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13160
South Dakota

The Best of Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills and Badlands

Discover South Dakota’s beautiful Black Hills and Badlands, where bison mosey through roadside meadows and hand-carved mountains tower over vast stretches of untouched wilderness.
Rating (4.87)
Program No. 13160RJ
Length
7 days
Starts at
1,449
South Dakota

The Best of Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills and Badlands

Discover South Dakota’s beautiful Black Hills and Badlands, where bison mosey through roadside meadows and hand-carved mountains tower over vast stretches of untouched wilderness.
Length
7 days
Starts at
1,449
Program No. 13160 RJ
Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
climate
Plan ahead.
What kind of weather can you expect? Take a look!
itinerary
Please Note:
The itinerary for this program is different on certain dates.
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
May 9 - May 15, 2021
Starting at
1,449
May 16 - May 22, 2021
Small group
Starting at
1,799
May 23 - May 29, 2021
Starting at
1,449
Jun 6 - Jun 12, 2021
Starting at
1,599
Jun 27 - Jul 3, 2021
Small group
Starting at
1,999
Jul 25 - Jul 31, 2021
Small group
Starting at
1,999
Aug 15 - Aug 21, 2021
Small group
Starting at
1,999
Aug 29 - Sep 4, 2021
Starting at
1,499
Sep 12 - Sep 18, 2021
Starting at
1,499
Sep 19 - Sep 25, 2021
Starting at
1,499
Itinerary Note

This date includes Special Event: Custer State Park's Annual Buffalo Roundup

Sep 21 - Sep 27, 2021
Starting at
1,749
Itinerary Note

This date includes a Special Event: Custer State Park's Annual Buffalo Roundup and lodging at the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn in Rapid City.

Sep 26 - Oct 2, 2021
Small group
Starting at
1,849
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
May 9 - May 15, 2021
Starting at
1,899
May 16 - May 22, 2021
Small group
Starting at
2,249
May 23 - May 29, 2021
Starting at
1,899
Jun 6 - Jun 12, 2021
Starting at
2,179
Jun 27 - Jul 3, 2021
Small group
Starting at
2,579
Jul 25 - Jul 31, 2021
Small group
Starting at
2,579
Aug 15 - Aug 21, 2021
Small group
Starting at
2,579
Aug 29 - Sep 4, 2021
Starting at
1,979
Sep 12 - Sep 18, 2021
Starting at
1,979
Sep 19 - Sep 25, 2021
Starting at
1,979
Itinerary Note

This date includes Special Event: Custer State Park's Annual Buffalo Roundup

Sep 21 - Sep 27, 2021
Starting at
2,279
Itinerary Note

This date includes a Special Event: Custer State Park's Annual Buffalo Roundup and lodging at the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn in Rapid City.

Sep 26 - Oct 2, 2021
Small group
Starting at
2,329

At a Glance

The land now shadowed by Mount Rushmore was, up until the 1870s, called the "last great unknown." Enrich your understanding of American growth in this vast wilderness as you immerse yourself in the discovery of Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Badlands National Park and The Mammoth Site. Study the lives of gold seekers and sod busters, and discover the Old West before a handful of presidents made it famous.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Walking up to one mile on varied terrain; some stairs. Elevations range from 4,300 to 5,200 feet.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Expand your mind with interpretive field trips to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park.
  • Experience the otherworldly moon-like landscape of spectacular Badlands National Park.
  • Discover an active paleontological dig site, which boasts the largest concentration of mammoth remains in the world!

