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Black Hills Itinerary check

Parker, CO
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Black Hills Itinerary check

I just found these forums with help on itineraries and want to make sure what I have come up with doesn't have any serious issues. Family of 5 (kids 12,9,7) and dog will have from June 22 to June 30th in the Black Hills. I already have reservations at the campgrounds we will be staying at so I can't adjust those. June 22,23 will be at Custer State Park (Stockade North), June 24 will be at Badlands State Park (Cedar Pass) and June 25-29 will be just outside Hill City (Rafter J). We don't get going too early so getting out and about by 9am is normal and we have the dog so we like to be back by 5pm or so. Also any suggestions on can't miss places to eat. June 22 we'll probably eat at Dakota Cowboy in Custer because we'll be towing a 36' trailer and it looks to have good reviews and good parking!

June 22 - Arrive Custer State Park around 7pm.

June 23 - 15 minutes to Mt Coolidge, Wildlife Loop, Iron Mountain, Mt Rushmore, Sylvan Lake, Needles drive back to Custer. Any idea if lunch time would be near State Lodge or Keystone?

June 24 - Drive to Badlands, spend day with Ranger activities, Door and Window hikes. Will be coming back on I-90, is it worth it to take SD-44 from Rapid City to Ben Reifel center?

June 25 - Drive to Wall Drug via Badlands loop, taking time to stop at scenic spots. Spend an hour or so at Wall, drive to Hill city. Where is a good place to have lunch in Wall?

June 26 - Visit Rapid City downtown, Dinosaur Park, Storybook Island. In the evening go to Crazy Horse (night blast just happens to be happening while we are there). Probably have picnic at Storybook Island, any dinner suggestions for Rapid City?

June 27 - Drive up Spearfish Canyon, stop at the falls, fish hatchery, Deadwood at the Broken boot gold mine. Places for lunch, assume around Spearfish.

June 28 - Bear Country, Reptile Gardens, Cosmos mystery area

June 29 - Whatever we find, maybe spend some time at Sylvan Lake

June 30 - Drive home

June 26 to June 29 don't really matter what order we do those in. On those evenings we might add Custer City and Bedrock because I heard they had an entertaining magic show for the kids. Another night will probably be at the Circle B Chuck Wagon.

What is "morning" time for the Wildlife loop? I was thinking we'd spend 45 mins or less at Mt Coolidge meaning we'd start the loop around 10am. Is that too late? If so I just need an idea of morning so we can get going early that day. Or I heard the evening is a good time to go as well but no real definition of what evening time is. Since we are in the park its about 20 minutes to the loop so adjusting to have an evening outing would be fine.

Am I missing anything? I keep seeing the Old MacDonald farm as a favorite but the Circle B has a petting zoo, pony rides, etc. Some of the things we ruled out: Caves (just went through Glenwood Cave and somebody didn't like it). The 1880 train because of the amount of time and we have a few scenic trains around us.

Thanks for any suggestions on our trip.

Apple Valley...
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1. Re: Black Hills Itinerary check

I would move the Needles Hwy to June 29th with Sylvan Lake as it looks to be a pretty full day on the 23rd. I did the Wildlife Loop around 9am, with the Mt Coolidge Fire Lookout, then Iron Mtn Rd to Keystone and had lunch in Keystone (stop at the Alpine Slide Attraction for the kids!) and afternoon at Mt Rushmore. Also too many scenic drives in one day might be too much for kids to stay interested?

I would say just eat at Wall Drug on that day after the Badlands Scenic Rd. They have a large restaurant as well as ice cream, donuts and other snacks.

Edited: 24 May 2013, 23:15
Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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2. Re: Black Hills Itinerary check

I agree with moving Needles to 6/29 with Sylvan Lake. You could spend a leisurely day maybe renting some type of watercraft (canoe, kayak, etc), walk the shore, have a picnic and then drive the Needles. Since you aren't early risers, you can use this day to get an even later start, maybe 10?

On 6/23, I predict your lunch time will fall in Keystone. I have not eaten at the Alpine Slide, but it does get good reviews. My personal favorite is Big Time Pizza, which is actually located right next door to the slide in the Roosevelt Inn. It's really the best pizza I've experienced, although pizza taste is truly in the eye of the beholder.

I would stick to I90 to the Visitor's Center in the Badlands. I have not done the drive, but I have read that 44 isn't all that interesting. Whatever you do, just note that Sage Creek Rd in the Badlands is not paved, so you may want to avoid it.

I agree that Wall Drug is a good lunch stop.

You may still have time for Old McDonald's Farm on your Rapid City day if you moved Crazy Horse also to 6/29. It kind of naturally falls in with the Needles and Sylvan Lake.

