WHERE IS IT? Nestled in the Black Hills near the main tourist drag of Keystone, this lodge-style hotel is about 30 minutes to Rapid City by car. Even better, the drive to Mount Rushmore takes about ten minutes. To reach Badlands National Park, it takes less than two hours, and Crazy Horse monument is about 30 minutes away. Shell had given me a gas card so I could explore some of the suggested road trips on their StateEscape website, and this was a convenient hotel along my route.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? Divided into several buildings centered around a grassy lawn with firepit, this mountain lodge-style hotel is cozy and welcoming. It’s very common to see wild deer and rabbits roam through the lawn. The lobby living room features a fireplace and outdoor deck overlooking the grounds and Mount Rushmore in the distance. The staff is very welcoming and one of the highlights of a stay here. During my visit, Covid-19 safety measures were in place meaning housekeeping does not visit daily and plastic barriers and social distancing reminders were in place. The hotel is part of Ascend Hotel Collection, a group of boutique hotels in the Choice Hotels’ family of brands. This means guests can earn and redeem points for a stay; elite members are treated to a welcome gift and dedicated parking spaces. The seasonal hotel is open from mid-April through the end of October.

ROOM FACILITIES Nothing about this hotel is pretentious. It delivers the basics well, and that is especially true in the rooms. They feature carved wooden beds with stacks of pillows, a refrigerator, plenty of storage space, Keurig coffeemaker with local coffee, cushy recliners, flat-screen TVs, and a dining table that doubles as a desk. The best feature is the furnished balcony with most rooms enjoying views of Mount Rushmore in the distance. There are plenty of hotels in the area, but few can match seeing this famous landmark from your bed. The bathroom vanity is in the room providing extra space to get ready while someone else is showering. It also keeps the mirror from fogging up. For any extras, you can hang a door tag for housekeeping to pick up and deliver to your door. This includes everything from more towels to coffee supplies.


RESTAURANTS AND BARS Unlike other hotels, management here does not skimp on breakfast due to the pandemic. A generous and complimentary spread is laid out each morning with hot items, served by staff, that change daily. It was really nice to have eggs, sausage, biscuits, cereal, fruit, yogurt, pastries, and freshly made waffles to start the day. Piping hot coffee and fresh fruit were additional highlights. A menu of pub-style food is available the rest of the day, and a gift shop by the lobby sells snacks and refreshments.

LEISURE FACILITIES Unfortunately, there is no fitness center, but there are plenty of hiking trails in the area as well as a whirlpool. Laundry facilities are great for families.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES Most guests are here for sightseeing, but there are several banquet and meeting room facilities. They feature natural light overlooking the grounds and are ideal for social functions. Wireless Internet works throughout the hotel free of charge, including by the fire pit.

VERDICT An ideal location close to major sights, friendly staff, complimentary breakfast, and the ability to earn and redeem Choice Privileges points make this a great option when visiting Mount Rushmore.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 96 rooms

PROPERTY HIGHLIGHTS Mountain lodge atmosphere and views of Mount Rushmore

PRICE Internet rates for a traditional room start at $93

CONTACT 434 Old Hill City Road, Keystone, SD 57751, Phone 605-666-4545. kbarslodge.com