Please sign in to post.

ND and SD

I'm planning a trip to MN & ND in June 2021. I currently have 4 nights drafted for ND. I could add 1 additional night. I would like to visit Teddy Roosevelt NP during this time which should be plenty.

I'm looking at maps & considering going into SD too. It looks like I can fly Minneapolis to Rapid City & out of Bismark home to Charlotte if I do a multi city car rental which may be too much or I make some kind of loop starting & ending in Bismarck.

In SD I'd love to see the Badlands, Mt Rushmore maybe up thru Black Hills. Is this doable or am I crazy and will spend most time in the car? I could add 1 day but wouldn't be able to add more than that. My main interest is wildlife viewing & photography. Would love to have time for some hiking but moderate ones. I'm traveling solo.

Have never been to this part of the country & not sure I'm biting off more than I should & should focus my attention just in ND. I heard a podcast with Rick years ago that described TRNP and it sounded heavenly. That is the only non-negotiable part of this trip.

Thanks!

Posted by
1174 posts

We (my wife and I) spent 2 full days in Teddy Roosevelt NP and thought it was great.

Posted by
20 posts

North Dakota is an underrated state that is well worth a visit. My son and I spent about 5 days there a few years ago, like this: Fly into Bismarck, rent car and drive about 2 hours W to Dickinson, which is a decent mid-size town with (for ND) a fair selection of hotels and restaurants. I think it's a better base for TRNP than the smaller and much more touristy Medora, although is closer to the south unit of the park. Day 2, full day outing to north unit of park. Day 3, full day outing to south unit. Both are great, you should visit both, but not the same day, they're too big and far apart for that. Day 4, back to Bismarck for 2 nights, which is worth some time. They spent some of their oil money on a very interesting state museum (think plains Indians, dinosaurs, Scandinavian settlers). A day trip north to the reconstructed Lewis and Clark fort and museum along the Missouri (they spent a winter there), plus a nearby Park Service site where there were some Indian villages, is time well spent. As for SD, I've just driven through it once long ago. The Black Hills are pretty, but very similar to the scenery in many other Western states. Mt. Rushmore was worth a look but I was underwhelmed. Just not a fan of that kind of thing. Would like to get back there sometime to see more of the SD national parks, though. I don't think I'd recommend trying to combine both ND and SD (plus MN!) unless you have a LOT of time. The things you want to see in either state are far from each other. I haven't seen the SD badlands but I think the scenery and wildlife there are likely to be very similar to what you'll see in Theodore Roosevelt.

Posted by
3011 posts

June is the greenest month in ND/SD. It’s also the buggiest (ticks in tall grass and mosquitoes, maybe chiggers in Dakotas). Rattlesnakes also moving in the Dakotas on hot days.

This is all an area of fast driving, Minneapolis to the Black Hills or TRNP is a long day’s drive, 8-9 hours, so no need to have a complex flight plan and one way rental. Or loop out of Rapid City.

Posted by
123 posts

Thanks all... MN is not included in the above mentioned days and MN is more about visiting friends rather than sight seeing. Currently planning on leaving Minneapolis mid afternoon on a Saturday and flying home Wednesday. So that gives me 3 full days for ND. I do not want to spend all my time in the car.

Mt Rushmore is very low on priority list. It's more a, if I'm driving past maybe I should stop kind of thing.

To those who have seen both, how different is Badlands to TRNP? It looks very similar topography in photos.

Posted by
123 posts

Oh gosh Tom don't scare me! I'm already slightly nervous about doing this solo. I do need to be informed & educate myself though.

Is mid June a nice time to go or is another time recommended more? I have flexibility but with the pandemic I wanted to be visiting prior to Sturgis and more influx of tourists but from what I gather TRNP isn't highly visited which is a plus to me.

Thank you for the book recommendation. I requested it from my library.

Posted by
3011 posts

I do field work in the western Dakotas so I see snakes. It’s not common that tourists do, just saying they are out there.

Mosquitoes is more in wetter Minnesota. June will be cooler and less busy so a good time.

Posted by
193 posts

Mt. Rushmore wasn't super high on my list when my husband and I visited SD, Wyoming & Utah, on a road trip a few years ago. But, I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed visiting Mt. Rushmore, in fact, we both thought that it was fantastic. Another really worthwhile place to go is Custer State Park. We saw many bison there, and the landscape is really pretty, plus it is only about 20 miles or so from Mt. Rushmore. Badlands NP was worth visiting too, very interesting landscape. I haven't been to ND, so not sure how the other parks compare to TRNP.

