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Family Trip with kids aged 11 & 13

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Orlando, Florida
posts: 764
reviews: 2
Family Trip with kids aged 11 & 13

We will be touring the Black Hills, YNP and GTNP in July.

We will be staying in Rapid City from July 9 - July 13

then visiting YNP from July 13-July 19

and finishing up at GTNP from July 19-July 21 (returning home)

We are flying from Rapid City to Idaho Falls on July 13 and staying in West Yellowstone from July 13-July 19.. After that, we will be staying in Idaho Falls from July 19-July 21 while visiting GTNP.

We will have a car rental at the airport in Rapid City and another car rental at the airport in Idaho Falls.

1) Black Hills Questions:

Arriving midday in Rapid City on July 9, please suggest an itinerary of must-sees and dos, from July 9-July 12, since we are flying out of Rapid City early in the morning on July 13. Please include a good chuckwagon - dinner/show as well,

2) YNP Questions

Arriving in West Yellowstone around midday on July 13 and staying through July 19..

Please suggest must see/do activities for that time frame.

Many thanks for all your suggestions - as this will be our first time visiting the area (Black Hills/YNP/GTNP.

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 15,289
reviews: 256
1. Re: Family Trip with kids aged 11 & 13

Since we have done multiple trips to the parks I can hopefully help you with some general info-

The DE on the forum is great at helping with daily trip suggestions. I will give you my suggestions but others hopefully will post with their suggestions also. I am no expert on the Black Hills but do consider myself more of an expert on Yellowstone and the Tetons.

Be sure and check out the travel guide and map for the Black Hills at-


Black Hills- July 9-12

July 9- fly into Rapid City-that might be a good time to do the chuck wagon/dinner show

July 10- Badlands NP

July 11- Mt. Rushmore and Custer State park

July 12- Deadwood and Spearfish Canyon

With kids there are things like the Alpine Slide, 1880 train, gold mining, caves, etc. that you may want to include.

Yellowstone- July 13-19

July 13- fly into Idaho Falls-drive to West Yellowstone- possibly check out Grizzly center or Imax theater

July 14- concentrate on Lamar Valley, Tower Roosevelt area and possibly drive over to Cooke City

July 15- concentrate on Canyon area, Artist Point, Lake Yellowstone

July 16- concentrate on Mammoth area

July 17-concentrate on geyser area

July 18-tour any area you feel you need more time

Here is a link to some of the more popular sights in the park-


Be sure to get a cheap cooler in West Yellowstone, buy some lunch supplies, water and snacks and take it with you each day. There are lots of short hikes but we do not hike- you can post on Yellowstone forum for info.

Grand Tetons- July 19-21

OK staying in Idaho Falls and seeing the Grand Tetons is a big mistake. It is over 2 hours from Idaho Falls just to get to the entrance of the Grand Tetons

What to see in the Tetons- Snake River, Oxbow Bend, Morman Row, Jackson and Jenny Lakes.

July 19- spend that day driving down thru the Grand Tetons from West Yellowstone- you can head back by Old Faithful and just know you need to get to Idaho Falls before dark- do not drive in the parks in the dark.

July 20- drive back to the Grand Tetons and see what you have missed- do a float trip on the Snake River or do a kayak ride on one of the lakes.

July 21- fly home

Please feel free to ask other questions. You will have a great trip!!!

West Des Moines...
posts: 610
reviews: 24
2. Re: Family Trip with kids aged 11 & 13

You could also add Bear Country USA or Reptile Gardens and Cosmos Mystery Area the first day and then hit the Ft Hays Chuckwagon dinner and show that evening as they are all near each other.

Maybe head over to Crazy Horse Memorial or Mt Rushmore right away for several hours and free up some time on another day to do a cave tour as well.

Orlando, Florida
posts: 764
reviews: 2
3. Re: Family Trip with kids aged 11 & 13

what's better the Blue Lodge Chuck Wagon or ther Ft Hays Chuckwagon?

Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
posts: 4,238
reviews: 35
4. Re: Family Trip with kids aged 11 & 13

I don't think you can go wrong with either chuckwagon. I haven't done one, for we just don't have an interest, but I have read positive things about both. If you are on a budget, Blue Bell is more expensive. However, I have eaten at Blue Bell Lodge and found the food excellent! I recall, however, in another one of your posts, that you are staying in Rapid due to accrued points, which I understand. For this reason, you might consider Ft. Hayes, as it's a shorter drive back.

Exactly what time is your flight scheduled to land on 7/9? If it's not too late, on your arrival, you could head to the Badlands, tour there for 2-3 hours, and then head to your hotel in Rapid. It's only about an hour's drive.

