Our Trip to Mt. Rushmore – Blue Bell Campground, Custer State Park

Our trip to Mount Rushmore!  I hope this is informative as well as interesting! Click on images to enlarge.

Day One –

We left at 4:15 in the morning from Southern California to our first stop in Beaver, Utah.  We had mapped out two days of driving of about 10 hours each day with a shorter drive on the third day of about 5 hours.  Our first day was 509 miles which took us about 10 hours.

We have a Fleetwood Pulse RV pulling a Jeep.

We only stopped for gas.  I made lunch as we drove down the road!  The easiest thing to make and eat while driving were turkey wraps.  Basically a turkey burrito for lunch.  Really good!

We stayed at the Beaver KOA which was great.  The pool was nice and since it was hot, we enjoyed a swim after we arrived.  We had never stayed at a KOA before and were pleasantly surprised.  Pool, WiFi, hook-ups, small store, ice, propane, dump station, etc…

FYI – the pools at the KOA’s seem to all close after Labor Day.   This was September the 2nd .. so we just made it!

For our first dinner we BBQ’d some Chicken that I marinated in a new marinade by Lawrey’s –  REALLY GOOD !!

I prepped the first 3 dinners and planned on stopping at the market in Hot Springs – the last town before hitting Custer State Park – coming from the South.

We ran our generator while we drove, so I also threw a package of frozen chicken in the freezer.  I could have brought more frozen food, but stopping at the market worked out fine.

2nd Day –

We left Beaver, Utah and headed for Cheyenne, Wyoming.  We had initially made plans to head across Colorado and stay at the KOA in Ft. Collins, but thought the route at the bottom of Wyoming would be easier.  Well, it was probably an easier drive, but was SO boring!  We had 634 miles to drive and it took us almost 11 hours.

Who knew you could go 80 ???!!!!

We drove north on the 15 and did a little jog to miss Salt Lake City and instead drove through Heber City and around Deer Creek and a Lake there –

We loved all of the American Flags up!

Now into Wyoming … onto the 80 East

We looked at this for hours ….

And there were these fences along the highway, to stop snow, sleet, wind from hitting the highway.

We crossed the Continental Divide!!

While your driving on this highway #80 … you will see signs for “Little America”.  We thought this would be a good place to stop for gas.  They were OUT OF DIESEL!!!!!  There was just one gas station and this was a huge waste of time!

As the map reader, I had to keep an eye on our gas, miles to the next town and make it all work!

We arrived at our KOA in Cheyenne Wyoming –

This night we looked over the map to confirm what roads to take to get to Custer State Park.

My plan was to take the 25 up to the 18 up the 85/18 to the 18 to Hot Springs … but we took a more direct route..

We took the tiny black line …. ha ha … the 149 up to the 85 and took that all the way up to the 85/18 to the 18 to Hot Springs.  The line did turn to the slightly larger red line when we hit the 85 🙂  It was pretty quiet on that drive …

We can see the Black Hills National Forest !!

Just for your info if you look at the map – We got gas in Lusk, but there is gas in Edgemont and also in Hot Springs.

We got into Hot Springs and we went to Sonny’s Market.  There is a Lynn’s Dakotamart in town as well, but a girl at the gas station told us that Sonny’s had better meats.

Now, we are on our way to Blue Bell Campground in Custer State Park !!!!  Hurray !!!

Our first Buffalo siting!

Entering the park …

We have arrived at Blue Bell Campground – Custer State Park !! Hurray !!!

Beautiful !!  We were in site 12E and could look down at the cabins and grassy area.

Some info you might need to know about Blue Bell Campground –

When you arrive, you will pass the horse stables and some campsites that are not part of the Blue Bell Campground.  Driving on, on your left, you will pass the Camp Host site.  When we arrived, the Camp Host was not around, so we just found our campsite and got set up.  We later went down and introduced ourselves and chatted with him.

I’m used to arriving at a State Campground and having to check in, so this process was a bit weird to me.

What we did do, was right by the Wind Cave signs, there was a State Park entrance station.  We stopped there and got our Custer State Park license for the week.  You will need one of these.  They exempted the RV as we would only be driving our Jeep around the park during the week.

Blue Bell Campsites only have electric (when reserving one with hook-ups).  NO WATER and NO SEWER.  I had read somewhere there was a dump station at Blue Bell.  There is NO dump station.  For water, you will have to find one of the three faucets to fill up with before getting settled.  Our hose wasn’t long enough for the one nearest our campsite, so we found another faucet by the cabins and filled up there.  A fellow camper borrowed our hose to make his longer as he had the same problem as we did, with a short hose.   If I remember correctly and it is on the map, there is a dump station at the Game Lodge area and the Camp Host told us a gas station in Custer has one.  We didn’t use that much water, so we just dumped on the way home at the first KOA we stayed at.

There is a small market across from the Blue Bell Lodge.  They have snack type items.  No meats or fresh vegatables.  The closest place to get to a full market is in Custer.   We shopped at the Custer Country Market for a few things one day and then went to the Custer Lynn’s Dakotamart the next time we needed something.  Lynn’s is a nice big market.

I did use the laundromat by the Blue Bell Lodge store, which is located behind the store.  There are two washers and two dryers.  It cost me about $1.50 for a wash and $1.25 for a dry .. if I remember correctly.

