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  1. Default chicago to denver via Mount Rushmore--advice

    Hi All-

    My daughter will be starting a new job in Denver at the end of Seoptember and will be driving her out there with a car full of stuff and then flying back to chicago. The original plan was to drive straight through Iowa, Nebraska to Denver, expecting a two day drive. Thinking I might like to make this a more interesting drive and head north and west from Omaha, through the Black Hills in South Dakota, Mt. Rushmore, and head to Denver through the southeast corner of Wyoming. Due to some time constraints, still won't have a lot of site seeing time---stop for a bit at Mt. Rushmore because it's an icon---but the rest hopefully get just a bit more scenic drive than might be expected going through Nebraska. Is this doable in say a 4 day drive? Any good suggested routes for scenery, perhaps wildlife sightings--any suggestions greatly appreciated--thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Four Days Works

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    By making the 'detour' through South Dakota and Wyoming, your adding 'only' a little over 300 miles. By adding two days, you can easily handle the extra miles as well as have a bit better than a day to spend seeing some of the iconic sights you'll be driving by or near. Days 1 and 2 would be spent heading west on I-90 (saving 40 miles or so over going to Omaha and then north). Even with a somewhat late start getting out of Chicago, taking some time for a few brief stops at smaller venues along the way, and taking a sunset drive through Badlands National Park, you should have no problems getting to the Rapid City area in the evening of the second day.

    Day 3 could be spent seeing some (but not all) of the sights in western South Dakota including Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Wind and Jewel Caves, and Devils Tower. If you do that and finish up somewhere around New Castle WY, then you'll have a relatively easy 350 miles to cover on Day 4 to get into Denver. You should even have some time to at least start unloading and still get a good night's sleep before flying back the next day.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    With 4 days, you could certainly enjoy a quick trip through SD on your way to Denver.

    Your first day would get you out to Sioux Falls. Unless you're starting from the south suburbs/Joliet, it will actually be a bit shorter to take I-90 through WI and MN, and that's a drive I personally enjoy a bit more.

    Your second day would get you across SD, giving time for places like the Corn Palace and the Badlands on your way to Rapid City.

    Day 3 could be spent exploring the Black Hills, adding in places like Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park (especially the Wildlife Loop), Jewel or Wind Caves, etc.

    Day 4, a nice easy trip onto Denver.

    There are some other things you can include, and there are tons of scenic drives through the Black Hills, but that's an outline to start your planning.

  4. Default Chicago to Denver via SD and Wyoming advice

    Chicago to Denver via Badlands and Black Hills

    Driving my daughter to Denver next week to start a new job. We had originally planned to drive straight to Denver through Nebraska, but decided to take a couple of extra days and drive north up through South Dakota and Wyoming to see the Badlands and the Black Hills. Got some great advice about what to see and do but most itinerary questions seem to deal with trips of 5 to 7 days or more. Our time unfortunately is still going to be a little tight, but we’d like to pack in as much as we can in 2-3 days. Won’t be a whole lot of time for hikes, etc. but even being able to drive through some pretty scenery would be worth the extra mileage. Given those restrictions, looking for the advice of the experts to see if the following itinerary makes sense.

    Monday: Leave Chicago in the morning—we are in the SW suburbs so I80 is the most convenient and really don’t want to deal with commuter traffic I deal with everyday going north toward I90. Hope to get as far as we can into South Dakota driving 10-12 hours. We expect to at least reach Chamberlain. Any other towns farther west with lodging that we might be able to reach in this timeframe?

    Tuesday: Head towards Badlands/Black Hills. If I understand correctly, there is a short scenic driving loop through the Badlands off of I90 from Interior to Wall. Our plan is to drive this loop and make our way to either Hill City or Custer for lodging--any preferences? From here the key things I’d like to be able hit are the Wildlife loop through Custer Park, scenic drives on the Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road, Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. Is this doable in one day?

    Wednesday: Head north and drive Spearfish Canyon scenic drive and then head toward Devils Tower. Any better or more scenic way to go than I90 West? Spend some time at Devil’s Tower and head south toward Denver. Any points of interest between Devil’s Tower and Denver? Given that it is still a 61/2-7 hour drive to Denver from Devils Tower I wouldn’t mind stopping somewhere along the way in Southeast Wyoming—any suggestions?

    Thursday: Head toward Denver. If time permits and if accessible given the recent rains would love to do a drive through loop of Rocky Mountain National Park on the way to Denver.

    As always any advice greatly appreciated!

    Moderator Note: Please don't create multiple threads about the same trip.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 09-17-2013 at 10:09 AM. Reason: Merged

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default small changes

    You're trying to do a lot in a little time, and I think you're going to have to dial things back just a touch.

    On your first day, Mitchell is really the farthest you should plan to drive. That alone will already put you well into the 11-12 hour range, once you factor in basic stops. At about 650 miles, that's already a bit more than we typically recommend for a full day, as part of a multi-day trip. Chamberlain is then pushing well beyond 700 miles, and is much more likely to push you up towards 13 hours on the road, and is getting into the range where you could easily become so exhausted that you can't even enjoy the next few days on the road.

    For your second day, I think you've got more than you can realistically fit into a day. All the things you listed in the Black Hills for day two would make for a very busy day all by itself, and that doesn't include your drive from eastern SD, or your detour through the badlands (plan about 2 hours for the very enjoyable loop off I-90.). I think you'll find more lodging choices in Custer, but they're less than 30 minutes apart, so see where you find the better hotel deal.

    On day 3, I think here you'll likely want to start out by finishing up what you won't have fit in on day 2. Instead of taking I-90 to the Western Black Hills, look at using US-385 to Deadwood, which is both more scenic, going right through the Black Hills, and will put you closer to Spearfish Canyon. Having said that, by the time you fit in everything here, I don't think it's likely you'd be able to really make it down to Southern Wyoming. Gillette is really where I'd be looking for lodging. After that, your next option is going to be in Douglas and that's a good 2 hour drive away - through the Thunder Basin National Grassland.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Monday: You should not try to get any farther than Sioux Falls. That's 600 miles and about 12 hours on the road with brief necessary stops.

    Tuesday: Sioux Falls to the Rapid City area, taking the SD-240 loop through the Badlands, is very doable in a day. However, that's about all I'd plan on doing, plan on a night in Rapid City.

    Wednesday: Use this day to see everything else in the area, and plan on spending the night in the area, perhaps in Sturgis or somewhere in the Black Hills.

    Thursday: Deadhead it to Denver, do NOT plan on going anywhere near RMNP, it's closed indefinitely, and there are NO roads open to the public up into the eastern side of the mountains. This is not going to change any time soon, the major highways (US-34, US-36) are severely washed out and will take months to rebuild. The only ways in and out of Estes Park are CO-7 and Trail Ridge Road, which are both CLOSED to the public. They are open only to residents, emergency vehicles, and supply trucks. There are checkpoints to enforce this. I would not anticipate this restriction to be lifted any time soon, much as the state wants to get the tourists back. Estes Park is a real mess.

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