This trip was a belated birthday present to my sister. She had been wanting to check out Badlands National Park for a while, so on a free weekend we decided to hit the road! Our original plan was to just go to The Badlands for a few days, and if it worked out, maybe make it to Mount Rushmore as well. As it turned out, we only spent a day at The Badlands, decided to drive to Mount Rushmore the next day, and then kept on going towards Wind Cave National Park the following day. These parks were my 5th and 6th National Parks, and it wasn’t until few more down the road that I started getting postcards at every park, and writing what I did on each of them… so for these two parks I only have my memory and (mostly my sister’s) pictures.
For whatever reason, I had not done much research on The Badlands before we left. Turns out, this park is freaking beautiful! We did a few shorter hikes- The Door Trail, The Window Trail, and Notch Trail, and otherwise just explored on the boardwalks and at various overlooks. On the scenic drive we happened upon some bighorn sheep that were casually grazing on the side of the road. Part of our original plan was to camp in the park, but with a storm was on the horizon and being novice campers, we decided to head back on the road towards our next destination.
After stopping at Wall Drug (very underwhelming if you ask me), Mount Rushmore was our next destination! We actually ended up making two stops here because the weather was gross the first day. After round 2, (and after Kaytlin was done making all her Nicholas Cage/National Treasure jokes) we ventured on towards our final destination, Wind Cave National Park!
Similar to The Badlands, I hadn’t done much research on Wind Cave beforehand. Once we arrived, we signed up for the Natural Entrance Cave Tour at the Visitor’s Center. This tour was awesome and so informational! Throughout the tour we were able to view the cave’s famous boxwork, which is more abundant in this cave than in any other cave in the world. After the cave tour we walked around the park a bit, but with it being a small park with most of the trails around the prairie, we weren’t really looking to meet any rattlesnakes. On our way back to Iowa, we saw an abundant amount of Buffalo/Bison, which was just the cherry on top. Kaytlin had been wanting to see some the whole trip, and finally got to on the last day!
Overall this trip definitely exceeded its expectations. Quality time with my sister, spontaneous decisions, and beautiful views…who can complain?? In my opinion, South Dakota is an under-rated state, and while on the smaller size, these two parks are definitely worth checking out!