The Badlands of American Road Trips
Back to school road trip
HomeAway staffer Dustin Orrick takes us on a journey through the Badlands:
Why in the World would you drive 21 hours to go on a family vacation?? This was the question my co-workers were asking as I headed out the door from work on Friday afternoon.
It all started just a couple weeks before when my wife let me know that her parents and sister's family had been planning a pre back to school vacation to see four of our United States presidents sculpted into the side of a mountain. Having already been to many of the more popular picturesque National Parks the USA has to offer I had been meaning for some time now to figure out how we could make a convenient trip to the southwest corner of South Dakota. Realization is that there is nothing convenient about the southwest corner of South Dakota. My in-laws had been planning this trip for months now and pre-booked airlines far in advance, still for a substantial rate, but with us deciding just days before to join them it left our transportation options bleak.
For my coworkers I tried to come up with clever responses like "to see the less explored spaces", "we enjoy car camping", or "the journey is the reward" but it was too late. I had already been branded as the frugal traveler. It's only logical! Two $550 round trip air fares plus the cost of a rental car once you arrive versus $200 in gas to transport us from Austin, Texas to Rapid City, South Dakota and back...load up the family truckster, we are road tripping north!
I know what you're thinking, other than Mount Rushmore why in the world would you travel across the Great Plains of the United States just to arrive in an area covered by more plains? Well, the National Park service hasn't let me down in the past in qualifying what parks deserve to be conserved at a federal level versus a state level. So, if the park service says it's worthy of National status then I have to believe that it is right up there with World Heritage UNESCO sites. That and a little more googling homework and we came up with a 3 day Mount Rushmore Itinerary:
- Day 1 – The Drive In
Day 2 – Full Day of Tourism
- Mount Rushmore National Monument, walk the family friendly Presidential Trail, and enjoy the evening Lighting Ceremony
- Crazy Horse Memorial a little off to the west and privately owned but still quite a marvel
- Drive the Needles Highway through Custer State Park with views of Sylvan Lake and roaming Buffalo Herds
- Enjoy an evening of Wine Tasting and Craft Beers at Naked Winery & Sick-N-Twisted Microbrewery or Prairie Berry Winery
Day 3 – West or South
A 2 hour drive West:
- Takes you to the USA's first declared National Monument Devils Tower
- On the drive make sure to take detours through Spearfish Canyon scenic drive and the infamous towns of Sturgis & Deadwood
- Or in a hours drive South:
- A 2 hour drive West:
- For more ideas head over to the Black Hills tourism board
Seeing how we tagged along on the family vacation last minute, I was excited to hear that my sister in-law booked the vacation home through a property manager of the Double Diamond Ranch who lists their properties on work's HomeAway site (job security and all). We got lucky in that the home we booked was located in the heart of Black Hills country centered between Hill City and Keystone which gave us easy access to the sights and multiple dinner options to choose between at the end of the day. Plus, with a fire pit outside on the cool nights it made for some fun memory making huddling around trying to cook our marshmallows to just the right point before falling off the wire hangers into the fire.
Memories to build on!
Our vacation cabin in the woods
Badlands National Park
The not so easy Notch Trail, ok it's not as bad as it appears
She is making it look easy, Yoga Posing around the World Badlands National Park
It's not easy for everyone to cooperate on family vacations
Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park
Remember to always be responsible when hiking
Roaming buffalo herds in Custer State Park
There is always one who has to be different in every group
After a long day of sight seeing the women know how to kick back
You are never too old to have fun!
Devils Tower National Monument
After many previous failed family photos, finally one is a keeper
*Banner Image from Liz Lawley