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Badlands, Custer Park, Devil's Tower...any last minute tips?
Old 06-15-2016, 03:08 PM   #1
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Badlands, Custer Park, Devil's Tower...any last minute tips?

Impromptu trip to the Badlands, Custer Park, Devil's Tower area for my wife and myself...leaving next week.

I'm sure it would have been better to plan things out more / make reservations but so far my thoughts are:
  1. Day 1: Find a hotel or something around Wall, SD or something and hit Badlands NP on Day 2
  2. Day 2: Badlands, stopping at overlooks (skipping Prairie Dogs), if weather looks good we may brave tent camping. Would love to see more stars than normal. Right now a good 15 spots open, but wary of making reservations in case the weather is bad. Go back to Wall or push to Rapid City hotel otherwise.
  3. Day 3: Rapid City area (hopefully stuff there) and Mount Rushmore (just to see it, doubt we do trails here). Stay again in Rapid City?
  4. Day 4 & 5: Lucked out and nabbed a camping cabin in Custer State Park, will spend a couple of days driving the Needles, Wildlife Loop, sounds like a good walking trail around Sylvan lake there, etc.
  5. Day 6: Drive up to and stay at Deadwood
  6. Day 7: Go see Devil's Tower, maybe camp there if weather looks good.

Need suggestions for:
  • Miss any key points?
  • Any scenic drives must do?
  • Any trails (easy to moderate, probably not strenuous) can't miss?
  • Any sights a must see?
  • Any hotels or lodging to try to get at this late hour (or to avoid)?

Skipping Crazy Horse and Prairie dog towns as monuments usually are not our thing and the dogs seem more like a kid's stop. Prefer nature and wildlife.
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Old 06-15-2016, 03:31 PM   #2
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Crazy Horse Memorial, Jewell Cave National Monument, Wind Cave National Park, Ellsworth AFB, Minuteman Missile National Monument.

Camp out at the KOA right at Devils Tower, the nightly movie is Close Encounters of the Third Kind!

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Old 06-15-2016, 03:44 PM   #3
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Kind of went through Custer in the mid-90's (not our end goal). Central Ohio to Custer in one (long) stint while pulling a pop up. As I recall the kids caught trout in Custer. Saw Sturgis, Wall, Rushmore, Crazy Horse... some other stuff and then pushed on to Yellow Stone. I forget what else in that area at the moment. The badlands were pretty cool. Are you going to see the corn palace?

Really depends what you are in to. I'm sure you'll see much more than we did. Another place to add to my list when we do Glacier.
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Old 06-15-2016, 04:33 PM   #4
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Crazy Horse was ok. You can't get up close without paying for the bus trip and we had a large family so it really didn't make sense. If you can get up close it is probably amazing. Did Jewell Cave and it was great. There was also one of those Mystery Spot parks, closer to Rapid City. Mt. Rushmore was spectacular. The time we had while there, didn't allow to see Devil's Tower which was disappointing.
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Old 06-15-2016, 04:56 PM   #5
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If I return to the area I'd skip Rushmore and do Crazy Horse again. More things to actually do there vs just standing and looking at it. Especially for kids. Close enough, if not as close as Rushmore for viewing.
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Old 06-15-2016, 05:53 PM   #6
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Rushmore at night is great. They have a cool ceremony honoring vets. Spearfish canyon is supposed to be pretty. Where dances with Wolves was filmed.
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Old 06-15-2016, 06:03 PM   #7
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We went to a cave west of Custer state park if you like those. Jewel cave was the name, l think. Tours were not too expensive.
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Old 06-15-2016, 06:20 PM   #8
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You will be able to see the milky way clearly in Badlands as there's little light pollution. When I visited last summer, I found that the nights often started out cloudy but then cleared after a few hours.

The campground is nice but there's only a few sites that have tree shade (it gets hot). You can figure out which ones by comparing the reservation map to google satellite view.

There aren't any must see hikes, but the short Door/Window trails are nice.

Cheapest gas and groceries are in Wall. Avoid Wall Drug.
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Old 06-15-2016, 07:41 PM   #9
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Such a pretty area! From my own experience, Wall Drug was a quick lunch stop and Badlands was interesting, but unless you were doing some serious hiking, it didn't take too long to "do" Badlands. But unique and worth a visit.

