This recap is way overdue (the BF and I were driving back from South Dakota a month ago today), but I still want to share details from our trip because it was full of fun adventures.
South Dakota was the last destination during our Grand Tetons and Yellowstone vacation. I had never been to Mount Rushmore or seen the Black Hills, so the BF and I decided to stop in South Dakota for a few days before heading home.
Friday, July 19
We left Yellowstone in the morning, and began our drive to South Dakota. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the drive was. First, we drove through the Shoshone National Forest. Then we drove through Bighorn National Forest. So incredible! We stopped at Shell Falls to check out some beautiful waterfalls.
It was a huge contrast from our drive from Nebraska to Yellowstone through southern Wyoming where there is absolutely nothing.
Then we stopped at a little recreation area for lunch. We just ate random stuff out of our cooler – chips and guac, bananas, trail mix, etc. There was a beautiful little stream and a trail that led to an overlook of a lake. I had to take a yoga opportunity on this river rock.
The view as we came down the mountain on the east side of the forest was incredible!
We made one more stop in Wyoming at Devil’s Tower, which was the country’s first national monument. Devil’s Tower, a monolith of igneous rock, protudes out of the grasslands in eastern Wyoming.
We took the one mile hike around the base of the tower, and it was crazy hot during our hike.
It was definitely a spiritual place. The site is considered sacred to the Lakota and other tribes in the area. Prayer cloths are placed on trees around Devil’s Tower.
We could see a storm moving in, so we got back on the road and made our way to Rapid City, South Dakota. We checked into our hotel, and had to make an emergency Target run because the BF didn’t pack enough shirts. It was so weird to be in a store after camping and hiking for a week!
After showers, we went downtown to the Firehouse Brewery. This was the first time we ate in a restaurant during our trip. It felt kind of weird.
I had mediocre fish tacos and the BF had really good (according to him) schnitzel. The restaurant was really cool though. We ate in an outdoor area where a band was setting up to play.
After dinner, we went back to the hotel and passed out.
Saturday, June 20
We got up early and grabbed breakfast at the hotel, then drove to Mount Rushmore. We got to Mount Rushmore at the perfect time because there weren’t a ton of people there.
We checked out the museums and walked along a short trail.
By the time we were done, Mount Rushmore was getting crazy packed. I highly recommend going early! I really liked learning about the history of Mount Rushmore. I’m pretty sure Borglum, the artist who created Mount Rushmore, was slightly insane.
Next, we headed to the Crazy Horse Memorial. To be honest, I was not a fan. The musuem was lacking. There was no information about Crazy Horse or the tribes from the area. The museum was mostly about the decades-long project. There wasn’t even any information about the artist who designed the mountain carving. There was just a bunch of the artist’s old furniture and belongings. It didn’t seem like a great way to educate people. The website has a lot more information, but I doubt people are going to go do their own research after visiting the memorial. In my opinion, it’s not worth going to. Do your own research and donate money elsewhere.
We then started driving on Needles Highway, but quickly made a turn into Custer State Park at the Sylvan Lake area to hike the Harney Peak Trail. It was right around lunch time, but we thought we could do a quick hike then grab some lunch. Well….it was a six mile hike and took us three hours.
And was a pretty challenging hike. Especially as we neared the top.
But it was incredibly beautiful, and the perfect way to explore the Black Hills.
Getting to the top was absolutely worth it!
At the top, we stopped for water and snacks. I had a Chia Bar and some trail mix. I was so happy we packed our backpacks.
We definitely weren’t super prepared for the hike, but luckily we had enough to eat to keep us energized.
Getting back to the trailhead didn’t take nearly as long as hiking our way to the top.
Then we drove to Keystone and stopped at an Orange Julius for a snack. We headed back to Rapid City and showered and relaxed.
My friend, Molly, who lives in Rapid City, recommended Kathmandu Restaurant downtown so that’s where we went.
It was so delicious!
I had vegetable tofu korma and the BF had lamb curry. We shared some garlic naan. So so good. And the costumer service was great.
After dinner, we explored downtown Rapid City. On every corner they have a sculpture of a president, so we would try to guess the president as we approached them.
We ended up finding this amazing alley that was full of graffiti.
We talked to some guys in the alley, and they said it’s a way to deter people from painting graffiti all over the city. It was incredibly beautiful!
We stopped at the Independent Ale House for beers, then we went back to the hotel where we immediately fell asleep.
Sunday, June 21
We left Rapid City after a hotel breakfast (waffles) and stopping at Starbucks for venti iced coffee (I usually go for medium, but I was exhausted after this trip!).
On our way home, we stopped at Wall Drug. Before we got there, I read the history of Wall Drug, which was interesting. I loved all the historical stuff there. The things they sold were kind of cheap though. So we got their homemade doughnuts.
I climbed on this jackalope and instantly regretted it because it was super sticky. You live and you learn.
Wall Drug was our last fun stop on our trip. We stopped at the Bunkhouse in Valentine, NE for lunch. It was terrible. But the BF came up with an amazing concept – salad frosting – AKA: salad dressing. Can you tell we had been traveling for over a week? Things were starting to get weird.
We made it home safely, and we were very happy to see our dog, Coda.
Looking back, our trip truly was amazing. We got to explore so much and we had so many incredible adventures.
Have you been to South Dakota? What was your favorite place to visit?