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Upcoming trip advice

Richmond, Kentucky
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Upcoming trip advice

My boyfriend and I (early 30's) are thinking about making a trip to Mt Rushmore in 2011. Other than Mt Rushmore, what other things are there to do in the area? Also, what time of year would be best to come?

Ohio
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1. Re: Upcoming trip advice

lots in the area. Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Monument, Minuteman Missile Site, Wind Cave, Jewel Cave... There's even more if you venture a little farther afield (Devils Tower for instance) What are you interested in?

TIme of year? we went the first week of Sept and loved it. No crowds and nice weather.

Richmond, Kentucky
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2. Re: Upcoming trip advice

We have lots of interests really. Hiking would be nice. I think I would enjoy the caves you mentioned. I did a little research on here and found some interesting things, but then I came across one person's review who did not seem to enjoy her trip at all. She was talking about all the driving and how far apart things were and not much to do at each site. That just had me a little worried because I only get one week of vacation so I wanted to do something worthwhile. Thanks for the info. I'll look into them. I sent off for a tour guide. Hopefully, that will help me as well :)

Ohio
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3. Re: Upcoming trip advice

ah, yes-- I read that trip report. Balance that with about a zillion others that love the area? No idea what she expected, but... obviously not her cup of tea. Are things far apart? That depends on what you consider far apart. If you stay in Keystone, Mt Rushmore is right there. Badlands are about an hour east. Custer State Park is much closer and awesome roads getting there. Compared to every other place I've been "out west" the places in and around Rushmore are close together :) All a matter of perspective.

My husband is not interested in caves, so... we did not do those. Both come highly recommended tho. Hiking is plentiful in Custer State park. Also in the Badlands. Badlands are hauntingly beautiful and if you are interested in touring the Minuteman Missile site (go under ground to the control room as well as above ground to peer into the silo) that is right at the Badlands park. Need reservations for the missile thing, but is free.

Custer State Park was our favorite thing, I think-- herds of bison and prong horn-- prairie dogs-- and the "wild" burros who will beg for food and stick thier heads into the car window all along wild life drive. Needles Highway and Iron Mtn Rd are awesome, scenic drives thru the mountains and forests- Sylvan Lake...

Mt Rushmore is cool. Evening ceremony is night, too. Crazy Horse? I felt ripped off for the price. That gets both pro and con reviews-- depends on what you like and expect.

Devils Tower is farther away-- You can actually divide the area into 2 bases. That might be a good idea with a week's stay. We only had 3 days in the area on the way to Yellowstone, so we stayed in the Keystone area.

Getting the tourist info booklet is a good idea. Lots of good info. Some great people on this forum, too. I got alot of help from them when planning my trip.

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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4. Re: Upcoming trip advice

Hello Kentucky!

Welcome to the SD forums. We enjoyed seeing Mammoth Cave in your home state.

First and foremost, Wings has really done a fantastic job in suggesting the best the area has to offer. Since you have a week, you will have ample of time to explore the area.

Are you flying or driving? Driving, of course, will cut into your touring time, but even with 4-5 days, you will be able to see the highlights.

If you haven't already done so, check out the website, travelsd.com, and request a vacation guide. You will be amazed at how much the area has to offer. Many think it's only Mt Rushmore, but there's much more to see.

Wind & Jewel Cave are terrific, and there are many privately owned caves in the area. The Black Hills is home to many caves (I'm thinking 8-10). You can find hiking in Custer State Park. The walk around the shore of Sylvan Lake is gorgeous. Sylvan Lake is really not the "pond" described in the "not impressed with the Black Hills" trip report. :)

I personally liked Crazy Horse and think everyone should see it once. Progress is slow, so I think once you've seen it, a return visit is at the discretion of tourist.

If you have a full week for touring, it's an excellent idea to consider Wings' suggestion of splitting your time between the northern Black Hills (Deadwood/Lead/Spearfish) and central Black Hills (Keystone/Hill City/Custer). Two nights is ample time in the north region.

As for the infamous negative trip report, I always feel a little sorry when I see that thread cropping up at the top of the SD forums again and again. However, I know it's because so many have disputed its claims and love the area. Really, I have no idea what the author of this report was expecting, but IMO, the attractions are not that far apart at all in comparison to other western states. Just about everything is within no more than a 2 hour drive, which is not bad at all--once again..my opinion. Is the area like staying in Disney World where everything is right there. Absolutely not. But it's also not like you are having to drive across a large state to get from place to place. If you feel comfortable with 2 hour drives (max---you will NOT be doing this all the time!), you will like the area. It really is compact. There are some roads, ,particularly in Custer State Park, where you cannot drive quickly, but you will be enjoying the scenery so much you won't mind. Please don't let that report deter you from seeing the region, for I think many really didn't share in its views. In other words, don't let one bad apple spoil the bunch.