Mt Rushmore was a must see for me (too many viewings of North by Northwest as a kid). The drive up and down were very interesting and the drive in the area was fun because you kept seeing the monuments appear in scenic overlooks. Mt Rushmore didn't take long, but it would definitely be on my list. The night show was supposed to be very cool, but it didn't fit my schedule so I didn't see it.

Custer State Park was my absolute fave. There was a wildlife scenic drive that waswas fun. I did that more than once since the animals you'd see at any time could be pretty random. I stayed at the Devils Lake Lodge and the walk around the lake was an easy stroll and scenic. I did one of the nearby hikes which was fun, but did involve scrambling over some big boulders (they had handrails in certain areas to assist). I found Custer to be just lovely with nice ways to relax or some serious hiking if you wanted.
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Old 06-15-2016, 07:45 PM   #10
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If you go a bit south take a tour through the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. Majestic Animals.
Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
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Old 06-15-2016, 08:03 PM   #11
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I lived the first 20 some years of my life in the Black Hills. I, too, would skip Mt Rushmore -- too commercial, too crowded, too difficult to get around in, etc. (Besides what is so great about Graffiti... even if it is popular.)

I wouldn't be overly concerned about the weather. My experience has been that even the worst is short-lived. So just go enjoy the most beautiful spot in the U.S. - well, in the summer anyway.

TBH, I liked it better before:

13118862_1034773653255855_6485576241669586778_n.jpg
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Old 06-15-2016, 08:07 PM   #12
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The Harney Peak hike is absolutely gorgeous, it begins at Sylvan Lake if I recall correctly. I would do that hike again if I ever get a chance. The highest point between the Rockies and the Alps? Appalachians? I can't recall.
Needles Highway and the Devils Tower are very nice attractions. We also went to a ghost town called Cottonwood? which gave us some nice pictures.
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Old 06-15-2016, 08:10 PM   #13
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We went through that area about 15 years ago... I remember vividly the prairie dogs as you approach devils tower. Very cute little guys. I also found myself humming the theme to "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"....
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Old 06-15-2016, 08:16 PM   #14
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We loved Devil's Tower and spent time hiking around it and also did some climbing. We camped at the campground there and it was nice. Have a great trip!
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Old 06-15-2016, 08:23 PM   #15
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I, too, would skip Mt Rushmore -- too commercial, too crowded, too difficult to get around in, etc. (Besides what is so great about Graffiti... even if it is popular.)Attachment 24129
You did it wrong. Starting from Custer park, take the road with pigtail bridges (Iron Mountain Road? Hwy 16A?) to approach Mt Rushmore. It's an unforgettable experience, especially with kids, at night.

p.s. It's a long drive back to the campsite after the show. One of my favorite camping memories.

John
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Old 06-15-2016, 09:04 PM   #16
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You did it wrong. Starting from Custer park, take the road with pigtail bridges (Iron Mountain Road? Hwy 16A?) to approach Mt Rushmore. It's an unforgettable experience, especially with kids, at night.

John
Highly recommend taking this scenic drive.

Also, the Minuteman Historic Site tour was interesting, it is just outside the eastern entrance to the Badlands, across street from commercial campground (well, ten years ago it was there).
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Old 06-15-2016, 10:51 PM   #17
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Also, the Minuteman Historic Site tour was interesting, it is just outside the eastern entrance to the Badlands, across street from commercial campground (well, ten years ago it was there).
It was there two years ago. I stopped there because I had worked at that very site one summer when I was in High School. I, also, worked at other sites -- other summers -- that were closer to my home in Lead... both Titan and Minuteman sites.
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Old 06-16-2016, 06:48 AM   #18
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I still remember the time (over 50 years ago) when we ate lunch in the restaurant at Custer State Park. They had buffalo burgers on the menu, and I asked the waitress why they weren't trying to preserve the few remaining buffalo.


She told me, "We only serve the old ones and the sick ones"
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Old 06-16-2016, 08:33 AM   #19
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She told me, "We only serve the old ones and the sick ones"
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Old 06-16-2016, 09:31 AM   #20
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I still remember the time (over 50 years ago) when we ate lunch in the restaurant at Custer State Park. They had buffalo burgers on the menu, and I asked the waitress why they weren't trying to preserve the few remaining buffalo.


She told me, "We only serve the old ones and the sick ones"

Were they referring to the bison, or the customers?
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