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Black Hills Area

Bratislava, Slovakia
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Black Hills Area

Hi, Im visiting Yellowstone in June and I would also like to visit Mount Rushmore. I was advise to stay in Black Hills Area for at least three days but I don't know what there is apart from Mount Rushmore. We are a couple with no kids. I have planned for two days in this area and now I need to fill it with sights Can you help me? What is 'not to be missed' in Black Hills? Where is the best place to stay. We will be arriving from Yellowstone and then continuing to Denver. Thanks for your help.

South Dakota
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1. Re: Black Hills Area

Yes, with two days, you're going to have to pick and choose, but I understand that coming from Slovakia, your time is limited.

I'd maybe do it like this:

-Day 1. Spend the previous night in Cody, Wyoming, if you can to get you as far east as possible. It's about 50 miles from the east entrance to Yellowstone. Get up early. Head east and take a detour to Devil's Tower. Walk around the base of the monument. Get back on Interstate 90 and go all the way to Wall, SD. Spend the night in Wall or at the Cedar Pass Cabins in the Badlands.

-Day 2-Get up early and get to the Minuteman Site at opening for tickets. If the Minuteman Site doesn't interest you, then just tour the Badlands. Allow about 3 hours to drive the main Badlands loop road. Stop at the visitor's center for a bathroom break. You can also hike if that interests you, but stick to the main trails, because this is very harsh terrain and getting lost can be very dangerous. When you're done with the Badlands, stop at Wall Drug for a meal or a snack. Then continue on to lodging, preferably in Keystone or Hill City.

-Day 3. See as much of Custer State Park as you can. Must sees in Custer are Needles Highway, Sylvan Lake and Iron Mountain Road. Since you're coming from Yellowstone, and you have very limited time, I'd personally skip the Wildlife Loop, but that's really a strong opinion on my part. Drive Iron Mountain Road south to north for good views of Mt. Rushmore. Try to arrive at Rushmore by 5:00 so you can walk the Presidential Trail before it gets dark and take photos. Along the Presidential Trail, you will want to go into the Sculptor's Studio. If you have time, there are also exhibit halls under the main observation deck. Eat supper in the restaurant there or pack a supper. Stay for the lighting ceremony. We suggest spending the night in Keystone because it will be dark and late by the time you get out of the lighting ceremony and you don't want to drive on unfamiliar, curvy roads in the dark with wildlife running across the road. Keystone is the closest town to Rushmore.

On the last day, be warned that the drive to Denver takes 6 hours. Leave relatively early in the morning. While it's not a difficult drive it is, in my strong opinion, one of the most boring drives on the face of the earth and you will go through areas with no sign of civilization. Even the nice looking roadside bathrooms lack flush toilets. Leave with plenty of snacks, water and a full tank of gas and plan your stops very carefully. Basically, if you see facilities, use them because you don't know when the next opportunity will be. I am not trying to scare you. Regular families do this drive all the time, but sometimes it's hard for people coming in from more densely populated areas to grasp how isolated this is.

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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2. Re: Black Hills Area

No worries..you can easily fill 2 days! :)

I agree that since you are coming from Yellowstone, you can skip the Wildlife Loop and focus on some of the unique areas of the Black Hills. The Badlands are a unique area and well worth a look. You basically have 2 choices. You can make the drive to Cedar Pass as 3174 suggests. From Cody, it would take about 7.5 hours. Or, you could drive to Keystone or Hill City in about 6.5 hours, and make a daytrip to the Badlands. Most opt to stay overnight in the Badlands if they are looking to catch a sunrise or sunset (great for photography buffs), or if you are looking to tour the Minuteman facility. If you aren't there early, you wait hours for a tour. It would be your call on this one as to whether you'd like to save an hour of driving from Yellowstone. Plus, I would recommend chaning your lodging on night 2 if you stay the 1st night at Cedar Pass as 3174 says. If you went to Keystone instead, you would not have to change your lodging for the 2nd night because you would be centrally located. There's no right or wrong answers, but your choice should be geared toward your interests.

