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Roadtrip to Black Hills/Badlands, How's My Itinerary?

Paynesville...
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Roadtrip to Black Hills/Badlands, How's My Itinerary?

Hey everyone, looking at a roadtrip to this area next week during some brief time off I have, never been to SD before and looking forward to it. I'm in my mid 20s, gonna be solo just looking for some time away for myself. I'm mostly looking for hiking/scenery/nature experiences during the day, at night I just enjoy having something to do too, so thinking I'd plan a couple stays at places that are convenient to nightlife or activities or something, even if it means I'm not always as centrally located. Here's my tentative plans, feel free to give me any advice you have on specific must see/do/try things, places to stay, changes I should make, etc.

Day 1

Drive from central MN to Deadwood, get in about 5 or 6pm.

Day 2

Mount Rushmore, then hiking around Custer SP all day checking out Sylvan Lake and other areas. Stay in Keystone?

Day 3

Wounded Knee (I understand it's a drive and have read some say there isn't much to see, but I'm VERY interested in American Indian history), Wind Cave, Crazy Horse. Stay in downtown Rapid City?

Day 4

Would like to devote an entire day to driving/hiking/exploring the badlands, is that reasonable? A relative recommended staying at Cedar Pass cabins?

Day 5

Drive home

Thought about seeing Devils Tower, but I think having more time to get in more hiking and such would be higher on my priority, maybe I'll see it another time.

Appreciate any advice

Edited: 11 May 2011, 00:00
Pitman, New Jersey
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1. Re: Roadtrip to Black Hills/Badlands, How's My Itinerary?

First of all, watch your weather. May weather can be very iffy, so be sure to be prepared.

Your plan is way too much moving around. This area is very compact, and you don't need to change hotels each night. If you are looking for things to do in th evening, I'd think about staying in Deadwood for the entire trip. They have casinos and bars that might be of interest.

You can still tour all the areas you want to see leaving from Deadwood. You might have a little more driving to do, but it won't amount to that much extra. Deadwood has easy access to I90, so getting to the Badlands and Rapid City will be easy.

Wounded Knee is no where near Crazy Horse or Wind Cave. Save this for your Badlands day. Jewel Cave is much closer to Crazy Horse, so I'd opt for that one over Wind.

You could consider moving to Cedar Pass on Day 4 and then head for MN when you wake up on day 5. This way, you will get the advantage of a sunrise and sunset in the Badlands, right in the heart of the action.

I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to ask additional questions.

Uden, The...
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2. Re: Roadtrip to Black Hills/Badlands, How's My Itinerary?

Just in case you can't make it to Wounded Knee (there's not much but I completely understand why you want to go, we went for the same reason long ago) check out Wounded Knee museum in Wall. Wall also hat Wall Drug... if you are interested.

Paynesville...
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3. Re: Roadtrip to Black Hills/Badlands, How's My Itinerary?

Ok, so I was initially debating between SD and MI's Upper Peninsula for this trip. After talking to friends and family who'd done each I decided SD would be first option and the UP would be my backup. On Tuesday the extended forecast looked good and dry for this area next week so I thought it was settled, but since then the forecast has become more borderline for SD. It's probably time for me to make reservations now and can't decide which to go with.

Anyway, thanks for the advice. Some followup questions assuming I still end up coming here. I had chosen Wind Cave over Jewel only because I figured then I wouldn't have to call ahead or be tied to a certain reservation time, I'm not too concerned about the added distance but if Jewel comes much more highly recommended I'd probably reconsider? Also my reasoning for having Wounded Knee on Day 3 was only because I figured I had 2 days aimed towards the Black Hills and 1 towards the Badlands so figured I'd rather take the time to see it away from the Black Hills area, do you feel this would be wasting far too much time driving out there though and I should really move it to Day 4? Thank you again

Pitman, New Jersey
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4. Re: Roadtrip to Black Hills/Badlands, How's My Itinerary?

Since you are going in the "off-season", you might not have a problem getting a tour at Jewel. I have never been in May, so I can't comment there, but I am sure crowds will be less. Many prefer Jewel over Wind. Jewel is a much prettier cave, IMO, very open with a wider variety of formations. Wind is neat also, known for a rare formation called Boxwork, which resembles spider webs. I'd visit nps.gov and check out the images for both caves to see which one interests you more.

