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Old 02-14-2020, 08:39 PM   #1
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Default South Dakota, Here We Come!!

Im super excited!! I turn 50 in March, so were celebrating by heading out (April 24-May on an adventure. The plan is ... to have no real plan. There are priority must-sees, but no real itinerary. I expect the drive from NJ to Interior, SD will take about 2.5days, permitting time to breathe along the way.

Our must-see list includes Badlands NP scenic drive, Custer SP scenic drives, Mount Rushmore, Jewel Cave NM, the Mammoth dig site and a drive up to Devils Tower in WY, which will include Spearfish scenic drive (not in the order listed). I also have extras on a secondary list that well work through on a time-permitting basis. Im using apps and memberships to ID open cgs and overnight sites, and Im hoping we can fly by the seat of our pants and not stick to a reservations schedule.

Id love to get tips, advice and list ideas for ... everything, really. Even great restaurants or great souvenir shops (both the fine and the hokey).

Pls keep in mind a dog is traveling with, so we wish to include them in activities when possible.
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Old 02-14-2020, 09:44 PM   #2
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Sounds like a great trip. I would add Minuteman NHS to your Must-see list. Make reservations in advance or you will never get in.

Also the Crazy Horse memorial.
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Old 02-14-2020, 09:51 PM   #3
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You are going to higher elevation and the weather there could be cold and snowy. We go to Custer fairly regularly in the beginning of June and it is still cold sometimes. You may want to check on campground opening dates compared to when you think you may get there, as not all of the in park ones open at the same time. You might also want to try to get reservations now, as a lot of the summer will already be reserved. There are also a lot of private campgrounds in the area that often have room except on holidays, but not as nice as the park, IMO. You can also stay at the Wind Cave National Park that is just south of Custer Park. No hookups, but flush toilets, if they are on by then. Very inexpensive and always has spots available.


Hiking with or without the dog could be icy and muddy that early on some of the trails. I don't think the caves allow dogs, as we have done all of the caves there and don't recall any dogs. Some have a lot of steps to cover, also. Our favorites are Wind Cave and Jewel Cave.



Unless they have finally gotten their act together, the National Park campground in the Badlands is chaos, based on the last time we tried to stay there a few years ago. They didn't even know if they had spots available until somebody drove out, even if the website had accepted a reservation for one. It is run, still I think, by a private campground that also has a campground just outside the park. There is a nice KOA a bit south and east of the park that is actually quite nice for a KOA.


If you are traveling from NJ, you will probably be coming across Minnesota on I90, into SD at Souix Falls. Just past Sioux Falls a few miles, in Mitchell, is a Cabellas that you can stay at for free. It is a good stop off point in an area without many of them. For us, coming from Mpls, it is halfway to Custer, leaving an easy 5 hour drive to park in the morning.


Be prepared, bring an electric heater for when you have shore power and a full propane tank, as you don't know what you will hit for weather. Fill up the gas tank when you get close. Last time we were there they were just out of a late 20" snowfall that shut down the park for a while. The ditches and streams were still running hard when we got there.
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Old 02-15-2020, 02:36 PM   #4
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I would add, at least once, enjoy the $13 nine ounce filet mignon at the Alpine Inn in Hill City.

If you are into "corny" things, the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

And yes, it is quite possible to get a big snow event in April and May out there.
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