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Itinerary help - Three days in black hills?

Leuven
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Itinerary help - Three days in black hills?

Hello hello,

I am currently planning our honeymoon and am stuck with the bit in the middle. Basically we arrive in cody on the 15th of August and should be Cheyenne or Estes Park in the evening of the 18th.

What I have seen on the forum is very confusing as this is an area that is not as well known here in Belgium.

These are some things I think sound great:

- Badlands

- Custer SP (will this still be a 'wauw' moment after three days of Yellowstone?)

Some Indian culturalt things would be great as well.

If you could give recommendations of where to stay best to visit things that would be super!

Usually I enjoy planning and investigating, but with planning a wedding and building a house I'm a bit short of time.

Thanks!

Pitman, New Jersey
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1. Re: Itinerary help - Three days in black hills?

M996,

I am a bit confused on how you will be fitting all this in. How long is your total trip? It would help if you shared your whole itinerary here. You mention Cody, Cheyenne, Estes Park, and then Yellowstone at the end. Knowing the game plan would enable us to help you even more.

In the meantime, I will share with you a list of my personal opinion must sees in the Black Hills:

Badlands National Park

Mt. Rushmore

Custer State Park

Crazy Horse

Wind Cave

Jewel Cave

Devil's Tower

With 3 days, you will be limited on what you can do. The Badlands will take at least 1/2 to 3/4 of a day, depending on where you make your base. If you like Native American culture, Crazy Horse is a must do and will take you a morning or afternoon to see. Ditto for Mt. Rushmore. You will need another morning or afternoon to see this one, plus a trip to the lighting ceremony at night to top it off. Custer State Park will take at least a day to drive the various roads (Wildlife Loop, Iron Mountain Road, and Needles Hwy.) You may find it a little disappointing in comparison to Yellowstone, as it is very different. You will find wild burros which are not in Yellowstone, and the scenery along the Needles Hwy. is much "rockier" than what you will see in Yellowstone. Both areas are spectacular in their own rights. The 2 caves I mention are operated by the National Park Service and offer 2 hour tours. I am a cave lover, so to me, these both are must see underground adventures. If you have an aversion to being underground, you may want to skip these.

As for Devil's Tower, depending on the rest of your route, you may be able to see this coming from Cody/Yellowstone. The monument is actually in Wyoming.

As for a base in the hills, people choose Hill City, Keystone, or Custer. These are centrally located to the main attractions and offer a wide variety of hotels, from chains to privately owned.

Since the terms used on the forums seem to foregin to you for good reason, I'd highly recommend looking at some maps and travel guides so you can become more familiar. I know you say you are limited on time, but this will really help, as you are not leaving until August. A great website for you to explore is travelsd.com. You can order a travel guide here that includes some great maps and complete description of attractions.

Please feel free to ask more questions. We'd be glad to help.

Leuven
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2. Re: Itinerary help - Three days in black hills?

We'll arrive in Jackson, wy on August 11th, then do one day of Grand Teton and three days of Yellowstone.

Thus arriving in Cody August 15th in the evening.

We are flying out of Denver on August 21st in the morning. I was planning to spend two days prior to that in RM NP.

Everything is still open. The itinerary our local office suggests is the following

- Cody - Sheridan

- Sheridan - Rapid City

- Rapid City - Cheyenne

But of what i have read already, this doesn't seem quite the optimal solution. Any suggestions?

Pitman, New Jersey
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3. Re: Itinerary help - Three days in black hills?

I really think you are trying to bite off too much here. The problem is that drive times are not being factored in. You will have very little time to sightsee.

On the plus side, it's very good you are flying in and out of two separate areas. That will help you in the long run.

The plan you mention in your second post does help me, but the plan, Cody to Sheridan and then Sheridan to Rapid City, leads me to believe they are breaking up the drive time into 2 days, and you don't have that kind of time to see everything you want to see and only drive 3.5 hours a day.

I think I would cut out Rocky Mountain National Park and allow yourself more time to sightsee. Right now, you really won't have 3 days in the Black Hills when you factor in drive time, and you will have less than a day in the Tetons. You really need more time to enjoy. All of these places need time for you to get out of the car to see the sights.

With your time frame, here's what I would recommend:

8/11-12: Grand Tetons (stay in Jackson)

8/13-15: Yellowstone (stay inside park or in West Yellowstone)

8/16: Cody

8/17-19: Head to Black Hills region (Making Custer as your base would put you in good shape for making it back to Denver--only a 5.5 hour drive per Mapquest) Be sure to see Devil's Tower enroute.

8/20: Head towards to Denver (5.5-6 hour drive). You can always see anything that might interest you on the way.

8/21: Fly Home

Of course, this plan would only apply if your reservations aren't set already. But, even if they are set and could be altered, I'd recommend it.

I am at somewhat of a disadvantage here, as I have not driven a lot of these routes. When we traveled to SD and Yellowstone, we did it in 2 separate vacations, simply focusing on what was in the immediate area. Others who have had the advantage of driving this route may have better solutions here. Hopefully, they will chime in.

I hope this helps you some. Please feel free to ask more questions.

Illinois
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4. Re: Itinerary help - Three days in black hills?

I agree with the previous poster on several points. Cody to Custer will only be a fairly easy one day drive. I would also not stay in Rapid City. We prefer to stay inside Custer State Park but the towns of Custer, Keystone or Hill City are also good options.

Since you are coming from so far away, I can appreciate you wanting to see so many neat areas. However, I also think you might benefit from dropping a location or two. Our previous trips have involved 3 to 4 nights in SD (including the Badlands, Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore)and then 4 or 5 nights in Yellowstone with a day trip to the Tetons. I also love Cody, but would drop an overnight stay there if it meant more time at one of the other locations.

