Trip Coach: April 8, 2008
Kurt Repanshek, author of "National Parks With Kids," answered your questions about vacations in the National Parks with (and without) children.
Kurt Repanshek: Round Lake, I'm afraid your friends might be starting a bit late in the 2008 cycle and have very few options in terms of in-park lodging. The first thing I'd do is see what is available. Yellowstone's lodging concessionaire, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, has a good website that will help you and your friends see what's available.
From Mount Rushmore, head west on Interstate 90 to Buffalo, Wyoming, then go up and over the Bighorn Mountains—an incredibly gorgeous range—on U.S. 16 to Worland. From there they can work their way up to Cody and into Yellowstone. A slight alternative, once they reach Cody, would be to head north up the Chief Joseph Highway, into the Sunlight Basin, and then through Yellowstone's northeast entrance at Cooke City. This route, I would say, is the most gorgeous into the park.
If they have time for a sidetrip, dropping down to Thermopolis, Wyoming, for a stay at Hot Springs State Park would be a treat.
San Diego, Calif.: Which parks have budget rates for a single adult? Also, I vaguely recall a park where there was a private mansion that has been turned over to the park and has reasonable accommodations. Where is it located? Thank you very much.
Kurt Repanshek: San Diego, off the top of my head I can't think of any park that has "budget rates for a single adult."
You can stay in a campground and pay for one adult, but most lodges I know of offer rooms based on double occupancy.
As for a private mansion turned over to the park, well, there's Scotty's Castle in Death Valley, but there are no rooms to rent there. It is, however, a fascinating place to tour!
Dublin, Ohio: What is a feasible way to see Yellowstone with only a one night stay in the park? We reserved the last room on the only night available during our trip in June. All of the hotels in Jackson Hole, Jackson, and West Yellowstone that have rooms left are very expensive. What will give us the most time in Yellowstone without having to spend $200 for a one night hotel stay?
Kurt Repanshek: Hi Dublin, I hope your room is at Old Faithful, as that's the best location for the limited amount of time you have. From Old Faithful not only can you catch the highlights of the Upper Geyser Basin by walking the boardwalk along Geyser Hill and venturing over to Black Sand Basin, but you are close enough to check out the West Thumb geyser basin.
Chicago, Ill.: Hello Mr. Repanshek, Me, my husband, and my 10 year old daughter are going on a vacation this coming August 2008. We're going fly to Las Vegas, then drive to the Grand Canyon. We have 1 week for this vacation--what is your suggestion on where we can go so my daughter won't get bored--somewhere she can appreciate the history and landmarks of Nevada and Arizona. Thank you, Elisa
Kurt Repanshek: Hi Elias, you ask a tough question, both logistically and because of your daughter's age. Getting from Las Vegas to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon will take four-and-a-half to five hours. That's a lot of car time for a youngster.
Once at the South Rim, though, I think just walking along the South Rim Trail and taking a gander into the canyon would interest your daughter. And, as I told another, you might just see condors drifting on the thermals along the rim. Hermit's Rest is a curious old place that she might find fun for a little while. Then, too, there's the Watchtower at Desert View that I'm sure she'd enjoy climbing to the top of.
Of course, driving over from Las Vegas a stop at Hoover Dam to get a close-up look of this engineering marvel might be fun.
Kurt Repanshek: I can't believe it but my hour is up. I really appreciate your questions and the time you put into them. I only hope I was able to give you some good advice.
If you have any other questions, head over to the Traveler and contact me through the "contact" form.
And if you do nothing else this summer, find time to enjoy at least one national park!