General Notes

Select dates are designated for small groups and are limited to 24 participants or less. For a more active outdoor program in the Black Hills, see program #12774.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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John Esposti
Born and raised in central New Jersey, John Esposti made the decision at five years of age to go out west and meet his destiny. At 18, he enrolled at the University of Idaho and received a degree in education. He then moved to Valdez, Alaska to teach woodworking, drafting and electronics. After four years of working and experiencing all sorts of adventures in a wild and amazing land, he climbed onto a sailboat and sailed off into the sunset bound for Hawaii, and later attended the University of Hawaii. After marrying his wife, Cindy, John returned to the Black Hills to operate a family-run business named Rushmore Cave. After selling the cave business in 2008, John worked for three years at the renowned Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City, S.D. Today, he and Cindy are starting a new venture called GeoFunTrek, with a goal to provide stimulating visitor experiences in the form of day-long educational explorations in the Black Hills.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of John Esposti
John Esposti View biography
Born and raised in central New Jersey, John Esposti made the decision at five years of age to go out west and meet his destiny. At 18, he enrolled at the University of Idaho and received a degree in education. He then moved to Valdez, Alaska to teach woodworking, drafting and electronics. After four years of working and experiencing all sorts of adventures in a wild and amazing land, he climbed onto a sailboat and sailed off into the sunset bound for Hawaii, and later attended the University of Hawaii. After marrying his wife, Cindy, John returned to the Black Hills to operate a family-run business named Rushmore Cave. After selling the cave business in 2008, John worked for three years at the renowned Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City, S.D. Today, he and Cindy are starting a new venture called GeoFunTrek, with a goal to provide stimulating visitor experiences in the form of day-long educational explorations in the Black Hills.
Profile Image of Stephen Yellowhawk
Stephen Yellowhawk View biography
Stephen Yellowhawk was born on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. He was first inspired to dance by his uncle, Jim Yellowhawk, and has been sharing his talents for traditional dance since he was 14 years old. He is actively pursuing a master’s degree in leadership and management in becoming a leader in Indian education. He is currently employed at the Okiciyapi Wellness Center as a health technician to Native American diabetic patients and serves as the board president for the Black Hills Powwow Association.
Profile Image of Paul Horsted
Paul Horsted View biography
Paul Horsted has been photographing South Dakota’s people and places for more than 30 years. Early in his career, he was a staff photographer at the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, and later served as chief photographer at the South Dakota Department of Tourism. Now living in Custer, Paul has been an independent freelance photographer for the past two decades. His work has appeared in publications such as LIFE magazine, Reader's Digest, and Smithsonian, and he's a frequent contributor to South Dakota Magazine. Paul is co-author of the award-winning book, “Exploring With Custer: The 1874 Black Hills Expedition,” and of the more recent book, “The Black Hills Yesterday & Today.” In 2009, Paul and his research partners released a companion volume about the 1874 Custer Expedition's travels to and from the Black Hills, entitled, “Crossing the Plains With Custer.”
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Moon of Popping Trees
by Rex Alan Smith
The Massacre at Wounded Knee was the last major battle between whites and Native Americans.With parallels to concerns some have of today’s news reports, you’ll see that this massacre was largely a result of overblown news reports of the danger of the Native American Ghost Dance. Even more startling is the revelation in this book that the Ghost Dance had its origin in the Christian resurrection story. This book spans fifty years of the life and struggles of Native Americans as they try to maintain their lifestyle in the face of America’s westward expansion.
Roadside History of South Dakota
by Linda Hasselstrom
Reading Roadside History of South Dakota is like having a knowledgeable friend explain the most fascinating and pertinent tidbits of the state's past without reciting a lot of boring details. The book's comfortable, conversational style guides readers smoothly along the state's highways and byways. Even those who think they already know South Dakota will can anticipate learning new things from this insightful, informative, yet thoroughly readable and entertaining roadside history. The material is rich, and Linda Hasselstrom reveals it in an exciting way by focusing on the people who made South Dakota what it is today.
Exploring with Custer: The 1874 Black Hills Expedition
by Ernest Grafe & Paul Horsted
General George Armstrong Custer's Journey to the Black Hills in 1874 was better documented than any other military expedition of the Old West. Not only did William H. Illingworth record superb views of the landscape and several camps, but at least fifteen men wrote diaries, reports or newspaper dispatches brimming with vivid detail. This book blends the Illingworth photos and their present-day counterparts with selections from all known accounts to paint a unique portrait of everyday life along the trail. Please order through Paul Horsted at www.dakotaphoto.com or 1.800.248.2194
The Carving of Mount Rushmore
by Rex Alan Smith
This entertaining and very readable book tells the fascinating stories of the people of Mt. Rushmore. Included are first person accounts of not only the carvers, the politicians and Borglum, but an almost unbelievable host of others who became part of the tumult and triumph that make this history read like a novel. If you’re only going to read one book about Rushmore, this is the one.
Cowboy Life: The Letters of George Philip
by George Philip and Cathie Draine
As a young man, George Philip emigrated from Scotland to escape a harsh apprenticeship. In 1899, he arrived on the doorstep of his uncle, James (“Scotty”) Philip, patriarch of one of South Dakota’s foremost ranching families. For the next four years, Philip rode as a cowboy for his uncle’s L-7 cattle outfit during the heyday of the last open range. But the cowboy era was a brief one, and in 1903 Philip turned in his string of horses and hung up his saddle to enter law school in Michigan. With a law degree in hand, he returned to South Dakota to practice in the wide-open western towns of Fort Pierre, Philip, and Rapid City. In these candid letters, Philip tells his children that his life was an ordinary one, but his memoirs quickly dispel that notion. He provides fascinating insights into the development of the West and of South Dakota. His writing details the cowboy’s day-to-day work, from branding and roping to navigating across the plains by stars and buttes as the great open ranges slowly closed up. The places and characters of the range find life in Philip’s mixture of humor, hard-nosed “horse-sense," and poignant reflection.
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7 days
6 nights
16 meals
6 B 4 L 6 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Keystone, SD
D
K Bar S Lodge

