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Monday, February 13, 2023

Things To Do In Around Badlands National Park, SD

Check out these things to do in and around Badlands National Park before your trip to South Dakota.

If you are traveling here with your RV, take a look at our list of 10 Items You Should Have On Your RV Camping List before you hit the road.

2022 Cross Country Road Trip Stop 5 & 6

As we made our way to Stop 5 of our cross country road trip, as always we looked for the closest Walmart to the campground we were staying at. There were none! We tried to find another grocery store. We found People's Market in Kadoka. Kadoka was one of the smallest small towns we have ever been in. It was about 2 blocks long with a handful of stores, with lots of them closed down.. The cashier told us that many people had left and more people are leaving Kadoka and that it was almost a ghost town. Luckily there was space along the side of the supermarket where we could park our RV. 

The store was small and we couldn't find the ingredients we needed to make the dinners we wanted to make for the next couple of days so we had to work with what we did find here and change our menu. It took us awhile but we figured it out and were happy with ourselves for being able to work this predicament out without stressing! We were happy to find out that we could work very well as a team! It helps when you are traveling for 2 months in close quarters like we were this trip.

(1) We arrived at our campground early enough take a quick run to the Ben Reifel Visitor's Center in Badlands National Park after we prepped for dinner. Our campground was conveniently located only 8 minutes from the the visitor's center. If we can, we like to pick up trail maps ahead of time, and any other information we need, so we don't have to waste time trying to decide what to do when we get to the parks.

Good To Know: You can get an annual park pass for only $80 a year. If you are a senior, 62 and older, you can get a lifetime pass for $80. It is so worth it if you plan to go to any park this year. We went in and out of Badlands NP a number of times while we were here and showed our pass and never had to pay the $25 entrance fee! You can order a pass before you head out to the parks here: US Park Pass.

(2) After we got back from the visitor's center we needed some relief from the intense South Dakota heat, and luckily for us, Badlands Interior Motel & Campground, our home for the next 4 days, had a pool. The water was so cold but we were so hot that we didn't care. It was chilling but refreshing!

(You can read more about this campground here.)

(3) We got an early start on our visit to Badlands National Park the next day. We thought it would be a good idea to do some hiking in the morning, before it got too hot out. We picked 3 easy trails that were in the same area so that we didn't have to waste time driving around the park. We started at the Door Trail then did the Cliff Shelf Trail and ended at the Window Trail. We saw how the Window Trail got it's name.

We also found the door at the Door Trail.

And spotted a Bighorn Sheep as we hiked the Cliff Shelf Trail.

This park is home to desert rock formations and badlands is actually the geologic term that describes the type of terrain found here. You can find badlands in several other parks as well.

There is hardly any vegetation here so when we spotted this beautiful plant thriving in this rocky environment I had to take it's picture!

Badlands National Park was amazing but it was getting very hot out and we were all dreaming about being in the freezing cold pool. It was time to go but not before taking one last look around and one last picture.

(4) Our plans for Day 3 in South Dakota was spending the day at Mount Rushmore! We couldn't believe we were going to actually see it after all these years of having it on top of our bucket list.

This was the first view we had as we walked towards the monument.

Before we walked the Presidential Trail, we stopped into the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center. We watched a 14 minute film and then looked at all interesting exhibits and learned all about how this massive sculpture was created under the direction of sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln

Then we walked the Presidential Trail and enjoyed views like these.

It was incredible to see all the different angles of this historic sculpture. This view from in between two rocks was my favorite.

(5) The unfinished Crazy Horse sculpture was only a few minutes from Mount Rushmore so we took a ride over. When we got there, we found out that our National Park Pass would not work here and we would have to pay $35 per car to get in. We decided that maybe we will save our money and come back when the sculpture is done. We had a pretty good view of it from the parking lot anyway.

(6) Before we headed back to the campground, we made two stops. The first stop was to the small town of Keystone that was just 8 minutes from Mount Rushmore. With a population of just over 200 people, we estimated that there was one souvenir shop for every 20 people who lived here! The town was really cute and we wound up with a bagful of souvenirs each. Stop 2 was Walmart! We were so happy that we needed to drive through Rapid City to get back to the our campground. Now Sandie had all the ingredients she needed to make her crock pot lasagna tomorrow.

But tonight, after jumping in the pool, we had a quick dinner of leftover chicken and then once again walked the campground's short trail and enjoyed the beautiful sunset.

We had a couple of things on our to do list on our last day in South Dakota. Sandie and JT's list was a little more exciting than ours. They went back into Badlands NP to hike the Notch Trail. 

The description of the Notch Trail, especially the part about climbing a rope ladder on this hike, convinced me to stay at the campground and get some wash done. Soko kept me company and cleaned the trailer's outside storage bin which really needed it.

(7) After Sandie and JT got back and we all had lunch, we took a drive on the very scenic Badlands Loop Drive. We were hoping to see animals and we did! We saw a number of bison. They were very large and we thought we should take pictures of them from inside the car.

And down the road, we didn't notice them at first, but there were prairie dogs all over the place. We stopped to watch them. They were so cute and one was barking his head off, probably warning his friends that there were four suspicious looking humans taking pictures of them.