Posted by
7964 posts

Before you get too far in to planning, check the car rental prices and one way drop off fees out of Rapid City. Based on posts on the Trip Advisor Yellowstone forum the drop off fees may be extortionate this year. Someone recently posted they'd been quoted a $3,000 price tag for renting in Rapid City and dropping in Denver over a 2 or 3 week period. I've also seen a number of posts indicating the possibility of car rental shortages in some areas. The particular area was Glacier which is not close to SD/ND BUT I expect both areas to have similar high visitation this summer.

For the Badlands/Mt Rushmore/Custer State Park, I'd want 3 nights at least. Extra time for Devil's Tower if you want to include it. I'd say 3 nights for TRNP but I've only been to the South Unit and did not have time to do the North Unit.

I've also got on my "list" of things to do sometime, lol, the Enchanted Highway.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enchanted_Highway

I think mid-June is a perfect time to go. Things should still be green and the bison calves will still be cute as can be! Definitely avoid Sturgis time!

What a fun trip! I love National Parks on my own!

Posted by
4448 posts

I've been to both the ND and SD Badlands and I'd say they are pretty different. If you have to pick one, the ND version is better, plus it has the TR history. I haven't been to Bismarck in a long time, but apart from the new museum another poster described there isn't much to see there (unless you "collect" state capitols as I do).

It's about a four-hour drive between Rapid City and Medora, so you could give both areas a good look if you fly into and out of Rapid City, avoiding any car dropoff charge. Using Bismarck as a base would add driving time but probably also work. You'll have to work out the scheduling and costs to see whether an open-jaw flight plan makes sense. I suggest kayak.com to plan this, including the car, but booking directly with the airline(s) if you can.

Posted by
129 posts

If you go to Mt. Rushmore, be sure to allow at least a few hours to see the nearby Crazy Horse Memorial. There is an amazing museum, and often demonstrations of native arts and music. Also, in my opinion, although those are some of the USA's best guys up there on Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse carving is way cooler...

Posted by
1501 posts

For years I would read my neighbors' Christmas letter and each year they went to the Black Hills. Having finally gone there the past two years, I understand why they did it. I love the area and am sad that I didn't get there until so late in life, especially since I lived not that far away for the last 13 years.

I would check the cost of flights into Denver, as well as car rental prices. I am a big fan of the route between Denver and Rapid City through western Nebraska - Scotts Bluff and Agate Fossil Beds National Monuments, Ft. Robinson, Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron.

Wildlife viewing is excellent in Custer State Park and sometimes in the Badlands - last year we saw a herd of 20 bighorn sheep.

Driving is easy in the area. If the drive back to Denver takes you through WYoming, you are certain to see plenty of Pronghorn antelope.

Don't just be content with a drive by Mt. Rushmore. It deserves more. Parking is easy. Get a scoop of the Thomas Jefferson recipe vanilla ice cream.Take the iconic photo of it through a tunnel on the Iron Mountain Road,

Posted by
123 posts

I appreciate everyone's suggestions but I think Denver to Teddy Roosevelt NP is a lot of extra driving. This is a solo trip so there is no one to share the driving with.

I'm reading a few bad reviews for car rentals at Rapid City airport which give me cause for concern. Right now I'm leaning towards sticking to ND only. Some time I'll come back again & do SD. It is high on my SO list but he isn't able to go this year. Hopefully he & I can visit together within the next 2-3 years.
I'm still debating & plan on finalizing plans today. I'm also still hoping to do Italy in October & have to watch my budget too just in case that trip is a go.

Posted by
123 posts

For anyone curious I've decided to only do the MN portion of this trip this year. SO & I discussed and decided ND & SD is a trip we can do when there isn't a time constraint & we can go together and share the driving. Hopefully next year, though next year was when were hoping to do our Yosemite trip that we didn't get to do last year and had completely booked.. Covid really messed things up..... but we're all healthy and still here and that's what matters most.

Thanks everyone for your help.

Posted by
1190 posts

Another suggestion is the international peace garden on the ND Canada border

Posted by
11971 posts

Deborah, as you're now concentrating just on MN, any interest in taking the time you would have spent in ND/SD and heading up the MN North Shore? We've done it in late Sept - early Oct. multiple times and it's a great time of year to go! It is also a very popular time for Minnesotans to do it so you'd want to nail down accommodations, and it would involve a rental car but you wouldn't be trying to cover the sort of ground your original trip involved.

