Two Week Trip---STL to Badlands and Custer State Park

Just returned from above mentioned trip...what a beautiful part of the glad we went. Traveled west across MO spending a night off grid in a state recreation area (Honey Creek), then up and across to Ft. Kearney State Park in south central NE, then north through the Valentine Wildlife Recreation Area on the way to Cedar Pass campground in Badlands, then west to North Stockade Lake in Custer State Park. Returned through Scott's Bluff and then essentially retraced my tracks home.

Black Hills area was more beautiful than I knew, and so many things to visit while there (Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, Rushmore, Needles Hwy, Iron Mt Rd, Devil's Tower, etc.)

Nebraska had some things to see, but I wouldn't travel through NE again given a choice...long distances and not much. Just an opinion.

Cedar Pass camground is odd. Compared to most campgrounds I've seen it is not great. But, it is where it is, and as a start for a Badlands visit it'll do.

Custer has many camgrounds and I am certainly no expert on them all. I liked North Stockade Lake because it was close to the town of Custer and all the places I mentioned above. If you camp in the South of the park, you have a pretty long way to go to just get out of the park. Plus, our campsite (24E) was huge and other sites were very well spread out. There was some road noise, as the main road through the park is a public road that happens to pass through the park...has a fair amount of non-park traffic. Any campground along 16A (google it, you'll see) will have road noise.

We spent 8 days in of time was coming and going. Tribal Police stopped us at a check point upon entering the reservation. Wanted to know if we were vaccinated against Covid (we both are). Told us to proceed, but not to stop. Don't know what would have happened if we had not been vaccinated. On the topic of covid...we were surprised at how few folks wore masks (almost nobody) all along our route. At buffalo round up and arts festival in Custer there were thousands of people and only a handful of masks. Where we live (southern Illinois) there is an indoor mask mandate, so that is what we are used to. Folks "out in the world" just didn't seem to masks, no social distancing. When the subject came up, most folks we talked to (an "older" demographic to be sure) said they had been vaccinated, although a few were proudly/defiantly unvaccinated (I never brought the topic up, as I know there is NOTHING you can say to the unvaccinated that will change their minds, so why argue?)

Photos are looking northwest and southest from our chairs...nice big site...playground NE across the campground road and some distance away. Shower house up the hill other side of playground...very clean with nice hot (free) shower stalls...(we always drove to it).

We got lots of great pics, but google Custer and Badlands and you'll see how beautiful the area is, so I won't clog up the discussion group. Glad to answer any questions if anyone is interested. I won't discuss pros/cons of masks and vaccinations further as it just seems to be a contentious issue.


  • JamesDowJamesDow Member Posts: 504
    edited September 2021

    Thanks for sharing, sounds like a good trip. How did your tow vehicle perform?

  • WilliamAWilliamA Member Posts: 1,307

    Ft Kearney rocks. Stayed there twice. Also, Ft Robinson. It's out of the way but tons to see for history buffs. It's a couple hours from Scott's Bluff, fossil beds and a few other things to see.

    I have made it a rule to stay at Ft Kearney on my way west. It's 12-ish hours from me so a good place to finish the first (long) day west...


    "When I am in charge, Starburst brand fruit chews will get their own food group....and where are all the freakin laser beams? There should be more laser beams..."

    2021 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
    2017 [email protected] XL
    Boyceville, Wi.

  • HellFishHellFish Member Posts: 131

    James...2019 Highlander 6 cyl towed just fine. Averaged just over 21 mpg with speed at 60 to 65.

    William...we liked Kearney just fine...stayed two days although initial plan was for just one day. Visited the Fort/museum and the art museum in Kearney. Ate dinner at Chicago pizza one day...pretty good. Some folks we met at Custer raved about Ft Robinson...we just didn't have time to stop there.

  • Michigan_MikeMichigan_Mike Administrator Posts: 517

    The Black Hills and Badlands area are one of my favorite spots here in the US as is Custer Battlefield. Did you happen to make it down into Sage Creek Canyon and the campground below the bluff area and prairie dog colony? That’s where the Buffalo are at and it’s a primitive area and no amenities other than a vault toilet but it’s off the beaten path.

    Last time we were there we took the backroads out of the Badlands and drove over to the Wounded Knee massacre site. The grave site is there and will say, you can definitely feel the pain and sadness of that site.

    Devils Tower has a small federal. Amping area that was peaceful and I stopped in the KOA and borrowed a tool from the handyman. Very friendly people and very accommodating!

    I love the history and found a place where old wagon ruts and an engineering road are still visible from Custer’s expedition to the Black Hills. My Rushmore and Crazy Horse Mountain are worth the time and would recommend seeing Custer Battlefield too and take in the NP lecture that is offered on the hour. I have a nice collection of Custer books and got interested in the battle while taking a college course at The University of Michigan. Fascinating stuff but don’t get hooked!!! The Sioux Indians were formidable warriors on the battlefield and were given a raw deal, having their sacred Black Hills taken away from them.

    And if you’ve been to Ft Kearney you no doubt have been up to the Fetterman massacre area where he and his men were lured up onto the Bozeman Trail high ground and massacred. They are buried out at the Little Bighorn National Cemetery. Beautiful area out in those parts and these famous skirmishes marked the end of Native Americans roaming and hunting the west as white culture invaded their homeland and took over the land via broken treaties and greed.

    Michigan Mike
    Linden, Mi
    2019 [email protected] 400

  • GigHarborTomGigHarborTom Member Posts: 272

    Did all the above 3 years ago. 5900 miles. Out of Puget sound country to a Rally in Roslyn WA. Over to Spokane to visit Nurse grandaughter and our great grand kids. Over thru Montana, throught the Black Hills etc, Deadwood, down through Santa Fe, Sadona, past Phoenix, out to San Deigo, wondered up the west coast. Hail storms and all. Five weeks, loved it...

    Gig Harbor Tom
    Trl '17 [email protected] Max
    TV 2018 Mazda CX9 Signature

  • MrGneissGuyMrGneissGuy Member Posts: 9

    I spent two weeks in the Black Hills as part of our geology field camp (requirement for BS geology degree; 5 weeks out doing geology field stuff). In fact, the Badlands was our first project stop, where we had to map out rock units with just our pace and a compass.

    I loved it there, and keep telling my wife we need to go sometime. We passed through and stopped at Rushmore on the way out to the Tetons once, but other than that, I don't think she's seen any of it.

    2015 [email protected]

  • NancNanc Member Posts: 1

    Sounds like a great trip. I just bought a 2016 Tag n am excited to get out in it.

    im from right outside of St Louis on the east side also:) Edwardsville

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