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Road Trip from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Wall, Custer, and Hot Springs, South Dakota

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A nature-filled end-of-summer road trip to Wall, Custer, and Hot Springs, South Dakota!

When Ben was younger, he and his family traveled via RV to a variety of places across the United States. So, when Ben and I discussed taking a road trip before summer comes to an end, he suggested one of his favorite places — South Dakota! We, but mostly he, planned our road trip from Minneapolis, Minnesota to South Dakota — namely, Wall, Custer, and Hot Springs!

Before I share all of the details of our trip:

  • Opening weekend for Sturgis Motorcycle Rally took place over the course of our trip. While we saw lots of motorcycles on the road as we traveled from place to place, I can’t say how the amount of motorcycles would compare to a normal summer weekend in South Dakota. (The places we visited — Wall, Custer, and Hot Springs — were also far away from Sturgis, so we felt distanced.)

  • With coronavirus in mind, we created a socially-distanced trip. A few precautions we took are: Ben and I are both fully vaccinated, we wore masks when we were around other people, we often chose picnics using food we packed over restaurants, we booked socially-distanced places to stay — like a beautiful tipi placed on someone’s land, booked via Airbnb — and we focused on outdoor, nature-focused destinations, like The Badlands National Park and Custer State Park.

  • Before our trip, I avoided Google-searching any photos of South Dakota. I wanted to experience our trip from a completely blank canvas. Ben assured me there would be lots of beautiful scenery, nature, and animals — and he was 100% correct! So, if you’re looking for a truly rural place to travel, with lots of natural beauty, South Dakota is a place to consider.

Minneapolis, Minnesota to Wall, South Dakota

Our road trip began on Wednesday around 10:30 AM, and approximately 8 hours later, we arrived in Wall, South Dakota. The journey from Minneapolis to Wall brought us through several really quaint places, and eventually, past only fields upon fields. Finally seeing rock formations near Wall created such a sense of excitement — especially after so many miles of fields.

For our stay, we booked the very quaint Frontier Cabins, where we stayed in our very own log cabin! Our log cabin had a bed, sofa, full bathroom, TV, and front porch. With plaid decor, every detail conveyed the style of South Dakota.

Upon arriving, we visited the world-famous Wall Drug just before it had closed for the day, which meant we had Wall Drug to ourselves! Wall Drug has shops, restaurants, and other attractions, and though Wall Drug is famous for its free water and 5¢ coffee, we only walked around and explored.

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The Badlands National Park in Wall, South Dakota

On Thursday, we dedicated the whole day to exploring The Badlands National Park. The forecast was expected to be 105°F, so we wore UPF hats, shirts, and pants to prepare for a really toasty day. We laughed at ourselves, but hey — we stayed cool, and we avoided sunburn! We brought binoculars which became one of our favorite purchases in preparation for our trip; we were able to see animals — bison, sheep — and see the beautiful scenery in so much detail.


The Badlands National Park

The Badlands National Park

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Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crazy Horse Memorial in Custer, South Dakota

On Friday, we drove 1 hour and 40 minutes from Wall, South Dakota to Custer, South Dakota where we visited both Mount Rushmore National Memorial (Six Grandfathers) and Crazy Horse Memorial. According to National Geographic:

“Before it became known as Mount Rushmore, the Lakota called this granite formation Tunkasila Sakpe Paha, or Six Grandfathers Mountain. It was a place for prayer and devotion for the Native people of the Great Plains.”

I think it’s essential to understand and value Native American perspectives, so I kept my ancestors in mind while we visited Mount Rushmore.


Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

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We drove 40 minutes from Mount Rushmore to Crazy Horse Memorial. Crazy Horse Memorial features The Indian Museum of North America, The Native American Educational and Cultural Center, cultural performances, and more. There was so much to see and read, and we really enjoyed learning about Native American history and culture — past and present.

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While in Custer, we stayed at Beaver Lake Campground, which was a very quaint, quintessential campground. Our cozy cabin had only electricity, which made it a really fun setting for having a campfire and watching Perseids.

That day, we received word our home in Eau Claire sold — so we celebrated by playing mini-golf in the Keystone, South Dakota. Ben won. Again. As always. 😅

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Custer State Park in Custer, South Dakota

On Saturday, we visited Custer State Park. After a couple of action-packed days, being fully in nature was truly a breath of fresh air. At Custer State Park, we saw beautiful landscapes, drove on Wildlife Loop Road which showed us friendly burros and a bison jam, took an unexpected hike at Sylvan Lake, drove through teeny tiny tunnels on Needles Highway — not for the faint of heart — and ended our day with a picnic on the beach!


Custer State Park

Custer State Park

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Hot Springs, South Dakota

Lastly, on Sunday, we drove 40 minutes from Custer, South Dakota to Hot Springs, South Dakota. While reading a visitor guide, Ben noticed Hot Springs on the map and discovered Moccasin Springs Natural Mineral Spa — which became one of our favorite places of all. Not only is Hot Springs truly quaint, but it’s also home to a few really cool places — like Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary and The Mammoth Site. We decided to spend the entire day at Moccasin Springs, because it was so cool. We had lunch at Buffalo Dreamer, which had the only purposely-vegan options we encountered on our trip! (We had spicy bean tacos and a cashew-matcha-green tea dessert.)

To conclude our trip, we stayed at Tipi at Santo’s Peak — a truly beautiful tipi overlooking the Black Hills. The views were actually breathtaking! We had a campfire, stargazed, and woke up to see the sunrise over the hills, too. Sleeping in the tipi was so quiet and peaceful — I’ve never experienced anything like it!


Tipi at Santo’s Peak in Hot Springs, South Dakota

Tipi at Santo’s Peak in Hot Springs, South Dakota

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Hot Springs, South Dakota to Minneapolis, Minnesota

The 9-hour drive from Hot Springs to Minneapolis is a lot to tackle in one day — but it’s still a really beautiful drive with hills, fields, and wide open spaces. Along the way, we listened to Ben’s favorite podcast, TANIS. (It’s a little bit spooky!)

Overall, I am so happy we decided to travel to South Dakota. So many aspects of South Dakota were unexpected — the beautiful landscape, the wide open spaces, the stargazing, the wildlife, and the hot springs. Our trip was a true vacation and escape — and that means so much.

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I'm Kelly Zugay — a Saint Paul, Minnesota-based small business owner, podcaster, and content creator.

By day, I am co-founder of With Grace and Gold and host of Brand It, Build It Podcast.

Here, since 2013, I've explored and shared about lifestyle, plant-based, vegan recipes, home building and decor, and travel — and I am truly so glad you're here!


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