As far as timing of your visit, I personally like late August/early Sept. The attractions are still open and crowds have dropped off. Some go in June, but weather can be iffy. July is probably about the busiest month and could be pretty warm, espeically during the day. Things do cool off at night.

Please feel free to ask more questions. I'm sure you will think of other things as you are planning. Enjoy the process!

Wyoming
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5. Re: Upcoming trip advice

Living out here, I have a different perspective, I guess. I don't mind the 1 hr. 5 min. drive to the mall in RC because it is such a beautiful drive. There is very little traffic(most of the time) and we can go 75mph. We go to Deadwood for dinner after work. It is about 45 min. No big deal. But, I also have to go 35 miles to buy a pair of socks. If you get on some of the winding roads the time is longer, but oh, so beautiful. Some of our kids go 40 miles one way to school. Anyway, for us this is our back yard. There is a lot to do especially if you like the outdoors. Personally, I think some of the prices of the attractions are a little pricey, but some of them are very unique and can't be seen anywhere else. And the post about the person not liking the Black Hills was too bad. I have lived in 2 other beautiful states, but I wouldn't trade Wyoming and the Black Hills for either of them. Have a great trip and don't forget to see Devil's Tower. It is one of those unique attractions.

Pittsburgh...
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6. Re: Upcoming trip advice

The Black Hills is a wonderful destination, with so many things to do. I'm sure you'll love it!

After a few visits, our favorite place in the Black Hills is still Custer State Park. It's amazing, with hiking trails, spires to climb, a beautiful lake, the Needles Highway and the Wildlife Loop road to drive. The wildlife viewing is better in Custer State Park than in any national park I've been in. We saw prairie dogs, buffalo, donkeys, pronghorn antelope, mountain goats and big horn sheep in numbers that stunned us. One night we were startled when a mountain lion leaped out directly in front of our car! Last September we took relatives from Italy there, and they were amazed that such a place existed. There really aren't words that can convey the richness of this environment.

Of course, Wind and Jewell Caves are great, as is Spearfish Canyon. Pactola Lake is a scenic spot for a swim. Iron Mountain Road and the Needles Highway are memorable drives. The Badlands are fairly close. The options are endless.

One of my favorite travel memories is being at the lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore during the Perseid meteor showers. Hearing the music playing while seeing countless meteors shoot past the illuminated monument was incredible. Because of that I have to recommend August as a great time to visit, but we've also enjoyed September, which is less crowded. We haven't seen it but many people enjoy the buffalo round-up at Custer State Park which takes place every September.

Don't let a bad review keep you from this amazing place!

Richmond, Kentucky
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7. Re: Upcoming trip advice

Thanks for all the information! It looks like I need to do a bit more research and not let bad reviews sway me :)

Everett, Washington
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8. Re: Upcoming trip advice

A tip I often suggest for people unfamiliar with an area. Unless you are using dial-up for internet try using GoogleEarth to preview areas. You can tilt the horizon down to get the 3D view and set altitude to 50-100 feet over the road. Then "fly" down the road for a virtual drive. Also useful for zooming in on hotels and tourist sites. In some cases there are links to StreetView 360° photographs from street level. Makes planning a lot easier.

We usually split visits (when not just passing through) into two parts... a few days South Hills (Caves, Custer SP. & Crazy Horse) and stay in Custer and North Hills (Deadwood, Spearfish Canyon, etc...) and stay in Deadwood. Doing Rushmore and central places around Hill City on the day we move. really though things are not that far apart. The whole of the Black Hills is only 80 miles or so long by 35 miles wide - about the size of an average metropolitan area.

Houston, TX
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9. Re: Upcoming trip advice

I have to agree with everyone here that the Black Hills are awesome! We also enjoyed the Mammoth Museum in Hot Springs, but it is not close to the other places. We stayed in Custer at a B&B and used it as our home base the entire time because of the central location. We spent one day going to the Badlands, one day in Spearfish Canyon & Deadwood, one day to go to the Mammoth Museum. Other places can be done the same day if you plan well. The neat thing about the Mammoth Museum is that they didn't move the bones to a museum, they built the museum right over the remains. It is still an active excavation site, which is really interesting....to us anyway! We went in July both times and it was great. The only place that was really hot was the Badlands, and the evenings were cool, so a light jacket or sweater may be necessary.

Illinois
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10. Re: Upcoming trip advice

i didn't read the negative post but i can't believe that anyone could bad mouth this fantastic area. my dream is to move out there and look at the badlands everyday. in my opinion, september is a great time to go but go early in the month. the last time we were there was for the buffalo roundup and i have to say i was a little disapointed. i thought we would be much closer to the action. but for saftey reasons they keep you really far away. it's also mighty cold out there at 5:00am.