The scenic Black Hills of South Dakota
Located in western South Dakota, the Black Hills are a small mountain range popping out of the vast grassy plains surrounding them. The name Black Hills comes from the darker appearance the green coniferous trees give to the mountains, a stark contrast with the prairie around. Our kids enjoyed encountering wildlife such as turkeys, deer and elk along the road. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the elusive mountain goat.
The pass to visit this iconic monument of the United States cost $10 and is valid for a year. (If you are going to visit many monuments and National Parks, you might consider investing in an ) In addition to viewing the carvings of the presidents, there is a museum where you will learn about the making of Mount Rushmore as it is today. There are also hiking trails. annual pass
Being in altitude, the weather can change rapidly or differ greatly from the lower altitude. When we visited, the top of the mountain was completely engulfed in clouds, but when we drove around the corner, we had a perfect view of the profile of George Washington. It took three attempts at different times of the day to finally have a glimpse of all the faces at the same time.
Crazy Horse Memorial
The entrance fee is $30 per carload and gives you access to the museum and gallery on Native American history. There is a short and enlightening video presentation explaining the history of this unfinished memorial. Since it is a site under construction, a $4 bus tour is offered to allow you to get to the foot of the mountain safely. It is hard to appreciate how big the carving actually is without getting closer!
It is the third longest cave system in the world and you can get to tour a part of it! There are different underground tours available depending on your stamina and how brave you feel. We took the 1 ½ hour long tour and our children (11 and 13 years old) had no problem with it. It was their favorite part of the trip! The cave is impressive and a unique experience for all. The Rangers are knowledgeable and taught us much about the many rock formations. There are also various trails above ground, winding up and down picturesque canyons.
The Badlands have a unique, out-of-this-world landscape and are worth the detour even if just to drive through. We never got tired of looking at them. The Badlands and the Black Hills region boast numerous small museums where you will find information about the fossil-rich history of this area.
Devils Tower was the first declared United States National Monument. It is a monolith (a large single upright block of stone) shape of peculiar gray columns, strikingly tall and standing isolated above the landscape. A real curiosity of nature.
We personally like to visit touristic places off season to avoid big crowds and traffic, and to enjoy lower accommodation costs. The downfall is that many exhibits, trails or attractions are closed. If this is something you also enjoy, make sure you find out if what you want to do will actually be open.
Rapid City is ideally located just east of the Black Hills. Right along highway 90 are great hotels such as La Quinta Inn and Suites, Residence Inn and Home2 Suites, which all communicate with WaTiki Indoor Waterpark Resort, the best indoor waterpark we have seen! We stayed at the Home2 Suites by Hilton and recommend it. It has spacious rooms with a kitchenette area, comfortable beds and an amazing hot breakfast. We felt like royalty.
There is so much more to see and do in the Black Hills, more caves to visit, more trails to hike, and more animals to see. Plan your next trip there to enjoy nature, history and fun indoor and outdoor activities!