Chicago to Denver via Badlands and Black Hills
Driving my daughter to Denver next week to start a new job. We had originally planned to drive straight to Denver through Nebraska, but decided to take a couple of extra days and drive north up through South Dakota and Wyoming to see the Badlands and the Black Hills. Most itinerary questions seem to deal with trips of 5 to 7 days or more. Our time unfortunately is still going to be a little tight, but we’d like to pack in as much as we can in 2-3 days. Won’t be a whole lot of time for hikes, etc. but even being able to drive through some pretty scenery would be worth the extra mileage. Given those restrictions, looking for the advice of the experts to see if the following itinerary makes sense.
Monday: Leave Chicago in the morning—we are in the SW suburbs so I80 is the most convenient and really don’t want to deal with commuter traffic I deal with everyday going north toward I90. Hope to get as far as we can into South Dakota driving 10-12 hours. We expect to at least reach Chamberlain. Any other towns farther west with lodging that we might be able to reach in this timeframe?
Tuesday: Head towards Badlands/Black Hills. If I understand correctly, there is a short scenic driving loop through the Badlands off of I90 from Interior to Wall. Our plan is to drive this loop and make our way to either Hill City or Custer for lodging--any preferences? From here the key things I’d like to be able hit are the Wildlife loop through Custer Park, scenic drives on the Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road, Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. Is this doable in one day?
Wednesday: Head north and drive Spearfish Canyon scenic drive and then head toward Devils Tower. Any better or more scenic way to go than I90 West? Spend some time at Devil’s Tower and head south toward Denver. Any points of interest between Devil’s Tower and Denver? Given that it is still a 61/2-7 hour drive to Denver from Devils Tower I wouldn’t mind stopping somewhere along the way in Southeast Wyoming—any suggestions?
Thursday: Head toward Denver. If time permits and if accessible given the recent rains would love to do a drive through loop of Rocky Mountain National Park on the way to Denver.
As always any advice would be greatly appreciated!