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Badlands, Mt Rushmore, Black Hills, etc. to Yellowstone/Gardiner, MT

Badlands, Mt Rushmore, Black Hills, etc. to Yellowstone/Gardiner, MT

May 16th, 2014, 02:48 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 23
Badlands, Mt Rushmore, Black Hills, etc. to Yellowstone/Gardiner, MT

Planning a car trip for a family of five (3 sons ages 15, 18, and 20) from Nebraska via Badlands in South Dakota to Yellowstone via Gardiner, MT (where we have booked a cabin). After driving a full day from Nebraska to Badlands and spending a night near there, we will have 3 days to see Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore, other sites, and to get to Gardiner, MT, where we will launch 6 nights in Yellowstone and Grand Teton. I have been reading tempting descriptions of the Black Hills, Custer State Park, Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, Devil's Tower, Bighorn National Forest and Cody. We obviously don't have time for all those things. I was kind of planning to spend a whole day in Badlands due to advice from a relative. What do people suggest we choose out of this list, as the best sites to see with limited time? Also, I am debating between taking 90 W through Wyoming and Montana to get to Gardiner (I believe this is the shortest drive), or taking Rte 212 into Yellowstone and then heading up to Gardiner (I believe this is the most scenic route, but will take longer), or entering Yellowstone via Cody and the East Entrance and then driving up to Gardiner through Yellowstone. Would love some thoughts from people familiar with all this territory. We will be travelling end of May/beginning of June.
naturetraveller is offline  
May 16th, 2014, 03:24 PM
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I haven't been to all of the sites you mention, but when we went to the Black Hills we really enjoyed driving the loop in Custer State Park, where we saw lots of cool Buffalo, and I would highly recommend Crazy Horse. To us, Crazy Horse was way more amazing and impressive than Mt. Rushmore. Have a great trip.
alley is offline  
May 16th, 2014, 05:16 PM
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Unless your boys want to climb around on it, Devil's Tower is a brief stop.
carolyn is offline  
May 16th, 2014, 08:22 PM
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Your drive from the Black Hills (e.g. Custer) to Gardiner will take you most of a full day. If you plan to spend a full day at the Badlands, which is time well-spent, that leaves you just one day for the rest of the Black Hills.

Since you will be staying at the Badlands the night before your visit there, you might want to do the tour of the Minuteman Missile Site, which I found fascinating. You have to be at the MM Visitor Center first thing in the morning to get the same day tickets and then you might have to arrange your time in the Badlands around the time of your MM tour. Since you are traveling with older kids, I'd recommend doing one of the longer hikes. We did the Medicine Root Loop and really enjoyed it--great scenery and few, if any, other hikers.

I would recommend timing your visit to Mt. Rushmore, which is a MUST, so that you can see the Sculptor's Studio (which closes early) and the museum prior to the evening lighting ceremony. It's both an interesting and moving ceremony which you won't want to miss.

While I would normally highly recommend driving the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park, you could pass on it due to the fact that you should see plenty of wildlife in Yellowstone. Instead, you might like to drive the Iron Mountain Road and/or spend time around Sylvan Lake. If you are hikers, you could even hike Harney Peak. Both Wind Cave and Jewel Cave are interesting caves, especially if you haven't visited many caves. If you have seen a lot of caves before, you can probably gives these a pass as well and concentrate on above-ground attractions.
longhorn55 is offline  
May 19th, 2014, 05:39 PM
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Thanks for all your suggestions! We'll consider all your comments when we decide what we will actually do.
naturetraveller is offline  
May 20th, 2014, 09:45 AM
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With limited time, I would focus on 1) the things that are most different from Yellowstone and 2) the things that are furthest from home.

Badlands, Devils Tower, Mt. Rushmore and the caves are unique. Custer State Park is not. I don't think Bighorn National Forest is a major draw either.

I always say that Badlands is best in the early morning and later evening for scenery and wildlife. If you can get there early enough then you could drive around the first evening, then explore a bit more the next morning. The formations really aren't as scenic in mid-day and it gets hot.
WhereAreWe is offline  
May 21st, 2014, 01:34 PM
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Thank you, good thoughts. Have decided to stay in Wall, SD the night before we go to Badlands. After spending the day in Badlands, am thinking of driving West to spend the night somewhere (any suggestions?) and then spend most of next day in Black Hills area. What are suggestions as to a logical progression of stops, as we continue to head west? After day in that area , I want to make my way a little into Wyoming so that our drive the next day to Gardiner isn't too grueling.
Does it make sense to go from Badlands to Mount Rushmore in evening for evening ceremony, spend night near there, then next day explore other sites in area before crossing into Wyoming for following night's stay?
Also, any suggestions of good places to stay in Wyoming en route?
naturetraveller is offline  
May 21st, 2014, 01:44 PM
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If all you are going to Custer SP is to see wildlife, just spend more time in Yellowstone. I'd go through Cody and the east entrance. You should see elk in the town of Mammoth which is 6 miles from Gardiner. Last year I met an elk coming over the bridge in Gardiner. I stopped and let her walk on by.
tomfuller is offline  
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