South Dakota isn’t usually the place that comes across your mind when you are brainstorming a vacation. Most people wouldn’t even consider it; I used to be one of those people. Since living in Rapid City, SD, I have come to realize what a hidden treasure this state truly is. If you love the outdoors, are up for exploring and looking for an adventurous family vacation or solo travel experience, it is time to consider the Black Hills as your next destination.
1. It is beautiful.
There is no other way to put it. The scenery will take your breath away. Driving into the Black Hills is such a surreal experience. I’ve never felt more at peace looking out over the mountains and rock formations. If you prefer to see the beauty from your car, try the scenic drives such as Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway or Needles Highway.
2. Family friendly
One of the reasons I made the decision to move here was because it is a fantastic place for children. Nature, exploring and the outdoors is a huge part of my life and SD has it all. Here are a few things you and your children may enjoy:
-Storybook Island: This is a wonderful children’s park filled with fairy tale and storybook character sets. There is tons of room for your little ones to run around and get their energy out. They also have a carousel and train to ride. It is a free excursion, but they do accept donations. Click here for details.
-Bear Country: A drive-thru park featuring Northern American wildlife. My favorite part is the baby bear cubs in babyland! See details here.
-Wildlife Loop: Take a drive through the 18 mile Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park while dodging the bison through the Black Hills National Forest. You may also come across elk, big horn sheep, mountain goats, and prairie dogs. Remember, bison are dangerous so please do not approach.
-1880 Train: Take a 2 hour train ride through the beautiful black hills! Get tickets here.
-Exploring the outdoors: There is so much territory to cover in the black hills. Get out there! Jump in a lake, wade in the creek, chase waterfalls or climb a mountain. Build memories with your children.
There are endless hiking trails within the Black Hills National Forest. And I’m on a mission to hike them all. I love bringing my little girl along in my Ergobaby Original Baby Carrier. The trails range in difficulty from easy to very strenuous. If you are looking for an easy family hike, I would suggest Sylvan Lake Shore Trail, Stratobowl, Devil’s Bathtub or Spring Creek Loop Trail. Sunday Gulch is also a favorite of mine. Up for a challenge? Try out Harney Peak. It is the highest natural point in South Dakota! While you’re in SD, be sure to check out the infamous Badlands National Park! It is a vast 244,000 acres of land that will make you feel like you’re on a different planet! If you aren’t up for the hike, don’t worry, you can take the scenic drive instead.
When most people think of South Dakota, the first thing that comes to their mind is Mount Rushmore. It is a must to see the sculptures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln while visiting SD. Take some time to relax at the National Monument and eat at the café or go on a stroll through the Presidential Trail. Another big part of history here is the Crazy Horse Memorial. Be sure to visit this towering sculpture honoring Crazy Horse, a Lakota Native American.
The best part about exploring the outdoors is that it is essentially free. The fees to state and national parks are minimal for the experience you will be getting in return. Another plus is that the cost of living is relatively low, which means booking a vacation here is less expensive. The Black Hills have a very laid back and casual atmosphere, so you won’t be spending a fortune on a luxury vacation. Relax, take it easy and bask in the fresh South Dakota air!
See you in the Black Hills!
Have questions? I would be happy to answer! Leave a comment below.