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Old 06-21-2021, 07:57 PM   #1
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Western Dakotas - How many days/different basecamps?

Looking for some info on how best to see the western half of the Dakotas. Going to be there some time in Sept. How many days and different basecamps should we plan on?

We like to have some downtime at each campsite. Weíre usually not in any hurry or have any time constraints. We do have a toad. Typically, we might do a hike in the morning and then relax that afternoon. Sometimes we do a daylong drive (in this case to Devils Tower, for example) and maybe take the next day off or do a 2 - 3 hour activity. We want to see all the well known sites such as the NPs, Custer State Park, Badlands, Black Hills, Sturgis, Deadwood, Wall, Drug, Misslie Silo, etc.

Suggestions for basecamps would be much appreciated. No, we donít have any reservations at this time and I know what that means. We like having full hookups if possible, but have done a few Walmart nights. Havenít really done any actual boondocking, but am open to that if we need too.

Thanks in advance for your input.
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Old 06-21-2021, 08:12 PM   #2
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While out there go into downtown Rapid City, it is named "The City of Presidents" on each street corner downtown are statues of a different President.
We were out there for Memorial Day week, the missile silos and the welcome center were closed, no date on reopening. Wall Drug was nice, tourist place, but worth the trip. We ate there, Open face roast beef was good.
Since we were changing our state of residency we stayed at the Americas Mailbox campground. It is not much, full hookups and close to each other. But if needed it could be a backup spot. Over near Spearfish is a beautiful park Elkridge, next trip in the area that is where we will plan on going.
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Old 06-21-2021, 09:52 PM   #3
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Many years ago, we enjoyed a couple of hours at DC Booth National Fish Hatchery in Spearfish. It's touristy but a few hours in Deadwood was good, and if you are into Casinos the evening.

You can certainly spend a good month or more in the area and not run out of things to see do and explore. We did many scenic drives for waterfalls etc, and used this website for some ideas:

Lots of full time bloggers spend much time boondocking in the area and enjoying it. Here's a suggestion for top 6 sites: as well you can check out; free; campendium, RVParky and there are many others but these should give you some good ideas.

We enjoy fishing and kayaking so we also enjoy for a week or two, time on the Missouri river and it's lakes: Lake Sakakawea, Antelope Creek State Wildlife, New Town, Lunds Landing, Fort Peck etc.

Enjoy, you'll have a blast and there's lots of CG's as well boondocking areas to enjoy. Wall Drug we enjoyed back in the 90's visiting but now with all the changes geared at touristy sales it's not quite the same it was we've personally found.
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Old 06-22-2021, 03:50 AM   #4
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If you are going to be near Custer NP in September you MUST but the Buffalo Round Up on your calendar. Its a do no miss! With that being said a few years back we stayed at Fort Welikit in the town of Custer. It does make a good base camp for all stuff around that area.

For Wall, Black Hills and the Missile Silo, more than a few years ago we stayed at Sleepy Hollow back then it was a good park can not speak to present times. I can say it was well located for the Back Hills etc.

Good Luck safe travels
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Old 06-22-2021, 07:49 AM   #5
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Posts: 1,531 is a great RV park in Hill City. It's also a good location to base camp and see all of the attractions you mentioned. Since you are not in a hurry no way to advise on how long to stay in the area. I could easily spend a few weeks but I'm a big fan of SD. If I was retired maybe a month.
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Old 06-22-2021, 08:03 AM   #6
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We are currently in Hermosa SD. at Heartland RV park. This is our base camp for our 19 day trip. We are using our toad to see the area on a daily basis. We pick a direction or destination and spend the day out. Has worked great for us.
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Old 06-22-2021, 08:44 PM   #7
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Thanks for the replies. For some reason I’m not getting notifications when someone replies. Anyway, keep the suggestions coming.
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Old 06-22-2021, 09:52 PM   #8
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One possible multi-day boondocking base lies on the rim of the Badlands, about six miles due south of Wall. You park right at the cliff's edge overlooking very wild country. You can spend a day driving around and hiking through the Badlands, zip up into Wall and go through Wall Drug, and then you're only an hour or so from the Rapid City area when you're done. It's a good place to try boondocking because you have everything you need in Wall right up the road, there are a lot of sites, and it's easy to find. (But show up on Monday-Thursday, as it gets busy on the weekends.)

