Wildlife and Wild Sights in South Dakota

The unfettered wilderness of South Dakota ushers forth a road warrior's world of wicked-looking parks, American icons, herds of bison, and more than one opportunity to indulge your inner cowboy. Giddy up!
  |  Gorp.com
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The Really Open Road: South Dakota's uncrowded, expansive horizon  (PhotoDisc)

The idea of a road trip was spawned with places like South Dakota in mind. Venture to Rapid City and you'll have the chance to cruise with relatively little traffic up and down the pine forests and granite passes of the Black Hills and through the awesome lunar-like landscape of Badlands National Park. Add in Mount Rushmore National Monument--the most famous sculpture in the country--and herds of bison and bighorn sheep in Custer State Park, and you've got a driving destination that's hard to top. And all of these sights are in a state known for its affordability. Whaddya waiting for?

Day One: Rapid City to Keystone (25 Miles)
No reason to rush out of Rapid City to Mount Rushmore. It's only a 25-mile drive. Walk around and admire the retro-Western architecture of the city, founded in 1876 by gold prospectors. On Main Street, Prairie Edge (800.541.2388) is a two-level 1886 building filled with South Dakota-made quilts and pottery and indigenous art. Wild Blue Yonder (605.342.0608) will outfit you in proper Western attire for the trip. Just down Sixth Street, Tally's is a local hangout, good for breakfast or a slice of pie. After sufficiently outfitted, hit the road and head to Mount Rushmore (605.574.3171; www.nps.gov/moru).

The faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln just received a power wash in the summer of 2005, so they should be spanking clean for your visit. There's also a relatively new hiking trail. Be sure to stay for the nine-o'clock nightly lighting ceremony, which includes a short film on the four presidents and the playing of the national anthem. Nearby, the Battle Creek Campground in Keystone (605.666.4557; www.battlecreekcampground.com) offer shuttles to the Monument.

Published: 24 Feb 2006 | Last Updated: 9 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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