Travel to the Black Hills of South Dakota – Episode 252

categories: USA Travel

The Amateur Traveler talks to Fred who talks about a South Dakota road trip especially the Black Hills.

Fred and his wife went to Mt Rushmore for sure, but also to other sites in the area that are less well known like Devil’s Tower, Deadwood, Wall Drug, Wind Cave National Park, Buffalo Gap National Grassland, and Wind Cave National Park. There are a surprising number of sites to see in the Black Hills and Badlands of Southwest South Dakota.

right click here to download (mp3)
right click here to download (iTunes version with pictures)

Show Notes

Black Hills
Black Hills & Badlands
George Armstrong Custer
Devils Tower National Monument
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
National Park Passport Stamps
AAA North Central Tourbook
Spearfish, South Dakota
DC Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery
Spearfish Canyon
Deadwood, South Dakota
Wild Bill Hickok
Rapid City, South Dakota
President Walk, Rapid City
City of Presidents
Wall Drug
Wall Drug on Wikipedia
Buffalo Gap National Grassland
Gutzon Borglum
National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets
Wind Cave Natural Park
Fresno, California

Bed and Breakfasts:
Cheyenne WY: Nagle Warren Mansion Bed & Breakfast
Newcastle WY: Flying V Cambria Inn
Spearfish SD: Secret Garden Bed & Breakfast
Rapid City SD: Berglund Road off of Hwy 16
Custer SD: French Creek Ranch Bed & Breakfast
Hot Springs SD: The Historic Mueller House Bed & Breakfast
Scottsbluff NB: BarnAnew Bed & Breakfast
Golden CO: The Dove Inn Bed & Breakfast


Now, take a ‘naturist holiday’ with 7-night naked cruise




Courtney on Texas – Travel to Texas – Episode 176

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

16 Responses to “Travel to the Black Hills of South Dakota – Episode 252”

Karl Anders


Hi Chris! I wanted you to know how much I enjoyed this podcast. To me it represents exactly what makes the Amateur Traveler podcast unique. An interested host let’s a well prepared amateur (Fred was very organized and his advice very practical) describe his adventure. It’s infectious!

I know sometimes you may not have much of a choice, but my preference is to avoid professionals (eg. hired mouthpieces for tourism depts) and use amateurs. I find it much more inspiring when you do. I last visited the Black Hills some 15 years ago but you and Fred moved it up my radar — will probably revisit it sometime in the next few years

Hope you like your new job and keep up the fine podcasts!



Hi, Chris! I really enjoyed the podcast on the Black Hills – I’ve been trying to decide whether to take a similar trip myself, and I’m definitely going to use Fred’s descriptions and recommendations.
One thing people may be interested in – Fred left open a question as to why the Crazy Horse monument was taking so long. In part, it’s a matter of funding; the sculptor (the late Korczak Ziolkowski) who started the project, and now his family, have refused any assistance from the government. Additionally, the reason that Native American groups have not fully funded the project is that it is actually rather controversial among Native Americans. The Black Hills are considered sacred land to the Sioux, and not all agree that this is an appropriate way to use it. (For the same reason, there are mixed feelings about Mount Rushmore as well.)
I’m looking forward to seeing both sites, as well as the others that Fred recommended. Did Fred’s road trip extend beyond this area? If so, I’m sure he found many other treasures along the way, and I would love to hear his take on them as well.

Fred Lusk


Saffi (and Karl too)….Thank you for the compliments. I am gratified that you enjoyed hearing about our 2007 trip to the Black Hills and found the information useful for planning your own trips. Chris puts together a great podcast and I enjoyed being a part of it. Also, thank you for filling in the details about the Crazy Horse Monument situation.

My response to your request for more details about the other parts of our trip is quite long, so I will break it up into several sequential replies.

As I briefly mentioned in the podcast, our trip extended well beyond the Black Hills. We actually started and ended our 11-day, 1,800-mile loop driving trip in Denver. Colorado. Only half of that time was spent in and around the Black Hills. We started and ended in Denver for three reasons: [1] we can fly direct from Fresno to Denver, [2] my wife wanted to visit a cemetery in one of the suburbs where some of her ancestors are buried, and [3] we had planned to see an old high school friend who lived in the area. Unfortunately, she was transferred to New Orleans two weeks before our trip to help her company recover from Hurricane Katrina. I had been to Denver several times on business and each time had taken some personal time off to tour the area, but this was my wife’s first trip.

Fred Lusk


Following is an outline of our trip. Most of the places we visited are covered in the applicable AAA Tour Books and all can be easily researched on the Internet, so I won’t go into too much detail. This will be long enough as it is. Places I mentioned in the podcast will only be listed, with no additional detail. Because we visited so many places, our sightseeing stops were generally limited to between about 30 minutes and about 4 hours. However, this seemed appropriate and we didn’t feel time pressured. All of the places we visited were worth it. In your own research you will certainly find additional worthy sites that we skipped.

