We suggest taking your time and choosing 3-4 parks to really enjoy, plus taking in some sights along the way. Your trip will lead you right through the heart of the Grand Circle, a collection of seven national parks, eight national monuments, numerous state parks, scenic byways, historical sites, prehistoric Indian ruins, colorful ghost towns and stunning geologic formations. Take some time to explore some of these places, including Zion, Canyonlands and Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.
Also check out this list of park-by-park highlights in the Grand Circle.
Early May can be a iffy time for roads. According to the NPS site, "weather permitting" roads from Canyon Village to Fishing Bridge and out the East Entrance should be open to vehicles. The West Entrance should also be open at that time since it's slated to re-open around April 15th. The South Entrance doesn't open until May 13th. Also, Dunraven Pass, the road that links Tower Junction with Canyon Village doesn't open up until later in the season. Great places to hit up in the park include:
- Old Faithful
- Norris Geyser Basin
- Elk Park
- Mammoth Hot Springs
- Gardiner, MT (North Entrance Town)
- Fossil Tree
- Lamar Valley
- Cooke City, MT (Just outside the NE Entrance. Some great food!
- Upper and Lower Falls
- Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
- Hayden Valley
- Yellowstone Lake
- and Cody, WY
If you were coming later in the season, I'd suggest Dunraven Pass (in the park) or the Beartooth Highway (just NE of the park, starting past Cooke City). Some excellent views on both of them.
I hope this helps!
The regions North of the Yukon River, all the way to the Arctic, are the worst for mosquitos in general. The worst time of year to go is in July, however you are likely to encounter them as soon temperatures remain above freezing for a couple of weeks.
You can bring repellant, but the stuff that repels the best is bad for your skin and clothes, and will contain a measured amount of deet. Since I personally prefer to not to crop dust myself, you can purchase netting to go around your hat or head, and maintain long sleeves and pants throughout the day.
If you still get bit, don't scratch!
You would easily enjoy at least 4 days in Yellowstone; 1-2 days in the Tetons and at least another 4 days in Glacier...all can easily take lots more days to enjoy; but to see the minimal and hike a little; visit museums and visitors centers, I'd say at least the amounts I listed above. All are absolutely gorgeous parks by themselves!! Enjoy! I am jealous!
I would allow at least 2 full days for each park, probably 3 days to be on the safe side. There's so much to see at these parks that anything less than 2 days simply isn't enough, depending on what you want to do. If it's worth the time going to each place, it's sure worth it to spend enough time to see it all. Don't try to rush through everything because you'll miss out on lots of things. It's also a good idea to have a lantern on hand powered with batteries in case you run out of daylight hours.
The Grand Teton National Park is open all year long with the exception of Christmas day. The only available places available to stay inside of the park in October are camping sites. I would recommend staying within the nearby town of Jackson. Travelocity has a lot of great deals for hotels in Jackson. You can search their website by going to: http://www.travelocity.com.
Supai village, located within Havasu Canyon, a large tributary on the south side of the Colorado River, is not accessible by road. The Havasupai Tribe administers the land, which lies outside the boundary and jurisdiction of Grand Canyon National Park.
The trail to Supai begins at Hualapai Hilltop, 191 miles/308 km from Grand Canyon Village or 66 miles/106 km from Peach Springs, Arizona. Peach Springs has the nearest services – gas, food, and water. No services are available at Hualapai Hilltop.
More information Supai and Havasu Canyon is available on nps.gov.
You must absolutely follow highway 87 (Needles Highway) to Mt. Rushmore. Out of Hot Springs, drive about 11.5 miles North on 385 , until you get to 87 North. It will be easy to follow from here to Rushmore.
This road is one of my favorites that I have driven in South Dakota. It winds through the mountains on narrow roads, but driving slowly and stopping often, you will be able to stop at multiple lookouts and see the monument from afar. There are also tunnels through sheer rock faces, and all together a fantastic drive!
The USGS administers the Golden Eagle Pass, and will have a complete list of where they are sold. You can go online and order one at www.parkpass.net, or get in touch with USGS ordering line directly at 888-275-8747, ext. 1, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy your park travels, in Illinois and anywhere else you go!