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Getting serious about our trip - July 2010

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Pittsburgh...
posts: 266
reviews: 39
Getting serious about our trip - July 2010

Happy New Year everyone! Ok, I've got my South Dakota vacation guide, and I'm ready for some serious planning. And that means a few questions for you experts.

Hotels: I've narrowed it down to either the K Bar S Lodge or Roosevelt Inn/Powder House. I really like the K Bar S, but I'm worried because I've read that tour groups stay here. Are the tour groups a problem? Will we have a long line for breakfast in the morning?

Touring ideas: We can prob. take a week for our vacation: 2 days to travel (we're in Pittsburgh) and then 5 days of touring. I was hoping to make Keystone our "home base". Do any of you have the SD Vacation Guide? On p. 111, they have 5 suggested road trips in the Black Hills & Badlands. Could I use each of these road trips as one day of touring?

What about the northern area - Deadwood, Lead? Is there enough for a whole day? (We're not into gambling or casinos) I'd kind of like to see Belle Fourche and the center of the Nation, but I realize that won't take very long. How far is Devil's Tower? Can we include Devil's Tower in a one-day tour of the Northern Hills?

Thanks!

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 18,699
reviews: 296
1. Re: Getting serious about our trip - July 2010

We stayed at K Bar S Lodge in 2008 and had no problems with tour groups. They have a nice breakfast each morning also. We used the SD travel guide and just did the tours each day with our own likes and dislikes. You could do the north hills in one day but we did Devils Tower on the way to Yellowstone NP. I do not think I would do it again if we were just going to the Black Hills area. Enjoy your trip planning.

Pittsburgh...
posts: 266
reviews: 39
2. Re: Getting serious about our trip - July 2010

Can I ask why you wouldn't do Devil's Tower again? Is it too far of a drive from the Black Hills? Do you remember how long it took to get to Devil's Tower from the Keystone/Rapid City area? Or once you got there it wasn't worth the drive?

I have to find some time to sit down and MapQuest the places we're interested in to find out how far apart they are.

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 18,699
reviews: 296
3. Re: Getting serious about our trip - July 2010

We stopped the day we went up Spearfish canyon, stopped in Deadwood for an hour or so and then headed to Devils Tower. By the time we got there it was mid- afternoon. We were glad we were just heading toward YNP and stopping for the night. I would not want to spend the time doing all that we did and then having to travel back to Keystone. It was a neat experience but that was just my point because it is over in Wyoming.

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 18,699
reviews: 296
4. Re: Getting serious about our trip - July 2010

Enjoy your trip. Our daughter lives in the Shadyside area of Pittsburgh.

Lead, South Dakota
posts: 181
reviews: 2
5. Re: Getting serious about our trip - July 2010

Hey MamaGrumpy, I can help you out a little with your Northern Hills questions. With five days for your adventuring you will get a good full experience. Also If you don't plan to spend time gambling in Deadwood, then you have plenty of time to see the tower. it is a kind of long drive, though, so if you're planning to continue on to Yellowstone then do it on your way out of the Hills (its on the way - sort of). Do not, however, miss the drive through Spearfish Canyon or the Homestake Gold mine in Lead or the Adams House Museum in Deadwood. All are well worth the time and money.

Have Fun.

Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
posts: 4,558
reviews: 35
6. Re: Getting serious about our trip - July 2010

Welcome back Mamagrumpy!

I think you'd be happy with either K Bar S or Roosevelt Inn. I am partial to the Roosevelt as I have direct experience, but K Bar S has statistically received great reviews on this site. I know CeCe has stayed there and has been pleased as she wrote to you.

Keystone will be an excellent, centrally located base for you. I have a guide, but mine must be an older version, as I don't have the suggested routes on page 111. Since you are coming from the east, I'd recommend seeing the Badlands on the way in or on the way back.

It will take about 2 1/4 hours to get to Devils Tower from Keystone. Deadwood is about an hour, Belle Fourche is 1 1/2 hours, and Spearfish is about 1 1/4 hours. If you had a week or more, I would recommend staying in Lead/Deadwood to put yourself in closer proximity to the tower. However, you only have 5 touring days, so I would take one of them and visit the northern Black Hills and Devils Tower. To me, the distances are not that far if you get an early start. Be sure to drive the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway either coming or going, and as Black Hills Guide mentioned, be sure to see the Adams House/Museum in Deadwood. It is very worthwhile. If you are interested, you can also visit Wild Bill Hickok's and Calamtiy Jane's graves. Lead has some mining attractions as well if those might be of interest. You could always go out to the tower first and work your way back. Watching the climbers at Devil's Tower is amazing, and you should walk the trail around the base. Devil's Tower also has a neat prairie dog town.