Activity note: Lodge check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration 4:30. After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table in the lobby to register with the program staff and pick up your welcome packet containing your up-to-date schedule that we will review during Orientation, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If your arrival is delayed, please ask for your packet at the front desk when you check in. Orientation 5:30 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. All lectures and field trips will be led by local experts; this includes our Group Leaders. Unless specified otherwise, transportation will be provided via motorcoach which will require going up/down a few steps when getting on/off. All evening programs and one morning program will take place in a meeting room at the Lodge. Periods in the schedule labeled “Free Time” and “At Leisure” offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable while going out to explore on your own, engaging in available activities independently, making new friends among fellow Road Scholars, or simply relaxing. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: In the dining facility at the lodge, enjoy a buffet dinner with salad, vegetable, entrée, and dessert. Beverage choices include coffee, tea (iced or hot), water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow participants, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
High Plains Heritage Center, Homestake Program, Presentation
Keystone, SD
B,L,D
K Bar S Lodge

Activity note: Walking about ½ mile indoors and out; groomed paths; standing up to ½ hour at a time in museums and historic buildings, some stairs. Driving approximately 120 miles; about 1 hour in both morning and afternoon.

Breakfast: In the lodge dining facility, enjoy a breakfast buffet with hot and cold cereals, waffles with fruit topping, hard-boiled eggs, rotating main dishes, pastries, bagels, yogurt, fruit, coffee, hot tea, milk, an assortment of juices and water.

Morning: We'll begin our week of discovery by transferring to The High Plains Western Heritage Center for an expert-led field trip. This center includes a Five-State Regional Museum founded to honor the old west pioneers of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming & Nebraska. Over 20,000 sq. ft. of quality exhibits feature Western art, Artifacts & Memorabilia including the original Spearfish to Deadwood Stagecoach, turn-of-the-century Kitchen, Saddle Shop & a Blacksmith Shop. Forestry, Mining, Ranching & Rodeo are also represented. Outdoor displays feature Longhorn Cattle, a furnished Log Cabin, rural Schoolhouse & antique Farm Equipment. After our exploration of the early western settlement in South Dakota we'll move to the theater for a historical representation program interpreting one of South Dakota's early pioneers.

Lunch: Lunch is included today.

Afternoon: Lead, the sister city to historic Deadwood, has played a pivotal role in the history of the Black Hills. Home to the Homestake Gold Mine, the streets of Lead tell a tale as rich as the gold mined from its hills. The Homestake Gold Mine was one of the early enterprises associated with the Gold Rush of 1876. The mining of gold from Homestake ceased several years ago due to low gold prices but has begun a new life serving as a laboratory 4,850 feet underground. The lab is working towards a revolution in physics by studying neutrinos. While here, we’ll enjoy a presentation from the Deputy Director for Education and Outreach for Sanford Underground Research Facility. We’ll then return to the lodge.

Dinner: Lodge buffet.

Evening: At the lodge with a local expert, we’ll learn more about the natural and human history of the Black Hills.