After this very enjoyable ride, we made our way to the town of Hall. A friend told us that we needed to go to Hall Drug for their 5 cent coffee and delicious donuts. 

(8) We checked out the rest of this cute, small town of Wall before looking for Wall Drug Store.

There were mostly souvenir shops on the couple of blocks that made up this town. We did notice a post office, tucked in between the stores, which made us very happy because we were out of postcard stamps.

(9) Wall Drug Store was a huge store. 

We had a great time looking around in here and took lots of pictures of us posing with the many characters lining the halls of the building.

There was so much to look at and we were all going in different directions so we finally agreed to split up and meet up for coffee and donuts when we were finished looking around. The coffee really was 5 cents so we all had two cups and the donuts were so delicious that we bought extra to bring back with us.

After coffee it was time to head back to the RV. We were very excited to see how the crockpot lasagna was doing. It turned out great and it was delicious. As JT would say, "You did it again San".

The next morning it was time to hit the road. Stop 6 was a quick overnight hotel stop in Sheridan, WY. I noticed, when we were mapping out our cross-country trip, that we could pass by Devil's Tower National Monument very easily on our way to the hotel. We were hoping to walk the trail around it but unfortunately, we were not able to park the trailer near the tower.. It was pretty cool just to see it from a distance anyway.

Now off to Sheridan, WY to relax. Well, me and Soko were going to. Sandie and JT had wash to do!

Read about the fourth stop we made on our road trip, Sioux City, Iowa

Read more about Badlands Interior Motel & Campground

Have you been to Badlands National Park? What "things to do" did you find? Please tell us in comments. We would love to hear all about it! 

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  1. It sounds like a wonderful trip! We were so bummed that when we went to Mt Rushmore both the avenue of flags and the visitors centers and many of it's hiking trails were closed since they were working on all of it.

    1. Oh no! I know the feeling. When we went to Rome they were cleaning the Trevi Fountain so it was dry as a bone! We will probably never go back to Rome but I hope you make it back to Mt. Rushmore!

  2. My husband and I visited Badlands National Park about 12 years ago, before we move to Colorado. We were visiting our son and daughter-in-law in Denver and since they had to work M-F we rented a car and drove to SD, and WY during the week to visit the sights. Custer State park in SD was wonderful to see--so many bison and other wildlife and I believe there is a wonderful campground there--if you ever go back be sure to visit, that park. Beside the Badlands we also visited Mt Rushmore and drove through the Black Hills and Needle Highway--very beautiful and visited Devil's Tower. I doubt that the Crazy Horse monument will ever be finished. It is not part of the national parks system--it is privately owned and it is one big gift shop inside the grounds. It does not appear much has been done since we saw it last. We drove west across Wyoming to Cody WY, where we saw our first rodeo, and then into Yellowstone National Park, That park is our favorite! We were there in early September and the park was relatively quiet so we were able to drive all around without crowds or traffic. We then drove south into The Grad Teton National Park=--we did a few hikes there-- and then we drove back to Denver. All in all a wonderful trip!

    1. That sounds like an amazing trip! I am taking note of all the great information you gave me here. You are also making me more happy that we didn't spend the $35 on Crazy Horse. We would have been so disappointed to only see a huge gift shop! Thank you so much for stopping by!

  3. This post brought back many memories for me as I've been to all of these places, including Crazy Horse. I really enjoyed Crazy Horse and found it one of the most meaningful and beautiful places to visit, it's a shame you didn't go. I know the $35 is a lot, but they refuse any government $ for their memorial, that's why the fee is so much. I also remember climbing the trail with the ladder and ended up hurting my leg.

    1. Omg! I would definitely have hurt something going up that ladder for sure then. And it sounds like we had a missed opportunity at this stop. Hopefully we will be in this area again one day. Thank you for stopping by!

  4. Sounds like you all had a fabulous time. Thank you for sharing this post on the Fine-Whatever link-up.


    1. It was great! Thank you for stopping by and for hosting such a nice party!

  5. Wow! What a beautiful place -- I've never been to the Badlands. The scenery is dramatic, and those vibrant blue skies are gorgeous! Thank you for sharing this post in the Talent-Sharing Tuesdays Link-Up 53.

    1. Thank you for having me and for hosting your nice party!

  6. Such amazing photos and great info- That's a great price for the lifetime park pass for seniors. Never been there but looks like it's worth the trip.

    1. And it's well worth the price for an annual pass if you are not eligible for a lifetime pass yet!

  7. 5 cents for coffee and a ghost town to boot? Wow! It sounds like you are having quite the adventure, and your photos are beautiful. The memories you will have of your travels... sounds idyllic. I think this would be the best way to experience traveling all over the US. Would you like to join us and share your travels with Whimsy Home Wednesday Link Party? You can join us at: https://www.vintagestylegal.com/2023/03/whimsy-home-wednesday-no-19.html. Have fun and safe travels.

    1. Thank you for inviting me to your party. I would love to share my travel posts!

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  9. Sounds like a fantastic trip.
    The rock formations are so cool!
    Love this post and all the gorgeous photos.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by to read our post!

  10. Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip and for that gorgeous photos.....