DAY 1, Fresno CA to Cheyenne WY: Fly from Fresno to Denver CO, then immediately drive north on I-25 from Denver to Cheyenne (about 100 miles). No stops in Colorado this day. Drive by the Wyoming State Capitol building (very pretty) to take a few photos.

DAY 2, Cheyenne WY to Newcastle WY: [1] Visit Cheyenne’s Big Boy Steam Engine 4004 at the recommendation of our B&B hosts. [2] Drive north on I-25 past Chugwater (we didn’t) and Wheatland. At Exit 92 head east on Hwy 26 about 12 miles to Guernsey. Just across the Platte River from Guernsey is the Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Park. Another 2 miles to the southeast is Register Cliff Monument. We spent about an hour at each site. [3] Another 13 miles further east on Hwy 25 is Fort Laramie National Monument. We spent about two hours there plus a few minutes nearby at an old bridge over the Platte River. [4] Drive another 10 miles east on Hwy 26 to Lingle, then turn north on Hwy 85. From Lingle it’s about 130 miles due north to Newcastle WY, which is the first stop I mentioned in the podcast (Jewel Cave is about 20 east of Newcastle). Our other reason for picking Hwy 85 is that it runs through Lusk and our last name is Lusk. You can see the whole town in 10 minutes or twice in 20 minutes, which we did looking for ice cream.

Fred Lusk


DAY 3, Newcastle WY to Spearfish SD: [1] Jewel Cave National Monument. [2] Devils Tower National Monument.

DAY 4, Spearfish SD to Rapid City SD: [1] D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery in Spearfish. [2] Spearfish Canyon, including Bridal Veil Falls and Roughlock Falls. [3] Lead. [4] Deadwood. [5] Rapid City, including Chapel in the Hills (Stavkirke).

DAY 5, East of Rapid City SD: [1] Wall Drug. [2] Badlands National Park.

DAY 6, Rapid City SD to Custer SD: [1] Mt. Rushmore National Monument. [2] Crazy Horse Memorial.

DAY 7, Custer SD to Hot Springs SD: [1] Drive by the Flintstones Theme Park to talk a few photos. [2] Custer State Park. [3] Wind Cave National Park. [4] The Mammoth Site. [5] Hot Springs National Cemetary.

Fred Lusk


DAY 8, Hot Springs SD to Scottsbluff NB: From Hot Springs, head south on Hwy 71 through the Black Hills National Forest and the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. [1] About 10 miles south of Hot Springs is Cascade Falls, which will only appeal to real waterfall fanatics. It ain’t much. [2] Just south of Ardmore SD, at the border with Nebraska, get off the main highway onto a dirt road through the Oglala National Grassland and head for Toadstool Geologic Park, which is a mini Badlands. A few miles south on the dirt road is the Hudson-Meng Bison Kill Site. Continue south on the dirt road to rejoin Hwy 71 just north of Crawford NB. (BTW, there’s a B&B Dude Ranch along the dirt road, but I forgot its name.) [3] At Crawford, head west on Hwy 20 about 3 miles to Fort Robinson State Park. [4] Continue about 20 miles west on Hwy 20 to Harrison NB, then turn south on Hwy 29. After about 20 miles, arrive at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. [5] Continue south on Hwy 29 to Scottsbluff. [6] We had some time that afternoon, so we drove southeast of Scottsbluff about 20 miles to see Chimney Rock National Historical Site. On the way back to town we hit the Scotts Bluff National Monument Visitor Center. [7] Since it was July 4, we watched several distant fireworks shows from the comfort of our B&B west of Scottsbluff.

DAY 9, Scottsbluff NB to Golden CO: [1] Saw the rest of Scotts Bluff National Monument. [2] Drive south on Hwy 71 past Kimball NB and through the Pawnee National Grassland to Fort Morgan CO and I-76 heading to Denver. [3] We drove by the Colorado State Capitol for photos, then did a tour of the Denver Mint (interesting, but the tour guide was terrible). [4] We finally headed to the suburb of Golden and our B&B.

DAY 10, Denver CO Area: [1] Toured the Coors Brewery in Golden (I don’t drink but the tour was fascinating). [2] Toured the Littleton CO cemetery (we found the graves my wife was looking for) and drive by the Littleton Courthouse for a few photos. [3] Drove up Dinosaur Ridge near Golden to see the fossilized footprints. [4] Spent several hours in an antique mall, but didn’t buy anything.