DAY
3
Mount Rushmore, Journey Museum, Presentation
Keystone, SD
B,D
K Bar S Lodge

Activity note: Walking about ½ mile indoors and out along groomed paths; standing up to 1 hour at a time in museums, some stairs. Driving about 70 miles throughout the day; about 2 hours total spent aboard the motorcoach.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: Under the guidance of our expert Group Leader, we’ll explore the United States’ Shrine of Democracy – Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum, the creator of Mount Rushmore, wrote: “The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.” Borglum intended his monumental sculpture to be not only a memorial to four of our greatest Presidents, but a Shrine to Democracy. Why these four? Washington led the nascent United States to win independence from Great Britain. Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence. Roosevelt the “trust buster” ensured the rights of working people and was instrumental in building the Panama Canal. Lincoln led the country through the Civil War. Borglum began work in 1927 and continued until his death in 1941, when his son, Lincoln Borglum, took it on and ended work later that year. If you wish, feel free to expand your exploration of Mount Rushmore with an independent short walk on the Presidential Trail to Borglum’s studio. Interpretive signage along the way will illuminate more about the monument, its construction, and the artist whose vision produced one of America’s most iconic symbols. Next, we’ll venture into Rapid City via motorcoach for some free independent exploration. Chosen as the “Most Patriotic City” by USA Today readers, where we’ll be greeted by the “City of Presidents” – a 20-square-block section of historic downtown with life-size bronze statues of all of the past presidents along streets and sidewalks. It was begun in 2000 to honor the legacy of the American presidency. The Group Leader will hand out an interpretive walking brochure of the statues. The Group Leader will also offer other suggestions of galleries and cultural shops to visit during your free time.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like in down town Rapid City. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: We'll gather after lunch and visit the Journey Museum. Led by our local expert Group Leader and museum docents we'll learn about the Black Hills and surrounding area through the Journey's four major collections that provide a metaphorical journey into the past. The Journey brings into focus a cogent story of billions of years of eruption, exploration, evolution, conflict and change. A tectonic shift deep inside the earth 2.5 billion years ago violently thrust the land now known as the Black Hills into being. One of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, they have been worn down by the ravages of time from a height that was greater than the Matterhorn, thereby exposing the fine granite suitable now for mountain carving. Once on the edge of a great inland sea, this part of what is now the Great Plains was home to ancient dinosaurs. The Journey helps bring them back to relevance as we understand their time in this place. Prehistoric people came here when ice still held sway over most of North America and it would be another 10,000 years before the arrival of current Native Americans. The Journey helps us understand their life before the arrival of the white man. As we continue through The Journey, we’ll begin to comprehend their changing world with the arrival of gold seekers and settlers who were intent on building a future in Dakota Territory. Next we'll return to the K Bar S Lodge.

Dinner: Lodge buffet.

Evening: A local expert will captivate us with stories and historic accounts of the local culture, peoples, and traditions.

DAY
4
Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Free Evening
Keystone, SD
B,L,D
K Bar S Lodge

Activity note: Walking about 1 mile indoors and out along groomed paths; standing up to 1 hour at a time in museums, some stairs. Driving approximately 100 miles total; about 4 hours aboard the motorcoach throughout the day.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: We’ll travel on Iron Mountain Road, a scenic byway, in Custer State Park. What makes this road so unique and memorable is not just the surrounding beauty, but also the architectural features. These features include wooden structures, called pigtail bridges, and one lane tunnels that were built to showcase the American patriotic symbol, Mount Rushmore. These tunnels frame Mount Rushmore like a picture frame. We'll further our exploration of Custer State Park with interpretation delivered by our local expert Group Leader during a scenic drive around the Wildlife Loop Road. The park’s pine forests, grassy meadows and towers of granite offer spectacular views while also providing a remarkable, lush sanctuary for the park’s four-legged residents. Nearly 1,500 magnificent bison, along with fleet pronghorn, elusive elk, sure-footed mountain goats and a band of “begging burros“ – wild donkeys that have learned to seek food hand-outs from motorists – all freely roam the park’s sprawling 71,000 acres.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, enjoy a buffet meal with several entrée choices as well as non-alcoholic beverage choices.

Afternoon: In 1939, Chief Henry Standing Bear wrote to sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, too." In response, and without federal funding, Ziolkowski set out to create a memorial to the history and heritage of Native Americans, personified by Chief Crazy Horse. He began carving the mountain in 1948 and worked on the project until his death in 1982. His family continues the dream as work progresses on the world's largest mountain sculpture that still uses no tax dollars and is funded privately through a non-profit organization. When completed, the Crazy Horse Memorial will be the largest outdoor sculpture in the world: 641 feet long and 563 feet high. Led by a museum expert, we’ll enjoy an interpretive tour around Crazy Horse's Museums while learning about its campus that serves as a repository for Native American artifacts, arts, and crafts and the Native American Educational & Cultural Center. We’ll then return to the lodge.