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Old 06-24-2021, 08:38 AM   #9
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If you're interested in staying IN Custer State Park, Game Lodge campground has electric sites and has water/dump station. It's a very nice campground with good space between sites, lots of wildlife nearby, and super convenient for all things Custer as well as Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Wind Cave NP, etc, etc. We've stayed there twice over the last 3 years and loved it both times.
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Old 06-24-2021, 10:54 AM   #10
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Spearfish City Campground is very convenient to Devils Tower, the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, and much of the Blackhills, especially the north half. It has full hook ups, and is adjacent to the previously mentioned fish hatchery (which reminds me more of a Japanese garden than a fish hatchery). The campground is open year 'round but there is no water, restrooms, etc after Oct 1st.

If you were to go there, follow the website instructions for getting to the campground as the GPS systems want to take you over a blocked off road with no means of turning around. The campground is easily accessed thru the town.

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Old 06-25-2021, 12:48 PM   #11
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Hmm....I live about a long 1/2 day drive from the Black Hills area and have visited many times. I'm seeing a lot of good suggestions here but have to wonder. Why is no one mentioning camping at the wonderful lakes in this area? They're many to choose from like Legion, Sylvan, Stockade, Sheridan, Pactola, Deerfield or Angostura! Everyone of these lakes are beautiful and if you're going to Devils Tower don't forget Keyhole State park in Wyoming! Hope these suggestions aren't too rustic In September it shouldn't be tooo hard to find a spot 'cept us AARPers do "Take To The Hills" this time of year
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Old 06-25-2021, 03:12 PM   #12
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OP: Your question was how many base camps should you have.

Basically, it depends on how much driving you want to do daily. I'd suggest make of list of things you definitely want to see/do and group them in a small area for touring. Then make your base camp. To us, it doesn't make sense in trying to sitesee when you have to drive a long distance to do it. That wears you out day after day. We'd much prefer just moving for closer drive times with time left over in late afternoon to relax at the campsite and prepare for dinner.
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Old 06-25-2021, 05:16 PM   #13
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We stayed at Beaver lake rv in Custer for southern attractions, and moved Chris's Camp in Spearfish for the Northern ones, and this cut down on travel time.
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Old 06-25-2021, 09:21 PM   #14
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For North Dakota, one of the most overlooked National Parks is Theodore Roosevelt NP. The southern section (park is in two parts) has a decent campground I understand.

The OP asked for, if possible, full hookups, which are difficult to find in the west and Forest Service and National Parks generally don't have hookups.

I have been by (but not to) Angostura and from talking to a camp host in a Georgia State Park, who had worked as a host at one of the Angostura campgrounds, he said it was very nice. It is somewhat out of the Black Hills but convenient to a couple of other sights, Hot Springs in the South end of the Black Hills (12 mi), Chadron, Museum of the Fur Trade (<50 mi), and Wind Cave NP (20 mi or so).

If approaching the Black Hills from the north, be sure and stop at Belle Fourche, for a photo op in front of the monument of the Geographic Center of the US. Just east of Belle Fourche is the Belle Fourche National Wildlife Refuge which is one of the few in the US that has a campground (62 electric sites, $26) but is operated by SD Game and Fish. I stayed at Crab Orchard NWR in Illinois (Marion/Carbondale) and it has a nice campground which is actually managed by US Fish and Wildlife Service.

In ND at Exit 72 off of I-94 is the Enchanted Highway. North of the exit is one sculpture and if you go south thru Gladstone to Regent (about 20 mi) you will encounter other sculptures (8 or 9 total)

Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River in west central ND is a 75 mile long lake with a number of Federal, Tribal, State, County and City campgrounds located on its shores. One is the Corp of Engineer campground just below Garrison Dam. While I have never stayed here, I have stayed at a similar COE campground at Ft Thompson SD just below Big Bend Dam and Lake Sharpe, and it was a beautiful area. I have no doubt this is no different.

You might get some info from my eclipse trip thread in 2017.

Just be aware that many campgrounds close or shut off water and restrooms during September, so travel and campgrounds in that time frame is problematic.

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