If you pick and choose your activities that day, I think you would have a great time, and Devil's Tower is well worth the drive. To give a little different opinion, I have seen the tower once and would actually like to go back and see it again. It's size just amazed me.

I hope this is helpful. Let us know if you have more questions. Enjoy the planning process.

Pittsburgh...
posts: 266
reviews: 39
7. Re: Getting serious about our trip - July 2010

Thanks for all your suggestions! I think we WILL try to fit in Devil's Tower. 2.5 hours isn't too bad of a drive. If you remember one of my earlier posts, this trip started as one week for both Mt. Rushmore/Badlands and Yellowstone, and once I started researching, I realized that it was impossible to do both in one week (like the tour companies do). We'll do Yellowstone in 2011 or 2012, and since Devil's Tower is between Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone but closer to Mt. Rushmore, I think we should see if we can fit it in this summer.

I just need to get the rest of my family to decide on some dates! If we wait too long, the K Bar S will be booked - I emailed to ask about rates in July since the rates aren't on their website, and they replied that they're already getting a lot of bookings for July.

We're supposed to have a cold, snowy weekend (as you probably heard from your daughter, CeCe), so I think that's a good time to stay inside and plan a summer vacation. :) :)

I'm sure I'll be asking more questions as I work on our itinerary. Thanks for all your help!

Kansas City, MO
Destination Expert
for Beach Vacations
posts: 999
reviews: 47
8. Re: Getting serious about our trip - July 2010

We did this trip last summer. Left Kansas City and headed to Keystone. Spent the first night of our trip in Chamberlain, SD then headed through the Badlands and visited Wall Drug in Wall. Drove from there into Keystone and based for 2 nights. The summer before, we did the Mt Rushmore trip and stayed at the White House in Keystone. This time we stayed at the Mt Washington Inn and suites in Keystone. We never made hotel reservations ahead of time, we just sort of winged it as far as lodging was concerned.

Went to Deadwood and only stayed for lunch. We are not gamblers, so didn't stay. Headed to Devil's Tower and from there onto WY to Buffalo, Cody and Yellowstone. Then headed down to the Grand Canyon. We did this circle in 7 days, so it is doable.

If you just want to do S Dakota, you can see the Badlands, Wall Drug, Iron Mountain Road, Custer Nat Park, Sylvan Lake (where they filmed the scene from National Treasure-Book of Secrets). If you have children, there is a lot for them to see and do in S Dakota.

Bear Country, The Mystery Spot,and The Reptile Gardens are right there by Keystone.

In Keystone, the Alpine Mountain Slide, panning for gold, the Borglum Museum, the 1880 train ride to Hill City and back to Keystone, the Presidents Wax Museum and just the boardwalk and shops of Keystone will keep you busy.

This will be a fabulous family trip. I know you will love it.

I have family in Bethel Park and McKeesport.

Have a great trip. Once you go there, you will want to return again and again.

Wyoming
posts: 1,915
reviews: 11
9. Re: Getting serious about our trip - July 2010

You might like to stay in Sundance, Wy. for one night. You can go through the northern hills and have plenty of time to hike out by the tower, see the Crook County Museum, climb the fire tower and more.

Pittsburgh...
posts: 266
reviews: 39
10. Re: Getting serious about our trip - July 2010

Hi everyone! I see someone already posted on the main S. Dakota forum, but in case anybody missed it, they canceled the 4th of July (actually 3rd of July) fireworks over Mt. Rushmore this year, due to an infestation of a beetle that's causing some dead trees - they're afraid of the risk of fire.

I made our hotel reservations today! We'll be staying at the K Bar S; had to move the trip up to June in order to get the dates I wanted.

Now to work on the airfare - have to fly from Pgh to Rapid City, prob. change planes in Chicago or Denver. I hate this part of traveling - you don't want to make your air reservations too early in case fares drop, but you don't want to wait too late and then there are no seats on the plane.