I always saw the commercials at home for visiting South Dakota. I always thought why would you want to go there for fun? I always thought it was flat and boring with nothing to look at SPOILER ALERT: It’s not, that might actually be Illinois (at least until I visit again, maybe.) Sorry, Illinois. Sort of. (Update 2020: It’s Indiana. Indiana is the worst and I’m not that sorry.) Anyways, today I’m here to tell you why South Dakota isn’t actually the worst.
I love bison and if you go to Wind Cave National Park or Custer State Park, they’re neighbors, you’ll most likely get to see bison up close and personal. I could have sat and taken pictures of them all day, but we had places to be and not much to see. Also, a fun fact, there are only four wild bison herds in North America (one in Canada and three in the US) and this is one of them! I’ve seen two, Yellowstone and Wind Cave, and just have to see the Henry Mountain herd, which is practically in my backyard.
Update 2020: I’ve officially seen the Henry Mountain Bison!
I love the Badlands. I mean, they’re hard not to love, I think. Maybe I like it so much because it’s reminiscent of the desert, which I really love. Now I’ve actually made three separate trips there, it’s that cool. No, it’s not going to have your alpine lakes, but it does have a crazy landscape that I’ve only seen something similar to in Utah, and that’s not even a close comparison. Here you can hike, camp, and hang out with prairie dogs to your heart’s content.
I was SO CLOSE but didn’t make it to the corn palace, maybe next time. If you like all things quirky this is definitely a place you should stop. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a palace made of corn.
Wall Drug is the other sort of quirky stop everyone should make at least once if they’re in the area. For hundreds of miles, I think all directions (at least east and west) they have signs like Wall Drug only 397 miles! or FREE ICE WATER at Wall Drug 242 miles! or % cent coffee 114 miles at Wall Drug! They really lure you in. It’s basically like a drugstore mall-type thing. It has food, shops, souvenirs, and even a little chapel.
Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse
I was never dying to see Mount Rushmore, but we were in the area and figured, porque no? So, off we went to Mount Rushmore. Since it was April, the hiking trails were closed, but I can imagine that it would be super pretty in the summer. Crazy Horse isn’t too far from here either and these both make great stops if you’re at the Badlands or Wind Cave. I think Mount Rushmore is something everyone should see at least once.
These things are seriously cute. I could have watched these all day with the bison. My favorite was seeing these run around near the bison. I liked the cohabitation. It was like seeing those weird animal friends. Back to the point, these little guys are awesome and live all over. We saw tons in the Badlands, Devils Tower, and at Wind Cave. Just keep an eye out for little dirt mounds in open areas and watch out so you don’t run them over.
The Black Hills is the region that most of this is in, Badlands and Corn Palace excluded. The whole area is so pretty. It would be an amazing place to spend a couple days hiking around and exploring more of. This is somewhere I would definitely like to go back to and spend more time in.
Wind Cave was crazy, and that’s just the above-ground part. I didn’t go in the cave, but I wasn’t even sure if we could in April. They have a few different types of tours, the regular cave tour and a candlelight tour which sounds awesome. All are led by rangers and are booked first come first serve. If you prefer to be aboveground there are around 30 miles of hiking trails available and Custer State Park is a short drive away.
Well, now that you’ve read this, I bet you’re already planning your next trip and I hope it’s to South Dakota. Even if it’s not just South Dakota, it’s a great place to pass through on a bigger US road trip, like I’ve done. That’s actually the only reason I’m able to write this is because I’ve driven out west so many times now. I would highly recommend a summer trip here, especially if you like camping.
Have you been to South Dakota? Why would you recommend going? Do you want to go?