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Tropical_gal Mar 22nd, 2012 11:25 PM

St Louis to Mt Rushmore
We are Australian and will be in the US in September for a wedding. We plan to fly to St Louis from NYC and will hire a car there and set off on a road trip to eventually reach Seattle.

My question itoday regards the start of the journey. We thought we would drive to Kansas City on first day then on to Sioux Falls.

Obviously we would like to go to Badlands National Park, Devil's Monument and Mt. Rushmore.

I read that Hill City is a nice place to stay in rather than Rapid City. Would it make sense to stay there and visit Badlands from there (I know it is tracking back) and then Mt Rushmore or should we stay closer to Badlands and then go to Hill City?
How long will all this take?

This is only the first part of the journey. Yellowstone is also on the itinerary but I have yet to research that part of the country!

Thank you to anyone who replies - I have had such great feedback for previous trips to the States, Europe and Africa, that this is my first and best resource.

stokebailey Mar 26th, 2012 05:14 PM

Oh, fun. Sounds like a great trip. I love the drive from Wyoming to Seattle.

I don't know about Mt. Rushmore, but have the impression that beyond parking, getting out and saying, "Yup, that's Mt. Rushmore all right!" that there's not a ton to do.

I'd save more time for Yellowstone, which should have cleared out nicely by September and maybe getting some snow by then.

spirobulldog Mar 26th, 2012 05:42 PM

I would stay at Custer State Park.
See Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Wind Cave, Jewel Cave.

Go ahead and make your Yellowstone reservations as soon as you can.

Sounds like a great trip. All the crowds should be gone by Sept.

WhereAreWe Mar 26th, 2012 06:29 PM

Absolutely stay closer to Badlands rather than Hill City. Wall is very close to the park. Another option is to simply visit the park on the way from Sioux Falls to Hill City - it is right on your way and would make the most sense to just visit as you're driving by rather than drive 2 hours one way from Hill City back to Badlands, then another 2 hours back to Hill City.

Personally, I think you can drive farther each day than what you're doing. For example, drive to Omaha instead of Kansas City, then drive to Wall instead of Sioux Falls. That will condense 15 hours of driving into 2 days instead of 3 which is still very doable. Ignore that advice if you have plans to do something in Kansas City or if your flight arrives too late to make it to Omaha on that first day.

Carrabella Mar 26th, 2012 09:17 PM

Is the wedding in St Louis? I just wanted to let you know, as a fellow Aussie, what we are doing on our second trip to the area.

We are flying into Denver, renting a car and then driving up to Rapid City, after two nights rest. Last time, we stayed in Hill City, which was lovely, with lots of snow - including a hair raising snow storm on the way to Deadwood. This time, it will be early summer. There's lots to see and do in the area - Mammoth Cave, with its enormous headless mammoth ( seemingly still trying to escape its last bath?) at Hot Springs is fascinating, and last time, we visited Mt Rushmore by day and by night. Badlands was an easy day trip from Hill City, and will be even easier from Rapid City. This time, we got a good Rapid City hotel on Priceline, and decided to extend our stay for five days. From there, we'll take two days to get to Yellowstone. Do investigate the Bear Tooth Highway before you go. The mountains in western USA are what has drawn us back again and again!

If time is limited, Yellowstone deserves the most. Happy Travels!

musicfan Mar 27th, 2012 08:46 AM

I agree with the poster above who says you can get farther from St. Louis than Kansas City on the first day, depending on flight arrival times, etc. If you can spare the time, the zoo in Omaha is world-class.

stokebailey Mar 27th, 2012 09:45 AM

Hold on a minute! No need to rush away from St. Louis. We have a very nice (free admission) zoo, too, and September is a pleasant time to be here.

Tropical_gal Mar 29th, 2012 10:54 PM

Thank you everyone for your replies. A great help - and I am learning more US Geography by the minute! I think we will do the drive to Omaha rather than Kansas - I just picked that as a city we might want/have to see.

No, Carrabella, the wedding is not in Missouri - it is in New Jersey and we are flying to St Louis to visit friends who live there, then we pick up the car and start our adventure. Your comments are very helpful, thank you.

Thank you, Wherearewe, now I know the driving time I think we will do what you suggest.

