During a time of fear and isolation, get away from home and still avoid the crowds in the Black Hills.
Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association put together an itinerary for a self-guided vacation jam-packed with winter sports, wildlife, and sightseeing.
“In a reasonable three-day timeline, here are the things you can pick and choose from,” said Alyssa Ermish, marketing and logistics project manager with Black Hills & Badlands Tourism.
Day One | Bask in the Badlands & Roam Rapid City
“My favorite of the three days is probably the Badlands, Rapid City section,” said Ermish. “I think it kind of gives you a little more room to play around with what you want to do.”
On the first day, wake up early to experience the Milky Way in Badlands National Park. Given its location, the park is free of light pollution, revealing more stars.
When the sun begins to rise, keep an eye out for some roaming animals as the cool mornings are an ideal animal-watching time.
Stop by the renown Wall Drug for a handmade donut before heading to Rapid City.
Once there, drop into Main Street Square for outdoor ice skating. Take an excursion through Art Alley and the City of Presidents.
Experience the flavors of the downtown restaurant, brewery, and bar scene.
And to close it all out, take a second to relax at Dinosaur Park and watch the sunset over the cityscape.
The itinerary on the first day is more open than the other two, Ermish says, so visitors have more opportunities to take their time exploring the Badlands, hiking trails, and seeing what Rapid City has to offer.
Ermish explained, “You’re not really focused on ‘I have to do something.’ You just get to enjoy the beautiful area that you are in.”
Day-To-Day Destinations | Day One
Badlands National Park
Downtown Rapid City
Day Two | Get Involved with Outdoor Recreation
Start off in Spearfish Canyon with a relaxing, 19-mile drive through the scenic, limestone cliffs. Watch through the blanket of trees for various waterfalls and caves.
Ermish says that taking some time to stop and check out Roughlock Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Spearfish Falls is worth the delay.
After the drive, stretch out road trip muscles with a hike to explore Community Caves and Baker’s Cave. The steep, uphill climbs reward with vast views.
Spend some time exploring the 600 acres of powder at Terry Peak Ski Area either carving the mountain on skis or a snowboard, or taking it slow with a pair of snowshoes.
Don’t Own Snowshoes?
Rent a pair of snowshoes for an unforgettable trek in the Black Hills. Custer State Park offers rentals in the northern hills, and the Mickelson Trail Office has them in the southern hills. Because of this, Ermish says the snowshoeing endeavor can be moved around in the itinerary depending on the adventure.
And for those who find snowshoeing is not up to pace, the Black Hills’ mountains and valleys are home to an extensive, interconnected snowmobile trail system that will open December 15.
“Our trail system maybe isn’t as long [as those in nearby states], but it’s interconnected so you don’t have to constantly get on and off of the trailer,” explained Ermish. “You can just go, go, go.”
When the day comes to a close, there are many lodging options in the area to choose from. Trailshead Lodge, for example, offers cozy cabins for visitors, and it even has its own restaurant and convenience store.
Day-To-Day Destinations | Day Two
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Crazy Horse Memorial
Custer State Park
Black Elk Peak
Day Three | Memorable Monuments, Parks, and Wildlife
To begin the morning, Ermish recommends watching the sunrise, but not just anywhere. Watch it take over the darkness that was cast on the faces of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
From there, head out to Crazy Horse Memorial, which is just a mere 18 miles away. Grab a bite at the Laughing Water Restaurant before heading off to see Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park.
“[Day three,] I would say, is focused a little less on outdoor recreation and more focused on wildlife,” said Ermish.
Explore the trails and watch out for bison, elk, prairie dogs, and deer.
Another great stop Ermish says is a can’t miss is Custer State Park.
“I don’t think [these locations] are things that people normally push to do and see, but I think they are nice, slow highlights to focus on and great to get out away from crowds so you’re not indoors but still enjoying the Black HIlls.” -Alyssa
If outdoor recreation is important, be sure to check out Black Elk Peak before the day’s end. Go cross country skiing, fat tire biking, or snowshoeing.
“[This itinerary is] really focused on that snow and winter getting out and doing things, and being able to avoid the crowds and do it safely,” said Ermish.
Day-To-Day Destinations | Day Three
Terry Peak Ski Area