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Badlands vs. Needles Highway/Custer State Park

Badlands vs. Needles Highway/Custer State Park

Old Mar 20th, 2022, 08:16 AM
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Badlands vs. Needles Highway/Custer State Park

Hi Everyone,
We are flying in to Denver and would like to head up to South Dakota for a couple of days. We have never been to this area but have two full days to sightsee this beautiful part of the country. We definitely want to see Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse, but what are the pros/cons of Custer State Park vs. the Badlands. One of us has a fear of heights so not sure if Needles HIghway would be an issue. We love wildlife and living in the city on the East Coast doesn't give us much opportunity to appreciate bison/buffalo, bears, elk, etc. We will be flying into Denver on a Tuesday night and need to be back to Denver by Friday evening (anytime) as we have commitments in Denver on early Saturday. Thanks everyone!
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Old Mar 20th, 2022, 11:44 AM
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I recommend Custer State Park, a state park of national park-quality with bighorn sheep and bison. It also has Sylvan Lake, the jewel of the Black Hills. Wind Cave National Park just south of the state park features herds of wild bison. Roughlock Falls Nature Area has Bridal Veil Falls, the easiest of the three waterfalls in Spearfish Canyon. The best place to base yourself is Custer.

Last edited by PrairieHikerII; Mar 20th, 2022 at 11:48 AM.
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Old Mar 20th, 2022, 06:51 PM
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Something is off here.

You're going to fly into Denver on Tuesday evening, presumably drive 6 hours to SD on Wednesday and you need to be back in Denver on Friday.

I am curious why you aren't flying directly into SD from the east coast and then onto Denver, fly or drive, for your commitment on early Saturday.
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Old Mar 20th, 2022, 11:32 PM
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Welcome to Fodors : And now the bad news " . . . but have two full days to sightsee this beautiful part of the country."

Hardly. You don't get to DEN until Tues night and one really doesn't want to be driving rural and/or mountain roads at night so you realistically can't even start out til Wed morning. DEN > Custer SP > Crazy Horse Memorial > Mt Rushmore is about 7 hours driving butts in seats (not counting stops for food, gas, rest. sightseeing) - and the same back to Denver -- so 13-14 hours, basically 2 full days in the car plus stops . . . and 2.5 days with which to do it. Makes no sense al all.


Sooooo either do your explorations and sightseeing in Colorado - OR - Fly into SD on Tuesday and only drive it in one direction (and even that would be rushed)
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Old Mar 21st, 2022, 07:06 AM
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This is great! I appreciate the suggestions. I wish our time wasn't quite limited - next time I hope not to be time-constrained.

Thanks again!
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Old Mar 21st, 2022, 07:08 AM
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We will head out find a place to stay after arriving in DEN. Head out early Wed morning and then head back to DEN Friday. We're used to long travels so 7 hours isn't concerning for us.
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Old Mar 21st, 2022, 07:09 AM
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obxgirl - nothing is off. We get in on Tuesday (we needed to fly into Denver). Exactly. Nope. flight times have been changing so much (flights cancelled; 1 stops are becoming 2 stops). Ugh. Where we are flying from there are no direct flights.
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Old Mar 21st, 2022, 07:10 AM
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We can figure it out.

Thanks.
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Old Mar 21st, 2022, 07:59 AM
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Originally Posted by kagrinnell View Post
We can figure it out.

Thanks.
Although your time is very limited Custer State Park is great for seeing wildlife especially the herds of Buffalo that will rush across the roads basically bringing traffic to a halt. You won't see wildlife in the Badlands but the rock formations are absolutely stunning
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Old Mar 21st, 2022, 04:37 PM
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You didn't mention when you'd be traveling, although I agree with the previous posters. Travel would be a minimum of 7 hrs. and that's assuming there's no road construction or bad weather. A good part of it would be on the interstate, but getting into Eastern WY/SW SD is going to be two-lane roads, with not a lot in between. Including gas stations. You would not be able to give it the visit it deserves, as one day would only allow a visit to Mt. Rushmore & a drive thru Custer State Park to see bison, etc. (Needles Hwy is within the park area; winding narrow roads in some areas but generally an easy drive). But, as always, the decision is yours.
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