7/10: Jewel Cave; Crazy Horse; Sylvan Lake; Needles Hwy

7/11: Wildlife Loop (early AM): Wind Cave; Iron Mt. Rd (drive from south to north); Mt Rushmore

7/12: Spearfish Canyon & Devil's Tower; Deadwood if you have interest

7/13: Idaho Falls

Your chuckwagon dinner would fit just about any of the nights.

I agree with Peach that commuting from Idaho Falls to the Tetons is a mistake. Any reason why you chose there? There are many options in Jackson Hole. Although few lodgings are what I would call very inexpensive, there are some that are reasonable for the area. For example, Buckrail Lodge is a small log cabin motel that is immaculately clean and comfortable. It typically runs around $150 a night. You can still fly in and out of Idaho Falls.

The itinerary I posted is a rough one. I know I, and others, have given you itineraries when you have posted before, but I believe you had longer time in the Black Hills previously. It would be helpful if you updated us in what you and the family would like to see. For instance, I listed both caves, as they are must sees to me, but you may not feel the same. If you have a list of attractions, we can all take a look and tell you if time will permit.

You've gotten a lot of good information on your previous posts, so I would recommend reviewing it all again and give us a list of your must sees, as they might differ from ours. Also be sure to consult the travel planner at travelsd.com, which will hopefully help you decide what to focus on. I have a feeling you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the information. Tell us about yourself and your family's interests so we can help you better. I feel like we aren't hitting the mark with you, as you've asked us several times for itinerary help.

Orlando, Florida
posts: 764
reviews: 2
5. Re: Family Trip with kids aged 11 & 13

Thanks for the replies.

Here is what we're planning as a suggested itinerary that can, of course, be fine tuned:

-Arrive on July 9 (midday) and do The Badlands + Chuck Wagon Dinner

- July 10: Start at 7am--> Do Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park including Sylvan Lake, Needles Hwy, Iron Mt. Rd and wildlife loop. Have lunch either at State Game lodge or Blue Bell lodge. Then wrap it up at Jewel Cave

- July 11 Start early at 7am and head to the Northern Hills, including Devil Tower, Spearfish Canyon with the 3 main waterfalls, Lead, Deadwood

- July 12 : Chapel in the Hills + Wall + 1880 town and other must-sees

- July 13 head to YNP

- July 19 head to Jackson, WY - stay 1 night

- July 20 do GTNP activities and head to Idaho Falls for last night before flying back home.

Let us know if this makes more sense, since we will be heading directly to Jackson, WY to stay 1 night and be able to do GTNP prior to heading back to Idaho Falls for our last night on July 20.

Also, please suggest anything more to do for July 12 in the Black Hills that we may have missed or omitted.

Many thanks and looking to all your feedback on the above...

Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
posts: 4,238
reviews: 35
6. Re: Family Trip with kids aged 11 & 13

Thanks for the update. This is very helpful to all of us.

Day 1 could be a bit tight, depending on how much time you spend at the Badlands. For example, let's say you arrive in the area at 1 p.m. By the time you collect your luggage and car, it will be closer to 2. It will take you about an hour to arrive in the Badlands, putting you there at 3. The Fort Hayes Chuckwagon dinner begins at 6:30, so you would need to leave the Badlands no later than 5:15 to insure you are there on time. If you just drive through and don't stop, it would probably work, but it may very well be cutting it close. (And I would not want to just drive through...far too gorgeous for that!) If you are arriving earlier than 1 p.m., just plan accordingly with the times I listed above. I believe you could book the chuckwagon dinner in advance on-line. IMO, a safer, less stressful bet would be to move the dinner to July 12 when I think you could relax and enjoy it more. You could plan on a quick stop at Wall Drug while visiting the Badlands, rather than schedule it on 7/12. An hour or so would be fine, unless you are die hard souvenir shoppers. Since you are staying in Rapid, you could plan a short trip to the Chapel in the Hills in the evening after dinner. They used to have services there in the evening in the early summer..not sure if this is still the case. It's been a while since we've been, but it's an amazing structure, and we wound up spending several hours there talking to the caretakers. They were so friendly. Of course, you could skip this if on a schedule. lol.. We were going at a slower pace and had more time.

I hate to say this, but I think you need to nix the 1880 Town. It's really out of your way for the rest of the trip. I noticed you are staying in West Yellowstone for your Yellowstone leg. If you want to visit a frontier town, I'd recommend making the drive from West to Virginia City and Nevada City, MT. It's a nice diversion from the park, and you could head out there and be back to West by late afternoon. It's about an hour and a half one way, and you could stop at Quake Lake on the way out.

