Mount Rushmore!
June 2, 2010 12:12 AM   Subscribe

I want to take my kids to Rushmore! The kids are boys, 12 and 14, and we live in Denver. We are "first-world-poor" and the trip is reasonable for a person with five-hundred bucks to blow (yeah, that's about it). I want them to get the same fun my mom was able to give me, and she was poor too! A hotel is fine at the right price but we'd like a cabin and to fish and look around. Everything looks kind of pricey ... we CAN camp but want a room and a swimming pool ... and to play for three nights, can anyone help? I know the places my mom found when I was a kid (very rustic!) were so great and nothing was online back then, so now when I look the whole world is online and I don't know how to tell one from another... I think we are looking for a really reasonably priced cabin stay but I am open to ideas ... Should just call a travel agent?
posted by bebrave! to Travel & Transportation around Keystone, SD (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I poked around on TripAdvisor and found this place, which seems to be both cheap and rustic. Looks like the cabins have kitchenettes, so you could avoid eating out for the most part. Probably worth a call. Here is their website.

From what I can see, you may have to give up on the pool idea and make do with a pond or stream. Pools don't seem too common in the black hills, even around the more expensive cabins.
posted by jon1270 at 3:06 AM on June 2, 2010

Stick your head in AAA. Even if you don't want to use their agents as such--and they're pretty great, though a lot of their services are now rendered redundant by GoogleMaps and GPS navigation--they've got ridiculously good guidebooks which will have a listing for almost every hotel, motel, cabin, camp site, B&B, overpass, etc. that you could want. They're free for members--if I remember correctly--but cheap for the public.

A ton of the stuff they've got still isn't online, like your hole-in-the-wall motor lodges and mom-'n-pop diners, most of which never bothered to go online.

Turns out legacy, non-electronic systems still have something going for them.
posted by valkyryn at 4:57 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Commercial campgrounds often have pools, and sometimes cabins you can rent too. The atmosphere at a resort area KOA on the weekends is way too much like a cruise for my tastes, but if you want to stay cheaply with the amenities KOA or Jellystone would be the way too do it.
posted by COD at 5:12 AM on June 2, 2010

Sleeping cabins, $135 a night, right on a small lake (Legion Lake). Never been in the cabins - they are old - but absolutely loved this lake as a kid. There are other such cabins in Custer State Park with similar setups, such as Sylvan Lake.

Things in the park book up quickly so call soon.

P.S. Just don't plan your trip for during the bike rally Aug 9-15. Everything's booked and the hills are crawling with biker noise and crowds.
posted by evilmomlady at 5:17 AM on June 2, 2010

Sorry, was that $500 for lodging or $500 for the whole trip? If the latter, then I guess the Legion Lake cabins may be too high... but still recommend looking in the Park. There are campgrounds near Legion, Sylvan and Center Lakes with shower and toilet facilities. The setting is truly memorable, more so than outside the park.
posted by evilmomlady at 5:26 AM on June 2, 2010

If you do end up camping at all, the Sylvan Lake Campground at Custer State Park is great. Showers and a bathroom (with real plumbing) are right there. They have pads on which to place your tent, and the campground hosts are usually really nice retired people. Sylvan lake is steps away, and they rent out paddleboats and canoes. You can also swim in Sylvan Lake! There's also a store that has ice cream and pizza and stuff right there as well. Great place for kids.
posted by Ostara at 6:16 AM on June 2, 2010

Plus, Sylvan Lake campground is right next to the trailhead that goes to Harney Peak .... Harney Peak is my favorite thing in the Black Hills.
posted by Ostara at 6:23 AM on June 2, 2010

Was going to chime in and recommend Custer State Park. It's a great, inexpensive place to stay and feels really, really Old West-y. Not only is there lake swimming, but there are a lot of beautiful, clear, shallow streams that make for great places to wade, splash, build dams, etc. Custer is full of awesome wild animals, and one fun thing to do is just drive around and look for buffalo, antelope, etc. They have panning for gold and a lot of other free or really cheap ranger-led activities. Also, this would be a splurge, but while I was there I went on a trail ride, which cost about $30. I was on a shoestring trip so this was one of the biggest indulgences I had the whole time - but it was WELL worth it. I still remember it vividly - riding across streams, prairie, through tall pines, Marlboro country - it was unbelievably cool. So if you think your boys would get into that, it is worth saving up in the change jar for. Camping is such a good way to go because the per-night cost is as cheap as it gets and you can cook your own food, and that leaves more cash for other stuff.
posted by Miko at 6:24 AM on June 2, 2010

My family stayed at the Rafter J Bar for a family reunion, and it was fantastic - less rustic than actually camping, more open than being warehoused in a hotel. They have a pool, and the basic cabins are lovely for watching thunderstorms and drinking cocoa.
posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 8:57 AM on June 2, 2010

I think you may be looking for something like a "camper cabin"--these are typically basic, one room "log" cabins in a campground setting that also has tent sites/RV sites, beds (usually w/o linens), sometimes with a kitchenette but usually no private bathroom. Sleep 4 or more. You can find these at both state parks and private campgrounds--expect to pay $40-75 a night. Private campgrounds are more likely to have a pool, but government facilities have better access to larger swaths of the "Great Outdoors".
posted by drlith at 9:30 AM on June 2, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Will check out everything and report back!
posted by bebrave! at 9:11 PM on June 2, 2010

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