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Touring South Dakota national parks--where to stay?

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Touring South Dakota national parks--where to stay?

Trying to economize on a trip to South Dakota (Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Hot Springs, caves, etc.) so am looking at staying in Custer or Rapid City (since I found decent lodging at low rates in these cities--Keystone and HIll City had nothing inexpensive enough). Is Rapid City too inconvenient a location to stay? Thanks for any advise you can share.

Minneapolis, MN
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1. Re: Touring South Dakota national parks--where to stay?

I have heard that Custer is a pretty local place to stay with lots of types of accomodations. I personally prefer the west edge of Rapid City (Lake Park cottages or motel) on Hwy 44. It's lovely and easy to get out of town in any direction.

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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2. Re: Touring South Dakota national parks--where to stay?

Custer will give you the "small town feel," which is nice, IMO. While not large in the grand scheme of things, Rapid City will definitely be more urban.

Custer will be closer most everything you wan to see, with the exception of the Badlands. However, the Badlands makes a really nice day trip.

I think I would choose Custer over Rapid City, but I realize you can find cheaper lodging there.

Here are some distances from each town to some of the attractions you want to see:

Distances to attractions staying in Custer:

Badlands: 2 hours

Rushmore: 1/2 hour

Crazy Horse: 10 minutes

Hot Springs: 45 minutes

Wind Cave: 1/2 hour

Jewel Cave: 15 minutes

Distances to attractions staying in Rapid:

Badlands: 1 1/4 hours

Crazy Horse: 1 hour

Hot Springs: 1 hour

Rushmore: 1/2 hour

Wind Cave: 1 1/4 hours

Jewel Cave: 1 1/4 hours

As you can see you will be driving more by staying in Rapid, but I understand that budget can be a deciding factor. The nice thing about the Black Hills is that the attractions are all relatively close together compared to other areas, and the driving is pretty easy..There's not a lot of traffic, which is great for east coast residents like myself.

Rapid City, SD
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3. Re: Touring South Dakota national parks--where to stay?

The difference in drive time itself is minimal enough that it may or may not be a deciding factor by itself but there are other benefits to weigh as well.

Custer will have the small western town feel as already noted. It will also have a nice relaxed atmosphere and great scenery being nestled in the Hills. Your drive will be marginally shorter to most of the attractions you list and will also be scenic since your starting point is already located in the Black Hills. Like all small touristy western towns, you will pay more for all things (shopping, dining, gas, etc) since this is a tourist driven town.

Rapid City will have more variety and slightly more affordable lodging and has more dining, shopping and nightlife options to offer.

Chicago, Illinois
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4. Re: Touring South Dakota national parks--where to stay?

I am just back from 9 days in SD, basically doing your same trip. I spent 3 days in Custer at the Bavarian Lodge, and loved every minute of it. It is located in a wooded setting and deer came morning and evening. Although Rapid City is not a long drive from Custer State Park, Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore, staying in Custer is, as the other posters said, like staying in a small town. Read my and some of the other recent reviews about the Bavarian Inn...they are all good. We also made the trip from Custer to Hot Springs, which is an easy drive. While in Hot Springs, we did the Horse Sanctuary and the Mammoth Dig. Both were very good. Just as an added note: if you are looking for non-tourist type areas, then don't stay in Keystone. It is one souvenir shop after another, lining the sidewalk. All the hotels/motels seem to allude in their ads that they have a Mt. Rushmore view. They don't.

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5. Re: Touring South Dakota national parks--where to stay?

Great to hear of all the good suggestions in Custer. My opinion wasn't so great of Custer but we didn't stay there. Sounds like the responders have a good insight on where in Custer to stay.

Just beware, Custer is not all quaint; you will need to research where the good spots are.

We did stay in Keystone and loved it; as well as in Rapid City. I was very happy with both locations, as they were close to where we wanted to venture.

Best of luck on your journey, I'm sure you will be happy with your trip to South Dakota. It's a wonderful place.

6. Re: Touring South Dakota national parks--where to stay?

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