 Steamboat - Estes

6/13 Jackson - Seminoe State Park via 26-287 through Wind River
6/14 Seminoe - Estes

Turns out a lot of USFS campsites on the WY side of Medicine Bow have short seasons and are opening after my dates. I was kind of stoked about Sugarloaf campground, but it's opening in July. Oh noes, may just have to plan another trip.

6/15 Estes - home via KS or NE with a stop overnight when i'm tired
posted by fluttering hellfire at 2:42 PM on January 5, 2018

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