After our wild west time in Wyoming, we continued east to visit South Dakota, making our first stop in Keystone, SD (home of Mount Rushmore). It was a long drive from Cody, WY to Keystone, SD so by the time we checked in to our hotel (The Lodge at Mount Rushmore) it was time to relax and go to bed.
The next morning we got up and headed straight to Mount Rushmore, only about a 10-minute drive from the lodge. It was a cold and rainy day, which was a little bit of a bummer, but on a positive note…Mount Rushmore was pretty empty so we had the whole place to ourselves. I have read that there can be thousands of people lining up to get into Mount Rushmore in the summers, so if you can stand the cold I think the off-season is a better time to go. I know I would prefer a little cold over crowds.
While the mountain is cool, there isn’t much to do at Mount Rushmore besides look at it. Once you see the mountain carving, you’ve pretty much seen it all. We walked down the row of flags to the grand terrace viewpoint and then walked along the half-mile presidential trail. The trail was supposed to give you better views of the mountain, but I didn’t think they were very good. Besides a nice walk through the forest, the trail isn’t very spectacular.
No dogs are allowed at Mount Rushmore so we headed back to the lodge to pick up Story and Linkin and said goodbye to Keystone, South Dakota.
Badlands National Park
We continued our drive east for a little over an hour until we reached Badlands National Park. I didn’t know what to expect at Badlands, as it was something Wes had researched and decided we needed to visit. It ended up being pretty amazing! Badlands is one of the lesser known National Parks in the U.S., but it was definitely just as impressive as the others.
As soon as we arrived at The Badlands, I spotted bighorn sheep. Their horns are massive!
The views at Badlands are hard to describe…there are hundreds of thousands of miles of grass prairies, buttes, fossil beds, rock formation pinnacles and spires. It’s a unique site to see that makes you feel like you’re on another planet.
Even though we were a little bummed about the rainy weather, it actually made the colors of the geological deposits on the hills pop even more! It looked like a rainbow of colors.
We spent about 3 hours in the park, stopping at overlooks to take in the amazing views. About an hour into the park, the rain stopped and the sun came out a little bit. We were so excited because that meant we could get out and do some hiking.
We found a trail called “notch trail” which was a lot of fun! You walk through the badland rock formations, climb a ladder up the side of the mountain and continue walking through what feels like you are walking on the moon, until you reach an overlook view at the end.
Notch trail is a 1.5 mile hike with some rough, but exciting, terrain. I would definitely recommend it if you visit Badlands!
As we continued our drive through the Badlands, we saw some deer, a bunny, and a coyote. I have never seen scenery like Badlands before and I’m so glad we made it a part of our road trip itinerary.
Once we got back to the interstate, we had a 3.5 hour drive to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where we stayed for the night.
Falls Park, South Dakota
I was exhausted once we got to Sioux Falls after a full day at Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and a lot of driving. The La Quinta we stayed in in Sioux Falls was the nicest hotel we’ve had on this road trip so far, so it was great to be able to take a long hot shower and sleep in a comfy clean bed. We slept in until about 8:30 am, enjoyed the free breakfast at the hotel, and left for Falls Park.
Right in downtown Sioux Falls is Falls Park. It features the beautiful Sioux Falls waterfall and a lot of grass. There is also a 19-mile biking or walking trail around downtown Sioux Falls that you can begin at Falls Park. We were able to get the dogs out of the car and take them for a nice walk around Falls Park. They were loving it! The weather was chilly (about 45 degrees), but no rain today! Woohoo!
After about an hour walking around the park, we loaded back in the car and headed out of Sioux Falls bound for Millwaukee, WI!
Have you been to South Dakota?
Would you prefer warm weather with crowds or cool weather with no crowds?