One Thrilling Week in South Dakota

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If you are looking for a vacation based in nature without crowds, South Dakota is a perfect spot for you. 

While most of the county is facing long lines at most national parks in the summer months, South Dakota is a state that’s still underrated and uncrowded. 

It was quite hot though with temperatures in the 90s when we visited in August.

Below, I’ve compiled a list of things to do and where to stay during your visit to South Dakota.

A pronghorn in Custer State Park

Where to Stay in South Dakota

We really enjoyed staying at the Heartland RV Park and Cabins Campground in Hermosa, South Dakota. It provided spacious and well-groomed landscaping.

The pool was never crowded and was very refreshing on a warm day in August. 

The best part of this campground was the location to the surrounding areas. 

It costs around $60 per night. Pets are allowed and even large RVs and motorhomes could easily fit in the pull through sites.

Distance from Heartland RV Park to…

  • Custer State Park…38 minutes
  • Wind Cave National Park…58 minutes
  • Badlands National Park…1 hour
  • Mount Rushmore…33 minutes
  • Crazy Horse Memorial…53 minutes
  • Downtown Custer, SD…43 minutes

Read More: 14 Photos to Make You Fall in Love with South Dakota

Heartland RV Park and Cabins in Hermosa, South Dakota

Things To Do While in South Dakota

They are so many amazing adventures to have in South Dakota. The state features two national parks and a most impressive state park.

If you’ve never been to South Dakota, you may want to use a RV trip planner like Trip Wizard/RV Life.

Wind Cave National Park

We had a wonderful hike in Wind Cave National Park along the Boland Ridge Trail, 5.2 miles out and back. 

We chose the hike because it was said you could have a great chance to see bison and elk, unfortunately we didn’t see any wildlife but there were beautiful views of the prairie.  

There are no fees to enter the park.

If you’d like to take part in a tour of the caves, you can purchase a ticket at Recreation.gov.

Read More: How to Plan an Unforgettable Two-Week RV Road Trip

Boland Ridge Trail in Wind Cave National Park

Badlands National Park

If I had more time I would have loved to stay additional days closer to Badlands National Park. Because we drove here from our campground in Hermosa, SD we didn’t have a long time to explore and hike more. 

But the time we did spend in South Dakota was so incredible. 

If you do anything in this park, plan to drive the entire length of this park. And especially during sunset – it’s gorgeous! 

Our favorite moment in Badlands National Park: When we were driving back home through the park, we suddenly found ourselves in the pitch black surrounded by a herd of buffalo. So thrilling and a bit scary!

Read More: How to RV in the US for Less than $2500

Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

We visited Mount Rushmore Memorial during sunrise, and we almost had the site to ourselves. Highly recommend going at this time!

You have without a doubt seen photos of Mount Rushmore before, but those pictures really don’t do it justice. 

All you can think of is how people could possibly carve these faces out of stone – it’s amazing! 

There’s also a short .9 mile Presidential Loop Trail that takes you around the area. I definitely recommend doing this trail after you watch the sunrise. There were a ton of deer on the trail as well. 

You’ll need to pay around $10 for parking for cars and RVs. 

Mount Rushmore Memorial

Read More: What should a first time RV camper know?

Custer State Park

Custer State Park was by far the best part of our trip. 

Honestly, we spent the majority of our time just driving the Wildlife Loop Road. We went during sunrise, sunset, and basically every hour in between. 

Every time we drove around we encountered new wildlife and then we became addicted to seeing what was around the next corner. 

While visiting Custer we saw bison, pronghorn, whitetail and mule deer,  1 elk, coyotes, burros (donkeys), thousands of prairie dogs.

You’ll have the best chance of seeing wildlife in the early or late hours of the day. 

If we had more time we would have done more hiking but we just loved driving around so much. 

Make sure to stop at the Visitor Center and the Bison Center to learn more about the life of bison (buffalo) and other wildlife.

For $20 you’ll get a 7-day pass and trust me, you’ll want to visit more than once so it’s well worth it. 

Our Favorite Moment in Custer State Park: Seeing a male elk all by ourselves and watching it graze on a hill.

Our 2nd Favorite Moment in Custer State Park: On the very first day driving on the Wildlife Loop Road we drove around a corner and there was a traffic jam of bison!! It was amazing to see how many there were and how close they would come to the car. So cool!

Wildlife Loop Road

Crazy Horse Memorial

The entrance fee to get in is about $12-15 per person.

They have fantastic educational exhibits to showcase the stories of local indigenous and historical people. 

They also featured incredible art and beautiful artifacts. If you’d like to take part in an up-close tour of the memorial, it costs around $4 per person to take a bus down to the base of the mountain.

A Day Spent in downtown Custer, South Dakota

Start the day by visiting a local hike to Custer Skywalk, a .5 mile out and back trail.

This trail was actually pretty steep with lots of stairs to climb but it was a rather quick trail and views of the town from the top was worth the effort.  

We only went out a handful of times but our visit to Black Hills Burger and Bun Co. This was a recommendation from a local and we’re so glad we visited. Highly recommend trying the bison burger. We even buy bison at our local grocery store now because we love how much healthier it is than typical ground beef. 

After lunch, take a stroll around downtown Custer which features plenty of local shops to keep you occupied. 

Final Thoughts

South Dakota should be on anyone’s bucket list who is looking for a nature and wildlife-based vacation.