You could tour either Rushmore or some of Custer SP after the Badlands, even if you don't stay there. You could head to the Badlands early in the a.m. from Keystone, and then you could catch Rushmore on the way back to Keystone. I'd recommend driving Iron Mt. Rd. as 3174 suggests, stopping at the monument. You could see the monument by day and then stay for the lighting, having the luxury of getting back to your hotel in a very short drive. Traffic can be tough after the ceremony, so since you would be close, you could stick around a bit to let everyone file out.

As for the drive from Keystone to Denver, parts of it are extremely dull with a remote feel, but as long as you keep an eye on the gas guage and fill up when you have the opprotunity, you will be fine. There aren't a whole lot of major towns (except for Lusk, which isn't too big..lol) on the Wyoming leg, and the toilets are a tad interesting.. The drive is easy, though, and once you hit Colorado, there's plenty of amenities.

I recommend ordering a travel guide from travelsd.com to get a great feel for the area, along with an excellent map. You can look at it on-line if you prefer.

Let us know if you have further questions.

Bratislava, Slovakia
9 posts
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3. Re: Black Hills Area

Thanks for the advice, you have already helped a great deal. My idea is to leave Yellowstone about midday and drive as far east as possible ( to get closer to Black Hills ) but not more than 5 hours and then stay somewhere overnight - was looking on Sheridan as google maps shows it as a big town. Do you have any suggestion about a different place we could crush for the night ( some motel , not too expensive ) ? And then in the morning make a drive to Black Hills. Was looking at staying in Rapid city for nights ( found it on google maps ) as I had no idea there were towns in Black Hills. So I wanna thank you for mentioning Keystone and Hill City as they both have great location ( when comparing with my original plan of staying in Rapid City). Then when leaving Black Hills was thinking about driving to Chadron in the evening , spend the night there and then drive 4 hours to Denver. Again any suggestions about a different place to spend the night ( cheaper motel ) on route to Denver? Many thanks

South Dakota
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4. Re: Black Hills Area

On the way over, you could probably stay in Gillette, WY. Again, this is a really sparsely populated area and there aren't many towns along the way. One thing, though, if you stay in Sheridan or Gillette and don't drive straight through, you are going to be seriously cutting into an already extremely short touring time (you will go from two full days to one and a half days). It sounds like you're not comfortable with the long drives, which is fine, but you might have to make changes to your itinerary if you miss a half day. If you go with this plan, I would do Mt. Rushmore on the half day that you arrive and then the second day, you will need to choose between the Badlands and Custer State Park, in which case, I'd choose the Badlands because they will be much different from what you saw in Yellowstone. Sorry, I cannot make a suggestion of where to stay in Chadron. I go to Denver on a different route through Lusk, Wyoming. If you don't get any helpful answers about Chadron, I would ask on the Nebraska forum or just check hotel reviews here on Trip Advisor.

Since you have such a short time, here's another suggestion: You could skip the Black Hills/Badlands and drive down to Rocky Mountain National Park instead. It will pretty much be on your way to Denver (not a long detour out of the way) and you can drive the main road around the park in a day (it's not nearly as extensive as Yellowstone). You could spend the night in the quaint town of Estes Park. One issue with this, though, is if you go in early June you may still encounter roads under the snow. By late June, they will probably be clear. I'd call ahead to find out the status of the roads in the park.

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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5. Re: Black Hills Area

I also go through Lusk and don't use the Nebraska route, which, according to Googlemaps, is slightly longer.

The small town of Hulett, WY is very close to Devil's Tower, and it does offer some chain hotels. Some people opt to stay there to be close to Devil's Tower. As for Rocky Mt. National Park, it's a gorgeous there, and you might be ok with your timing, depending on snowfall this year. There have been times where Trailridge Road hasn't opened until July 4th weekend.

I also agree that with limited touring time, I would probably try to go for a slightly longer drive to just get to your final destination. It will enable you more time to see the sights.

6. Re: Black Hills Area

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