As for Wounded Knee, I think you'd be able to fit in on the same day as the Badlands. I don't think it would cause you to lose that much time in the Badlands.

Paynesville...
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5. Re: Roadtrip to Black Hills/Badlands, How's My Itinerary?

Well I ended up going to Michigan's Upper Peninsula last spring and had to postpone this trip due to weather. The good news is I'm going to be going on this trip next week, 4 nights just like planned before. There is a girlfriend in the picture now and the two of us will be doing it together. So I'm trying to re-plan the itenerary for that a little bit. She knows this is an area I've really wanted to see so is leaving most of the planning to me, though it would be nice to cater to things she may enjoy too. I guess here are my questions...

1. I prefer to know where I will be sleeping heading into a trip in terms of having a reservation. She thinks it will not be too busy and would rather see what looks most appealing once we are there. Do you see us having any problem getting lodging if we were to do this? Also I still would like to maybe see Deadwood and spend a night there, the casinos don't really appeal to her as much. Are Deadwood and/or Rapid City worth the drive from the Black Hills in order for a young couple to find a little more to do at night? Also any places in Deadwood/Rapid City/Keystone/Custer/Hill City/wherever really that you would recommend as a decent place for a couple on a budget?

2. I would probably be looking to hike 8-12 hours per day if I were by myself, and she is looking forward to hiking as well but not quite that intense, maybe 4-6 hours. If I take some of that out of the itinerary, and may or may not take Wounded Knee out of there since I'm not sure how interested she would be in that side-trip, any suggestions on activities to fill in the opened up time with?

Thanks for any help, may post more questions if they come.

New York
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6. Re: Roadtrip to Black Hills/Badlands, How's My Itinerary?

Sounds like a fun trip...I will be doing one in the area in June and would like to hear back from your trip when you are done!

Pitman, New Jersey
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7. Re: Roadtrip to Black Hills/Badlands, How's My Itinerary?

At this time of the year, I do think you'd be safe by winging it if you prefer. It sounds like having things to do at night is important to you. You may be happier staying in Rapid City or Deadwood despite the somewhat longer drives to attractons. I think you'd find cheaper lodging in Rapid City than Deadwood, as Rapid as more chains. However, keep in mind that you are traveling in off season, so you will probably hit cheaper rates travelling now at most places

than after Memorial Day.

Based on your 1st itinerary posting, I don't see a huge amount of down time there. You said you like Native American History. As mentioned, add Crazy Horse, and at minimum, the Wounded Knee museum in Wall.

When you asked for more suggestions on activities, what does your girlfriend like?

Also, keep in mind that many attractions will be on shortened hours since it's off season. Watch your weather too.

Have a great trip, and let us know if additional questions come up.

Alberta, Canada
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8. Re: Roadtrip to Black Hills/Badlands, How's My Itinerary?

We prefer the mom & pop type of motels and have stayed at Penny Motel in Deadwood and Chief Motel in Custer. Not fancy but clean and decent/nice rooms and great for those on a budget. I just checked Chief's website and looks like they don't open till 2nd week of May. Rocket Motel in Custer has good reviews. Check out the accommodation reviews on TA. We don't hike so can't comment on that. But I would suggest to go ahead and spend 1 night in Deadwood, do Spearfish Canyon, and head down hwy 385 thru Hill City to Custer. Very pretty scenery. Do a lot of reading on here and you'll get tons of info on the Black Hills re: activities, scenery, routes, hiking, etc.

Edited: 27 April 2012, 16:26
Rapid City, South...
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9. Re: Roadtrip to Black Hills/Badlands, How's My Itinerary?

If you're interested in Native American history, and can't do Wounded Knee, maybe try Tatanka while up in Deadwood and/or Crazy Horse memorial.

For eating on a budget in Rapid City, try Curry Masala - cheap, quick, and tasty.

Vestal, New York
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10. Re: Roadtrip to Black Hills/Badlands, How's My Itinerary?

A really worthwhile hike in the Spearfish area (outside of Sturgis) is Bear Butte. Also, hiking in Custer State Park is great; the hike up Harney Peak isn't bad and is well worth the effort.