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Mount Rushmore on Labor Day

Honolulu, Hawaii
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Mount Rushmore on Labor Day

Mostly we're interested in scenic drives / easy to moderate hikes for photo opportunities. I made plane reservations for Aug. 28 - Sept. 8 to Rapid City, and am thinking of a big loop, about 2 nights Badlands, 3 nights Custer/Wind Cave/Hot Springs, 2 nights Mt. Rushmore, 3 nights Spearfish/Devil's Tower, more or less, bookended with nights in Rapid City since we have a long flight.

Does that seem like the right amount of time for each area, and the right order? It would put us at Mt. Rushmore on Monday, Labor Day -- is that a mistake? Will it be crazy crowded?

Or instead of a big loop, would a three-pronged spoke from RC to each area be better? Is highway 18 a nice drive -- is there a good southern route from Badlands to Hot Springs, or is it better to get back on I-90?

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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1. Re: Mount Rushmore on Labor Day

I wouldn't move around quite so much. The area is very compact, and you can make daytrips most places. If you are looking to see the sunrise/sunset in the Badlands, I'd recommend staying overnight in that area rather than doing a daytrip.

For the next 5 nights, I'd recommend basing in Hill City, Keystone or Custer. There's no need to move from Custer to Rushmore (Keystone), as they are too close together. Labor Day weekend will be busy in the area, so if you can head to Rushmore before that, it might be better. Keep in mind that Labor Day is typically the last hurrah before school, so most places are busier. I don't think you will find the area unmanageable, however, but I have always gotten out of there before the holidays hit.

Rapid City is not as good of a base as it's more urban and not as centralized to the major attractions.

I do recommend moving to the Deadwood/Lead/Spearfish area for your time in the northern region, but you may not need 3 nights there. You might be better served adding a night to the central Black Hills.

For heading to Hot Springs from the Badlands, I'd head back I90 to 79S. If you are going to Wounded Knee 18/385 would make more sense. I have not been on 18 as I have no interest in going to Wounded Knee, but I can say 385 is a very nice drive....quite scenic.

If you haven't already done so, be sure to order a travel guide from travelsd.com. It will provide great maps and overview of the area.

Please let us know if you have additional questions.

2. Re: Mount Rushmore on Labor Day

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Honolulu, Hawaii
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3. Re: Mount Rushmore on Labor Day

Thanks for your advice. Sorry it took so long to respond. I got involved with other things. We're going to stay 3 nights at the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park, 2 nights at Badlands Inn (the lodge at Cedar Pass was full), 2 nights at Hulett Motel (near Devil's Tower), 3 nights at Buffalo Rock Lodge B&B in Keystone, and final 1 night in Rapid City (at Country Inns because I had reward points).

You may think it's strange that we're staying at two places so close to each other, but I think it will work fine for us. It had something to do with availability at the Game Lodge and availability and 3-night minimum at the B&B, but I've also found that my photographer husband likes to be able to circle back around to an area, to get that perfect shot, in case the weather or lighting or something wasn't quite right the first time. The stay in Keystone should give us a second chance for just about any direction, right? The only bad thing I didn't consider is, I guess we'll have to pay entry to Custer State Park twice. We usually get the annual pass for the National Parks, so I didn't really think about that. I think the annual pass for Custer is about the same as two week-long passes! Oh well,

Really looking forward to the trip. I've heard it's extraordinarily beautiful there.

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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4. Re: Mount Rushmore on Labor Day

Keystone is very centrally located and convenient to most attractions in the area, so you can probably get the 2nd chance photo shot hubby is looking for.

The entry fee for Custer SP is for a week, so ultimately your timing of your visits will determine if you need need to pay 2X. It's $15 per week or $28 annually.

Enjoy your trip to this gorgeous area!

5. Re: Mount Rushmore on Labor Day

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