South Dakota's Black Hills are acre upon acre, mile upon mile, pure American beauty. Filled with Sioux history, the gory story of the American West, the incomparable stretch of park that is the Badlands (Mauvaise Terre, as the French discoverers called it), the epic size and detail of Mt. Rushmore, the eerie shape of Devil's Tower immortalized by Steven Spielberg in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the towns of Deadwood, namesake of a successful HBO Series, Sturgis, the site of the world's biggest motorcycle rally every August, and the large memorial to the great American Indian Crazy Horse, the Black Hill's will keep you busy, intrigued, and swimming in great drives and picaresque scenes of American towns, old barns, and pretty white farmhouses.
Interstate 90 shoots straight through the heart of the Black Hills. Beginning in Wyoming, just as you leave Yellowstone National Park, I-90 cuts like a knife through the Black Hills' greatest sites and America's Great Plains. Your best bet is to drive from Yellowstone's (www.nps.gov/yell) eastern boundaries to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. After leaving the town of Gillette, your first site will be Devil's Tower (www.nps.gov/deto/home.htm), which is on the Wyoming side of the Wyoming/South Dakota border.
As you cruise along I-90 through such world-renowned sites as Mt. Rushmore (www.nps.gov/moru) and Custer State Park (www.sdgfp.info/parks/Regions/Custer/Index.htm), there are many hotels and motels to stay on the way that cater to road warriors looking to enjoy the Black Hill's experience. For example, Rapid City is a quick ride to Mount Rushmore. With a population just under 60, 000, Rapid City has many hotel options.
The Best Western Ramkota Hotel (tel. 605/343-8550; www.ramkotahotels.com) is close to Rapid City and the Dakota Dinosaur Museum, which has fossils and historical accounts of the history of the dinosaurs on the Great Plains. The hotel can give you directions to all local sites. This is a chain of hotels within the Best Western family dotting the area from Bismarck to Sioux Falls. Rates start around $59 and go up from there. An important note: If you plan on going in August during the great motorcycle rally at Sturgis, South Dakota that attracts hundreds of thousands of bikers, make sure you book well in advance. Getting a room during that time of year can be murder. And you better like bikers. They're everywhere, traveling in swarms on the highway, the roar of their bikes as loud as the "oohs and ahs" of seeing Mt. Rushmore for the very first time.
For the bed and breakfast lovers, try Audrie's Bed and Breakfast (tel. 605/342-7788; www.audriesbb.com) just outside of Rapid City. Rates start at $125 per night for small suites and jump to $165 per night for "Log Cottages." These rooms are for couples only and no children are allowed, ensuring you peace and quiet if that's what you're looking for. Call for winter specials.
Start your Black Hills experience in Rapid City. You can fly into the full-scale airport from most U.S. gateways. The convenient airport operates out of a small terminal. Delta Airlines (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta.com) and Northwest Airlines (tel. 800/225-2525; www.northwest.com) both operate out of Rapid City running through Salt Lake City and Minneapolis. Fares vary, but round-trip from Boston will run you around $593, so we advise flying to Salt Lake City and taking an extended trip through Jackson Hole, Wyoming to get a better look at the Grand Tetons and a scenic drive through Yellowstone before you head into the Black Hills on I-90. Round-trips to Salt Lake City start around $163 from Logan International Airport. Flights from Chicago O'Hare will run you around $218 if you book by March 18, 2005. To Pierre, South Dakota, round-trip from Chicago Midway starts at around $473.
Do you have a question or comment regarding this article? Click over to our United States Message Boards, pick a state and have your say.