Heading Back Out West

It took us nine months, but we are finally making our way back out West. When we started our journey we traveled from SF to the East coast via "the southern route" meaning through states such as Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, GeorgiaSouth Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. This month we are kicking up dust along the "northern route" through states like South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. 


4 Must Stops in South Dakota


  1. Palisades State Park

  2. Badlands National Park

  3. Mt. Rushmore

  4. Custer State Park 



Palisades State Park

Palisades State Park is a perfect place to camp and explore when making your way across the state of South Dakota. The campground is quiet and peaceful plus hiking trails are just out your front door. Quartzite cliffs look down over Split Rock creek that runs through the park which in the summer time, makes for a great spot to rock climb or take a dip. The town of Sioux Falls (the largest city in SD) is just a few miles away and is worth an afternoon of exploring. Make sure to spend time at Falls Park and watch the Big Sioux River cascade into waterfalls throughout the town. 



Badlands National Park

The Badlands are badddd and by bad I mean really good. They are comprised of formations that are empty, vegetation-less. A colorful mixture of slopes, canyons, gullies, hoodoos, and spires come together to make a beautiful arrangement that sit up against the largest untouched prairie grasslands in the country. It sounds fake doesn't it? But it's not and it's really good, or maybe I mean bad. You have to see it to believe it. Make sure to hike the 1.5mi Notch Trail and drive Sage Creek Rim Rd



Mt. Rushmore

This is an obvious stop but still a must stop, we learned:

  • Why each prez was chosen: George Washington because he built the country, Thomas Jefferson because he expanded the country (through the Louisiana Purchase), Teddy Roosevelt because he developed the country (through the Panama Canal) and Abraham Lincoln because he preserved the country during the Civil War.
  • That the carving is actually unfinished. Once the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum died in 1941 they just sort of called it quits (and ran out of $). You can still see the entire planned model in the "sculptor's house" onsite. 
  • Gutzon Borglum was originally recruited to sculpt on granite cliffs in the Black Hills of South Dakota. But Borglum pushed back because those mountains were too weak and unstable. (But they are beautiful and located in Custer SP which is our #4 must stop in SD... see below). 
  • Gutzon Borglum also had his hand in carving Stone Mountain in Georgia that depicts Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis on horseback. 



Custer State Park

Custer State Park is huge (70,000+ acres huge) and known for its herd of 1500 free roaming bison and scenic drives (including The Wildlife Loop and Needles Highway). Camping can get a bit tricky here due to crowds in the summer months. We stayed at Center Lake Campground which you can call day of to reserve your first come first serve campsite. This park map might be helpful.  Make sure to hike to Black Elk Peak (formally known as Harney Peak), the highest peak in South Dakota!