Flaming Gorge/Red Desert/Pryor Mountains - Good Spots and Timing? | OVERLAND BOUND COMMUNITY

Flaming Gorge/Red Desert/Pryor Mountains - Good Spots and Timing?

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Dean2

Rank 0

Contributor I

60
Chicago, IL, USA
First Name
Dean
Last Name
Clarkson
Service Branch
USAR/NCNG
Hi All,

My wife and I will be traversing WY south to north just after Labor Day. We're dropping Thing 2 at college in Denver on Labor Day and starting life as empty nesters. After that, we'll visit family in Montana on the way home to Chicago. We used to camp a lot, until we moved to Chicago 16 years ago. We've also done tons of road trips. This will be our first trip combining the two. We're busy going through old gear, figuring out what we have and what we need, and trying to plan out a route. That's where you fine folks come in.

I'm looking for info on two things: Good spots to camp and/or see and how to figure out how to time the trip.

Camping/Sights: If anyone knows the areas, I'd love to have some local knowledge on good places to camp or things that we really need to see while we're in the area.

Timing: This is the biggie for me. I can make a six hour trip take twelve without even trying. For example, we once got off the interstate in the VA mountains due to a wreck/backup and managed to cross into WV on forest service roads while simply trying to get home to go to work (in Chicago) the next day. That's fine (fantastic!) and all, but if I do something like that on this trip, we'll have to cut out stuff we want to see later. It won't be the end of the world, but it would be nice to figure this out.

I'm a map fan and first saw the continental divide split at the Great Divide Basin when I was 10 or so and have wanted to go ever since. I later learned about the Red Desert and Flaming Gorge, which look even better. So, we want to hit both, since we don't often (ie, never) find ourselves in that corner of Wyoming. We also want to visit the medicine wheel in the Bighorns and the Pryor Mountains horse range. Here's our draft schedule:

09/06 - Move in day for the kiddo. Since it's her first year, I guess we'll be nice and take her grocery shopping and out to dinner. We'll probably spend the night at a hotel in Denver.
09/07 - Denver to Flaming Gorge. Google Maps says it's a six hour drive from Denver to Dutch John, UT. I figure if we leave at o'dark thirty, we can easily (ha!) make it to the east side of Flaming Gorge to camp somewhere. We'll get off the pavement just after Dutch John and take a gravel road up the east side.
09/08 - Flaming Gorge to/through the Red Desert. There's not a lot of info on the Red Desert, but we have found some things we want to see: White Mountain petroglyphs, Boar's Tusk, the sand dunes, and the Oregon Buttes. I found a planned route in a book, Wyoming Backroads, that hits all of those spots and would drop us on the hardball just south of Lander. It's 98 miles, mostly on county maintained gravel roads. I figure we can make decent time, but will be stopping quite a bit. We'll also want to camp somewhere along that route.
09/09 - Red Desert to Pryor Mountains - We'll be back on the highway south of Lander and stick to it to Greybull, head east to US14A, then back west to the medicine wheel (including a three mile hike to get to it and back to the parking lot), then to Lovell. Lander to Lovell on that route should be about four hours of driving, but we'll have started somewhere south of Lander on gravel and will want to camp in the Pryors, so more gravel and then onto a less well-maintained road.
09/10 - Done with camping and off to see my sister in White Sulphur Springs, MT, then Billings to see my dad, then home and back to work.

Does that seem reasonable, timewise? I've driven tons of miles around eastern MT on all sorts of roads, but never with a schedule in mind. I grew up off and on in Billings, then spent summers there with my dad after my parents split up and we used to go all over just for the heck of it. He was retired and I was on summer vacation, so time was never a consideration. I don't want to rush, but I also don't want to set up camp after dark every day. My wife and I are in the beginning stages of planning a move back to Billings, so the Bighorns and Pryors could be cut. They'd be an easy weekend camping trip out of Billings.

Your thoughts would be most appreciated. If anyone has any rules of thumb for planning distances between overnight stops, like average speeds for graded gravel vs. rocky, rutty dirt, vs. two track while stopping to look at neat stuff, I'd love to hear them.

So long as the plague, fires, rain, and/or snow don't interfere, this should be a great trip! FYI, we'll be driving a fairly new-to-us 1996 4Runner. She has open diffs and no winch. We do have some recovery gear, including traction boards. We'll also be purchasing a Garmin InReach or equivalent and will carry lots of water, just in case. And probably most importantly, I've seen what happens when sagebrush prairie gets wet and turns to gumbo. :screamcat:

Thanks in advance!
Dean
 

Dean2

Rank 0

Contributor I

60
Chicago, IL, USA
First Name
Dean
Last Name
Clarkson
Service Branch
USAR/NCNG
I figured I'd report back in case anyone else is interested in the area. If you are, go! It turned out to be every bit as cool as we thought it would.

We ended up staying a second night in the Red Desert. After setting up the first night, my wife (wisely) suggested that we were not sufficiently prepared to camp anywhere near bears. That turned out to be good on the time front, too. We'd have gotten up into the Pryors well after dark.

The entire area was beautiful. Mind you, I'm as much of a fan of plains and rocks as I am mountains! We ran across very few people, but saw tons of antelope and horses, and even two cow elk. The driving was mainly easy, but if it had rained, we'd have been stuck there until it dried out.

I did a short video walkaround of each campsite. They're on YouTube here, here, and here (and there may be a bad word here or there, wasn't originally planning to do anything with these). The one we found on the second day was the best site I've ever found.

And some pics (okay, a bunch, OB really lets you go crazy with the pics - Thanks!):
 

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