By "North Shore" I mean coast of Lake Superior (the "By the shores of Gitchee Gumee,
by the shining Big-Sea-Water..." in Wadsworth's famous poem) from Duluth north to Grand Portage: there's a National Monument there. Along the way is Jay Cooke St. Park (just south of Duluth), Split Rock Lighthouse, Gooseberry Falls St. Park, Tettegouche St. Park, Temperance River St. Park, Cascade River St Park, very pretty harbor town of Grand Marais, and a handful of tiny towns along the way. The further north of Duluth you go, the more Superior really does become "big-sea water." It's a wild, rocky, forested and very scenic part of our state. We have done quite a lot of it just from a base in Duluth - including a drive all the way to the Canadian border at Grand Portage and back in a day - but for you I'd recommend adding a couple nights in Grand Marais as well (we've done that too). Or skip Duluth - although it's fun to watch the ships - and stay 45 minutes further north in Two Harbors to do Gooseberry, Split Rock and other stuff in that area before heading further north.

Some hiking ideas just to get you started; we've done some of them:
https://www.activeoutdoorwomen.com/best-hiking-trails-north-shore/

Duluth is about 2.5 - 3 hours from Mpls depending on where you're starting from and traffic.

Posted by
123 posts

Hi Kathy,

Thank you for the info above. My itinerary is all set with MN actually. I lived there many, many years ago. Then a few years ago I was a bear education speaker for the North American Bear Center in Ely. I've spent quite a bit of the time there over the years and am actually headed back to Ely to visit friends. The last time I was in Ely I visited many of the places you mentioned. Since I'm going for "bear reasons" my preferred time is July.

I am going to do Paisley Park in Minneapolis before headed home but otherwise will be in Ely. Looking forward to it!

I can't fly direct to Bismarck from NC. Most flights had a layover in Minneapolis. Edited to say Chanhassen not Minneapolis. That's why I was hoping to add it on to my MN trip.

I've completely moved things around & am doing Colorado now in June and MN in July. I have no shortage of places I want to see!

Thanks!

Posted by
11971 posts

Ah-HA, Deborah! It wasn't clear that this upcoming trip wasn't your first rodeo in MN. Never mind... :O)

Bears, eh? That's really interesting 'cause the International Wolf Center in Ely more commonly gets the press so I'll have to look the Bear Center up. Have a great trip, and please come back for help on your next big adventure!

Posted by
4382 posts

I'll second the suggestion of WInd Cave, especially for anyone who is camping. We were in that region a few years ago, and while Custer was terribly crowded and relatively expensive, at Wind Cave we had our pick of large, green campsites, at a bargain price. It's only a few miles south of Custer State Park, but the ambiance (do outdoors areas have ambiance?) was completely different. And one of our favorite memories: watching a herd of buffalo cross our path as we were hiking.

Bliss. (And yes, we backed off. Those critters are big! And the bull bison leading the pack looked none too friendly.)

Posted by
123 posts

The International Wolf Center is awesome! There is also the Vince Schute Wildlife Sanctuary in Orr which is not too far from Ely. Very interesting background there. I've not visited it yet but I will in July.

It's a beautiful area and I have a lot of love for MN. I lived there very briefly 20 years ago and it contually reappears in my life. I'd move there in a heartbeat if it weren't for winter and so far from a coast.

Posted by
1656 posts

My husband is from ND, so we have been there many times. In Dickinson, there is a small, but world class dinosaur/fossil museum. Of course, Teddy Rosevelt and Medora are well worth a visit. I have seen the Medora Musical 3 times (one time too many).
We have also done SD and love the Black Hills area. Mt. Rushmore, Wind and Jewel Cave, Crazy Horse Memorial and the absolute gem, Custer State Park. So much to see and do in a fairly compact area.
Enjoy your road trip!

Posted by
3060 posts

Really glad you decided to focus your trip. I was worried that you were going to spend far more time driving than enjoying wildlife.

We lived in Duluth for several years and would drive out to the PNW each year to visit family. The year my daughter was learning to drive, she was just itching for some freeway experience. We assured her there was the perfect place for that. North Dakota. Miles and miles and miles of straight road.......

Roosevelt area is gorgeous and worth some time.

Posted by
688 posts

The Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave, Custer State Park and Devils Tower are all worth a visit. Also, the town of Deadwood is a fun place to stop. They're all close together with DT being the outlier.

Posted by
279 posts

About an hour from Dickinson is the Salem Sue Cow. Quite interesting. You can see it a bit from the interstate, but get off and head up to it. It is huge!!! We stopped along the way on a cross country move. I do not remember the name, but do remember the best broasted chicken place in Dickinson. A friend who was from there told us about it, and she was right! Although everyone did look at us like we were not from there. Definitely a locals place.