We want to spend time in Yellowstone - we missed it on our last visit due to roads being closed because of snow. Now I realise we will be at the end of the season. Is it really necessary to book accommodation or should we chance it as we will be there around 30th September/1st October ?

Thank you again for all your comments - I love Fodors !

WhereAreWe Mar 30th, 2012 08:00 AM

I would book something for Yellowstone if you know the dates you'll be there. Even if you just know the general dates, book something and cancel whatever you don't need. Some of the lodging will be closed by then so even though there are fewer people visiting, there will also be fewer rooms available. Go for in-park lodging.

stokebailey Mar 30th, 2012 04:26 PM

T_g, listen to your friends' advice, certainly, but Kansas City is a great town.

You could easily get an idea of it by leaving St. Louis in the morning, heading west on Interstate 70, then 4 hrs later when in KC taking Van Brunt Blvd exit south. It swings around and changes names a couple of times, becomes 47th St. and headed west towards the Country Club Plaza. Lunch outside at the Plaza or at retro Winstead's for an authentic burger and malt. From there it's easy to get on I-35 north back to I-70.

voyager61 Mar 30th, 2012 05:46 PM

Another vote for making Yellowstone reservations as soon as's much nicer staying in the park, and those rooms are limited and booked months in advance. As noted above, you can always cancel if the dates change slightly. But try to pin down when you will be in Yellowstone and get some rooms reserved:

Above is the official website for making in-park reservations. Try any of the Old Faithful lodging options first, which is somewhat central, but there are other places in different areas of the park (google to find a map of the park). I don't find the Xanterra website very user friendly, FYI. And the rooms are rustic, somewhat, but location can't be beat. Walking out to see the geyser basin in the morning and evening is a highlight of staying in Yellowstone.

annesherrod Mar 30th, 2012 07:54 PM

I hope you can spend a little time in St Louis too!

There is a lot to do there!

Cwilcox May 30th, 2017 09:44 PM

Yes st louis is awesome first you could stay across street from st louis international at concourse hotel that overlooks st louis international airport travel 15 minutes to 620 feet gateway arch sits on the Mississippi river 5 minutes from lacledes landing with nightlife at Lumiere Casino we are also Beer Capital of the world 5 min from Anhueser Busch Brewery take a tour with free beer they also have a beer garden!!! We have the st louis cardinals and a huge beautiful new bar and food facility with bull riding absolutely packed called Ball Park village I would suggest PBR pro bull riding we're all the people stand in line to ride the bull there is also a totally rehabbed bar District on Washington Street the St.Louis Zoo is in Forest Park where they held the 1904 World's Fair there is a lovely History Museum in the park and they have displays about the World's Fair 1904 also there is the st. Louis Science Center which is also located right there by Forest Park with an upscale party District right by the park called the Central West End I would suggest Tom's Bar & Grill this is all within 30 minutes of St.Louis International Airport Highway 70 will be where you are when you get off the plane just take it towards downtown the arch Ballpark Village Washington Street The Brewery are all 5 minutes from the arch the zoo and Science Center are 5 minutes from the arch so you can hit all that stuff or whatever you want and you're only you know 20 minutes from the airport then that's just for starters my name is christina y can text me at 3143578105 if you need any further information just use the aussie as a reference i hope that helps hope you have safe and happy travels

bjgchi May 31st, 2017 07:53 AM

I would drive to Sioux Falls the first day (9hrs). The Badlands can be taken in as a detour loop off the interstate on the drive to Rapid City area (there is also a decommissioned minuteman missle silo you can tour just before the badlands). Without stops the drive is about 5 hrs so you have plenty of time to stop.
If you enjoy hiking, hike Harney Peak (recently changed to a different name). Tallest peak in the hills with nice views. People also enjoy driving the wildlife loop in Custer state park or the iron mountain road. I would also avoid the interstate between Rapid city and spearfish (boring) instead take 385 to Lead/deadwood and then take either 85 to I90 or 14a through spearfish canyon (scenic). If you drive Spearfish canyon, stop and hike the short but very strenuous 1776 trail at roughlock falls (across road from hotel parking lot). It is a hike to the top of the canyon with great views. There are a ton of great hikes in the black hills (see all trails black hills).

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