Badlands National Park and on to the Black Hills

Miles Driven Today:   136.1                 Total Miles Driven 722.1 miles

We managed to sleep till 0530 this morning so that was a major improvement!  Made our own room breakfast and watched the sun come up over the cliffs behind our cabin.  Gorgeous day.  Bob had a microwave pack of Bob Evans biscuits in cream gravy….. I had a yoghurt.  He will probably have lost some weight.  Life is unfair.  LOL

We packed up – getting slick at this and I have to say these packing cubes are genius.  They make it so much easier and our case is really tidy, not everything all over the place.  If you’ve been wondering about them, don’t wonder any more, just buy some.

Set off about 830 to do the circuit drive around the Badlands and make some short hikes into the interior.  We started off at the Ranger Station which was very interesting and had a fossil laboratory as well as exhibits about the formation of the park, and the fossils and wildlife.  There are some amazing fossils here and they are just all over apparently. People ring in 30 or 40 times a day having found one for the rangers to evaluate.  They found a rare sabre tooth cat last year.

We then spent a good 4 and a half hours driving very slowly around the loop road, stopping at all the view points and we made about 4 short hikes.  They have laid out walking boardwalk so you don’t have to scramble over rocks if you follow the directed routes.  Of course you are free to go “off piste”.  After our snake encounter yesterday, we decided to stay on the path!  It was all pretty easy and very enjoyable.  I suppose in total we walked about 3 miles.  There are longer hikes if you have the time.

I don’t know how to describe the magnificence of the Badlands.  It’s like an enormous sand painting.  You know, the ones you buy in a bottle in the desert or at the beach.  Just peak after peak of multicoloured stone, heavily stratified and etched into pillars and columns.  It reminded me a bit of some of the ornate carved temples in India in places like Hampi.  Nature has made a marvel.   I am not filtering on any of the photos.  This is the true colour. It’s just extraordinary.

The park was pretty quiet and the road was almost empty most of the time.  I set the cruise control to about 20 – 25 mph and we just tootled along taking it all in.  It is just the most amazing place, surrounded by fertile grasslands for miles as it is, and then this barren, rock magnificence.

We reached the end of the loop and decided to take the gravel dirt road back to Route 44.  This ran for about 26 miles but passed more viewpoints and also an area called Prairie Dog Town which I really wanted to see.

Prairie Dogs are rodents, a form of ground squirrel and they live in burrows in colonies called “towns”.  You can spot their burrows because they have a mound around the hole and very often Mr PD is sitting on top, or with his head up out of the hole in the top! You wouldn’t want them on your lawn, that’s for sure.  It’s quite an amusing sight to see especially as they tend to sit up a bit like a meercat.

Well, we certainly saw lots but the biggest surprise at Prairie Dog Town was that there was a nice herd of buffalo there too!!!  So exciting to see them properly for the first time.  Obviously, we could not approach closely.  They are massive wild animals and there are many warnings about getting close.  They can weigh up to around 1000 lbs and run at 30mph, jump high in the air…. no you wouldn’t want to annoy one.  There were some babies there too.  Fantastic!  What a day!

Left the park at about 1pm and we found a place in the countryside to have our picnic lunch.  Crab salad roll for Bob and just crab salad for me.  Crisps and of course some rock buns!  We are wolfing through them.  I really like the orange zest in them.

On to the Black Hills and our lodging in Custer.  The Black Hills are only about 65 miles from where we exited the Badlands but they couldn’t be more different.  Huge granite peaks covered in pine, dipping down in steep valleys with streams at the bottom.  Wooden chalet style homes.  Squint a bit and you are in Switzerland.

We stopped at Walmart in Rapid City to buy some cocktail ingredients.  Our lodging, The Bavarian Inn, has nice gardens and outside seating and as we are here for 3 nights, we will get the opportunity to enjoy them!  So, we got a bottle of tequila, some Margarita mix, 2 bottles of wine, 12 coke zero, tomatoes, 4 limes and 6 craft IPA.  That should do it!!!!  Cost about £40.   Pretty good value.

The Black Hills look absolutely stunning and we look forward to exploring them in the next couple of days.  I have to say that some of the little towns look horrific.  Tasteless Tourist Central.  Some of the most bizarre attractions imaginable, one after the other, after the other, sandwiched between lots of shops selling haut kitsch.  It came as quite a shock after the pristine natural National Parks and indeed the pristine countryside surrounding the towns.  I hope I don’t offend if you come from any of these places!

Arrived at our lodging about 3pm and got into our room.  Very comfortable, kind of old style.  Our room is in a two storey block of rooms with an exterior access balcony running in front.  Fantastic flower baskets and window boxes everywhere.  What makes the rooms nice is that they have all been refurbished and have some real comforts – super king bed with lovely bedding, good hospitality tray, coffee machine, microwave, fridge freezer etc.  Indoor and outdoor pools, free breakfast and hot chocolate time.   There is a slight kitsch to the place.  It reminds me a little bit of the Madonna Inn in California but nowhere near as full on as that.  Maybe it’s just catching from the nearby towns 🙂

So, to be honest we were pretty tired once we’d settled in.  I had a shower.  Bob had a bath.  We had 2 margaritas each.  We are eating in tonight: Southern fried chicken dinners with mash, corn and gravy courtesy of Walmart.  I fear we may not stay awake till late.  What old codgers we are!  Anyway, it’s been a brilliant day and one we shall long remember.  Well worth that long drive yesterday.


  1. What a wonderful trip. If you are going to Mt. Rushmore, near there is Crazy Horse Monument. Not sure how close, but definitely worth the stop!

    • Hi Joan,
      We will be at Mount Rushmore tomorrow for the closing ceremony! Have wanted to go ever since seeing that Cary Grant film 🙂 We caught a glimpse of the Crazy Horse Monument as we came down Rt. 16 to our hotel today. Will get a better look tomorrow. It looked amazing. xx