If you were headed to California, chances are your plans have changed recently. Don't let it ruin your vacation though, the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota welcome you with open arms. There's a lot to see here in Southwest South Dakota. A week of activities for a couple seeking to get away or a family of a much needed vacation. We have wonderful places to visit, fantastic tours and a wealth of natural beauty.
Most people come to the Black Hills because of Mt. Rushmore, and that's exactly what it was intended to do. Historian Done Robinson was actively seeking a way to bring tourists to the area, and through the construction of the monument that's exactly what happened.
Not too many people knew about the Black Hills or Paha Sapa as the Lakota refer to them. When families drove down old Custer Battlefield Highway (now I90) they crept right past the Badlands and Black Hills without even a thought of what they might be missing. Due to the conservation efforts and determination of people like Peter Norbeck, this all was about to change.
It began with Rushmore, then the Iron Mountain Road. Soon people were beginning to take notice. Upon completion of the Needles Highway, offering stunning views from the Heart of the Black Hills and access to a beautiful lodge on Sylvan Lake, the Black Hills of South Dakota was earning it's rightful place as a vacation destination.
When most people arrive in the Black Hills they immediately set out for the Southern portion of the mountain range. This has Mt. Rushmore, Iron Mountain Road, Custer State Park, the Wildlife Loop, Needles Highway and Crazy Horse Memorial. It's not surprising why this is the first on the list, but don't be fooled. There's way more to the area than the Southern Black Hills.
Badlands National Park in the early morning or late afternoon is generally about an hour away from most hotels in Rapid City, and worth the visit. A private tour with My XO Adventures is the way to go in order to make the most of your time. If you decide to go it alone, visit the Badlands Park Website to check out the calendar and see if there is anything special going on.
The morning and late afternoon or evenings are the best time to see wildlife in the park, and the photography is optimum. The spires, points, haystacks, buttes and tables are amazing. The colors and shadows they cast are like architectural wonders.
The Northern Black Hills aren't as visited as the South, and I'm sure the residents there like it that way. Well sorry for them, the Northern Black Hills are absolutely outstanding. Ponderosa pine, Black Hills Spruce and Lodgepole make up most of the evergreen forest. Streams meander along the roadside in between limestone cliffs in Spearfish Canyon. Waterfalls such as Roughlock, Spearfish and Bridal Veil are just a few. Look up and you can see the caves in the cliffs, and natural springs. Remnants of mining operations hide in the lush greenery.
You'll find the town of Spearfish charming and quaint. Quite the opposite of nearby Deadwood, the Wild West shoot-em-up town to the East. Keep exploring the Northern Black Hills and you'll find great hiking, photography and places to explore like Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary. The Northern Black Hills will restore your soul, and give you some well deserved respite. Enjoy the video!