South Dakota: Summer Road Trip 2021

After a fantastic stay in Utah, it was time to head to our next road trip destination – South Dakota! We woke up around 5:30 am to begin the 10 hour drive from Salt Lake City to Rapid City, South Dakota.

We arrived in Rapid City that afternoon and although we were tired from the long drive, we didn’t want to waste the afternoon in our Airbnb. I heard so many people say that Mount Rushmore was amazing to see at night, so I suggested that we spend the rest of the afternoon in Deadwood, then head up to Mount Rushmore for their lighting ceremony.

Deadwood is the definition of a tourist trap, but we still had fun. It’s filled with cheesy shops, bars, and casinos, all in the old western style. It kind of reminded us of Atlantic City if it were in the mountains. We walked around for a bit and ended up getting dinner at one of the restaurants, which was surprisingly really good (usually tourist traps have subpar food).

Deadwood South Dakota

Deadwood Brothel

Deadwood, SD

After dinner, we headed to Mount Rushmore. I’m really glad we took the advice of friends to see it at night. It was absolutely stunning! Both Mark and I had wanted to see Mount Rushmore since we were kids and learned about it in school. We had planned to visit here in 2020 when we were traveling full time, but the pandemic made us wait, so getting to see it now was really special.

Mount Rushmore

The pictures don’t really do it justice. You have to see it for yourself!

We dedicated most of the next day to explore Badlands National Park. Before heading into the park, we made a stop at the famous Wall Drug. If you aren’t familiar with Wall Drug, they are famous for their free ice water, 5 cent coffee, and many billboards on the side of the highway. It was fun to walk around all the shops.

Wall Drug outside

Wall Drug

chapel inside Wall Drug

They even have a chapel inside.

We spent maybe an hour at Wall Drug before heading to Badlands National Park. The scenery! The wildlife! It was all so incredible.

bison entering Badlands National Park

We were greeted as we drove in 🙂

Badlands National Park

selfie Mark and Barbara in Badlands National PArk

Barbara at Badlands National Park

Mark at Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

We ended our day with a trip to the Crazy Horse Memorial. Korczak Ziolkowski, the man behind this monument, lived an incredible life and worked on this memorial (mostly by himself) until the day he died. We learned that there are now 15 people working on the sculpture. While they still have a lot of work to do, technology has made things move a lot faster. In the museum, you can see photographs from over the years documenting the progress.

crazy horse memorial, south dakota

family at crazy horse

My parents visited Crazy Horse 16 years ago. A lot of progress has been made since then.

We really packed in a lot of activities during our time in South Dakota and had a lot of fun. It’s a beautiful state filled with so much history. We made a lot of great memories during this stop on our road trip, but it was time to head to our next destination, Denver!

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We’re Mark and Barbara, a married couple in search of unique destinations, stays, and experiences around the globe.

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