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Custer State Park or Badlands National Park

Mississauga, Ont.
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40 posts
27 reviews
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Custer State Park or Badlands National Park

We will be doing a 3 week drive this summer from Toronto to Banff and Vancouver, and then heading home through the US. This will take us through South Dakota. I'd like to spend approx. 2 days in either Custer State Park or Badlands National Park, to take in some of the scenery, wildlife and do some camping and hiking. Since we have such a limited time, I'd like to get some opinions as to which place may give us the biggest bang for our minutes.

Thanks!

Atlanta, Georgia
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for Road Trips
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1. Re: Custer State Park or Badlands National Park

We like Custer SP- hiking, lake, scenic drive, wildlife and good food at State Game Lodge or Blue Bell Lodge.

Chicago, Illinois
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730 posts
46 reviews
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2. Re: Custer State Park or Badlands National Park

I will be in the area myself this July for a week, but have been to the Black Hills before several times ... I would not want to miss either one, Custer SP or the Badlands. You could base yourself in one and easily do a long day trip to the other ... or if you are not averse to staying in both areas for one night each, I would recommend that, so you could be in each for a sunrise and sunset - particularly the Badlands, which are much more attractive in low light, where the colors of the rock are accentuated. You will have an easier time spotting wildlife in Custer SP if you're driving or hiking in the early part of the day (or later near sunset). If you were really keen on choosing only one of these to see, I would go for the Badlands, which are truly unique. Custer State Park is a really beautiful area, but its scenery will likely pale compared to Banff National Park.

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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3. Re: Custer State Park or Badlands National Park

I like MJ's idea to see both. I was actually thinking along the same lines before I read his answer. Both areas are totally different from each other but are close by enough to be easily seen. You could spend a day in each.

Are you visting Mt Rushmore, or have you already seen it? I'd certainly add it if you haven't already been there.

Custer has some great camping, but you need advance reservations in peak summer season. Cedar Pass Lodge in Badands Nat. Park gets great reviews. I'm not a camper, so I go by strictly what I read.

Sunrises and sunsets in the Badlands are beautiful, as lighting affects the rock formations that they will appear differently colored at various times of the day. Wildlife abounds in Custer SP.

Hikes are typically pretty short in the Badlands. In Custer SP, you will find them a bit longer and more challenging.

I hope you have the time to see both of these areas!!

South Dakota
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4. Re: Custer State Park or Badlands National Park

I'd vote for staying in or near Custer State Park and taking a day trip to the Badlands. The Badlands terrain is beautiful but harsh and will be very hot in the summer for hiking. I know you said you like to hike, but if your time is short, it is possible to drive the main Badlands loop while stopping to take pictures in 2-3 hours. You would at least get to see the Badlands that way. I think there is a lot more to see in Custer: Sylvan Lake, Harney Peak (can hike up this), Mt. Coolidge lookout tower, the Wildlife Loop, Needles Hwy, Iron Mtn. Road is gorgeous with shots of Mt. Rushmore through the tunnels.

Iowa
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5. Re: Custer State Park or Badlands National Park

Here's another vote for seeing both if possible. They are so different, and with two days you could do a day at each one.

However...if I absolutely had to pick, I'd pick the Badlands, especially since you'll be coming from Banff, and the Badlands will be very different from what you'll be seeing there (I'm guessing...never been to Banff, but I'm thinking it's somewhat similiar to Yellowstone, only without the geysers?) As pretty as Custer State Park is, it may pale in comparison to Banff.

Alberta, Canada
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6. Re: Custer State Park or Badlands National Park

Having been to all, I would compare Banff with Glacier NP & Grand Teton NP, and would compare Yellowstone NP with Custer State Park (without the geyers).

Mississauga, Ont.
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40 posts
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7. Re: Custer State Park or Badlands National Park

Thanks so much for all your responses. Since our route will take us through Badlands anyway, I think we will stay in Custer State Park for a night or two, and just drive through Badlands on the way home.

8. Re: Custer State Park or Badlands National Park

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