Day 1 We flew in from NY to Rapid City - arriving on time @ 9:35am.
Got our car and headed to Walmart to pick up supplies.
Did a quick "tour" of Rapid City...nothing much....Art Alley & Presidents Walk.
Had a nice lunch at the "Firehouse Cafe" ( I think ).
The drive thru was great - saw lots of animals up and about.
Great start to our trip.
Arrived at hotel. Nice enough – clean, comp breakfast and good location.
Did a tasting of "Red A** Rhubarb Wine" at Prairie Berry Winery.
It was different and good...bought a bottle to take home. They had food available to purchase which looked really good, but we arrived too late.
Went to the evening lighting at Mt Rushmore. It was beautiful...very touching. I can't believe how nicely this park is kept...compared to some others we've visited.
Day 2 - we returned to Mt Rushmore for awhile - just as beautiful in the daylight - and then on to Crazy Horse.
Not impressed. More $$$ to get in and visitor/info center only so-so for us. They were selling lots of items...and had many pictures and artifacts...but again...not really for us. We did feel we had to see it though. You can get great views from the road if you don't feel the need to enter.
Had lunch at Blue Bell Lodge. Peaceful sitting outside and the food was very good.
We saw some wildlife ( buffalo & pronghorn ) along the drive.
We drove to Sylvan lake and hiked around the lake. Again...such beautiful scenery, and an easy, flat hike.
Went to Alpine Inn for dinner. LOVED it ! We liked it so much we returned a second night for dinner and switched our last night's hotel @ HIE to the Alpine Inn. Same price for 2 bedrooms with a sitting room. Different, quaint and lovely.
Day 3 we did Custer - Peter Norbeck Hwy....Iron Mtn Rd ( great tunnel views of Mt Rushmore ) Wildlife Loop...we made sure to bring cut apples and carrots for the burros and boy...did they enjoy them! And we got some great pictures as a bonus.
We stopped at Wind Cave and did a tour. I wasn't sure how I would do since I have a "bad knee" and there were LOTS of down steps....but it wasn't a problem. It was different from other caves we've been to....lots of "boxwork"....pretty.
We saw more wildlife in Wind Cave Park than Custer. HUGE herds of buffalo near and in the road...prairie dogs galore and more pronghorn & deer .
On the way back to the hotel we drove to the top of Mt Coolidge. Not for the faint of heart...but WHAT A VIEW !
Day 4 we stopped at Cascade Falls ( since it was mentioned by someone ) but would not bother...nothing much there.
Then we did a tour at the Wild Horse Sanctuary. We were debating doing this, as some people didn't appear to like it. We were SO glad we did it. It was beautiful to see these amazing animals running free. Our guide was full of info...on the horses themselves, history of the area, Indian traditions, movie making on the site....and so much more.
A stop at Mammoth Site next. It was OK. Glad we went. It was fairly cheap, interesting to see, but just took up about an hour.
We first stopped at Wall Drugs for breakfast. Again, nothing much…but had to do it.
Then we visited Wounded Knee Museum. It was very informative and sad. My husband is a history buff and really liked spending time there.
After that we headed to The Minuteman missile site….we got our reservation for a tour that started about an hour later, so we stopped to have Buffalo hotdogs and watch some Albino Prairie Dogs at play. Adorable !
The tour was very good and informative. ( free also ) We then went to the actual Missile Site which is not at the tour site. You pretty much tour it on your own…they have an audio tour you can get on your phone.
After this we headed to the Badlands. How beautiful and other-wordly it was. I love taking photos, but they simply could not capture what we were seeing. We did a few short hikes – Window & Door Notch…very easy with great views. We drove both ways of the “drive” ( as it’s not really a loop ) seeing things differently each way we went. We pulled over to a viewpoint to wait for sunset while enjoying some wine, cheese and crackers we had packed. The setting sun over the Badlands did not disappoint.
Cedar Pass Lodge was NOT what we expected. We always try to stay at Natl Park Lodges when we can and this was not like any others we’ve been to. We had a cabin that was clean and comfy but very old. Seems they are tearing some down in between and hopefully rebuilding them. We thought there would be a “nice” restaurant and bar to relax at, but there was only a very casual restaurant that closed at 6. We ended up going to a “local dive” ( as we were told ) in Interior. …The Wagon Wheel Bar. As we drove there, we weren’t sure if we wanted to go in ( the town is pretty run down ), but we’re glad we did. The bartender was great, the food was good, they had slot machines that were run by South Dakota Lottery – which we thought was interesting and it was a nice, laid back way to end the day. Can’t judge a book by it’s cover.
Day 6 we headed to Deadwood staying at “The Lodge at Deadwood”. This was a fairly new, very nicely appointed hotel / casino. The town of Deadwood was interesting. Not really much except for casinos / bars / a few shops. We made the “required” stop at Saloon #10 for a few drinks and stayed to watch the re-enactment of the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok. It was fun since they picked my husband to play one of the “extras”.
We did a bus tour of Deadwood that also stopped at Mt Moriah cemetery. We were glad we did it because it provided lots of info on the history of the town itself and also of Wild Bill, Calamity Jane and other characters.
We next drove to Devil’s Tower. We were in awe when we saw our first view of the tower while driving. Amazing. We walked the whole way around which was quite a hike…but it was just long – not hard or steep . We saw many “prayer offerings” that had been left tied to the branches of trees. There was an interesting presentation by a park ranger on Prairie Dogs, which we stayed to see. There is actually a very large colony of prairie dogs here…the largest we had seen so far.
We had dinner at the casino’s bar. The food was very good. Gambled a bit then bed.
Day 7 we drove Spearfish Canyon…the drive was very pretty, but not as amazing as some of the other sites. We hiked to Roughlock Falls and the site of the filming of Dancing With Wolves. The falls and hike were wonderful…the film site really just a sign in the woods. Also hiked to Spearfish Falls. Again a pretty, relaxed hike and great waterfalls.
On the way back…had a late lunch at Cheyenne Crossing. What a GREAT place in the middle of nowhere! The food was delicious…especially the Indian Tacos.
Back to the hotel for a little bit more gambling & packing to leave the next morning.
All in all…a really, really nice trip.