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Driving from Chicago to Mount Rushmore

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Newmarket, United...
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Driving from Chicago to Mount Rushmore

Hi

My boyfriend and I will be arriving in Chicago from the UK on 8 Oct. We are planning on driving to Mount Rushmore and having looked at other forum questions are considering visit Badlands National Park on route and possibly stayingin Sioux Falls. Can you recommend anything else or is there anything we need to avoid!

Thank you

Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: Driving from Chicago to Mount Rushmore

How long will you be in this area? I highly recommend you stop at the Badlands National Park on your way to Mt. Rushmore. If you are going to be in the Black Hills for a couple of days Custer State Park and Spearfish Canyon are "must sees". Custer State Park boarders Mt. Rushmore and Spearfish Canyon is an hours drive from the monument, in the northern Black Hills. Falls colors will have just peaked while you are there and Spearfish Canyon has the best colors as well as some beautiful waterfalls; Roughlock Falls, Spearfish Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. What are your interests? Hiking, history, etc.? Knowing this would help TA advisors recommend some attractions and activities.

Edited: 03 October 2011, 23:14
Pitman, New Jersey
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2. Re: Driving from Chicago to Mount Rushmore

Sioux Falls is about 9-10 hours form Chicago (per Mapquest), and Sioux Falls is about 5.5 hours to Keystone, which is heading into the heart of the Black Hills and location of Rushmore. I assume Sioux Falls will be your stopping point for day one, and then you will head onto Rushmore? Seeing the Badlands enroute to the Black Hills is a great idea. Some even like stopping at the Corn Palace in Mitchell or the rest stop in Chamberlain with its Lewis & Clark Exhibits and highly rated views. I don't recommend making all these stops enroute, but you could possibly do some of these on the way back to Chicago.

Mt. Mama is right. It would help us greatly to know how long you have to explore the area and activities you enjoy. Some of the attractions will have shorter hours than during the summer season. Custer State Park is a great option, and people can easily devote a day with its scenic drives, wildlife and hiking. Spearfish will be gorgeous this time of year. Wind & Jewel Caves, Crazy Horse, and Devil's Tower are other possibilities, depending on how much time you have to spend.

We will look forward to a follow-up from you so we an assist you better,

Newmarket, United...
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3. Re: Driving from Chicago to Mount Rushmore

Hello

Thank you for your quick responses and great ideas. Apologies for not giving you more detail.

In all honesty we've kind of left it all to the last minute and hadn't even thought travelling to Mt Rushmore was an option until last night but have always wanted to see it and given the rave reviews Mt Rushmore gets it's on the Bucket List and now seems as good a time as any.

Anyway, we are in Chicago from Saturday 8 to Monday 17 - so not a very long time but we have both been to Chicago before so have pretty much 'done' the city. There's loads more to see in the area but we thought we'd branch out this time and travel further afield.

We like driving and enjoy road trips which is fortunate given the US distances. We like beautiful scenery, wildlife, history, frequenting the odd mall to save $$s on jeans. A nice coffee shop would be great - not Starbucks :-). However, I think for this part of the trip we are probably looking at 3 to 4 days so are looking at those 'must sees'.

We have a friend running the Chicago marathon on Sunday 9 so we can't make a move unti Monday. We are hoping I90 isn't a nightmare during the week.

Thanks again for your help.

Illinois
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4. Re: Driving from Chicago to Mount Rushmore

You could always take I-80 out too. I've found it an easier drive. Not much traffic in Iowa like Wisconsin. Either way, there's not much to see till you hit SD.

Pitman, New Jersey
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5. Re: Driving from Chicago to Mount Rushmore

Leaving Monday, the 10th, you could stop in Sioux Falls for the night and then head toward either Keystone, Hill City or Custer on the 11th as home base for the next 3 nights. You can see the Badlands enroute or on the way back to Chicago.

Definitely visit Custer State Park, although sadly you will not be able to drive the Needles Hwy, as it's closing for the season on 10/11. You can still drive the Wildlife Loop and Iron Mountain Rd (drive from south to north)

Here's a really loose itinerary:

11th: Badlands enroute to the Black Hills

12th: Drive Iron Mountain Rd to Rushmore; Crazy Horse--don't do a drive by

13th: Daytrip to Spearfish Canyon & Devil's Tower

14th: Wildlife Loop & Wind Cave; Jewel Cave is probably workable here also if you enjoy caves

15th: Head back towards Chicago--not sure on where to stop..have not done a road trip.

16th: Continue heading back to Chicago

17th: Fly Home

You can probably see quite a bit in a limited time frame. Please let us know if you have additional questions.

Chicago, Illinois
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6. Re: Driving from Chicago to Mount Rushmore

I-90 should be better during the week than it is on weekends. You will hit the most traffic in Illinois and around Madison, WI. Weekends around the Wisconsin Dells can be extremely busy but should not be too bad during the week. I would warn you to watch your speed limit around and near the Wisconsin Dells. Many consider this area to be a "speed trap". The I-80 route chilidog11 mentioned is defintely another option but we actually prefer the I-90 route. Sioux Falls is a nice stopping point. They have a decent size mall and I encourage you to go to Falls Park and see the Sioux Falls. The falls are lit for night viewing until 10 p.m., I believe. Mitchell, an hour further west from Sioux Falls, is another place to consider spending the night. The Badlands are about a 3 1/2 to 4 hour drive from Mitchell.

