Three years ago I took a road trip with my Dad to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We started in my little hometown of Minnesota and made the drive out. Our route took us through the Badlands, the Black Hills and finally to Jackson Hole.
It was one of my favorite trips and I’d love to go back. But in the meantime, I’ll just reminisce and share a few of my favorite spots on the trip with you!
BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK
To be honest, the Badlands National Park in South Dakota surprised me. My Dad had been raving about it, but I wasn’t quite sure that this would be the type of terrain that I’d find appealing. As you’ve noticed on my blog, I’m quite captivated by mountains, forests, and the ocean.
But when we finally got there, I found it be quite beautiful. Who would have thought?
It has a rugged beauty to it. As you make your way through the park, you see all these vast valleys of rock formations around you. We jumped out at a few places to explore. My Dad climbed the rocks, while I snapped photos.
All in all, it’s a pretty cool place that I think is worth checking out.
BLACK HILLS NATIONAL FOREST
After a few more hours of driving, we finally got into Nemo, South Dakota. We had booked an awesome Airbnb here, right in the middle of the Black Hills National Forest. Our place had a cozy lodge feel and was pretty remote, so you definitely go that “cabin in the woods” vibe. Which is exactly what we wanted! The plan was to stay here for a few days to explore the area.
And I loved it! Each morning, I’d wake up early and take a walk, with coffee and camera in hand. It was such a peaceful way to start the day.
Our neck of the woods was full of wildflowers, a pretty creek, horses roaming around and more!
At dusk each night, I’d sit out on our deck with a glass of wine and curl up with a good book. I believe I was reading Gone Girl at the time. It was the best spot to relax and unwind before dinner. The trickling stream nearby had a nice effect.
If you’re in or near the Black Hills National Forest, there are a few places I’d recommend checking out. The city of Deadwood is one of them. It’s an old mining and gambling town that pulls you back into what feels like the wild West.
Back in the day, the city was infamous for it’s legendary gamblers and gunslingers. Characters like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Seth Bullock, just to name a few.
We drove through Deadwood and stopped at a little place for a bit to eat. I think we even peeked into one it’s old casinos and tried our luck at an old slot machine. Oh, and there is a haunted hotel in Deadwood! It’s called the History Bullock Hotel. We didn’t get to it, but I feel like that would be fun to check out on your way through!
The next stop on my list would be Mount Rushmore (if you’ve never been).It’s actually quite a beautiful monument. The walk up into the memorial is rather elegant and grandeur. Which I kind of loved.
What I didn’t know is that there is actually quite a bit of hiking you can do here. We took an easy trail through the base of the memorial. The trail was canopied by the Ponderosa Pines (such a nice smell!) and offered unique views of Mount Rushmore overhead.
And last, but not least, is Custer State Park. It’s a big park, so we ended up driving through and doing the scenic loop. But it was amazing! We saw a ton of wildlife roaming around. Bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, elk and more!
My favorite part about Custer State Park is the route to Sylvan Lake. Along the way, you’ll find the Cathedral Spires, which, as you can see, are quite beautiful.
Sylvan Lake is an alpine lake with huge boulders surrounding it. The locals come here to spend hot days jumping from the rocks down into the cool water.
There is a little general store right next to the lake where you can grab food and drinks. We had a quick bite before heading out on the hike around the lake. It’s quite picturesque. But unfortunately, my camera was being a little funky that day, so I don’t have great photos to share with you. But you can check it out here. It’s beautiful, right?
Custer State Park was our last hurrah in the Black Hills National Forest. The next day, we started making our way to our final destination: Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
After you leave the Black Hills, the drive can be a little flat (and boring). But then you get into the Bighorn Mountains and everything starts to get a little more exciting again.
At some point, you start to see the Grand Tetons stretching across the sky. And that’s when you know you’re getting close to Jackson Hole. The beautiful valley nestled next to an even more beautiful mountain range.
Stay tuned for Part Two of my Jackson Hole trip. It’s about to get epic! 🙂
Let’s go places,
What are some other great spots in the Black Hills National Forest? Share a few in the comments section below.
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