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!
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 in Wall, 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 communicated South Dakota’s style.
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.
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.
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.”National Geographic
I think it’s essential to understand and value Native American perspectives, so I kept my ancestors in mind while we visited Mount Rushmore.
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.
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!
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.)
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. Before we knew it, our road trip from Minneapolis to South Dakota was complete. 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 road trip from Minneapolis 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.