Mount rushmore/Badlands Labor day weekend

Old Aug 17th, 2014, 04:27 PM
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Mount rushmore/Badlands Labor day weekend

I am driving from Denver Colorado on Friday evening,8/29 heading towards Mount Rushmore and the badlands. Must be back in Denver by early evening Monday Labor day.
I would like to see MT Rushmore, the crazy horse memorial, Custer state park and badlands national park. Possibly also wounded knee. Is this doable? If so, can anyone recommend how to do it? And if it is not, what can I skip? Can anyone recommend a place to stay Friday night on the road to South Dakota? Thanks in advance for any help!
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Old Aug 18th, 2014, 02:41 AM
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That is a lot to do from Denver. If you wanted to make it a been there, done that trip I guess you could drive north on Friday, hoping there wouldn't be too much traffic on the holiday weekend, get three or four hours under your belt and hope for lodging near the highway. Then get up early and head for Crazy horse for the opening, spend a few hours there I'm not sure how early it opens or how long tours there would be but after that head for Rushmore, see the sights and/or stay for the evening ceremony and find a place to stay Saturday night. Head for Badlands on Sunday check it out hike a little, then head back towards Custer for Sunday night and back to Denver Monday.

This would be a bit rushed as it will take 6 or 7 hours driving from Denver to the Crazy Horse/Rushmore area and another couple of hours to Badlands. That is without stopping to see anything, eat, get gas, etc. Then of course you have to get back and it will take the same time to do that assuming there is no problem on the roads or unusual holiday traffic in the Denver area.

If Rushmore and Badlands are most important to you, head for Badlands first then go to Rushmore and decide on Crazy Horse and/or Custer so you will be a bit closer to Denver at the end of the trip. If Crazy Horse and Rushmore are priorities, than do them first and decide.
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Old Aug 18th, 2014, 08:12 AM
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Why try to rush on a busy weekend on the roads? On any weekend, that would be a bad plan, IMO.

We live in Colorado and once drove to the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. We got there and thought, "Why did we leave Colorado for this??" Major letdown.

And we didn't try to do it on hyper-drive.
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Old Aug 18th, 2014, 09:52 AM
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This will be a very driving-intensive trip, but it's do-able.

Since there's not a lot between Denver and the Black Hills once you get past Cheyenne, you might want to drive the route through Nebraska and spend the night in Alliance, NE (where there are a few hotels/motels.) Then get up on Saturday and drive through the Pine Ridge Reservation to the Wounded Knee Cemetery/Memorial and the museum (which may or may not be open.) Continue to the Badlands entering at the Interior entrance. Spend the day driving the Badlands Loop Trail, visiting the Ben Reifel Center, taking some short or long hikes, depending on your interests, and having a nice lunch at the Cedar Lodge restaurant. Drive to Keystone for the night.

On Sunday, plan to get to Crazy Horse by 9am. Spend a couple of hours there and then drive over to the Sylvan Lake area of Custer State Park. You can have lunch at the lodge and/or do the one-mile walk around the lake. Drive the Needles Highway to Playhouse Road and then the Iron Mountain Road to Mt. Rushmore planning to arrive by 4pm. This will give you time to walk the Presidential Trail, see the Sculptor's Studio (that closes at 6pm), watch the film and see the exhibits at the Visitor's Center, grab a bite for supper and be in place for the evening Lighting Ceremony at 8pm. Drive back to Keystone for the night.

On Monday morning, drive to Custer State Park to drive the Wildlife Loop. (Good to do this in the morning when the animals are active and near the road for viewing.) Drive back to Denver.
longhorn55 is offline  
Old Aug 18th, 2014, 03:23 PM
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I understand this is not an ideal trip. But I just don't know when I will ever get to that area otherwise. It was a last minute after thought when I started planning a trip to denver to visit my kids and thought it would be a fun thing to do with my adult children for the long weekend.

Thank you longhorn55 for the helpful itinerary. I will get out a map and take a look.
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Old Aug 18th, 2014, 04:19 PM
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I like longhorn55's itinerary. I might change a few things though.

One: I think the route from Denver to Badlands via Alliance will probably have less holiday traffic than the route from Denver to Black Hills via Cheyenne. I could be wrong but I would suspect there will be far more traffic heading north on I-25 to get to Estes Park than on I-76 east to get to the plains. So...if you have a firm deadline when you must be back on Monday evening, you may be better off reversing the itinerary and having less traffic on the way into Denver on Monday night. Take that advice with a grain of salt because holiday traffic anywhere is pretty unpredictable.

Two: I'd vote for spending the night in Badlands as the park is so much more scenic and enjoyable in the evening/early morning. If that means cutting out Crazy Horse, so bet it. It's nowhere close to being finished and reviews are pretty mixed.

Other than that I think it is a good itinerary for the amount of time you have.
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