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How to arrange our days in Black Hills area

Kentucky
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How to arrange our days in Black Hills area

Hello, I have been doing research on what to do and see in the area and I think I'm just getting more confused. We pretty much know what we want to see, but not how to arrange it. We (my husband and myself) are in our 50's, but pretty active. We want to see mostly scenery. We enjoy the national parks. We would like to stay in a park like setting, maybe a cabin. We know we want to stay in the Badlands at least one night. We will fly into Rapid City and rent a car. The flight we are looking at get in pretty late, so we may need to stay fairly close to the airport.

This is a list of what we want to see. I'm hoping someone can tell us how many days we should spend in each area. I have know idea how far apart anything is or how long to spend at each place. Oh, this is planned for after labor day 2014 and we will stay for a week. Thank you!

Mt. Rushmore

Crazy Horse

Hot Springs

Jewel Cave(?)

Custer State Park

Needles Hwy

Iron Mt. Rd.

Sylvan lake

Devils Tower

Deadwood

Sturgis(just to look around, no motorcycle)

Mt. Moriah Cemetery

Lead

Spearfish Canyon

Badlands

Minute Man Missle site

We want to take a horseback ride somewhere, maybe Andy's(we own horses and ride some).

See a fossil site.

And a gold mine(can we actually go under ground?)

South Dakota
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1. Re: How to arrange our days in Black Hills area

OK, western SD agendas are not my thing. Hopefully, slrtravelplanner will see this and will have better suggestions. Here goes:

Usually, we suggest picking one town as a base. However, you're not traveling with a big group or with children, so you could split your time between the Badlands area, Northern Hills and Central Hills. See the top question in the upper right corner about picking a base. As far as specific lodging choices, I am not an expert on cabin rentals. In the Central Hills, Custer State Park has lots of options. In the Badlands, the Cedar Pass cabins are recommended. The Frontier Cabins in Wall are also recommended. In the Northern Hills, I'd recommend staying in a motel in Spearfish unless you're into nightlife, in which case you'd prefer Deadwood.

You could pair or group the following activities together to fill days. These are in no particular order:

-Jewel Cave (get there first thing in the morning for tickets) with Crazy Horse

-The Minuteman Site with the Badlands and Wall Drug (get to the Minuteman Site at opening for tickets)

-The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs (fantastic fossils) with the Wild Horse Sanctuary ($$$) and/or the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop. The red rock buildings in downtown Hot Springs are very picturesque and unique.

-Spearfish Canyon with Devil's Tower. Take the side trip to Roughlock Falls while in the canyon.

-Deadwood and Lead (you'd do the cemetery on this day)

-Custer State Park gets a full day. This is when you'd do Iron Mt. Road, Needles Hwy, Mt. Coolidge and Sylvan Lake. It's best to not do all the scenic drives in one day, which is why putting the Wildlife Loop on a different day is a good idea. Too much sitting in the car.

-Mt. Rushmore fills a half day. I usually suggest doing it the second half of the day and eating supper onsite so you don't have to make two trips for the lighting ceremony. If you're really fit, you could climb Harney Peak in the morning. Allow 5-6 hours for the climb. If that doesn't appeal to you, other half day fillers might be Bear Country, Reptile Gardens, the shops in Hill City or the 1880 Train. You could also try the horseback riding option, but I can't recommend anything in this area.

I would personally skip Sturgis. When the rally isn't in session, it's your typical small American town.

Excellent choice of dates to travel, by the way. Happy planning!

Edited: 12 December 2013, 02:54
South Dakota
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2. Re: How to arrange our days in Black Hills area

Forgot to mention I like your idea of staying in Rapid City the first night. You don't want to be driving on isolated, unfamiliar roads with wildlife running around in the dark.

Pitman, New Jersey
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3. Re: How to arrange our days in Black Hills area

3174 gave some great ideas, and I agree with a lot of her suggestions. I am going to attempt to arrange your itinerary based on your list above a couple of different ways.

First, before I do, I highly recommend ordering the travel guide at travelsd.com. This will provide maps and give a great feel for the area. The map will help you understand distances, etc.

Since you will be staying a week, you could split your time between the north and central Black Hills. However, since you are adding staying in the Badlands to the mix ( and staying 1 night in Rapid City), I think you might want to avoid splitting your lodging between the north and central. To me, 4 hotels in a week is a lot of lodging changes.

