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Trip List by jillian67

Mount Rushmore and the Badlands in 2.5 days

May 16, 2012  Quick and easy weekend
5.0 of 5 stars based on 4 votes

A perfect weekend getaway, fly from Denver to South Dakota, rent a car, camp or stay in a lodge, and see amazing places like no place on earth! So easy, so rewarding!!

  • 1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial
    Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, South Dakota

    It was Mother's Day weekend and mid-May. The weather was going to be cold and rainy in Denver, but 80 degrees and sunny in and around Rapid City! United Airlines was running a special from Denver to Rapid City for $161 RT. We left on Saturday morning and returned on Monday evening. YOu can also leave Friday and get back on Sunday and accomplish the same. We were at Mount Rushmore by 1pm!

  • 2. Crazy Horse
    Crazy Horse, South Dakota

    by 2pm, we were at the Monument and Museum dedicated to Chief Crazy Horse. It's just 11 miles from Mt. Rushmore within in the Black HIlls of South Dakota. Beautiful, lush pine forests and windy roads.

  • 3. Custer State Park
    Custer State Park, Custer, South Dakota

    We drove into Custer State Park near Sylvan Lake, picked up some more provisions at the General Store, and headed to the Camp site at Center Lake. On the way, to Center Lake, we drove the Needles Scenic byway and were just aghast at the rock formations. We picked up some firewood from a guy at an antique store who invited us in for wine and to camp on his front lawn. But, we instead got a camp spot right on Center lake. It was $18 for the night, had running water and a porto John. Beautiful and quiet. In the morning, after an awesome egg and sausage breakfast over an open campfire, we headed back on Needles scenic byway to do a short hike up Cathedrals Spire trail. Took 30 minutes in and 30 minutes out (even thought the sign said it would take an hour each way!)

  • 4. Badlands National Park
    Badlands National Park, South Dakota

    Next, we headed out to Badlands National Park via highway 44. We entered the park via a gravel road on the left called Sage Creek Rim Road. The speed limit on the gravel road and throughout the park is 45 miles per hour, so even though it's gravel, you get thru pretty fast. There are several large herds of bison along this road. They are not behind a fence, just roaming free (like the song), and you can camp among them at the free Sage Creek Campground. We continued on this road (known as the Badlands road trip or 240) passed antelope, a town of Prairie Dogs, a bobcat, some deer, and the most amazing views of the Badands and plains. 14 lookout points. We ended our drive at the Visitor Center in Cedar Pass. Picked up a map of the badlands, got some more ice for the night, gas for the car, and headed via 44 going east to Sheep Mountain Table. This is an 8-mile drive (requiring an SUV for the last 3-4 miles) of the best views of the badlands. It's worth the detour. It's just south of Sage Creek Road. We made it back to Sage Creek camp ground just before sunset. Note: no open fires allowed in the park or at the camp ground, so bring your cooked food to eat. Lastly, we watched the stars before falling asleep.

  • 5. Deadwood
    Deadwood, South Dakota

    In the morning, we were on the road by 9am and took 44 East all the way to 385 north to the Northern Black Hills of South Dakota. The contrast between the Badlands and lush Black HIlls is amazing. We drove to Deadwood (passing waterfalls and cute western, sleepy towns along the way. We visited the spot where Wild Bill HIckcock was killed and strolled the old western town of Deadwood - lots of gambling still going on there. We then headed to the next town for some coffee.

  • 6. Spearfish
    Spearfish, South Dakota

    Spearfish is a university towna and home of the oldest fish hatcheries in America. The coffee shops are great.

  • 7. Sturgis
    Sturgis, South Dakota

    Next, we headed to Sturgis, SD, home of the BIG Bike Week (motorcycle gathering). It's really in the middle of nowhere. We had lunch at the Knuckle Saloon. Try the Knuckle Sandwich. Then, we headed back to Rapid City to catch our 5pm flight back to Denver. This was an amazing 2.5 days and there is still so much more we could have done. Rapid City is the city of Presidents. All 42 US Presidents are located in life-sized statues on each corner of the downtown area. If you have time, check them out, too.