Western Trip: Campground Summary


  1. Campsite at Sylvan Lake
    Campsite at Sylvan Lake

    Sylvan Lake Campground at Custer State Park, SD: Sites were well spaced, secluded, grounds were well taken care of. Site was level. Our campsite was tucked away among trees. The campground was not on the lake, but was a quick hike to the lake and there was access several trail heads. Scenery was gorgeous.

    Sylvan Lake
    Sylvan Lake at Custer State Park.
  2. Red Canyon Campground at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, UT:
    Abby in our campsite at Red Canyon.
    Abby in our campsite at Red Canyon.

    This campground has sites that are a stone’s throw away from the rim of the gorge. Visitors center is a short hike away. Some hiking trails along the gorge rim. Gorgeous scenery. Sites are well spaced and level. We wouldn’t camp here again until Alex is older and listens better. Jess would become instantaneously grey making sure Alex didn’t fall into the gorge. Or he will need one of those child leashes.

    View from the Red Canyon Campground in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
    View from the Red Canyon Campground in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
  3. Mueller State Park, CO: This campground had nicely spaced, wooded sites. Some sites had a view of Pike’s Peak, but these go quickly on the reservations page. Great laundry facility and playgroud for Alex. Alex’s wagon came into play as our laundry mobile when walking up the hill to the laundromat. Park is well cared for and the staff is friendly. Group sites also available.

    View of Pike’s Peak, obscured by cloud cover.

Least Favorites

  1. Mormon Island State Recreation Area, NE: Campground is next to a lake, on an island, in the middle of the Platte River. The lake is part of Nebraska’s Chain of Lakes; these lakes are water filled excavation pits from I-80’s construction and converted to recreation areas.. We stayed here because it was easy access to I-80, had full hook-ups (needed to run the A/C due to the heat and humidity), and it was approximately the target distance we wanted to drive in a day upon leaving Colorado. The lake’s aroma left a bit to be desired. Campground served its purpose, but it was cruel switch from the Rockies.
  2. Starved Rock State Park, IL: The park website looks amazing! Don’t be fooled, the campground is definitely not amazing. If the campground is in the park, it is on the border. You do drive past the beautiful area to the campground, which is mosquito infested to the point you can’t be outside. We would have rather stayed in a commercial campground.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise

  1. View from the bluff at Great River Bluffs State Park, MN.
    View from the bluff at Great River Bluffs State Park, MN.

    Great River Bluffs State Park, MN: The geological features of this park are the result of minimal glacial drift from any of the four major glaciers. Sites were well spaced and wooded. Some are not level, so check the reservation site, it should provide information. Nice hiking trails with views of the Mississippi River Valley. And there were little chipmunks for Penny to watch from Abby’s window.

    Penny watching chipmunks at Great River Bluffs State Park, MN.
    Penny watching chipmunks at Great River Bluffs State Park, MN.

Biggest Disappointment

  1. Yellowstone, WY: It was Fourth of July weekend. There were hordes of people and we were lucky to get a spot. Campsites were crowded. People were oblivious to etiquette. The bathrooms were not clean. Dave said he would rather take one of the poop bags for the dogs out to the woods rather than use the bathroom. Jess was too scared to see the horrors of the women’s bathroom. There will be a separate Yellowstone post to discuss why this was our least favorite park of the entire trip. I’m sure Yellowstone is much nicer when it isn’t the peak travel season.

Western Trip Summary

We started our first long RV adventure on June 27, 2015. We had made the decision just three weeks prior to move to California so Jess could enroll in the UC Davis Extension Master Brewers Program; we knew that when we returned we would have to kick things into high gear to prepare the house for sale (we had our floors refinished while we were gone). Looking back, it is hard to believe we got it all done. And it is still rather surreal that a year later we are packing up our California rental to move to Colorado.

Since it has been so long since our trip, the format for posts will be different from our California move. This summary post will be followed by posts focusing on our favorite/least favorite campgrounds, side trips made along the way, and anything else that may require a stand alone post. These stand alone posts will likely be due excessive length as a result of our poor self-editing skills. Some of our notes (including total gallons of diesel and mileage) have been misplaced in a cross-country move.

2015 Summer Trip
2015 Summer Trip

The trip was approximately 5200 miles, including side trips. We used about 345 gallons of diesel, averaging right around 15 miles per gallon.

We started our trip on June 27, 2015 and were back July 16, 2015. Just shy of 3 full weeks and resulting in an average of 273 miles traveled per day.

Family selfie just before leaving the driveway.
Family selfie just before leaving the driveway.

The trip started out on a rainy, mechanical break down note with Abby’s turbo resonator failing, but after our first day hiccup, it was smooth sailing. We had a great time visiting family and friends along our route. And they were always very kind in giving us a place to park, do laundry, and shower in a full size bathroom!

The whirlwind trip took us to four national parks, a national monument, a national recreation area, two national forests, and seven state parks. We definitely erred in wedged too many sights into our trip schedule; we learned from our errors on this trip and corrected them for future trips.


  1. Great River Bluffs State Park, MN – overnight rest stop only
  2. Palisades State Park, SD – 2 night stop, rest day

    Palisades State Park in South Dakota
    Palisades State Park in South Dakota
  3. Custer State Park, SD – 2 night stop (Grace Coolidge, Sylvan Lake)
  4. Yellowstone National Park, WY – overnight (Fishing Creek)
  5. Grand Teton National Park, WY – overnight (Lizard Creek)
  6. Bridger-Teton National Forest, WY – overnight (East Table)
  7. Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, UT – overnight
  8. San Juan National Forest, CO – 2 night stop (Junction Creek)
  9. Mueller State Park, CO – overnight

    View of Pike’s Peak (under cloud cover) from Mueller State Park.
  10. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO – 2 night stop (Olive Ridge – technically just outside the park)
  11. Mormon Island State Recreation Area, NE – overnight
  12. Starved Rock State Park, IL – overnight
  13. West Branch State Park, OH – overnight

    View for our campsite in West Branch State Park, OH. Our last night on the road.