Here's a plan for you staying in 3 lodgings:

Day 1: Arrive in Rapid City and overnight

Day 2: Head straight to the Minuteman Missile Site and arrive when it opens so you can secure tickets for as early as possible. This is around an hour's drive. When finished, head to the Badlands and tour. Plan on staying at Cedar Pass or Frontier Cabins in Wall for the night. Be sure to see sunrise/sunset.

Day 3: Finish up at the Badlands and head to Keystone,. About a 90 min drive. Hill City or Custer are also options. Focus on driving Iron Mt. Rd (drive from south to north) to Rushmore. You could also tour Big Thunder Gold Mine, and yes, you can go underground. You could return to Rushmore for evening ceremony if you wish. I'd highly recommend seeing it by day and night.

Day 4: Drive the Wildlife Loop early and then keep on heading south to the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. On the rebound, you could stop at Blue Bell Stables for your horseback ride.

Day 5: Take a daytrip to Devil's Tower, Spearfish Canyon and Deadwood. I, too, would skip Sturgis and Lead..not much in either place. I agree on taking the hike to Roughlock Falls, and I would also include the short trek to Spearfish Falls. Both are very pretty.

Day 6: Head to Jewel Cave first in hopes to catch the 1st or 2nd tour of the day. Pick up the Needles Hwy, heading to Sylvan Lake. Stop at Sylvan Lake for a picnic, weather permitting, and walk along the shore. Then head over to Crazy Horse.

Day 7: Return home

Ok: Here's another option with 4 lodgings...I don't know if I'd do this one, but only you know if this plan might work better for you.

Day 1: Arrive in Rapid City and overnight

Day 2: Head straight to the Minuteman Missile Site and arrive when it opens so you can secure tickets for as early as possible. This is around an hour's drive. When finished, head to the Badlands and tour. Plan on staying at Cedar Pass or Frontier Cabins in Wall for the night. Be sure to see sunrise/sunset.

Day 3: Drive to Deadwood (about 90 minutes) and see the town. Plan your trail ride at Andy's in Lead, and you could also probably fit in Broken Boot Mine here. It's in Deadwood. Overnight in Deadwood, Lead or Spearfish, depending on your preference.

Day 4: Early start..Head to Devil's Tower (about an hour's drive) and then continue back to Spearfish Canyon. You can then overnight in either Keystone, Hill city or Custer for the remainder of the trip. If you stayed in Keystone, you could possibly drive Iron Mt Rd and visit Rushmore in the evening.

Day 5: Wildlife Loop early in the a.m. Continue to the Mammoth Site. If you don't have time or energy to see Rushmore on day 4, you can probably add it here.

Day 6: Head to Jewel Cave first in hopes to catch the 1st or 2nd tour of the day. Pick up the Needles Hwy, heading to Sylvan Lake. Stop at Sylvan Lake for a picnic, weather permitting, and walk along the shore. Then head over to Crazy Horse.

Day 7: Return home

I hope this helps. Please feel free to ask additional questions.

Kentucky
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4. Re: How to arrange our days in Black Hills area

Thank you for your suggestions. I hope we can keep it down to just three locations. I'm thinking about staying in Hill City and Spearfish along with a night in the Badlands. All three places looks to be at least an hours drive from the airport, so if we do get in late that would be too far to drive. Seems like our flights always get in late and leave early. I haven't looked to see what time the rental car agencies may close. I'm hoping to tack on an 8th day.

Pitman, New Jersey
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5. Re: How to arrange our days in Black Hills area

Hill City would be the closest of the 3 at around 45 minutes. I would personally see the Badlands 1st and work my way a little closer to the airport over the course of the trip. Keystone would be 30-35 minutes back to Rapid and would be just a hair closer than Hill City. For distances, I use Googlemaps and find it fairly accurate. An 8th day would allow for a little more leisurely pace

Arlington, Virginia
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6. Re: How to arrange our days in Black Hills area

We did a similar trip to what you have planned last June and spent 8 full days doing it. We spent our first night in Rapid City at the Sleep Inn which was about 10 - 12 minutes from the airport on a major road. We enjoyed our stay there very much.

Our itinerary mostly followed the second option offered by Sirtravelplanner with overnight stays in Rapid City, the Badlands, Spearfish and Custer. But either of his itineraries are good and should work well for you.

7. Re: How to arrange our days in Black Hills area

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