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custer state park

chicago
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custer state park

We are staying 5 days (4 nights) in the Black Hills. Our cabin is in the Blue Bell campground in Custer Park. We will be there next week. It is going to be my husband and I with our three boys 13, 10, 8. I have discovered that Custer State Park is a bit out, I need help determining a good use of time for our visit. I would appreciate itinerary suggestions. Thanks for any help!

Chicago, Illinois
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683 posts
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1. Re: custer state park

The Black Hills is a very compact area. Custer State Park is in the central and south portion of the Black Hills but within a 1/2 hour (or less) to an hours drive of most of the Black Hills attractions. We have stayed at Blue Bell Lodge on many occasions, both camping and in their quaint little cabins, and were able to see everything we wanted with no problem. The furthest attractions from Blue Bell Lodge would be the northern Hills which would include the Deadwood/Lead/Spearfish area, Spearfish Canyon and Devil's Tower, which is in the Wyoming portion of the Black Hills. The northern Hills can be reached from Blue Bell in about an hour and a half, 2 hours for Spearfish Canyon and 2 3/4 hours to Devil's Tower. The Badlands which are not in the Black Hills can be seen on your way in or out of the Black Hills. Here is a short list of "must sees", IMO.

BADLANDS/WALL AREA: Badlands National Park, Wall Drug

CUSTER STATE PARK - WildLoop Road, Sylvan Lake/Needles area and Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road (drive from south to north), Legion Lake

CUSTER AREA: Crazy Horse Monument, Jewel Cave

HOT SPRINGS AREA: Wind Cave National Park, Wind Cave, Mammoth Site, The Wild Horse Sanctuary

MT. RUSHMORE/KEYSTONE/HILLCITY/RAPID CITY AREA: Mt. Rushmore, Reptile Gardens, Bear Country, Rushmore Cave, Sheridan Lake, Pactola Lake

NORTHERN BLACK HILLS: Spearfish Canyon, Devil's Tower, Deadwood**

**Deadwood is not for everybody and is not a particularily a child friendly town. Do not expect clapboard buildings with a boardwalk down Main Street like the movies and the HBO series"Deadwood" have depicted. The original buildings burned in a huge fire many, many years ago. A gambling town full of casinos, Deadwood does have a rich history and many historical attractions if it's history interests you. The Adams Museum, Adams House, Mt. Moriah Cemetery and the Saloon #10 are attractions that will give you a good idea of what life was like during the wild, wild gold rush days. There are also re-enactments of the shooting of Wild Bill Hickock and shoot-outs throughout the day which usually interests the kids.

If you can advise what you and your kids interests are, I can recommend some other things to see and do.

chicago
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2. Re: custer state park

Thanks mountainmama52,

I see you have a Chicago connection. We are in Chicago and we really want nature, Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Jewel cave - - not really museums, or the organized animal sites. Chicago offers so much in ways of museums/zoos, we want to enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of the Black Hills. Ideally doing this where we are not completely trapped in our car.

A couple of questions - How good is the minutemen missile site? What is your recommendation of a good mining/panning site? How good is the Mammoth?

Thanks again!

Chicago, Illinois
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683 posts
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3. Re: custer state park

Yes we are from the Chicago area also, the northwest suburbs. We really wish we were from the Black Hills, though. LOL!! We love this area.

To first answer your questions. There are several places you can tour mines and pan for gold. The Big Thunder Goldmine in Keystone and the Broken Boot Goldmine in Deadwood both have underground tours and panning. Wades Gold Mill in Hill City has gold panning lessons and panning and a tour of gold mining equipment. Lead, located in the Deadwood area, is home of the Homestake Gold Mine, the largest gold mine in the northern hemisphere until it closed in the early 2000's. They have a surface tour of the mine as well as gold panning and the Black Hills Mining Museum with a guided simulated underground tour and panning.

The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs is excellent, IMO. I was not particurarily interested in pre-historic life and times and was fascinated with this place. This is an actual covered dig which is still going on. Having boys, I am sure they will find it interesting. I have not personally been to the Minutemen Missile Site but my husband has and he felt it was worth it. My husband is a history buff and is interested in anything having to do with wars, even cold wars. You do need to make tour reservations if you plan to do this.

You will find plenty of nature and things to do while you are in the Black Hills. I am going to suggest some things our kids really enjoyed doing. The hiking trails in the Sylvan Lake/Needles area are great as well as other areas in the Black Hills, like Spearfish Canyon, and in the Badlands. I highly recommend the Harney Peak Trail, Little Devil's Tower Trail and our absolute favorite, the Sunday Gulch Trail. The Mickelson Trail is a hiking and biking trail which runs the whole length of the Black Hills. You can rent bikes in Hills City if that interests you. Our kids favorite activity is rock climbing which they got started through the Sylvan Rock Climbing School in Custer State Park. Trail rides are another favorite. Blue Bell has some great trail ride options and I highly recommend them. Custer State Park has several lakes, Sylvan Lake, Legion Lake and Center Lake, with beaches and rowboat/paddelboat rentals. We have also rented a plantoon boat on Pactola Lake, north of Hill City, for a half day at pretty reasonable prices. For some fun, the Alpine Slide in Keystone is a must for the kids.

Are you staying in a camping cabin or one of the housekeeping cabins at Blue Bell? If a housekeeping cabin, make sure you bring all your cooking utensils. I am not sure why, but none of the state park cabins provide utensils, including plates and silverware. We really love Blue Bell. The campground is off the main drag, not real big, quiet and serene and clean. We always see alot of wildlife when we stay there. More than once buffalo have camped out in front of our cabin. Blue Bell's restaurant is very good also as is their Chuckwagon Dinner. The Dinner is a little more expensive than some of the others, but the meal and entertainment better than the others we have seen. Your 13 year old might think it is "lame", as our teens did, but they still had fun and loved the food. I have included a few websites for you to check out. Have a great trip and write a trip report when you get back.

http://sylvanrocks.com/

http://www.mammothsite.com/default.htm

http://www.rushmorealpineslide.com/index.htm

4. Re: custer state park

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