Black Hills of South Dakota

submitted by Gretchen W St. Cloud office
My husband and just returned from a long weekend trip to the Black Hills. He has never been and I was there years ago as a child on a family vacation. I think we sometimes forget there are lots of amazing places to visit right in our own backyards and that is very true of the Black Hills.

We left the Twin Cities on a Wed evening and drove as far as Sioux Falls and spent the night there. On Thursday we headed for Deadwood with stops in The Badlands and of course Wall Drug…we decided to skip the Corn Palace in Mitchell. We took Hwy 240 off of I-90 which winds through Badlands National Park. What an interesting place, at times I felt like I was in Morocco because the formations looked like places in the desert. The drive through this area ends in Wall SD home of the famous Wall Drug. Wall Drug consists of lot and lots of souvenir shops and places to eat. The amazing thing is to realize this business empire all started by the simple idea of providing free ice water to hot thirsty travelers years ago.

We then headed to Deadwood where we spent two nights at the Iron Horse Inn one block off main street. This is a historical hotel that was originally built in 1893 as a livestock feed store and then was converted to a hotel in 1920. It was refurbished in 1996 and the rooms and lobby have the feel and look of those early days. Deadwood is an interesting town with a rich history. We took the "Original Deadwood” bus tour where we learned all about the early days of Deadwood with a stop at Boot Hill Cemetery. He we saw the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane plus others from those early days of Deadwood. Today Deadwood offers a variety of gambling options, restaurants and shops. The next day we drive through Spearfish Canyon with a stop in Lead and a visit to the Black Hills Roundhouse where we saw a movie about the history of South Dakota in the "Living Map Theatre” where the movie interacted with a 3D map.

Saturday we made our way from Deadwood to Hill City where we spent our remaining two nights. We stayed at the Super 8 because of it's location right downtown. After checking in we then set out to take the 3 scenic drives through Custer State Park. Our first stop was at the Crazy Horse monument which was impressive to see. From there we drove to Lake Sylvan and on to Needles Highway. The scenery was spectacular all along this road. Everywhere you looked was more beautiful and awe inspiring than before. As we left Needles Highway the road then took us on to the Wildlife Loop through rolling hills and prairie. Just when I was thinking we wouldn't see any wildlife we came upon an area where there we burros everywhere coming up to the car looking for food. But the most impressive was just as we were leaving the Wildlife Loop road we came upon a herd of buffalo. They were everywhere crossing the road in front of us and walking along side of the cars. I have never been so "up close and personal” with a buffalo before, they are huge! We were stuck in this "buffalo traffic jam” for 40 minutes…it was the highlight of the day.

Sunday we spent the morning at Mt. Rushmore, which I think is the best time to visit because the sun shines on the faces and really makes an impressive sight. We did one of the Park Ranger guided walking tours of Mt Rushmore and learned so much about the creation of this impressive monument. I highly recommend doing that if you visit because you learn so much about the sculpture, and why he choose the Presidents he did. The museum and short movie are worth the stop to learn more on how this memorial was constructed. There is just such a feeling of patriotism and pride you feel when visiting this national memorial. Then it was back to Hill City where we took the 1880 Train ride to Keystone. Which was a fun experience and a good way to visit Keystone.

The four full days we spent there gave us enough time to hit the highlights of this beautiful area. But there is so much more to do and see especially if you like hiking, biking, rock climbing, fishing and more. I highly recommend a long weekend or week long vacation to this beautiful area of our country.