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Itinerary help and a few questions

Richmond, Kentucky
Level Contributor
62 posts
30 reviews
Itinerary help and a few questions

My boyfriend and I (mid-30s) are coming to the Black Hills in September. We will be staying in Rapid City and will have 5 full days, plus the day of arrival. I want to see Mt. Rushmore (and night ceremony), Crazy Horse, Custer State Park (if I'm correct, this is the wildlife loop, Iron Mt. Road, and Needles Hwy), Badlands, Wall Drug, Spearfish Canyon, Devil's Tower, Bear Country, Jewel Cave, and possibly ride the 1880 train. I would like to spend some time in Keystone as well-the alpine slide, shopping, etc. I have a few questions and would also like help with itinerary, as far as what I can put together on any day. I know Spearfish, Deadwood, and Devil's Tower will make one day. Badlands and Wall Drug will go together. What about the other attractions? Also, I have a few questions...

1) The lightshow at Crazy Horse-is it worth trying to work into the schedule?

2) If all goes as planned, we should arrive on Saturday at 9:30 AM. After getting our rental car and taking our luggage to the place we are staying, will there be enough time to go to the Badlands and Wall Drug and not feel rushed, or should we put this off to another day to get an earlier start? Also, is there a certain time of day/evening that's better to see the Badlands?

3) I have read that the wildlife loop is better in the morning or at dusk. I've read other reports that make it seem like anytime is fine. Which is more accurate? And if in the morning, how early should we be?

4)I've read various reports on the 3 scenic drives as well, as far as being done in one day vs. being split. If you split them, which ones can be done together? Is it really necessary to split them?

5) I would like to ride the 1880 train, but it is only roundtrip from Keystone at 11:15. Is it possible to do any of the scenic drives before or should I do them on separate days?

6)I'm considering a helicopter or hot air balloon ride. The balloon ride has mixed reviews on here and most were from over a year ago so that worries me a bit. Any information on those would be really helpful.

I'm really excited about this trip!! Thanks so much in advance for any help given!

Apple Valley...
Level Contributor
798 posts
54 reviews
1. Re: Itinerary help and a few questions

You can pair up Jewel Cave, Crazy Horse and Needles Hwy + Sylvan Lake easily

Wildlife Loop Rd and Iron Mountain Rd can also go hand in hand. I would add the short drive up Mt Coolidge Fire Lookout Tower and then head on to Keystone for the afternoon.

I saw plenty of bison and other animals when I arrived in CSP around 8-9am. Was in Keystone with the above itinerary I just mentioned, by lunchtime.

Some of the other pairings would go easily if we knew where you were staying as to see what kind of travel you may have to include.

With families with kids, we definitely suggest splitting up the scenic drives just to give the kids more of a chance to pay attention and mix it up with exploring outside of the car. As adults, it is totally up to your travel style! The park fee pass is good for a week so can come and go as needed through the the park.

Are you flying in on Saturday? Are you wanting to do a lot of hiking in the Badlands or any other area? The Badlands are an hour east of Rapid City area. All times of the day are different with the colors on the rocks. Popular times are of course sunrise and sunset. I think it would be do-able to do it on your arrival day if you are not opposed to more sitting. Definitely get off the boardwalk and explore the rocks a bit at the Door/Window trail if not planning any longer hikes.

Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
Level Contributor
6,394 posts
61 reviews
2. Re: Itinerary help and a few questions

Day 1 (Arrival)-Head to the Badlands/Wall Drug. Since you are staying in Rapid, I'd go for it. It's only about an hour away.

Day 2: Iron Mt. Rd to Rushmore; Alpine Slide; helicopter ride?

Day 3: Devil's Tower/Spearfish Canyon

Day 4: Jewel Cave; Needles Hwy to Sylvan Lake; Crazy Horse

Day 5: Train ride (shopping in Hill City-better for your age, I think) Maybe lunch at the Alpine Inn. Keep in mind you don't have to take the next train back. You could spend a few hours in Hill City.

Day 6: Bear Country (not sure on your departure time so I only scheduled 1 thing here).

Seeing the Badlands is great any time, but some prefer seeing them at sunset or sunrise. If you are interested in sunset, you might consider staying there for a nigh, either at Cedar Pass inside the park or Wall.

You will see something on the Wildlife Loop any time. However, ideally the best times are early in the a.m. (probably 7ish) or early evening/dusk. We've had good luck in the 5 p.m. range.

I would personally split the scenic drives to give you a break from being in the car.

I have not done a hot air balloon ride or helicopter ride, but the balloons are very expensive. You can get a basic helicopter ride for around $50. I had read one review of Black Hills Balloons some time ago, and based on that person's experience, I'd never go. They had a pretty rough landing from what I remember.

Let us know if you have further questions.

Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
Level Contributor
6,394 posts
61 reviews
3. Re: Itinerary help and a few questions

Ahhh..I forgot the Wildlife Loop! You can do this on your Rushmore day, early, and move the helicopter ride possibly to day 5. Sorry about that, and thanks, Iowagirl , for reminding me.

Apple Valley...
Level Contributor
798 posts
54 reviews
4. Re: Itinerary help and a few questions

Sorry, missed the Rapid City lodging part! :-)

I actually hit Bear Country on the way back to Rapid City one evening around late afternoon/early evening/dinner time. The animals seemed quite active at that time. This was after Crazy Horse, Sylvan Lake and Needles Hwy that day. Then we headed to RC for dinner as I always seem to eat at 7pm or so anyway!

Apple Valley...
Level Contributor
798 posts
54 reviews
5. Re: Itinerary help and a few questions

Slrtravelplanner and I always seem to be responding to the same posts at the exact same time! LOL

Richmond, Kentucky
Level Contributor
62 posts
30 reviews
6. Re: Itinerary help and a few questions

Iowagirl, we are flying in on Saturday and staying in Rapid City for the week. We won't be doing any hiking unless it's something light/easy.

Sir, we actually have a full day on what you are calling day 6. We will arrive on Saturday and leave early the next Friday.

Looks good to me! Thanks for the help!!

Apple Valley...
Level Contributor
798 posts
54 reviews
7. Re: Itinerary help and a few questions

Be sure to also do the walk around Sylvan Lake, had some very light rocks to scale but it was worth it!

Also the Presidential Trail at Mt Rushmore is a boardwalk with steps to get up closer to the mountain for different views. I am not a hiker but did all of these with no real problem! Very much enjoyed being part of the landscape in the Badlands by getting off the boardwalk. All ages were out there walking around and taking it in.

Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
Level Contributor
6,394 posts
61 reviews
8. Re: Itinerary help and a few questions

Iowagirl, I'm sending telepathic signals from NJ for you to go to your computer. :)

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
34,998 posts
508 reviews
9. Re: Itinerary help and a few questions

Be sure to go online and look at the travel guide and map for the Black Hills at-

www.travelsd.com

It has lots of helpful info!!

Enjoy your trip.

Apple Valley...
Level Contributor
798 posts
54 reviews
10. Re: Itinerary help and a few questions

LOL :-)

I just heard we were on the same wavelength on a message to 3174 as well on a totally different subject....LOL