Itinerary help please - Black Hills

Old Jun 15th, 2011, 01:10 PM
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Itinerary help please - Black Hills

Wow, I’m so confused about this one! We’re going to the Badlands & Black Hills area the first week of September, and I’m stumped on what to do/where to stay/what order to do everything. Can anyone help? (I posted about this a couple of months ago and got some good advice, and now that I have more details I wanted to see if I could get some more advice).

We’re flying into Omaha on a Saturday and then driving to Sioux Falls (just to spend the night). Early on Sunday we head to the Badlands and plan to stay in the park (Cedar Pass Lodge). I guess all we’ll really have time for there is to drive the Badlands Loop Road and maybe walk/hike a little. We'll do a nighttime ranger program if there is one. On Monday morning we head to the Black Hills area. Wednesday afternoon we leave for Grand Island, NE – long drive, I know, but we really don’t want to waste a night stopping somewhere on the way just to sleep.

The things I know we want to see/do are: Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park, all of the major scenic drives. We are also going to Devil’s Tower (I know it’s out of the way but my husband really wants to go there). We only have two and a half days to do all of this. Other things we might want to do if we have time are: Mammoth Site (Hot Springs), Wind or Jewel cave, Wild Horse Sanctuary, Bear Country, Spearfish Canyon.
Any ideas on where we should stay (which town, and specific hotel if anyone has a recommendation)? I was planning on Rapid City, but it looks like maybe Custer would be more in the midst of things (and more interesting). Sounds like it might be nice to stay in the park (Custer) (that way we could be in the park for sunrise/sunset), but I can’t figure out which hotel would be best. I’m also willing to stay in a two different hotels/towns if that would make sense. I’m not that worried about the price – I want it to be nice (not necessarily luxury, but not Super 8).

Also, do you have any advice on which of my “optional” things I should do, and any advice on what sequence we should do things? Our main goal is to see beautiful scenery and wildlife (my husband loves photography).

Pugsley is offline  
Old Jun 15th, 2011, 02:02 PM
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This looks better than the place I stayed when I went to Mt. Rushmore.
Looks like a 2 night minimum however.
Don't understand why you are flying to Omaha instead of Sioux Falls. Make a stop in either Mitchell (Corn Palace) or Wall (Wall Drug).
tomfuller is online now  
Old Jun 15th, 2011, 05:31 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
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Something you may not be aware of...with the terrible flooding issues of the Missouri River, I-29 between Omaha/Sioux Falls is closed (and predicted to be for several MONTHS), with the detour going very much out of the way, with slow traffic. I would advise you to fly into either Sioux Falls or Rapid City, which are not affected. Road construction could also be an issue.)

I would forget about Mitchell (Corn Palace) as it is out of the way for your travel schedule. Wall (Wall Drug) is located on I-90 very near to the entrance of Black Hills; you could stop for gas & a quick look, but it's just a collection of stores.
In one full day, you could leisurely drive Custer State Park scenic drive, Iron Mountain Rd./Needles Drive and perhaps fit in Wind Cave (in the park), and then drive to Mt. Rushmore for the evening lighting. I would suggest staying in either the towns of Custer (Blue Bell Lodge outside of Custer very near park would be good) or Hill City. Crazy Horse Monument is also close - you can see it from the highway; if you view the museum,etc. plan on spending a couple hours. You could go thru it Wednesday AM, or actually visit the Mammoth site in Hot Springs, since you'll be going in that general direction towards Nebraska anyway.
Devil's Tower is 100 miles or more one way from Rapid City, so if you really want to go, you could rise early & drive there on Monday from the Badlands. (Badlands is approx 1 1/2 hrs from Rapid City - probably about 3/4 hrs drive time from Badlands to Devil's Tower - figure 2/3 hrs back to Badlands that evening), if no road construction - a lot of driving, but doable. If you got to DT around noon, you could spend 2/3 hours there and drive back to Custer (or stay in Deadwood and continue trip in AM). Don't try to do everything - it'll drive you crazy!
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Old Jun 15th, 2011, 05:48 PM
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I meant to say that it would be 3/4 hours from Badlands to Devil's Tower, and then 2/3 hours from Devil's Tower to BLACK HILLS (more or less, depending on if you stayed in Deadwood or Custer area).

