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Itinerary help for 3-day family trip

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New York City
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Itinerary help for 3-day family trip

We'll be coming to the Black Hills in a couple weeks and I've noticed that the experts on this forum seem to be particularly friendly and helpful in offering helpful itinerary suggestions, so I'd like to run ours by you. We're a very active family who enjoy the outdoors and relatively full travel days, with 3 boys ages 11, 9, and 2.5.

Sunday, Aug. 1 - Long drive from Kansas City to Circle View Ranch just outside of Badlands (with stops in Mitchell Corn Palace and Chamberlain visitors center)

Monday, Aug. 2 - Minuteman (assuming we can get reservations), Badlands loop with some of the short hikes (out of Door, Window, and Notch, is it worth it to do all 3, or are the views similar, and if so, which are most recommended?), drive to Keystone to check in to K Bar S Lodge, go see Mt. Rushmore at the end of the day and night lighting ceremony

Tuesday, Aug. 3 - Jewel Cave, Wind Cave, Crazy Horse (possibly just from the road depending on time), either Reptile Gardens or Cosmos and pan for gold - I know that these places are very spread out and a lot of driving, but I'm not sure how to tweak the schedule to avoid this - suggestions? Should I try to do some of Custer SP on this day since I'll be in the area and some the next day and hit up the kiddie activities when driving north the next day? If so, how would you divide Custer SP?

Wednesday, Aug. 4 - Custer SP (Needles, Iron Mt., wildlife loop, Sylvan, a good 2-4 mile hike - perhaps Little Devils Tower?), then drive to Hulett for the night via Spearfish Scenic Byway -

Thursday, Aug. 5 - see Devils Tower, then on to GTNP and YNP

Thanks in advance for all of your help and suggestions!

Rapid City, SD
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1. Re: Itinerary help for 3-day family trip

Wow you must like full travel days because that first day drive from KC to the Badlands is gonna be a killer. Its a long drive but not particularly interesting until you reach the badlands. Its very flat, lots of prairie grass and corn fields. Gets old in a hurry.

You could certainly do as your itinerary is already laid out but here is what I would do:

Day 3 - I'd rearrange a bit. It will make for a really full day but IMO it really makes the most sense to get all of your CSP activities and cave tours in on Day 3. You may have to skimp on something to do it but it would be better than the back tracking. Considering that you will be going to YNP I think it would be okay if you didn't try to cover as much through CSP as I'd normally suggest. You could give up say the wildlife loop to fit in another cave or to spend more time on the Needles Hwy for pictures or climbing on rocks if you're into that.

Day 4 - I would do some gold panning in Keystone then head up hwy 16 toward Reptile Gardens (I think your kids would enjoy this attraction and you may get a bit more bang for your buck - again IMO) then follow through and head toward Spearfish via I-90. You'd have time this day to spend some time in Spearfish Canyon and/or maybe even get to Devil's Tower that evening. Then you could shorten your day a bit the next day heading to GTNP & YNP.

Also FWIW - you obviously know your own kids - but in my experience kids (especially the younger ones) don't do well cooped up for long periods and "nothing to do" boredness. On the flip side if you pack too much stuff in then you hit the overstimulated stage where its just as bad as the bored stage. You might find you need more time in the schedule each day in just to let the kids blow off some steam. This is something I always fail to take into account when planning my own itineraries and seem to over-estimate my time.

Pitman, New Jersey
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2. Re: Itinerary help for 3-day family trip

8/1, 8/2, & 8/5 look fine. 8/3 and 8/4 look a bit cramped, and I think you may be trying to take on too much. You could go out to Jewel Cave on 8/3 (make advance reservations for a "1st thing in the morning tour,"), go by Crazy Horse (not sure if you have enough time to go inside), and then do Sylvan Lake and the Needles areas. You could perhaps take in the Reptile Gardens that evening. We have done it right after an early dinner and found the crowds were pretty light. I'm not sure if panning for gold will fit in, but you can pan right at the Big Thunder Mine in Keystone if time permits..not sure on this one.

On 8/4, you will need a fairly early start to head to the Wildlife Loop. You could begin at Legion Lake and loop around to Iron Mountain Rd, heading from south to north. Another idea would be to drive Iron Mountain Rd on 8/2 if time permits after checking into your hotel. Wind Cave is wonderful, but frankly, I don't think you'd have time to see do half of Custer SP, Wind Cave and then head to Hulett by way of Spearfish Canyon.

Here's another idea. Since you are heading to Yellowstone, you might be able to realistically skip the Wildlife Loop since you will see many more animals in Yellowstone. If you skip the Wildlife Loop and drive Iron Mountain Rd on 8/2, you could fit Wind Cave in. When you're done, you could head up 385 (scenic) to Lead and then head west on 85 to Spearfish Canyon Byway (14A).

You can't go wrong, but I just recommend not trying to cram in too much. Two days in this area isn't a whole lot of time, but you can certainly consider returning again.

Enjoy your trip!

Pitman, New Jersey
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3. Re: Itinerary help for 3-day family trip

I see Alb and I were posting at the same time.. :)

I just re-read your post and her advice to you. I missed one thing in your post regarding the caves.. Is your 2.5 year old ok underground? Has he/she ever been in a cave before? If not, this is something to consider.. Jewel Cave is very open, but it does have a lot of steps. It doesn't give you a feeling of being closed in, which is good for a beginner, but the steps could prove too much. They're fine for adults, but it's not much fun having to carry a child through a cave. Wind Cave does a shorter Garden of Eden Tour and has less steps, so that might be a better option. Wind Cave is more "boxed in, IMO" and is not for the claustrophobic.

4. Re: Itinerary help for 3-day family trip

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