That said, if I were you (which I'm not!), I would do one of the two following trips:

11th: Jackson

12th: Tetons

13th, 14th, 15th Yellowstone

16th: Drive to Custer

17th, 18th, 19th explore SD

20th: Drive to Denver

21st: Fly home

OR:

11th: Jackson

12th: Tetons

13th,14th,15th, 16th Yellowstone

17th: Cody

18th, 19th, 20th: Estes Park

21st: Fly home

Have you made your reservations in Yellowstone yet?

New York City, New...
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5. Re: Itinerary help - Three days in black hills?

I did a three day trip to the Black Hills last September and here is what we did.

Day 1 - Went to Wall, then the Badlands and ended up at Mount Rushmore. Did the day and night tour.

We also did a helicopter tour around the Badlands that was fascinating.

Regarding Keystone...

Day 2 - Drove to Custer Park from Keystone - excellent drive. Did the scenic loop around Custer and the hiking trail to the fire tower. Met a bison along the trail.

Continued the trip to the Wind Cave. As an aside, all the bisons that we saw were just before the scenic loop started and just after it finished.

The Wind Cave tour was good as the guide was helpful.

After Wind Cave, had lunch at Hot Spring and continued to the Wild Horse Sanctuary. Kind of late at 4:30pm to do a two hour horse tour in 91º weather. Instead of the tour, we made it to Crazy Horse to end the day. That was impressive. I wish we had more time so we could get up to the top.

Stayed in Hill City. Much better than Keystone

Day 3 - Woke up early and drove to Devil's Tower. Not that far of a drive if you get up early. We were back at Spearfish by noon. Did the scenic drive at Spearfish and ended up in Deadwood for the night/afternoon.

We stayed at Deadwood Dick's. Not bad at all.

I totally recommend to go and visit the Badlands/Blackhills for a weekend or so.

Cheers and thanks for everyone that helped out.

________________________________________________

I also created a photo book using Shutterfly. You can see the pics here.

…shutterfly.com/gallery/post/start.sfly…

Leuven
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6. Re: Itinerary help - Three days in black hills?

Thanks for the tips! I'm even more confused now...

Our reservations for Jackson and Yellowstone are booked, so that part is fixed. Now we have to weigh the different suggestions made by you all...

Badlands really appeals to me, but so dropping the RMNP might be best if we want to fit this in.

On the other hand the Rockies have a certain ring to it...

Just a question: visiting Mnt Rushmore at day and night is that really worth it? Is there much to see besides the rock?

Will spend the rest of the afternoon reading up on the different areas and hoping to get a final itinerary by mid february. Are there areas in the black hilss where lodging fills up really quickly?

Thanks for the help!

Uden, The...
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7. Re: Itinerary help - Three days in black hills?

Spoiled for choices neighbour. I know....

Great advices by the previous posters.

For Badlands NP. You haven't seen a place like this on your trip before and I also highly recommand Custer SP although some similarities to parts of Yell. I also wouldn't want to skip Cody. Try to be in Cody 8/15 by midday. Then visit Buffalo Bill museums and visit the Night Rodeo.

8/16: Drive to Black Hills SD via Sheridan (wy14 will be fastest, 14a even is more scenic). Take exit 158 off I90 to Newcastle and on to Custer. Stay Custer, Hill City or Keystone. Keystone is closest to Mount Rushmore. Attend the evening ceremony at Mount Rushmore. Hill City is the nicest town imo.

8/17: Make a daytrip to Badlands NP, make a stop at Wall Drug, explore the park. Maybe some time left for Custer and see Mount Rushmore in the daylight.

8/18: Drive to Estes Park for RMNP. This will take most of the day and not much in between.

BUT. If you like Black Hills (and you will!) feel free to spend another day, there really is so much to see in the area.

blackhillsdiscovered.com/siterun_data/…

So maybe drive to Estes Park 8/19 and you'll have 8/20 for Trail Ridge Road.

Happy planning.

Tet

Pitman, New Jersey
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8. Re: Itinerary help - Three days in black hills?

I'm glad Tet chimed in with some travel routes for you!

Yes, the trip planning process can be very overwhelming. Just when you think you have it all figured out, everyone bombards you with his/her opinion! :) I agree with Tet that I think you will really enjoy the Black Hills region enough to want to give it more time. The Badlands are unique compared to what you will see in Yellowstone/Tetons.

As for Mt. Rushmore, I really do recommend seeing it both day and night. I think you will have time. During daylight, besides the monument, you have the visitor's center that has exhibits and an informational film. Best of all, you have the Presidential Trail to walk. It's about 1-2 miles and provides you with various views of the monuments. I loved taking pictures of each presidential face from different vantage points. You also get to see the sculptor's studio and Gutzon Borglum's original view on how the monument was to look. The idea changed several times before the finished product. I really enjoyed seeing all this! The evening ceremony honors our veterans, and to me, is very moving. Veterans are asked to come up on stage, and they fold our flag as pass it among themselves. A park ranger speaks, etc, and then the monument is illuminated. If you arrive around 8:45, you can get a seat. Everything starts between 9 and 9:15.

Stop back if you have any more questions! We'd also love to see a trip report when you return!

Pennellville, New...
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9. Re: Itinerary help - Three days in black hills?

Cody is really a great little town with a fantastic museum.Try not to miss it. RMNP is NOT as appealing as it was in previous years. The trees have been attacked by a beetle of some sort that is wiping out vast stretches of the forest. It's a sad sight. The drive from the Black Hills to Denver is looong.

Leuven
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10. Re: Itinerary help - Three days in black hills?

Ok, thanks for the information.

Maybe we'll revise and limit our visit to the RMNP to one day only, so that we have one more day in the black hills.