If are adamant about seeing Devil's Tower, I would rise early on Monday & drive to Devil's Tower (get there around noon) spend a few hours, then make your way back to the Black Hills.
If you stuck to the plan & stayed in Custer, on Tuesday you could do the drives,(perhaps Wind Cave) & Mt. Rushmore night lighting very leisurely. On Wednesday AM you could either go to Crazy Horse Monument/Museum, or drive to Hot Springs (on your way to Nebraska) and see the Mammoth Dig Site. You'll drive yourself crazy trying to "do it all" - we've been there several times, so I think the above schedule would do nicely.
(If you find yourself in Hill City, the Alpine Inn is a delicious place for lunch).
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Old Jun 16th, 2011, 06:04 AM
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Thanks so much for the advice and information. I did not know about I-29 - yikes! I should have mentioned in my post that we are flying into Omaha because we are spending a couple of days seeing family in Grand Island. Guess I'll scrap the Sioux Falls leg and go a different way. Any advice on which way to go and where to make an overnight stop between Omaha and Badlands/Black Hills?
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Old Jun 16th, 2011, 06:31 AM
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Since you are going through Grand Island, take route 2 to Broken Bow and see the Custer museum. Take US 83 north through Valentine up to I-90. You still get the chance to see Wall Drug.
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Old Jun 16th, 2011, 05:56 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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We just got back from a trip very much like the one you are planning.

We took 275 to 20 to 73 to 18 and ended up in Hot Springs (from Omaha) 9 hours later, with a stop for brunch. It would have been a lovely drive except for the 18 mile stretch of road between Pine Ridge and Oglala which has been stripped of its asphalt and is basically a gravelly, muddy, bumpy trail at this point. Maybe it'll be fixed by then?

In Hot Springs we stayed at the Historic Log Cabin Motel. I doubt that it is to everyone's taste but if you love the charm of old roadside motels like we do, it's the perfect place. The furnishings are basic and old but the bed we slept in was brand new. There's an outdoor hot tub that was just outside our cabin and they have two fire pit areas.

The road from Hot Springs to Mount Rushmore takes you through Wind Cave NP where you'll see buffalo and prairie dogs. It also winds past Crazy Horse. Even if you do the ranger led trail, the one past it and the museum, Rushmore only takes a few hours -- good hours though. It's impressive.

We took 90 back and made a stop at Wall Drug to escape a storm. Not sure I'd do it if it weren't for the weather. The Badlands are a straight shot north from there and are amazing! It was near sunset when we got there so all we had time for was the loop but ... wow!

If you do stop in Sioux Falls, I'd recommend the Staybridge Suites there. Super clean, super comfortable, everything an inexpensive hotel should be.

We'd heard ahead of time about the I29 closings and planned our own detour. We got off the interstate at Missouri Valley and cut over to Blair, then took 75 back into Omaha. I'd check with the highway department first though because the next day an additional stretch of the interstate and several more local roads were closed due to a levee breach.

I hope you have as great a time as we did!
edeevee is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2011, 09:39 PM
Join Date: Jun 2011
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Here is the way I would try to see the places you want to see in such a short time. This itinerary will allow you to work your way north to south bringing you closer to Grand Island as the trip winds down. I think it is about seven hours to G.I. from Custer. Plan your route on your map to help avoid covering the same ground twice while in the park (if possible). This could be a hectic schedule to follow so feel free to drop some or all of it. Sunday: From S.F. (or wherever you end up Saturday) I-90 is quick but the river at Chamberlain is the only change in view from the prairie until the badlands. SD Hwy 44 is one of the most scenic routes to the hills and it does skirt the southern badlands, but it will take longer than the interstate. Sioux Falls to Rapid City (without the badlands) is not much over five hours by interstate. Depending on how early you left S.F. you could have plenty of time to drive the badlands loop, hike a couple of the short trails and then drive to, and stay in Spearfish that evening (DC Booth National Fish Hatchery in Spearfish is a great place to see if you are ahead of schedule and if they are still open. Tuesday: Devils Tower is about an hour from Spearfish. On the way back from Devils Tower drive Spearfish Canyon south into the hills. Once out of the canyon you will spend the rest of the day on HWY 385. Stop at Pactola visitor center, and anywhere else time allows. Tuesday night will land you in Hill City where you could stay or continue on to CSP. Depending on your timing you may also be able to make it to Mount Rushmore for the lighting ceremony Tuesday night. Wednesday: Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Rd, Sylvan lake, the tunnels, and more all await you in CSP. Crazy Horse is just off 385 north of Custer. Good Luck and have a great time.
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Old Jul 1st, 2011, 06:35 AM
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Thank you!
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