Day 1 - 1 Apr 2019
Content: We started our road trip with a stop in Sioux Falls, the most populated city in South Dakota. This city has a cute downtown with an Americana vibe and plenty of shops and restaurants to choose from.
Day 1 - 1 Apr 2019
Content: Start exploring Sioux Falls in Falls Park, an expansive park that is home to the city’s namesake waterfall. It was quite striking to see all of the rapids and jagged rocks after being surrounded by so much flat land on the drive into town! Near the falls there is a café, observation tower, and bridge overlook, as well as ruins of an old wheat mill from the late 1800s. It’s a nice place to stretch your legs and get some fresh air after being in the car.
Content: Walk south down the Big Sioux River to downtown Sioux Falls. The river snakes through downtown, offering peaceful walking paths and popup music performances in the evenings! Stop and eat lunch at Ode to Food and Drinks, a modern American restaurant with a patio overlooking the river.
Content: After lunch, take one last walk around town to spot some of Sioux Falls’ many murals! You’ll find a beautiful cluster in the parking lot of 101 E. Sixth Street (which is not too far from the riverwalk!).
Content: Best Hilton Garden Inn ever stayed in. Felt more like a full service Hilton. The restaurant had great food and service. The bar was also well stocked and had great service. The rooms are nicely appointed and comfortable. This is now a favorite for sure!
Content: Start your next day early and drive west four hours to the eastern entrance of Badlands National Park. (You will also cross into Mountain Time halfway through this drive.) Enter the park by turning left onto SD-240 (also known as Badlands Loop Road).
Day 2 - 2 Apr 2019
Content: Badlands National Park (also known simply as The Badlands) is home to some seriously unique landscapes! There are numerous colorful rock formations that have been eroded by wind and water (forming buttes and pinnacles) spattering the landscape before dropping off into the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the country. With so much unique terrain, the Badlands makes for a packed day full of hiking and exploration! You can pay entrance fees to the park at the park entrance for $30 per car for 7 days. If you are planning to go to multiple National Parks in the next 12 months, consider purchasing the America the Beautiful Pass for $80, which covers entrance fees to all national parks for one year (and is also available at park entrances).
Content: Start by stopping at the Visitor Center to get maps of the park, fill up on free water (in the summer, temperatures can easily reach 100°F, so you’ll need it!), and use the restroom.
Content: Hiking is one of the best ways to get out there and enjoy nature one on one, and the Badlands has several great options to choose from. In the summer, bring lots of water and take your time to avoid heat exhaustion. Trails and rocks can also become very slippery after rain. Finally, this is rattlesnake country, so watch your step!
Content: As you continue to drive west on Badlands Loop Road, there will be plenty of overlooks for you to stop, explore, and take pictures! These well-marked overlooks are just off the side of the main road. Without stopping, the drive on this road would take about an hour, but it’s worth it to take your time and absorb all the sights of the park. Picturesque stops include Panorama Point, Yellow Mounds Overlook, and Sage Creek Basin Overlook.
Content: We had a great stay here! Close to everything we wanted- Badlands, Wall Drug, restaurants. Check in was great and everyone we interacted with from staff was so kind and friendly. Will definitely stay again on future Badlands trips!
Day 3 - 3 Apr 2019
Content: Prairie Dog Town, which is home to – you guessed it – lots of cute prairie dogs! You can explore into the plains here but be mindful to stay on the paths and not disturb their natural habitats.
Content: Take one last look at the Badlands before heading north towards I-90. Before getting back on the highway, stop at the infamous Wall Drug in the tiny city of Wall, SD. Wall Drug is, in all honesty, a tourist trap. However, there are billboards for this place on the side of I-90 for 300 miles in either direction, so you will be hard pressed not to stop and see what all the fuss is about! Essentially, Wall Drug is a large western themed strip-mall complex. It includes various shops, a pharmacy, an art gallery, and a cafeteria. Wall Drug is especially famous for its free ice water, 5-cent coffee, and homemade donuts. It’s a good place to stop for a snack after a day of hiking.
