Anyways, I test drove an Element last year. The seats do fold up to the side, out of the way, and you have a flat floor, but the overall area isn't that much better than the Forester except for the headroom and it being totally flat.
ButI got the Forester because it was instantly obvious the Element didn't come close to the handling, and the interior quality wasn't as good. It was a more inexpensive vehicle though.
I'm thinking about going to the Badlands this weekend. I am in the Kansas City area, so it should be do-able for a 3 day weekend.
One thing I recommend- Remote Start. I had this put in (got my '03 Forester X 1 year ago with 36K on for $16900) at purchase. If I get cold sleeping inside the car, I can push the remote start button on my 'fob' and the engine will run for 10 min and shut off. Having left the heat and blower on, this warms up the car nicely. You can fall asleep for a couple hours before the cold wakes you up again.
(I've already gone on one trip, KC to Portland, OR in February)