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Old 06-21-2024, 05:36 PM   #1
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Westbound from Indiana Dunes to Badlands/Black Hills

Unlike previous years we are "winging it" rather than having a detailed itinerary and campground reservations. We are looking for recommendations heading west from Indiana Dunes NP to the Badlands and Black Hills. One option is to follow the Old Yellowstone Trail ( and then dropping down I-29 S to pick up I-90 W. We haven't seen many posts about the OYT and that concerns me. In any event:
1) Is this route worth it from the standpoint of having an "off the interstate" Americana experience?
2) What are noteworthy POIs heading towards the Badlands and the Black Hills?
3) Any recommendations for locations/RV campgrounds worthy of a protracted (3-7 days) stay?
We are on no time schedule per se. We usually stay at well serviced sites given our personal travel needs however we can do a boondock location for up to 3 days if truly noteworthy.
Thanks in advance!
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Old 06-21-2024, 08:38 PM   #2
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I used to live near Chicago, and traveled a lot in Wisconsin. I honestly had never heard of the Yellowstone Trail, and my initial search took me to a rails to trails path in Montana.
For others’ benefit, the link you provided indicates that the route follows Hwy 41 from the Chicago area to Rt 10 at Neenah Appleton north of OshKosh. 10 takes you to the south side of Minneapolis, where the trail becomes US 12. In South Dakota, 12 continues to meander northwest until it hits I29 at Summit, which is two hours north of Sioux Falls (I90).
First off, the roads around Chicago/Kenosha/Racine are not the same as they were 110 years ago. They are best traveled early Sunday or after 8 PM. Sorry, that’s the way it is.
God bless the locals’ love for Americana, this is not “Route 66”. There are lots of things to see, I’m sure, but I’d be surprised if you encounter many specific “Yellowstone” attractions beyond commemorative signs. (I invite other travelers to prove me wrong.)
Wisconsin is a Mecca for all things fermented (beer, cheese, bread, wine) and the locals bake the best pies to be found ANYWHERE (Norse Nook in Osseo, we still miss you). Local church festivals with home baked goods were a sure bet.
The Hjemkomst center in Morehead, MN (east of Fargo) is worth a stop, and there’s a nice (city?) campground on the west side of the river.
If you get really lucky, you may find yourselves at Sturgis during Biker’s Week, like we did.
If Moon Guides are still being published, they’ll give you some good suggestions for the type of trip you seem to be looking for.
Happy travels!
(That man in that tiny can)
(Same man, Bigger can)
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Old 06-22-2024, 06:29 AM   #3
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The city campground at Spearfish is beautiful! Easy access to the Blackhills.
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Old 06-22-2024, 01:19 PM   #4
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Thanks for the note. I've been to Chicago many times, all but once for business, and once on the obligatory college tour. I believe the last time it took me longer to get to my hotel from the airport than it did to fly in from New York, so yeah, I get it. As they say there are two traffic seasons in Chicago: Snow and Construction.

I have yet to visit the Field Museum. Shame on me the Earth Scientist. I understand there is a train that can get you there in slightly over an hour from where we are staying near IDNP.

In all seriousness, returning from North Dakota a few years back I came across a travel guide for the Old Yellowstone Trail in one of those welcome centers. It was a fairly robust, recent vintage publication and had quite a lot of town-by-town information, so much so that I mentally registered an action item to give it a thorough perusal upon our return home. Alas, it was thrown out in the map purge following our trip.
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Old 06-22-2024, 01:32 PM   #5
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I have a friend- from kindergarten (1957) who lives in a residential part of Chicago. He has a green space directly across from his house. We park on the street -whithin city limits!- when we visit him on our western trips.

I know this has nothing to do with the post, but I think it's pretty neat to be able so say I've camped in Chicago.

The traffic is miserable.
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Old 07-05-2024, 08:54 AM   #6
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Have you already taken this trip? If so this will not be useful to you.

I did it in 2023. I spend the night at Indiana Dunes State Park. I took the highway route via Chicago I 90. I stayed at Harvest Hosts in WI and MN then a KOA about 2 hours east of Bandlands.

Boondocking above Badlands in Wall SD was one of the trip highlights. I also stayed in Custer State Park which was fabulous. From there I spent 2 nights in Spearfish. In total I was in SD 9 days and enjoyed everything. I headed to Devils tower then Cody and Yellowstone from there.
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Old 07-06-2024, 08:50 AM   #7
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Thanks for the tips! Much appreciated - still hangin' in Wisconsin, heading out in a week.
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Old 07-06-2024, 12:12 PM   #8
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In the Badlands Natl Pk, besides the reservable campground there is another no reservation one that you take the back roads out of Wall to get to. Pretty spot. No hookups, just pit toilet. Custer State Pk also has a reservations ONLY 24 hours in advance campground thats great in the Black Hills.
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