Content: As the second largest city in South Dakota, it has plenty of hotel, restaurant, and gas options. Visitors can complete the City of Presidents Walk near the intersection of Main Street and Mt. Rushmore Road that contains life-size bronze statues of former US Presidents. Nearby, the city of Deadwood offers one of the most well preserved main streets from the historic gold rush.
Day 3 - 3 Apr 2019
Content: Really great dining option if you're in the area. It's higher end than we expected but still very approachable and with friendly, professional staff. The bison burger was great, but there were also really tasty pasta and salad dishes. Add to that the draft beer from some local brewers and it turned into a great meal.
Content: Lobby was really amazing with waterfall from 4 floors up. Clean, warm, inviting. Rooms were clean and odor free. Bathroom very small but water pressure was decent. Breakfast not included. Nice location to area businesses. Staff was ok. Seemed like they were put off when asked questions. Not a bad place to stay.
Day 4 - 4 Apr 2019
Content: A few miles after leaving Rapid City and driving west, you will enter the Black Hills. The Black Hills National Forest is a small mountain range covered in pine trees (giving it a ‘black’ appearance from afar). It is also home to many popular attractions in western South Dakota such as Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Wind Cave National Park. There are numerous campgrounds and hundreds of miles of hiking trails waiting to be explored.
Content: Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a short 30 minute drive southwest from Rapid City. The memorial showcases the busts of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. To be honest, you won’t need much time here. It’s a quick bucket list stop to see the carvings near the main visitor center. You can also take a quick 0.6 mile hike up 422 stairs to get an up close view of the president’s faces!
Day 4 - 4 Apr 2019
Content: Crazy Horse Memorial is another 30 minute drive southwest from Mount Rushmore. The memorial is in honor of Crazy Horse, a famed member of the Sioux tribe. He was killed for fighting the encroachment of the U.S. government onto Sioux land in the 19th century. At this stop, you’ll get great views of the memorial. You can also visit the museum to learn more about the history of indigenous people in America. Entrance fees to the memorial are a little steep at $12 per person. However, they support the continuation of the project, which began in 1948 and is still incomplete.
Content: Continue south for about 40 minutes to Wind Cave National Park. Wind Cave is a unique national park because the best part is underground! It is both the densest and one of the longest cave systems in the world. Stop first at the visitor center for maps and park information. You can then complete various hikes around the park. Start with an easy 0.25 mile hike from the visitor center parking lot to see the cave’s largest natural entrance. It’s only about the size of a basketball! At the entrance, you’ll be able to feel the cave ‘breathe’ as the wind blows in or out of the cave.
Content: Close to Mount Rushmore and State Parks. The hotel staff was very accommodating and the free hot breakfast was good and actually hot. The hotel is 20 years old and due for room renovations but it was clean and maid came everyday. You can walk to restaurants and shops.
Day 5 - 5 Apr 2019
Content: Deadwood is a city in South Dakota known for its gold rush history. Mount Moriah Cemetery has the graves of Wild West figures like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Exhibits at the Adams Museum include a huge gold nugget and a plesiosaur fossil. The 1892 Historic Adams House is a Victorian mansion with original features.
Content: This is a breathtakingly beautiful, spiritual place to visit. We took the 2.8 mile trail walk and seen so much beauty. Views were fantastic. Just amazing, I can't describe the peaceful feeling and the beauty. Just visit, you won't regret.
Content: Next, head south to admire the gorgeous landscapes at Custer State Park including beautiful lakes, pine-topped forests, and the Needles area with “hoodoo” spire rock formations. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see wild animals including bison, sheep, elk, coyote, and more. Nearby Wind Cave has some spectacular rock formations to explore.
Content: We enjoyed our time in Wind Cave despite the fact that the cave is currently not open for tours (elevator service going on). We hiked the Cold Creek Canyon Trail (2.8 roundtrip) and enjoyed seeing the beautiful canyon walls and hiked through a prairie dog town! We also did the Rankin Ridge trail (1.1 mile loop) and while the firetower at the top was closed, the views are still incredible! Wind Cave NP is definitely worth a few hours of your time if you're in the Black Hills area. Our road trips ends by camping at Wind Cave.