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Itinerary Suggestions

Nebraska
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Itinerary Suggestions

My wife and I will be visiting the Black Hills area in late August (Aug, 25 - Sep, 1) for the first time. We are mid-50's and in reasonably good shape. We love hiking, wildlife and history. We are coming from Omaha, and will be entering the Black Hills from the south via Chadron, NE. We would prefer to move around every day or two to have unique experiences each day. I'd appreciate it if you would critique our tentative itinerary and offer any suggestions as to attractions, food, hotels, etc. No reservations have been made yet, so we're wide open. Our 7 night itinerary looks something like this:

Day 1 - All travel, Omaha to Chadron

Day 2 - Chadron State Park, Nebraska National Forest, overnight in Chadron

Day 3 - Fort Robinson State Park, possibly Toadstool on the way out, and end up somewhere in southern half of Black Hills, perhaps Custer? Keystone?. Should we try to catch Wind Cave on the way through? Mammoth site?

Day 4 - Explore Custer State Park - wildlife loop, hopefully some hiking trails (which ones?), see Mt. Rushmore. End up in Hill City for the night. Hopefully dinner at Alpine Inn and visit Prairie Berry Winery.

Day 5 - More exploring in Custer State Park, perhaps big hike to Black Elk/Harney Peak. Either return to Hill City or head over to Rapid City. Perhaps catch lighting ceremony at Mt. Rushmore.

Day 6 - Head up to Spearfish Canyon, Deadwood, Lead. I'm the history buff and would love to spend time in Deadwood and spend the night. Wife is more inclined to return to Rapid and do some shopping. Which would you do?

Day 7 - Hit The Badlands on the way out. Do some hiking along the way. May consider Wall Drug or Minuteman Missile Site, but we need to cover some ground on the way home. Where would you stay on the way home that is interesting/scenic? Chamberlain?

Day 8 - Head home, hopefully via a scenic route

Did we miss any "don't miss" things to do? We're not B&B people, but would prefer historic accommodations in the smaller towns.

Thanks, we appreciate all of the great advice on the forum and look forward to your feedback!

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8 replies to this topic
Arlington, Virginia
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for Arlington
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1. Re: Itinerary Suggestions

I would not do all that moving around for accommodations in the Black Hills. I suggest you choose one town in the central BH, either Custer, Hill City or Keystone, for your overnights on Day. 3, 4 and 5. I see that you are interested in “unique experiences” each day, but I don’t think changing hotels each night within the central BH will contribute to that.

I would not stay in Deadwood any longer than I had to. Go to Mt. Moriah Cemetery and the Adams House Museum for the history and maybe even get a drink in the #10 Saloon (although it’s not the original). Then go to Rapid City if you want to be closer to the Badlands for the next day. I’m not a shopper, so I know nothing about shopping in Rapid City, but for non-shoppers, there are many good attractions.

Our last trip to the BH was hiking-centric. We did the hike up Black Elk Peak, the loop around Sylvan Lake and several others recommended by rangers in CSP and at Mt. Rushmore. This summer, we hope to hike Cathedral Spires and Little Devils Tower trails. Definitely hike the Notch Trail at the Badlands (and the Medicine Loop Trail if you have the time).

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Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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2. Re: Itinerary Suggestions

I agree with the advice above. Moving around takes some time (packing/unpacking), so if you can stay one place and make daytrips, it's great. The Black Hills is one of the new places where this works.

I would also not visit Rapid for the shopping. Chapel in the Hills is lovely, and some enjoy the Journey Museum, Bear Country or Reptile Gardens. I know some say the last 2 are more for kids, but we liked them. You might benefit from staying in Deadwood if you have a long day in the northern hills and don't feel like the additional drive to another spot.

Great restaurants include Alpine Inn, Powder House Lodge, Blue Bell Lodge, State Game Lodge, Cheyenne Crossing and Big Time Pizza.

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Nebraska
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148 posts
5 reviews
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3. Re: Itinerary Suggestions

Thanks for the advice. We will go with the central location approach, which I'm sure will be more comfortable than moving around. We appreciate all of the advice offered on the forum, it's invaluable when planning a trip like this.

Wilson, North...
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4. Re: Itinerary Suggestions

I would hike Cathedral Spires in CSP. The Black Elk trail hike is 3.5 to 5 hours depending on speed. I also agree with the others on picking a spot in the central BHills for all 3 nights. My preference is Hill City but Custer and Keystone are good choices also. Sir travel planner listed our favorite restaurants of our recent trip. Our individual fav was lunch/dessert at the Alpine Inn. We also liked hiking the Notch Trail in the Badlands. Very unique hike. You will be in an outdoor person's paradise

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Hill City
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Custer
Custer
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Keystone
Keystone
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Nebraska
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148 posts
5 reviews
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5. Re: Itinerary Suggestions

I'm curious what you guys think about traveling without reservations. We think back to when we were married (mid 80's) and we didn't have all of the online resources we have now. We just hopped in the car and went somewhere, and figured out where we would stay once we got there.

Our SD trip will be the last week of August, right before Labor Day. We will be in the Black Hills Monday-Thursday. Is it too risky to just show up and hope there is a room, or will that just add to the adventure? Since we've never been to the area we thought it might be fun to pass through a couple of the towns you suggested and stop at whatever looks good.

Thanks again!

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The Black Hills
The Black Hills
South Dakota
Pennsylvania
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47 posts
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6. Re: Itinerary Suggestions

Having just spent a week in the Black Hills last fall, I agree with the advice above. We stayed 7 nights in a rental property about 1 mile north of Custer. It was a great location and less than an hour drive to most of the attractions in the southern Black Hills (Jewel Cave, Wind Cave, Custer SP, Rushmore, Crazy Horse, etc). The only day we had a long drive was our day trip to Badlands, which is about 2 hours away. The central location of Custer was ideal for us, and there really is no reason to move around while staying in the Black Hills. Custer had a small, but well-stocked grocery store and plenty of restaurants and shops. I enjoyed morning runs along the Mickelson Trail in Custer as well as evenings walking around town. Some of our favorite hikes are mentioned above - Cathedral Spires and Black Elk Peak in Custer, Rankin Ridge in Wind Cave, Window, Door, and Notch in Badlands. Our favorite restaurants in the area were Black Hills Burger and Bun in Custer and State Game Lodge (both dinner and lunch buffet). I'd also recommend renting bikes and riding on the Mickelson Trail north out of Hill City. Have a great trip!

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7. Re: Itinerary Suggestions

As for traveling without reservations:

If you were coming the week after Labor Day, i would say sure, why not, but the week before could be a problem. Lots of stuff still going on. The biggest is Cool Deadwood Nights which is a big car show. They will be staying all the way down to Hill City and maybe Custer. It happens the 23rd thru the 26th.

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Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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8. Re: Itinerary Suggestions

I'm probably not the person to ask, as I tend to plan EVERYTHING. I really don't like to travel without reservations ever, but that is just my personal preference.

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