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Badlands/Custer State Park in May or August

chicago
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Badlands/Custer State Park in May or August

Hi all.

Was wondering what your thoughts were as far as the best time to visit. Hiking is the main plan. I have the third week of May through the end of August that I can consider a week-long trip. I don't intend to plan anything too ambitious. The idea is to drive from Chicago to Badlands, then Custer and see the sights in that area, then head back to Chicago. I'd be curious to know if it's a better idea to drive all the way out to Custer first then route back with our stop at Badlands. Also, are there particular routes that I should take as opposed to your traditional highways?

Thanks in advance!

Lincoln, NE
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1. Re: Badlands/Custer State Park in May or August

If you plan on doing a large numbers of hikes in the Badlands the end of May would be cooler. The Badlands get VERY hot in the summer, which limits hiking to early morning and late afternoon. Custer State Park doesn't get as hot so the timing would be less of an issue. In May, you would get there before the tourist season is in full swing. The Badlands loop from I-90 (highway 240) could be done on either your way to Custer or on your way home. At the east entrance to the Badlands, is the Minuteman Missle National Historic Site. You need reservations for the tour, but can look at part of it without doing the tour. The tour is very interesting. If you take I-90, driving by the Corn Palace in Mitchell is fun to see the murals made from different grains.

Chef Louie's 601 E Havens St

Mitchell, SD 57301 605) 996-7565

This is an excellent place to eat. It is on the south side of town on a southeast corner and has a statue of a Hereford bull in front.

At the rest stop by Chamberlain, is the very informative Lewis and Clark & Keelboat Center. A picnic area overlooks the Missouri River. Huge teepee poles made from cement are made to look like a teepee, without the covering. Also, in Chamberlain at St. Joseph Indian School is a free Native American museum. You can learn a lot of information about the Sioux. Across the river from Chamberlain in Oacoma, is Al's Oasis where you can go to the restaurant, gift shop, grocery store, and clothing store. They serve a delicious buffalo burger.

Pipestone, MN has the quarry which is a fun place to take a short hike to see the quarry.

Please feel free to ask more questions.

Everett, Washington
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2. Re: Badlands/Custer State Park in May or August

Also more likely to see active wildlife and perhaps young ones in May. But weather can also be windy rainy and even a little snowy (mixed with the rain) in The Hills in May. But you can't beat the velvety greenness of everything then as opposed to the parched yellow and brown of late summer. If a little on the cool side is OK do May.

Ahh...Chef Louie's. When we lived in Mitchell that was a favorite spot. Too bad we were newlyweds and broke back then (late-70's). We stopped in there a a year ago on way back from Seattle and tried it out. Busy as ever. Food wasn't as quite as good as we remembered but not bad. Best place in town still. There's a bunch of new motels on the south side of the freeway near Cabela's store that are all fairly new. Mitchell would be a good stopping spot on way out - about 650 miles and 11 hours drive from Chicago. Then only about 3 hrs to Badlands. Break it up with breakfast iat Al's Oasis. We've always had good meals there but never tried breakfast because timing was not right.

chicago
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3. Re: Badlands/Custer State Park in May or August

Thank you Tourist and Sequim! I sincerely appreciate your thoughtful advice. I'm going to lean towards doing Badlands first, then heading to Custer. I'd like to avoid rain/snow if possible, so may opt for coming second or third week in June. Will it still be green you think? I saw someone's photos online when they were there in July. The grass was still green in some parts and there was a wildflower or two. Is that unusual? Granted, they did say they got very lucky.

Edited: 12 January 2011, 02:51
Lincoln, NE
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4. Re: Badlands/Custer State Park in May or August

Yes, it would still be green the second or third week in June, unless there is little spring moisture and the temperatures are above normal.

If you like caves, you need to tour either Wind Cave or Jewel cave. Both of them are unique and we have enjoyed both.

When you drive Iron Mountain Rd., drive it from south to north so that you can see Mt. Rushmore framed by the tunnels. Sullivan Lake and Harney Peak are great places for hiking.

chicago
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5. Re: Badlands/Custer State Park in May or August

Wind Cave sounds like a great idea. It seems there's a lot to see in the general area. Realistically, how much time do you think we'd need in the various parks. None of us is really up to driving the 14 or so hours in one shot so we'll break the journey to and fro. So that takes up 4 days. Is two days in Badlands and two days in Custer/Wind Cave/Black Hills reasonable? If not, where should I add more time? I don't want to rush things. From some of the forums, I get the impression that people are in and out relatively fast, but again, our intention is to hike and to "stop to smell the roses." If necessary, we can add a day or two. Oh, I'm looking into staying at the Cedar Pass Lodge in the Badlands, and a chain hotel (Comfort Inn type) in Custer. Any thoughts?

Edited: 12 January 2011, 18:03
Everett, Washington
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6. Re: Badlands/Custer State Park in May or August

I've never thought ot the Badlands as taking a lot of time but then we've never hiked around there. Usually just drive the loop. You might find that if you arrive early from stopping point such as Mitchell (or Sioux Falls) and have part of that day and most of next (especially very early morning) then to go Custer for three nights you'll have more time in the Hills.

In Custer we usually stay at the Bavarian Inn because we like the pools and the German restaurant is good. Not fancy, like a nice Super 8, but convenient and quiet. Fairly central in Custer for south Hills locations like Custer SP and the caves and not a bad day drive up to Mt. Rushmore and even Deadwood although the roads can start to be busy by mid-June. Three nights in Custer would give two full days plus the remainder of the arrival day to explore. If interested in Crazy Horse Memorial go there that first afternoon-evening when light is better. They have a laser lightshow at dusk that might be operating by then too.

Illinois
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7. Re: Badlands/Custer State Park in May or August

i agree with stopping in Mitchell for the night from chicago. go through iowa instead of wis/min. we've done both and iowa has less construction and an easier ride to us. cedar pass lodge is nice but they don't have tv's in the rooms. the restraunt there is pretty good. there is a newer place in wall that has individual cabins right off the expressway that are awesome. vert rustic decorating.

1 full day is really enough time in the badlands even with some hiking.

8. Re: Badlands/Custer State Park in May or August

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