Dinner: Lodge buffet.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Presentation, Mammoth Site, Free Time, Presentation
Keystone, SD
B,L,D
K Bar S Lodge

Activity note: Walking about ½ mile indoors and outdoors along boardwalks and sidewalks; standing up to 1 hour at a time in museums, some stairs. Driving approx. 110 miles round trip; about 2 hours of total travel time.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: At the lodge, a local expert will captivate us with unique and fascinating stories directly related to South Dakota and the Black Hills. Afterwards, we'll travel to Hot Springs South Dakota where we'll enjoy an expert-led visit to an active paleontological dig site, which boasts the largest concentration of mammoth remains in the world! We'll travel back in time when Ice Age mammoths, camels, and giant short-faced bears roamed the Great Plains of North America. More than 26,000 years ago a sinkhole suddenly collapsed and the warm spring percolating from the bottom filled it in to create an ideal watering hole for animals to quench their thirst. Unfortunately the sinkhole proved to be too slippery and steep for the animals to retreat, thus creating a death trap for large Columbian and Woolly Mammoths. We’ll investigate this historic event by visiting the world's largest Columbian Mammoth exhibit and research center for Pleistocene studies. By going behind the scenes of the Mammoth Site Laboratory with the museum's collector and curator, we’ll learn more about specific bones, fossils and stories behind the Mammoths’ demise.

Lunch: At a popular restaurant next to the Mammoth Site enjoy a sandwich bar with water, tea and coffee included.

Afternoon: Next, we'll stop in Hill City on the way back to the hotel where you can choose how to spend your free time. Take this opportunity to see and do what interests you most. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions. Hill City also hosts a number of art galleries belonging to local artists and artisans. You may wish to visit the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, the leader in paleontological excavations and preparation since 1974. The Institute helps supply museums and collectors the finest in professionally prepared fossils and cast replicas. They have been involved with the excavation of eight Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons since 1990, including SUE, STAN, BUCKY, DUFFY, and WYREX. Interestingly, these 5 are among the top 10 most complete T-rex skeletons yet discovered. If your interest lies in trains, the South Dakota State Railroad Museum, Ltd. is a not-for-profit organization that preserves and interprets railroad equipment, memorabilia, and the ever-changing historical material specific to South Dakota and related American railroads.

Dinner: Lodge buffet.

Evening: Through a lecture at the lodge, we’ll enjoy a unique look into the colorful past of those who blazed the trail expanding the western frontier.

DAY
6
Badlands National Park, Minute Man Missile Visitor Center
Keystone, SD
B,L,D
K Bar S Lodge

Activity note: Walking about ½ mile outdoors along board walks and groomed paths. Driving approx. 230 miles total; about 4.5 hours total: 2 hours to the Badlands, 1 hour in the Badlands, 1.5 hours return.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: In route to Badlands National Park we’ll stop by the Minute Man Missile Visitor Center. Here we’ll discover how the Great Plains was instrumental in the deterrence operation during the Cold War. The Visitor Center’s interpretive exhibits and on-site ranges will help tell the story of service men and women who maintained the missile sites on a peaceful prairie that held the power to destroy nations. Next we'll travel a short distance to Badlands National Park where we will explore the place the Lakota named “mako sica,” meaning “land bad.” Via motorcoach, we will travel through and stop at interpretive sites within the Park. We'll get off the coach a few times and go on short walks to get an up close view and feel of the Badlands' immense and unreal-like landscape. An inland sea covered this area 68-77 million years ago. Erosion of the Badlands over the last 75 million years reveals sedimentary layers of vivid colors resulting from different minerals and elements left from volcanic ash carried here by the wind from other parts of the world. Today, the 244,000 acres of mystical moon-like topography of spires and pinnacles surrounded by a sea of grass are inhabited by buffalo, deer, antelope, prairie dogs, and much more.

Lunch: At a popular restaurant in the heart of Badlands National Park, enjoy a menu option entrée with water, tea and coffee included.

Afternoon: Return trip, via motorcoach, to the Lodge in Keystone.

Dinner: At the lodge, we’ll enjoy a casual evening of wine and hors d' oeuvres before our final dinner together.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
7
Program Concludes
Keystone, SD
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet. This concludes our program.

Morning: We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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