Active Itinerary: The South Dakota Nature and History Trail in Six Days

This blog provides a sample itinerary based on the experiences of our Summer 1212 trip, those of the things we missed that we wished we were able to do, and, knowing what we know now, what we would have done differently.

Details on each venue can be seen in our prior blogs, which can be found by clicking on “Destinations,” scrolling across “North America” and “United States” to individual states, and then by clicking on both “South Dakota” and “Wyoming.” Or, you can go to the following specific blogs which provide details as to what to see and do at each location, restaurants and hotels. The sites are as follow:

  • A Day Trip to South Dakota’s Badlands National Park
  • The Beauty and Variety of South Dakota’s Black Hills
  • Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monuments
  • Deadwood: Legend and Reality in the Town that Gambling Built, and Rebuilt
  • Deadwood Day-tripping
  • A Surprisingly Fun Rapid City

The Active Itinerary: South Dakota’s Nature and History Trail

Day One –Rapid City to Badlands

  • Fly into Rapid City, plan to arrive early afternoon
  • 2:00-3:15 – Rent a car, drive 61 miles east on Route I-90 to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
  • 3:15-4:45 – Tour Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
  • 4:45-5:00 – drive to South entrance of Badlands National Park and Ben Reifel Visitor Center (open till 7:00 PM)
  • 5:00-6:00 – watch introductory film, explore Visitor Center exhibits
    • ask rangers to recommend walks and hikes appropriate for you and best places to view sunset
  • 6:00-8:30 – explore southern part of park, position yourself and your camera for sunset on the cliffs
    • check times, but roughly 8:30 during the summer
  • Check in, eat dinner and stay at the Park’s Cedar Pass Lodge

Day Two – Badlands to Custer State Park

  • 8:00-12:00 – Explore Badlands National Park
    • Take a short detour, by the North entrance gate, onto Sage Creek Rim Road to visit Prairie Dog Town
  • 12:15-1:30 – drive to, explore, eat lunch at Wall Drug
  • 1:30-3:00 – Drive 81 miles to State Game and Creekside Lodges
  • 3:00-4:00 – Drive Wildlife Loop Road to Blue Bell Lodge (12 miles)
  • 4:00-4:30 – Check into Blue Bell Lodge
  • 4:30-5:30 – Drive 4 miles to Stockade Lake and Gordon Stockade, explore historic stockade, walk Lake Trail
  • Drive 5 miles to, dinner at State Game Lodge
    • State Game Lodge is itself historic. The restaurant is more formal and has a larger selection than does Blue Bell. Also, you will be eating dinner at Blue Bell Lodge the next evening
  • Return to/night at Blue Bell Lodge

Day Three – Black Hills (Wind Cave, Mammoth Site and Crazy Horse)

  • Drive 11 miles to, take tour of your choice at Wind Cave
    • make reservations 7 days in advance, times depend on tour you select
  • 12:30-1:30 – Drive 24 miles to, eat lunch and explore at Hot Springs
  • 1:30-2:30 – Explore Mammoth Site
  • 2:30-4:30 – Drive 37 miles to, explore Crazy Horse Memorial
  • 4:30-5:00 – Drive 17 miles to, dinner and night at Blue Bell Lodge

Day Four – Black Hills (Jewel Cave, Needles Highway, Mount Rushmore to Deadwood)

  • Drive 11 miles to, take tour of Jewel Cave
    • make reservations 7 days in advance, times depend on tour you select
  • 12:30-2:00 – Drive back to town of Custer or Blue Bell Lodge for lunch
  • 2:00-4:00 – Leisurely drive, scenic stops along the incredible 17 mile Needles Highway
    • Specific stops and easy hikes at Cathedral Spires Trail and Sylvan Lake
  • 4:00-4:30 – stop to see and for drink at Sylvan Lake Lodge
  • 4:30-5:00 – Drive 23 miles to Mount Rushmore
  • 5:00-6:30 – Explore Mount Rushmore, visitor center, movie, trail to sculptor’s studio
  • 6:30-7:30 – drive 48 miles to Deadwood
  • Check into Martin & Mason Hotel
  • Dinner at Deadwood Social Club
  • Walk Main Street before returning to hotel

Day Five – Day Trip to Devil’s Tour Wyoming (plus stops)

  • 9:30-10:30 – Drive 25 miles to Belle Fourche
    • Explore Tri-City Museum
  • 10:30-12:30 – Drive 20 mils to Devil’s Tower National Monument
  • Stop in Aladdin to explore “Tippler” and Alva General Store
  • Stop in Alva for lunch at Ponderosa
  • 12:30-2:00 – Devil’s Tower National Monument visitor center and walk
  • 2:00-3:30 – Drive 60 miles from Devil’s Tower to Spearfish, SD
  • Stop in Sundance (Sundance Kid sculpture)
  • Stop in Beulah (Vore Buffalo Jump)
  • 3:30-4:15 – Drive 20 miles through, with occasional scenic stops in Spearfish Canyon
  • 4:15-5:30 – drive to and explore Lead
    • Visit Gold Mining Museum or Homestake Mine Visitor’s Center
  • Drive 3 miles back to Deadwood
  • 6:00—6:30 – Saloon # 10 for Wild Bill Hickok talk and reenactment of shooting
  • 6:30-7:15 – cross Street to Stockade Saloon, go upstairs to front rail
    • Drinks, watch reenactment of the capture of Jack McCall, listen to music,
  • 7:15-8:00 – walk and explore Main Street, especially
    • Saloon #10 (Wild Bill Chair and other historic memorabilia)
    • Nelson’s Garage Car Museum (movie and television cars)
    • Midnight Star (Kevin Costner Memorabilia)
  • 8:00-8:20 – Trial of Jack McCall
  • 8:30 – Dinner, Jakes at the Midnight Star Saloon
  • Martin & Mason Hotel

Day Six – Deadwood, Sturgis and Rapid City

  • 10:00-12:30 – Adam’s Museum and House Tour
  • 12:30-1:30 – Lunch at Diamond Lil’s (Midnight Star Saloon)
  • 1:30-2:30 – Original Deadwood Bus Tour (Main Street and Boot Hill)
  • 2:45-4:00 – drive 13 miles to Sturgis
    • see downtown, Fort Meade Museum, Bear Butte and Full Throttle Saloon
  • 4:00-4:45 – Drive 28 miles to Rapid City, stop at Memorial Park and Berlin Wall exhibit
  • 4:45-5:30 – Drive to, check into Hotel Alex Johnson
  • 5:30-6:30 – Walk downtown, particular stops at:
    • Main Street Park
    • President’s museum
    • President sculptures
    • Art Alley
  • Return to hotel, drinks and dinner at Vertex rooftop lounge and restaurant
  • Night at Hotel Alex Johnson

Day Seven – Departure

  • Morning departure

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