The following Destination Inspiration about the Black Hills is from Newschool Nomads.
After RVing in 49 states people often ask, “What is your favorite place?” Honestly, it’s impossible to pick just one but out of all the places we’ve visited, the Black Hills in South Dakota ranks high on the list, which is why we’ve returned for multiple visits and will certainly return for more. From history, to outdoor recreation, to the arts, there is something for everyone in the Black Hills. In fact, the Black Hills has so many things to do that you’ll want to return again and again to experience it all and go back to your favorites. In case you’re wondering here are ours.
Minutemen Missile National Historic Park preserves two facilities that were once a part of the Minute Men Missile field, active during the Cold War. At the visitor center you can learn about America’s nuclear deterrence during the Cold War and pick up tour tickets for the Launch Control Facility Delta-01 tour. The 30-minute ranger-led tour will take you underground to see what it was like for the missile crews who worked 31 feet below ground on 24-hour shifts and were trained to launch nuclear missiles at a moment’s notice. It is fascinating and worth the stop!
After visiting Minutemen Missile National Historic Park, head over to the Badlands National Park (the same exit) and drive Highway 240 Badlands Loop Road. It’s a 60-minute drive with amazing views of colorful spires and ridges. Pull your RV over at one of the many pullouts and enjoy lunch.
On the way out of Badlands National Park you won’t want to miss Wall Drug. With ice cream, five cent coffee, toys, souvenirs, and the free ice water that put the store on the map, Wall Drug is a tourist trap that is worth stumbling into simply because it is apiece of road trip history. Look for the signs for Wall Drugs RV and bus parking. Be back on the road by late afternoon. With another hour and half to two hours of driving, you’ll be able to get to Custer State Park before dark.
Custer State Park is South Dakota’s first and largest state park. Reservations are available up to a year in advance but they also offer same day reservations. Many of the campgrounds can accommodate large RVs.
We like Stockade North and had no problem getting our 40’ fifth wheel into a site. Now that you’re settled into your campsite under the pines, it’s time to build a campfire and look at the stars but don’t stay up too late. You’ll need to get up early to try and spot a buffalo or two.
On your first morning, get up early and drive the Wildlife Loop, an 18 mile road that winds through open grasslands and pine covered hills (get on the Wildlife Loop where it meets highway 16-A). Early morning or early evening gives you the best chance of seeing wildlife.
Keep an eye out for the pronghorn, prairie dogs, mule deer, elk, birds, burros, and of course, the park's most popular resident, bison.
While the bison may be the most famous, I really love the burros. The burros aren’t native to Custer State Park. Once working pack animals that took tourists up to the top of Harney Peak, they were released into the park when the tours stopped. While now wild, they still seem to have a fondness for humans.
Wildlife Loop Road will run into Highway 87. At the junction go left on 87 left because now you’ve seen the sights above ground, it’s time to head underground at Wind Cave National Park.
Wind Cave is one of the largest and most complex cave systems in the world. It’s one of the few places in the world to see “box work” an unusual formation found on the cave’s walls.
For the afternoon head to Stockade Lake. It’s a great place for a swim and late picnic lunch if you didn’t stop at one of the pullouts on your scenic drive.
Stockade Lake is also a great place for fishing or boating.
A trip to the Black Hills isn’t complete without a visit to one of America’s most iconic landmarks, Mount Rushmore. Unlike many national park sites, Mount Rushmore is open late, until 11:00 PM mid-March through September, giving you more time to enjoy the natural beauty of the Black Hills by daylight.
Another benefit to saving Mount Rushmore for an evening outing is the opportunity to see the Evening Lighting Ceremony held mid-May through September. Don’t forget to bring jackets and blankets to keep cozy during the ceremony.
Drive into nearby Rapid City for a funky mix of cowboys and artists.
For fabulous views of Rapid City and a fun family photo op, head to Dinosaur Park.
Dinosaur Park opened in 1936 and is one of Rapid City’s oldest attractions. Not only is it a great place to take fun pictures, but it also offers gorgeous views of Rapid City and the surrounding area.
Next, head downtown to explore Rapid City by foot. The downtown is small but packs a lot in a few blocks. Browse trendy boutiques and antique shops.
See how many presidents you can spot from the City of Presidents project, a series of life-sized sculptures of our nation’s presidents.
Don’t miss Art Ally, located between 6th and 7th streets, a constantly changing living art “gallery” created by local and visiting artists.
Before heading home, stop by The Silver Lining Creamery on Main Street Square for hand crafted ice cream. In addition to traditional flavors they offer unique flavors like peanut butter, pickle, hot mango, or maple bacon. It’s a perfect place to cool off and give your feet a break.
There is no shortage of things to do in the Black Hills. This weekend you may not have seen it all and that’s okay. Now you have a reason to go back!