We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Planning "Out West" Trip

Lumberton, North...
Level Contributor
100 posts
37 reviews
Save Topic
Planning "Out West" Trip

Wife and I am in the begging stages of planning a "once in a lifetime trip" Out West. Planning to fly into Denver travel thru Nebraska to South Dakota over to Yellostone and Grand Tetons and back Denver. What I would like to know when traveling from Alliance NE on Hwy 385 to Hwy 41/40 to Hwy 16 to the Custer SD area, do I get enough "feel" of the badlands? I planning about 11-12 days on this trip with a least 1 1/2 days in the Custer area before moving on the Cody Wy. Wish I could plan more time in SD but will be budget minded. Any advice would be appreciated.

Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
Level Contributor
5,517 posts
62 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Planning "Out West" Trip

I have never been to Nebraska, but from looking at the map, it looks like going this route would be adding at least an hour to your drive. Heading up through Wyoming, you could be to Custer in about 6 hours.

You really don't have a lot of time to see all 3 of these areas. IMO, to adequately tour the Black Hills, Tetons, and Yellowstone, you need 2 weeks minimum. (3 weeks is ideal). It sounds like you are also planning on Cody. The Black Hills to Cody, WY is a long driving day, but it is do-able. Just realize it will take a day away from your touring time. Plus, you will want to make time for the museums of Cody, which will also take a day.

If you truly only have 11-12 days, I recommend opting out of South Dakota altogether and focusing on Yellowstone, the Tetons, and Cody, possibly including a drive over the Beartooth Hwy. You could also spend 10-11 days touring the Black Hills (at least I could!) lol! There is much to see and do that many don't realize. To get a great feel for the area, be sure to order a travel guide from travelsd.com.

If you opt out of SD, I'd consider flying into Salt Lake city or Jackson Hole. Jackson will be significantly more expensive, SLC is better for the budget minded.

BTW, the area of the Badlands you are mentioning is what's considered the north unit, which I hear is more primitive than the scenic drives in the main part of the park. I have only ever done those, and they are spectacular. I am not sure how the north unit compares.

If you absolutely can't change the general plan of the trip, keep in mind that with 1.5 days in the Black Hills, you will be extremely limited in what you can see. You should focus on Mt Rushmore and the scenic drives of Custer State Park. These will probably fill your time.

To make this the trip of a lifetime you describe, be careful to not overplan. I'd rather you see an area adquately without rushing instead of having to race through and spend too much time in your car.

Let us know if we can help further.

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
27,343 posts
382 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Planning "Out West" Trip

Great ideas from slrtravelplanner. We've done the Black Hills and Yellowstone/Grand Tetons in and out of Denver in 11 days BUT and this is a big BUT- we had been in Yellowstone the year before and did not get to see everything so came back to see the rest of the park. In fact we still did not get to see everything in Yellowstone that year and came back again two years later. We are planning another trip to the parks for next summer. It will be our 4the trip to the parks since 2007.

If you think the combo trip is what you want to do here is a general idea of what you can do in 11 days-

Day 1- fly into Denver early and drive 6 hours to Black Hills

Day 2- Black Hills- Custer SP, Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse

Day 3- Drive thru Deadwood and by Devils Tower on to Cody- about 8 hours

Day 4- Cody- museums and rodeo

Day 5- 8- Yellowstone- the park is huge and there is much to see and do- here is a link to what many people want to see in the park-

http://yellowstone.net/intro/top-10/

I would concentrate on geyser area one day, Artist Point and Lake Yellowstone and Hayden Valley one day and one day do Mammoth and Lamar Valley.

Day 9- drive thru Grand Tetons and stay in Jackson Hole

Day 10- drive back to Denver- 10 hours of driving

Day 11- fly back home

For great info click on the above link, go to the National Park Service websites for both Yellowstone and Grand Tetons and look online at the Black Hills travel guide at www.travelsd.com.

I also agree that the route up thru Wyoming is much quicker than going thru Nebraska. If you have more questions please let us know and good luck with your trip planning.

Lumberton, North...
Level Contributor
100 posts
37 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Planning "Out West" Trip

Thanks for the replies. I know I need more time to do this trip properly. Budget and work restraints dictate the amount of time that we have. This will probably be the only trip my wife and I will take to this part of the US. Wish we could travel more. We visited N. Arizona and S. Utah for a week in 2011. Loved our trip there and tripadvisor is where I got much of my planning info from. We thought we would include Nebraska to get a glance of some of the wide open farm country there. Being from the eastern US we love the different landscapes out west. This is a "bucket list" type trip for us. After this trip we are looking at doing one to New England in a couple more years!

Anyway, we thank you for your thoughts and appreciate any more ideas that you may have!

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
27,343 posts
382 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Planning "Out West" Trip

That section of Nebraska is a lot like that section of southern S. Dakota. Wide open plains are like you see in photos in Kansas and other sections of Nebraska.

We travel quite a bit. Just did a trip to SW including Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico in September. Went to GSMNP in July, went to Memphis, Vicksburg, etc. in August and just got back from Houston and south Texas.

We did a trip to New England in the fall a couple of years ago. Got some great ideas for a trip so let me know if you need help.

Edited: 4:42 pm, October 25, 2012
Everett, Washington
Level Contributor
2,381 posts
47 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Planning "Out West" Trip

Better route to Black Hills is I-25 north form Denver to Orin, WY and US-20 then to Lusk and US-85. US-85 to Mule Creek Jct. and US-18 towards Hot Springs. Roughly six hours to Custer, SD. Advantages of the route include crossing the national grasslands area and some very scenic parts of the southern Black Hills very often missed - including historic Hot Springs. Also it maximizes freeway miles for easier driving and speed. The sudden contrast of barren to verdant between Mule Creek Jct. and Hot Springs as you enter the hills is interesting.

The Badlands might be better done as a day trip from "the Hills" with perhaps lunch at Wall Drug (I know, "tourist trap" but a famous one).

Yes, on way over to YNP consider Devils Tower. With stops a nice day's drive is to Cody via Bighorn Mts. US-14 and US-16 are similar with very scenic canyons on the west side. US-14A is the exciting route with great views from the hairpin turns and drops down the west face.

After Tetons for return to Denver consider US-287 to Lander and then south on US-297 to Rawlins - with stop at Sweetwater rest area (at WY-135 jct) to view wagon train ruts and siden trip to Independence Rock. From Rawlins it is a pretty easy short through Laramie and Cheyene then south to Denver. Might be too muhc for one day though with sighseeting.

Heres a list of some places to see in the Wyoming stretches:

tripadvisor.com/GoListDetail-i19709-Wyoming_…

All this provides a huge variety of landscapes. Only downside is the short time available for Yellowstone or Grand Teton. Tradeoff between more details and more territoru covered.

6. Re: Planning "Out West" Trip

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 5:16 am, November 08, 2013