We hit the road in June for our annual camping trip with little planning and knowledge of what was ahead. I’m pretty much a national park junkie, and as far as they go, this one should definitely be on your bucket list. And then, check ✅, you’re good.

We loved it, and it’s a really easy family trip. But once was plenty for me.

Day 1

We managed the drive west in one day because why ruin two days in a car? By evening, we were in Wall, South Dakota – most famous for Wall Drug. It’s a tourist trap, but hey, it’s one that’s a must-see. Just before that, we made the obligatory stop at Mitchell, SD’s corn palace, which is as cheesy as it sounds. We got out of there pretty fast.

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Don’t be fooled by his smile, this place was totally corny. Feel free to skip it.

We spent the night in a cabin in Wall that was as cheesy a place as it looks. It was perfect, cheaper than a hotel suite, and we were grateful not to pitch our tent at sunset.

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Day 2

We conquered the Badlands National Park on day 2, stopping along the way in any place that interested us. It’s easy to navigate and stumble upon everything interesting there, even without doing any advanced research. The pioneer cabin turned out to completely interest our kids at all ages, and the prairie dogs were pretty darn cute.

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Saving this for our album cover when we master all the instruments hanging on our wall.

The Badlands had easy and unusual hikes, which we loved. And since it all looked like the moon, we can check that off our bucket list as well.

Our last stop before driving to the Black Hills was at the national park ranger, where biologists are uncovering fossils right in front of visitors. They patiently explain the science and geology while carving away at millions of years of sediment.

By nightfall, we had pitched our tent at Fort Welikit, just outside of Custer State Park.

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If this looks better than a hotel room, that’s because it is.

Day 3

Custer State Park is the crown jewel of South Dakota, and we could have spent a week just exploring there. We spent our first morning hiking up to Little Devil’s Tower, which was magnificent.

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Some of us would beg to differ.

And since we like our days packed, we hit Wind Cave National Park after that, which was pretty much like every other humungous cave in the world – totally cool.

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Day 4

Day 4 looked to be the warmest day of the week for us – at a balmy low 70s – so we headed to Sylvan Lake back in Custer State Park. In every direction, this was as relaxing and awesome as it looks.

 

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Day 5

We started the day cold, as usual for that week, but enjoyed pancakes made by this guy. Did I mention that unlike any other day of the year, our kids cook and clean on camping trips? This is by no means because they are perfect. But, by necessity, pitching in means getting out early each day to play.

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Nature’s playground

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Day 5

We started the day cold, as usual for that week, but enjoyed pancakes made by this guy. Did I mention that unlike any other day of the year, our kids cook and clean on camping trips? This is by no means because they are perfect. But, by necessity, pitching in means getting out early each day to play.

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We headed out on another hike that proved to be uneventful, but beautiful nonetheless. A highlight was filling our pockets with gorgeous rocks that are abundant in South Dakota. It’s like the Rock Shop in Evanston, except that it lines the trails.

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We spent the rest of the day driving through the park, finding buffalo, moose and prong horned antelope along the way.

Day 6

Friday was our last day of adventure and we spent it on the famous Needles Highway. We drove through a mountain narrow enough to make you want to fold your car mirrors in and stopped for a stunning hike in the middle.

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Not for the faint of heart
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Did I mention it was cold?

We headed back early to prepare for Shabbat, complete with our camping eruv and dinner and lunch prepared before sundown.

By Sunday we had pretty much conquered the beauty of South Dakota and headed home for the rest of our summer adventures.

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2 thoughts on “South Dakota Adventure

  1. Love every minute of your journey, photos, expressions, smiles, scenery, nature, earthy, organic,food, honesty, healthy, modest… showing the world that joy can be enjoyed with simplicity ( for sure w/ plenty of planning ahead of time) creating amazing family memories to last forever.
    Yours, Zlata Baila

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