The Black Hills has alot of beautiful scenery. However, I just heard that the Needles Highway in Custer State Park is closing on October 11th so that they can work on logging to rid the pine beetle from the area. The Needles are one of the prettiest areas in the Black Hills and have been hit very hard by the devasting pine beetle. It is also the area with the prettiest hiking trails. Hopefully you will still be able to get to Sylvan Lake, which is at the base of the Needles. If you can, be sure you go to this absolutely gorgeous lake. There is a nice, fairly easy hiking trail around the lake that I would recommend should you have time.

As mentioned by srltravelplanner, you will find alot of wildlife in Custer State Park, especially on the Wildloop Road. I would also recommend you drive Iron Mountain Road, preferably from the south to the north towards Mt. Rushmore. Beautiful scenery and the road is on the top 10 list for the most scenic drives in the USA (as is the closed Needles Highway). The Peter Norbeck Overlook on Iron Mountain Road has a fantastic view of Mt. Rushmore and the surrounding area. The best time to view Mt. Rushmore, and for picture opts, is in the morning or early afternoon.

The towns of Custer and Deadwood have alot of history and you might enjoy some of their museums. I would recommend the museum in the old Custer courthouse in Custer and in Deadwood, the Adams Museum, the Adams House, Mt. Moriah Cemetery and the Saloon# 10. If you are interested in gold mining the Homestake Mining Museum in neighboring Lead is interesting. Keep in mind that Deadwood is a gambling town and is mainly cassinos. Many are disappointed in Deadwood. I think people expect to find the original Deadwood with its boardwalks and clapboard buildings, like depicted in the HBO series "Deadwood". Although the buildings in Deadwood are old, the original buildings burned in a huge fire many, many years ago. Deadwood and Spearfish Canyon would make a nice day trip, or Spearfish Canyon and Devil's Tower in Wyoming.

For souvenir shopping Wall, Keystone and Hill City are the best spots with Hill City having more sophisticated, high end shops. The Sage Creek Grille in Custer is a nice place to stop for lunch and Bobkat's Purple Pie Place has excellents pies. The Pheasant Dining Room at the State Game Lodge and Blue Bell's Lodge's dinning room have excellent food and are the best places to eat in Custer State Park. The Powder House Lodge on the north side of Keystone is very good. Hill City's Alpine Inn is famous throughout South Dakota. We prefer their lunch menu of wonderful sandwiches or German fare. During the evening they only serve filet mignon, a 6 oz. or 8 oz. piece with a baked potatoe and wedge of lettuce salad. Not bad and very reasonably priced. The desserts are fabulous and are available for both lunch and dinner. Warning - the Alpine Inn does not accept credit cards, only cash, but have an ATM machine. If you are interested in wine, The Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City is excellent and they also serve lunch. While in the Deadwood area I highly recommend the Deadwood Grille or Jake's Atop the Midnight Star. Both offer excellent meals and fine dining with Jake's being the pricier of the two. The Deadwood Social Club is another good choice and more reasonably priced. One of our favorite places to eat is a little, whole in the wall cafe located at the south entrance of Spearfish Canyon called Cheyenne Crossing. One of the locals favorites, all the food is home made, the desserts the best. and everything is priced very reasonably. Their specialty, Indian Tacos, are fantastic and huge, even the smaller one. I am including Cheyenne Crossings website for directions, hours and menu. http://www.cheyennecrossing.org/index.html

Have a great trip and let us know how it went.

Newmarket, United...
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7. Re: Driving from Chicago to Mount Rushmore

What can I say. I'm pretty much a forum virgin and you guys have all been fab. That's why we like the USA! We've now actually got a great idea of what we will be doing thanks to people who know rather than relying on travel books. Thank you VERY VERY much, I will let you know how it goes and I'd better get booking the accommodation....

I hope I can be as helpful if anyone visits the UK!

Baton Rouge...
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8. Re: Driving from Chicago to Mount Rushmore

Best is Custer State Park and Crazy Horse Memorial. There is a laser show at night at Crazy Horse, worth seeing. Also, by Mt Rushmore is Bear Country USA. you stay in the car and the animals are all around you. We saw bears, mountains goats, bison, elks, white wolves, and mt lions.

Pitman, New Jersey
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9. Re: Driving from Chicago to Mount Rushmore

Looking forward to your trip report, Samantha. We will be very curious to see if you got to see Sylvan Lake. As Mt. Mama said, it will be tough to say if you will have access with the closing of the Needles Hwy on the 11th. Definitely hike its shore if you can....it's a simply beautiful walk suitable for all fitness levels.

Hill City, South...
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10. Re: Driving from Chicago to Mount Rushmore

Sounds like you know your South Dakota, mountainmama! Thanks for including us on your list of places to visit in South Dakota.

Samantha--we hope you have a great visit! One thing to keep in mind is that some places in the Hills are closed this time of year. There are still lots of things to do, but a lot of the smaller, more family-oriented attractions close after Labor Day.

If you have any questions please call us at 877-226-9453. We'll be happy to help with anything we can.