There is gasoline at the market, but no diesel.  You would have to go to Custer for diesel or Hot Springs.

We arrived on a Sunday and got set up.  Monday was Labor Day and we headed to Mt. Rushmore.  We first headed through the Horse Camp to Lame Johnny Road #4.  The Horse Camp area is really pretty.  You can camp there with your horses.

We saw a buffalo in the trees on the way here and then another one –

After driving through the middle of the Wild Life Loop area, we headed north on the East side of Wild Life Loop.  We saw a buffalo, then a small herd and then this large herd –

Here I am taking pictures from the Jeep – Video link at the end of this post!

We then drove up Iron Mountain Road towards Mount Rushmore!

You can get some glimpes of Mount Rushmore along the way!

And the tunnels are just FUN !!  See my links to the videos on You Tube at the end of this post.

We went for Mount Rushmore and we weren’t disappointed!  It was GREAT, SPECTACULAR, WOW!!

But … when I went to hand my camera to someone to take our picture (closer than the first one), the wrist strap got stuck on my wrist, he let go and the camera fell to ground on the extended lens … broken….   So, we headed to Rapid City to Walmart to get a new camera.

There is also a Cabela’s in Rapid City  🙂 so we did a quick stop there!

In Rapid City we had lunch at Firehouse Brewing Co.  It was good.  I would eat there again.  Mark had a Buffalo Burger and I had 1/2 sandwich and 1/2 salad.  We had a few pale ales …

The next day we headed out to the Needles Highway towards Sylvan Lake, Hill City and Crazy Horse.

Sylvan Lake is beautiful.  We walked around the Lake … not too long of a walk.


From Sylvan Lake we headed north to Hill City.  We shopped and had lunch at Bumpin Buffalo.

The bar inside was really pretty –

Now to Crazy Horse!  You have to go here, because it is CRAZY !!

All I can say, is you have to go here and see the magnitude of this project!  It is worth it!!!

We stopped by this antique /// junk store and didn’t buy the donkey!!

The next day we headed to Deadwood.  Cute little town, full of casinos.  This is were Wild Bill Hickok was killed and where Calamity Jane lived.

We ate here – above – it was good.  A lady who worked at the Harley Davidson store said this place was good and their steak salad was good .. so we both had that and she was right, it was good.

This antique store was a good stop.  I could have stayed here for a few hours!

A view of Deadwood coming in from the north –

After our day in Deadwood, we stopped in Custer at Lynn’s Dakotamart and got some groceries.  This is a full market and had nice produce.

We had a great surprise when we got back to camp – the Buffalo had come to visit!

Good thing I didn’t need to use the restroom!  ha ha

The buffalo came to visit a few times –

In fact, the best time was Thursday morning when they came for breakfast!

Two of them came through grazing and this one decided to stay for a while.  We made our sausage and pancakes outside and sat there and just enjoyed nature!!

Here’s a fun picture from a few nights before of my husband taking pictures –

On our last day we decided to go back to Mount Rushmore.  After I dropped and broke my camera, we didn’t stay long … and we missed the video/movie presentation, the museum and the Presidential hike.  It was well worth the trip back!

A few more pictures of the millions I took –

We drove to Keystone .. well we were in Keystone … but we drove to the town and had lunch here –

GOOD burgers and beers!

On the way back to camp, we drove the Wildlife Loop and saw the famous burros –

To back track just a bit … on the way to Mount Rushmore we stopped at this little antique store on the 89 just up from 16 – a good stop –

The next day we were homeword bound … Day 1 is from Custer State Park to Grand Junction, Colorado – 621 miles, 11 hours.  we drove over the Rockies and it was beautiful.  A few pictures …

Steep, brakes, and watch for animals!!!  Yikes!

We were pulling our Jeep and our brake system in the Jeep had failed, so we took it nice and easy.

We made it to our KOA.  The Grand Junction KOA is a bit off the freeway, but we made it and had an ice cold beer!

Our next leg home was from Grand Junction, CO to Las Vegas – the KOA at Circus Circus – 513 miles, 8 hours.

Utah is full of beautiful!  We plan on going back and staying in Zion or nearby!!

Lots of pretty sites on the way to Vegas –

This isn’t a sign you want to see 🙂 (above)

Ran into a little rain ..

Getting there ….

Seemed like the longest stretch of road anywhere!!!

So, I had read on Trip Advisor .. I believe … that people had their RV’s broken into at the KOA at Circus Circus.  I had reserved a spot near some grass, but that would have put us out in the parking lot a ways.  The park wasn’t very full, so I changed to a spot that was right across from the store and pool!!

No frills here …

Leg 3 … the last leg to HOME !!  283 miles, about 5 hours.

This was a great trip!  We loved seeing the country and Mount Rushmore.  Everything went well and couldn’t have been better!

If you have any questions about the trip and details, please e-mail me!  ezhome@cox.net

My You Tube Videos –

Buffalo in Blue Bell Campground by the Cabins

Buffalo on Lame Johnny Road #4

Tunnel on Iron Mountain Road #2

Tunnel on Iron Mountain Road

Buffalo Crossing the Road

Buffalo in Blue Bell Campground

Buffalo in our Campsite at Blue Bell Campground

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