We only spent 3 days in South Dakota but we did as much as we could during that time. Our timing was perfect as we passed through Sturgis to see the beginnings of thousands of bikers’ in the city. The population of Sturgis went from 6,832 to over 1 million for the 75th motorcycle rally this year. We were lucky to find a campsite with openings in Hermosa about an hour south.
Day 1: Alyssa learned of a nearby Dinosaur museum in Hill City so we stopped there first to check out their artifacts. An impressive collection where we learned about “Sue” the tyrannosaurus rex discovered in the Black Hills, SD in 1990. In addition, Hill City is a great little town with plenty of people watching opportunities.
Next we stopped at Mt. Rushmore since it is one of those places that you should see in your lifetime. We were surrounded by many other tourists, so we quickly took our “head shots” then walked along the Presidential nature trail which was very nice and a bit more peaceful.
Nearby in Custer, is another rock carving called “Crazy Horse.” This memorial is currently being worked on to honor all North American Indians. It is massive (564′ x 640′) and is the world’s largest mountain carving. In comparison, the presidential heads on Mt. Rushmore are 60′ high.
Day 2: Started our day exploring Wind Cave National Park which is one of America’s oldest national parks, established in 1903, and one of the longest and most complex caves in the world. The formations were very interesting too. Boxwork is a rare cave formation that looks like stringy honeycomb. Our tour guide was great and at one point on the tour she shut off all the lights in the cave and told us a story of how an explorer led a couple into the cave and got separated from them so they had to stay overnight in the cave with no lights/candles. I’ve never seen such darkness! What an eerie feeling.
The rest of the day was spent at Custer State Park in the Black Hills. We drove along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road and saw bison, antelope, and the most adorable burros. The burros were extremely tame and many visitors brought them carrots for treats. Alyssa bonded with the babies and wanted to take one home.
Day 3: While traveling around the area, we kept seeing signs for Wall Drug. Free Ice Water, Wall Drug; Hot Coffee, Wall Drug; Soda Fountain, Wall Drug; Homemade Donuts, Wall Drug; Western Wear, Wall Drug, etc. So of course we went to Wall Drug and so glad we did! Started by Ted and Dorothy Hustead in 1931, the only drugstore in a town called Wall. To draw business they began to give away free ice water to tourist driving by. Today the store gets up to 20,000 visitors daily during the summer. It’s a collection of different stores interconnected by hallways. Random dinosaurs, jackalopes, and singing cowboys entertain you along the journey. Loved the homemade donuts and free water!
Continued along to Badlands National Park to do some hiking and work off the donuts. The landscapes and rocky formations along the grassy prairie lands were beautiful. We walked along the Fossil Exhibit Trail to learn about the extinct animals that were discovered in this area. On our way out, we just happen to find bighorn sheep by the side of the road … a bonus!
We wrapped up our day with a drive-in movie to see War for the Plant of the Apes. Fun time!
The next day we left South Dakota towards Wyoming. In only 3 days we saw and did a lot but left feeling like we wanted more time in Custer State Park, which was our favorite. Oh well, got to move onward. Up next … Wyoming fun.