DAY 11/12, Denver CO to Fresno CA: [1] Drove west on I-80 past Idaho Springs to show my wife the mountains. [2] In the afternoon, back to Denver International for our flight back to Fresno. We can now laugh about the final leg of our trip, but at the time we were pretty steamed. Upstream mechanical problems delayed our plane getting into Denver, so we switched flights to go through Los Angeles. However that plane was also late getting to Denver and when we got to LA, we circled the airport for an hour, then spent another hour on the tarmac waiting for a gate. We saw our plane to Fresno take off without us. The airline put us up in a hotel, but it was about 1 am when we got there (it took three desk agents over an hour to get our flight booked to Fresno….the gate agent in Denver had put us in the computer as heading back to Denver). Once in the hotel, the shower handle broke off in the fully on position, requiring us to switch rooms at 2 am. We got back to the airport at 8:30 the next morning for our flight home only to learn that the airline screwed up again and had slated us for a flight that had just left instead of the one at 10:00 that we had requested. We finally got home mid-afternoon only to find out that my luggage was taking a longer vacation. And that’s only part of what went wrong that last 24 hours. Regardless, this was a really great vacation and I would like to visit the Black Hills again.

Fred Lusk


In the next episode Chris read a couple of excellent comments from other listeners that I should follow-up on.

One comment had to do with the Sturgis Bike Rally, which is held in August. It is such a huge event (>500,000 participants) that we specifically scheduled our trip to avoid it. We’re not into motorcycles and we didn’t want to deal with the additional crowds.

The other comment had to do with The Needles Highway (Hwy 87), which is in the north end of Custer State Park. I had a total brain freeze when putting my notes together before doing the interview. I thus forgot to mention that we drove the portion of The Needles Highway from Sylvan Lake to Legion Lake. It is a beautiful drive and is populated with lots of granite “needles” (spires). It’s a twisty, low speed road, but definitely worth doing.



Hmm, looks like no one has 3 words to describe their home states? Or at least they’re not posting them here…

Singapore is: Hot, Humid and Engineered!



I like “engineered”

Wes Snow


I’ve been to the Black Hills twice. In fact, it was my very first experience with the Western US back in 1989 and has a special place in my fondest travel memories.

Custer State Park – can’t say enough good things about this little piece of the Black Hills. Wish Fred had discussed it a little more in the podcast (which was great btw). The Needles Hwy is as much “must see” as any of the rest of the Black Hills.

the city of Deadwood – now for the sad part. I visited Deadwood both pre-gambling and post-gambling (as in…after it was legal). Gambling and the casinos has totally destroyed the character of this city. Deadwood almost felt 1890 in my first visit there, but they decided to allow gambling sometime around 1990 and Deadwood died when the casinos took over. It’s a really sad story and I’m sure the residents there are truly sad they sold themselves out two decades ago. Apparently, there was much resistance initially once they realized the damage that was done.



I also visited the Black Hills on my cross country national parks roadtrip (2001) and was taken by Crazy horse, The badlands, and to a lesser degree the caves and Rushmore – I absolutely loved this podcast as it brought back so many fond memories, got me excited about the (slow but) progress made on Crazy horse in the past decade and all the wonders of S.D. in general! Years later I made a stopover in N.D. and really hope to spend more time later in life revisiting, hiking, and exploring the fantastic landscapes of the areas!



I’m from Northwestern Ontario Canada, been listening almost since day one (love, love, LOVE this podcast as well as This Week In Travel)!! I have to say that the 3 words that best describe my province are; Lakes, Trees and Undiscovered! You’d have to come here or chat with a local to truly understand this huge and hugely unpopulated place!

Keep up the GREAT podcasts! I look forward to them every week (even when I fall behind because of work like I have these past few weeks).

Erik Smith


This was a really informative podcast, one of my favorites. Good work, both host & guest.

One small thing I would like to add as a National Park aficionado myself. Back when I last visited The Black Hills in May of 2006, I booked a tour for the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. This tour left (everyone in their own personal cars) from a small visitor center near the entrance to Badlands National Park and tours a Cold War era bunker and missile silo site. I’ve been to a lot of National Park sites, but this one was one of the most unique. When I visited it was just starting up, but I was told that tours have limited space and do book up fast. I booked mine almost a month in advance. I think this tour would be interesting for anyone who lived through that period of history.

Fred Lusk


BTW, there is a short article about photography in the Black Hills in the July 2011 issue of Shutterbug magazine, which for some reason my local grocery store still has on the shelves.

Carmen Holland


Crazy horse was not commissioned to honor only Chief Crazy Horse. It was to honor all Native American tribes. Crazy Horse was selected by input from many different tribes. The reason it is taking so long to finish is because they refuse to take money from the Federal government that historically treated Native Americans so badly. I would love to see it finished. I wish there was some way The government could offer funds as a way of making some reparations to all Indians. But something like that would have to include ironclad wording that guaranteed that site would never be in the control of the federal government.

Eric D. Maldonado



You just can’t travel South Dakota without visiting Falls Park! Travelling is a beautiful experience for any person of any age.

It is one of the most beautiful destinations for sure. I would recommend to go there.

Eric D. Maldonado

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