Black Hills + Badlands National Park

The beginning of April, my friend, Sarah, and I took a quick trip to South Dakota. Now, why South Dakota as opposed to somewhere else? Well, there’s two National Parks there and it’s been on my bucket list, since the creation of said bucket list, to visit all of them. Also, Calamity Jane takes place in the Black Hills and Sarah loves this musical. When we arrived in Rapid City, we immediately headed toward the Black Hills. We stumbled upon this beautiful lake named Lake Pactola. The next day we visited Badlands National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, and of course Mount Rushmore. On our last day we drove to Wyoming to visit the nation’s first National Monument, Devil’s Tower. We also visited Wind Cave National Park. So without further ado, here are some photos from our trip to South Dakota.

Lake Pactola provided us with some beautiful sights on our first day in South Dakota.

Sarah is skilled with many talents, including skipping stones.

Next we visited Badlands National Park on Sarah’s birthday. (Happy birthday!) Badlands is home to the largest bison reservation in the nation. Sarah being Native American and consequently a bison-enthusiast, was eager to drive around and see her beloved bison. Badlands was a neat national park! This park contains one of the world’s richest fossil beds, as it used to be a shallow sea. Starting from the most eastern entrance of the park, you stumble across colorful spires and pinnacles, massive buttes and deep gorges. As we drove west, we entered more of the prairie part of the park. This park is an open, free-range park so you can roam around wherever, unless a sign says otherwise.

We spotted a lot of bison off Sage Creek Road (dirt road) and had many photo opportunities. Some even crossed the road in front of us! Obviously, do not approach wildlife. We did not leave our car and we stayed an appropriate distance away from them. If they notice your presence, you’re too close.

Sarah was freaking out by the amount of bison we saw. 


Next on our trip we visited Crazy Horse National Memorial and Mount Rushmore. Construction on Crazy Horse started in 1948, and while it doesn’t appear that they have made much progress. It was still cool to see. The memorial also had an awesome museum filled with Native American history.

Left: Current progress of Crazy Horse Right: Model of final project. Completion date…eventually.

Sunset in the Black Hills

Mount Rushmore at dusk.


On our last day, we drove a few hours west of Rapid City to visit Devil’s Tower. It was well worth the extra drive! You can hike all the way around it. We sadly, were rushed for time so we didn’t have the chance to. I’d definitely recommend going to see it if you have the time!

Finally we visited  Wind Cave National Park. This park was a pleasant surprise for me. I visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park a few years ago and thought, “How different could the two be?” So, really I went in visiting the park just to check it off my list, but I was amazed with the differences between the two caves. Wind Cave is one of the longest (142.7 miles) and most complex cave systems in the world. Our park ranger called it one of the true final frontiers of the world, as most of the cave is still uncharted and unexplored. Thus, now Sarah wants to become a cave explorer/spelunker. Wind Cave is a dry cave, meaning there aren’t any stalagmites or stalactites found in the cave, but instead is full of boxwork. (Seen below). I didn’t take many photos in the cave as I was trying to keep up with the group and not fall on my face. You do have to book a cave tour with this park, so keep that in mind as you visit.

That’s all for this trip. On to the next adventure!

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