We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Badlands/YNP Intinary for first time family

New Castle, Indiana
10 posts
Save Topic
Badlands/YNP Intinary for first time family

We are in the planning stages of 2 week trip to visit Mt Rushmore/Badlands/YNP in 2012 and want to see if this looks like ample time at each destination. Background we are from Indiana so it will take us some time to get to SD and we have a 10 and 13 year old so we can keep going pretty well:

Day 1 – Drive 6 hours or so

Day 2 Drive to Interior SD (stop at Corn palace in Mitchell on way)

Day 3 – Minuteman Missile Site/Badlands/Wall Drug (stay at Custer State Park)

Day 4 – Custer State Park – Wildlife Loop AM/Crazy Horse Memorial/Jewel or Wind Cave (stay at Custer)

Day 5 – Custer – Needles Drive/Harney Peak/Mt Rushmore afternoon (stay at Custer)

Day 6 – Deadwood/Sturgis (husband loves motorcycles)/Spearfish (loop of seeing small towns)

Day 7 – leave Custer – Devils Tower and drive to Cody (go to rodeo in evening) – stay in Cody

Day 8 Buffalo Bill Historical Center (?)/drive to Yellowstone (canyon village cabin)

Day 9 Canyon Village/sites at YNP

Day 10 – Old Faithful Inn/YNP

Day 11 – Old Faithful Inn/YNP

Day 12 – leave early for float trip on Snake River/GTNP Colter Bay Village Cabin

Day 13 – drive to Fort Collins CO (visit a couple breweries if time or Rockies game)

Day 14 – drive to Lincoln NE (or St Louis if Cardinals at home)

Day 15 – Finish Drive

It basically gives us 4 days in the Custer/Mt Rushmore area, 1 day in Cody, 4 days at YNP, and 1 ½ days in GTNP I already have booked our accommodations in YNP and GTNP but could probably change them if necessary. I have read the top 10 things to do in YNP and want to incorporate as many as possible (hence reason for staying 2 places) Also, I would like to do a Chuckwagon Dinner possibly, so recommendations of those would be great.

Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
Level Contributor
5,578 posts
62 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Badlands/YNP Intinary for first time family

Your plans are pretty busy, but I think you will manage ok. When are you coming to the areas? I know you mention 2012, but it sounds like you are just starting to plan, so do you mean 2013?

On day 2, I assume you are staying in the park? This will be nice for sunrise/sunset viewing.

A few things I don't see on your itinerary that could probably be managed:

Day 5: Try to see Rushmore by day and night. You will want to drive Iron Mountain Rd from south to north for the best views of Rushmore. This can be done after the Needles. I'm not sure how long the Harney Peak hike will take, as I've not done it. It's listed as 6-7 miles long, which is too lengthy for what we like. Are you and your kids up for a hike that long? Something to think about.

Day 6: Do you plan on including Spearfish Canyon? I enjoy this more than Deadwood, actually.

Day 7: Will be long, but people do it.

Day 8: You have a question mark next to Buffalo Bill Historical Center. This is a must do, IMO. The museums are comparable to the Smithsonian. If you can manage it, it would be nice, but I don't know if you really want to delay getting to Canyon. The complex does take several hours to see. We spent 5 there a few years back. You may find time will not permit.

As for chuckwagon dinners, many like the one at Blue Bell Lodge in Custer State Park. It is pricier,but if it's anything like the quality of meals at Blue Bell, I'd recommend it. You also have the Flying T and Circle B Chuckwagon dinners. I have not done these as our family doesn't have the desire. If I were to choose, however, I think I'd choose Blue Bell despite the higher cost.

I hope this gets you started. Let us know if you have more questions.

Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
727 posts
46 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Badlands/YNP Intinary for first time family

Hello ... Our family has done very close to the trip you have outlined a couple different times, from the Chicago area ... for about 12-13 days total each time, so pretty close to your time frame. I think your itinerary is good overall. I just have a few suggestions. Grand Tetons NP is absolutely beautiful - it's stunning scenery, really and far more scenic than anything in the Black Hills. I just returned from a week long trip to South Dakota, so I enjoy the area and have been to all the places in SD you are planning on going to. But as much as the Black Hills are interesting and fun, I would consider subtracting a day or so from SD and adding that day to Wyoming, so that you don't get to the Tetons and wish you had spent way more time there. You wouldn't be the first visitors to plan on spending almost all their time in that part of Wyoming in Yellowstone (since it's justifiably famous) and then checking out Grand Teton NP more or less as an afterthought - and then wishing they had spent much more time in the Tetons. It's not just the scenery there ... the wildlife there is great. ... I would also consider skipping Harney Peak - it's more or less a hill compared to the mountains of Wyoming. ... Your day six I think is a little long, unless you and your spouse want to do some gambling there in Deadwood. There's not too much to interest the kids there, again compared to using that time to add to Yellowstone/Tetons. ... I agree with slrtraveler - the Cody complex of museums are top notch quality and well worth spending several hours there. ... Finally, I question why you are dipping into Colorado at the very end. By that time of your trip, everybody will likely just be tired of being in the car and wanting to get home. There's really nothing there in Ft. Collins to justify dipping that far south. I'd just stay on Interstate 80 and head straight home. I adore Colorado - we have been there many times - but I'd just save the state for a whole different trip. The time you would save by not driving into Colorado and then back north again to connect with I-80 could be better spent in the Tetons - or just getting to enjoy Yellowstone and all its amazing features and wildlife at a more relaxed pace. No matter how you organize your trip, your family will be seeing some amazing things that will be unforgettable. Have a wonderful time!

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
27,743 posts
384 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Badlands/YNP Intinary for first time family

Great ideas from all- a busy trip plan!!

Check out the online travel guide for the Black Hills at-


Lots of great info- enjoy your trip!!

Apple Valley...
Level Contributor
702 posts
52 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Badlands/YNP Intinary for first time family

My friend and i really enjoyed the Fort Hays chuckwagon south of Rapid City, part way to Keystone, SD. Awesome music and the food was decent.

Apple Valley...
Level Contributor
702 posts
52 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Badlands/YNP Intinary for first time family

I would suggest also to not drive back to Custer on day 6 i think it was but stay up in the Deadwood area...no need to go back south to drive north again the next day towards WY

Rockford, Illinois...
Level Contributor
188 posts
Save Reply
6. Re: Badlands/YNP Intinary for first time family

Here are my suggestions:

Day 1 – Drive further if you can, as the drive will be fairly boring until you hit the Missouri river in SD (it is a lot of corn fields and nothing too much that you do not see every day in IN). This will allow more time for spur of the moment stops on day 2 once you get to more scenic areas.

Day 2 – Stop at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, SD. It is only a few minutes off the interstate, and you can walk up really close to the falls. This year there was not too much water going over the falls, because of the drought, but they were still very nice. You will also drive through the Badlands on this day, if you are staying in Interior. You may even have time to hit the Minuteman Missile Site on this day (if you drive further on day 1).

Day 3 – Get up fairly early and enjoy the early morning by exploring the badlands. There are tons of places to stop the car and walk around the badlands. Wall Drug is worth stopping at, but does not take too long (at least for our family). I would say to take the interstate to Rapid City (you can stop and get any supplies you need at Wal-Mart or a grocery store), and then enjoy a scenic drive Rapid City to Custer.

Day 4 – Looks good to me. Bring apples or carrots to feed the begging burrows in Custer SP.

Day 5 – looks good – include iron mountain road as was already suggested.

Day 6 – I would leave Custer on this day and stay on the Northern Edge of the South Dakota Black Hills (Deadwood, Spearfish or even Sturgis). This will give you a big jump on your day 7 travels. As was already suggested drive Spearfish Canyon. There are 3 waterfalls along the canyon and many other wonderful places to stop and enjoy the scenery.

Apple Valley...
Level Contributor
702 posts
52 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Badlands/YNP Intinary for first time family

As suggested already...Mt Rushmore evening lighting ceremony is good. We left Ft Hays just a few min early (which also beats car jam) and made it in time...very patriotic and nice video which was different then regular exhibit video.

8. Re: Badlands/YNP Intinary for first time family

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 16 December 2013, 04:18