Ok..July 10 worries me. We need to get that whittled down for you. It's way too much for a day. You can move some of your activities on that day to 7/12. Here's a revision:

7/10: 7 a.m. start. Head to Jewel Cave, because if you wait until the day's end, you won't get on a tour. There are no advance reservations this year due to construction on site and nearby, so plan on an early arrival to get tickets for one of the 1st Scenic tours. Head up to Crazy Horse after your tour and spend some time. This will put you at lunch or a little after. You could picnic at Sylvan Lake, walk around the shore, and then head down the Needles Hwy.

7/12: Early start. Head out of Rapid, taking 79 south (Heartland Expy). Take this to 36 heading west. Take the Wildlife Loop. Early AM is a great time to see the animals. Drive up Iron Mt. Rd (south to north), stopping at Rushmore. If time allows, you could visit either Bear Country, Reptile Gardens or the Cosmos in Rapid City. I'd personally do the chuckwagon dinner on this night, and then, if you wish, leave a little early to head over to Rushmore's lighting ceremony.

7/11 looks fine and will be a nice day trip. There's not much in Lead other than a mining museum, so your time there will be short.

Glad to see you are staying in Jackson for a night. It will be much easier to tour the Tetons that way.

Your time allotment for Yellowstone is great, and you will really get to see the park well. Be sure to post your trip on the Yellowstone forum if you haven't already done so. There's some really nice people over there who can make suggestions for you.

You are going to have a great trip. Let us know if you have additional questions.

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 15,289
reviews: 256
7. Re: Family Trip with kids aged 11 & 13

So glad you are staying in Jackson Hole. Looks like you have a great trip planned. We will all look forward to a trip report when you return home.

West Des Moines...
posts: 610
reviews: 24
8. Re: Family Trip with kids aged 11 & 13

I would definitely agree that 7/10 has way too much in one day and much better to split the scenic drives up into different days to fully enjoy the experience. You will want to be out of the car and stretch the legs probably.

Also in Keystone, there is the Alpine Slide that the kids would enjoy for a bit before heading to Rushmore possibly. I would also not want to forget to recommend the Presidential Trail at Rushmore to do a hike/walk (stairs) closer to the mountain faces. Go left from the viewing terrace and end at the Sculptors Studio.

I agree that it makes more sense to add Wall to the Badlands day as well. The scenic loop road practically ends right at Wall (or a few miles away).

Orlando, Florida
posts: 764
reviews: 2
9. Re: Family Trip with kids aged 11 & 13


Here is a revised itinerary for your feedback and suggestions:

July 9 - Arrive midday in Rapid City. Take trolley tour of downtown Rapid City.

Do Cosmos Mystery area. Stop at Chapel in the Hills. Chuckwagon Dinner in Rapid City.

July 10 - 7am start. Head out of Rapid City, taking 79 south (Heartland Expy) to 36 heading west. Take the Wildlife Loop - Custer SP to see the animals early am.

Drive up Iron Mt. Rd (south to north), stopping at Rushmore. Take the Rushmore Chairlift and Alpine Slide. Do Presidential Trail. Find dinner place close by and do Mt Rushmore lighting Ceremony.

July 11 - Early 7am start to the Northern Black Hills then do Needles Highway, Sylvan lake and Crazy Horse . Lunch at Blue Bell Lodge. Need dinner suggestion before Crazy horse memorial lighting show.

July 12 - Early am Jewel cave then Badlands, Prairie Homestead historic Site, Wall, Wounded Knee.


Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
posts: 4,238
reviews: 35
10. Re: Family Trip with kids aged 11 & 13

Dashelter, I think I actually liked most of your 1st plan better..... :(

I would not bother with a trolley tour of Rapid City. If you had a week or more in the area, then I'd consider it. There' s too much else to see and do.

For Wounded Knee, are you talking the museum in Wall, or the actual site? The actual site is out of the way and not really practical, IMO.

July 11 is too heavily scheduled. Are you still going to Devil's Tower? Even if you don't go there, there's no way you can fit Spearfish Canyon, Needles Hwy, Sylvan Lake and Crazy Horse in before lunch, even if you start at 7 a.m.

For July 12, it's awkward to go to Jewel Cave and then head out to the Badlands. Jewel is so close to the Needles, Sylvan and Crazy Horse. It just makes so much more sense to group those activities. You really are much better off going to the Badlands on your 1st day. I don't know anything about the Prairie Homestead, but maybe you could do that and Wall Drug and the Badlands on the 1st day.

7/10 looks fine.

You don't really have all that much time in the area. Be careful to not overplan. You want to be able to enjoy and not spend the entire day in the car.