NATIONAL PARKS

BADLANDS & THE BLACK HILLS

Exploring the Badlands & The Black Hills is a ‘monumental’ adventure. Besides iconic Mount Rushmore, you’ll find Badlands National Park, with stark, almost surreal terrain that has been called a masterpiece of natural sculpture, Custer State Park’s 72,000 acres flush with abundant wildlife, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Wind Cave National Park and Devils Tower. Head over to the Black Hills and you’ll find 5 million acres of forest and mountain lands – an oasis in a sea of prairie. The region’s vastness is only exceeded by the fun you and your family can discover on your Badlands & Black Hills vacation.

The Badlands & Black Hills are guaranteed to deliver a big dollop of surprise and delight. Why you might ask? Well, it ticks just about all the boxes for a perfect vacation – especially if you enjoy Native American and pioneer history, wildlife, geology, dinosaurs, hiking, climbing, paddling, riding, cave touring, stargazing… and that’s just for starters. Want to get a sense of what life was like in the days of the wild west? Then head to Deadwood, reached by a scenic drive through Spearfish Canyon from Rapid City, known as the ‘City of Presidents’ with life-size bronze statues along the city’s streets and sidewalks. And don’t forget the region’s nighttime specialties – stargazing at Badlands and the evening lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore. With a short film and song, followed by an invitation for the veterans in the audience to go onstage before the flag is lowered – it’s a very stirring experience that is a fitting capstone to a Badlands & Black Hills vacation.

HIGHLIGHTS

BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK


BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK

It’s easy to imagine you’re surrounded by three-toed horses, saber-toothed cats and even camels as you gaze out over the mysterious Badlands. Long ago, these creatures roamed the region – today, there are plenty of bison, pronghorn and big-horn sheep that still make these grasslands and prairies their home. Your Badlands National Park vacation will unveil fossils from the Oligocene period, 200 varieties of wildflowers, the 100-mile-long natural stone Wall and the rest of the area Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer called “hell without the fire.” Yet to the Lakota, the Badlands are sacred and we’ll show you why.

WHAT WE REVEAL
Venture out into the Badlands with a private guide – at sunset, no less – to drink in the mesmerizing pinnacles, spires and buttes at their most beautiful and colorful moment of the day. While pioneers may have passed through as quickly as possible, we’ll linger on the trail and discuss the park’s geology as the moon rises into the vast night sky. Hike the short trails of the park’s north unit, getting right up close to this otherworldly landscape. The Door Trail is a favorite with its boardwalk accessibility and incredible views. Our guides will take you to out-of-the-way places throughout the park or, should you wish to explore on your own, can recommend routes and create itineraries that match your interests.

COMBINE WITH
> Mount Rushmore
> The Black Hills

MOUNT RUSHMORE


MOUNT RUSHMORE

Quick, can you name the two men who created Mount Rushmore? Doane Robinson (often referred to as the “Father of Mount Rushmore”) and Gutzon Borglum are the two Americans we have to thank for this mountain-sized monument showcasing four of our country’s most esteemed presidents. Rising 60 feet high, the granite heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln took approximately 12 years to construct and attract nearly 3 million visitors per year. A Mount Rushmore vacation often encompasses the Black Hills of South Dakota – we’ll help you experience it all.

WHAT WE REVEAL
For an insider’s Mount Rushmore vacation, you can count on us to provide a private tour of the Black Hills region. The focus is this majestic monument, which we typically visit in the morning for the best photography lighting and fewer crowds. The short Presidential Trail is a wonderful way to get different vantage points and framing of photos. We’ll return for the evening lighting ceremony, a nightly illumination set to “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” making for a proud and memorable moment in front of the heritage we all share. During the day, venture into the Black Hills and Badlands for a look at the area’s history, geology, Native American culture, paleontology and wildlife. Nearby attractions include Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial and Jewel Cave National Monument.

COMBINE WITH
> Badlands National Park

THE BLACK HILLS


THE BLACK HILLS

A Black Hills vacation can’t ever really be long enough – there’s so much scenery and so much history here, you’ll feel you’ve barely scratched the surface. Several national parks and monuments call this region home, including the internationally recognized Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Crazy Horse Memorial and Badlands National Park. Beyond this, there are 12 more national and state parks, as well as recreation areas, within the Black Hills, all easily accessible from a pleasant home base in Rapid City. Wear your sneakers, bring your camera and get ready to explore.

WHAT WE REVEAL
Head first to Mount Rushmore National Memorial on your Black Hills vacation, this being “America’s Shrine of Democracy.” Early-morning lighting is best for photos – our guides will return you there in the evening for the dramatic nightly illumination. Check out the ongoing mountain carving at Crazy Horse Memorial, which, when finished, will be 641 feet long and 563 feet high (the Mount Rushmore faces are each 60 feet high). You might also check out the artist residence for a behind-the-scenes look at the memorial’s famed sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. Custer State Park is a must, vast at 71,000 acres (nothing is small-scale in the Black Hills) and home to a free-ranging buffalo herd. There are scenic drives, great fishing in mountain lakes, amazing hiking trails and more to discover across all the acreage. Visit the Black Hills Institute in Hill City, one of the world’s leading organizations in paleontological excavations and preparation, supplying museums with the finest in professionally prepared fossils. A smattering of local wineries offer bottles to take home, or, if you wish, indulge in a high-end artistic souvenir at one of Hill City’s many galleries.

COMBINE WITH
> Badlands National Park
> Mount Rushmore

RAPID CITY


RAPID CITY

As the gateway to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore, Rapid City is worthy of exploration on its own and may surprise you with its sophistication, walkability and cultural pursuits. It’s known as the City of Presidents for the bronze statues of every US president scattered throughout downtown. Creature comforts at fine accommodation await guests after a day spent visiting one of the six national parks and monuments that lie within an hour’s drive of the city, including Devils Tower, Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial and Wind Cave National Park.

WHAT WE REVEAL
Adventure in Rapid City starts with venturing into the dramatic Badlands, where you’ll hike in little-known areas with your private guide who knows the region’s geography like his own backyard. Visit the Black Hills, focusing on Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial and Mt. Rushmore National Monument, in the evening when the lights are on and the crowds are nonexistent. Bike, hike, stargaze, rock climb, and zip line – there’s an adventure for all ages and energy levels on a Rapid City vacation. Back within the city limits, spend an afternoon at the museums dedicated to Native American history and galleries brimming with fine arts displays.

COMBINE WITH
> Badlands National Park
> Mount Rushmore
> Yellowstone National Park

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