You can see wildlife just about anytime on the Wildlife Loop. We just always recommend early a.m. and evening because animals are more active. 10 a.m. is late to me for viewing standards, but I think you'd still find something. Since it doesn't sound like you are morning people, I'd shoot for early evening. We have done the drive in mid morning just becuase.. but in all honesty, we found more to look at by driving the loop around 5 or 6 in the evening.

Let us know if we can help further.

Atlanta, Georgia
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3. Re: Black Hills Itinerary check

Be sure to go online and look at the Black Hills travel guide and map-


It has lots of great info!!

They have a nice lunch buffet in Custer SP at the State Game Lodge and Blue Bell Lodge- bison stew, salads, veggies, other meats and homemade pies.

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4. Re: Black Hills Itinerary check

My head is spinning, there is truely so much to see. Thanks for the cool web site. I went there, and found so much I would like to do.

Tell me more about Wall Drug. The web site doesn't say much.

Peach, Where did you go to High School. Although we are stationed in Texas, I grew up in Atlanta, on the south side.

South Dakota
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5. Re: Black Hills Itinerary check

I agree you have waaaay too much on the 23rd. Speaking as a fellow mother of three kids, your kids will go beserk and stage a revolt if you attempt all three of the Custer Scenic drives (Needles, Wildlife and Iron Mt) in one day. Keep in mind that each drive will take much longer than you think due to photo stops, winding roads (take Dramamine if anyone is prone to carsickness) and slow speed limits. All three drives are must-sees, but break them up into different days.

I would skip the Dinosaur Park in Rapid City. Unless they've done massive renovations, the dinosaurs are pretty beat up, there's lots of steps and none of us were impressed. The view is kind of nice, and it's free, so it's obviously up to you. I'd also skip Storybook Island. It's a neat little attraction, but it's really more of an attraction for preschoolers. My then 8 y.o. thought it was lame.

I sort of skimmed your original post, but I don't recall seeing the Alpine Slide on your list. Your kids are at a great age for that.

The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs is small, but very interesting. I would not drive all the way down there just for that, though. If you're interested in swimming in a natural, warm, outdoor swimming hole, Cascade Falls is located just south of Hot Springs.

Legion Lake in Custer is a nice place to swim if you find that Sylvan is too crowded. Sylvan is more scenic though, so at least stop to look or take a short hike.

Don't let your head spin. You're allowing a lot more time for this than most people. Do you know how many people come on here and tell us they only have one or two days in the Hills and expect to cram everything in? Or they want to cram Yellowstone and the Hills in one week? THAT's stressful. You actually have left the 29th completely open. Once you combine Wall drug, as the other posters suggested with the Badlands day, that will free up another day. If you eliminate the dinosaurs and Storybook Island, you've gained a third day. You have lots of time to work with, you just have to tweak your schedule.

Wall Drug from the outside has a western/frontier theme that stretches for a few blocks with buildings on both sides. Each building has interconnecting rooms that are basically different types of touristy gift shops. Just work your way from one end to the other. There's also a cute little chapel. Behind the eastern block of buildings is a "backyard" area with quirky things to climb on and/or be photographed with. To the east of that building is another building with a cheesy, yet scary animated dinosaur. It may sound like a lot, but it really doesn't take that much time to see and could easily be combined with the Badlands in one day.

Rockford, Illinois
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6. Re: Black Hills Itinerary check

How about a drive out to Devil's Tower? You could do that the day you do Spearfish Canyon. It was one of the highlights of our trip last year!

Parker, CO
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7. Re: Black Hills Itinerary check

Thanks for the great feedback.

So on the 23rd I'll change it to Iron Mtn Road, Rushmore, evening wildlife loop. Sylvan lake and needles another day. When I leave Mt Rushmore should I take US16 back to Custer State park (Stockade Lake)? I had the needles drive there because it seemed as good a way to get back as any other.

We might do the slide but we have an alpine slide a short distance away.

I had seen Devils Tower but it would add an extra 2 hours driving plus however long there. That seemed to make the spearfish day pretty long.

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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8. Re: Black Hills Itinerary check

You could add Devil's Tower, but it will be a longer day. However,it's certainly attainable. I have spent about 2 hours at tower, allowing time for the small visitor's center and walking the trail around the base. We stopped a lot on the trail,not that it was difficult, but there were climbers on the tower that day, and I kept using my zoon lens on my camera to watch them. I am so easily distracted...lol! If you are bringing bins with you, I'd recommend having them if you go out to the tower. If you decide to go out there, you might want to eliminate Broken Boot Mine and then add a trip to Big Thunder Mine in Keystone, maybe later in your trip.

As for getting back to Custer State Park, after Rushmore, you can take 244 heading west over to 16/385 and head south to 87. This will take you to Sylvan and over the Needles.

9. Re: Black Hills Itinerary check

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