A good family friend told us a while back, “When you head out west, you must visit the Badlands.” That is our recommendation now as well, and thanks to Claire for mentioning this to us multiple times! It was definitely a family favorite.
As you drive west along I-90, after passing over the Missouri River, the South Dakota plains are quite a sight. Beautiful golden farmland and all I could think of was “….amber waves of grain…..” When you start to see the Badlands, it’s really hard to imagine what created this scenery. Apparently, this part of South Dakota was a prehistoric sea and the ravines were formed by flowing water. Today, it is really quite amazing to look at luscious grasslands with wildlife roaming across the fields and then glance across the road to see what seems to be a desert with steep drop offs and rocks that are oh so tempting for a 10-year old to climb.
The campground we chose in Wall was Sleepy Hollow, after reading reviews on the Allstays app and it was a great choice!
We were able to walk from the RV to Wall Drug, famous for advertising free water for weary travellers; you see the signs once you cross the South Dakota state line from Minnesota. We enjoyed delicious breakfast and an old fashioned ice cream counter. I think we had ice cream at least twice during our stay.
After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast at Wall Drug, we were ready to conquer the Badlands! There are a few different driving routes you can take through the park. We chose the Badlands Loop Road first, to see prairie dog farms, hopefully spot some Buffalo grazing, stop at overlooks and visit the Ben Reifel visitor center. I’m not sure how many miles this covered, but we stopped a lot and spent the entire day in the park. Tripp’s favorite thing was climbing out onto the overlooks and seeing so much varied wildlife. I was able to conquer my fear of heights when we chose a hike that included a very steep ladder. I honestly thought I was going to have a mild panic attack, but I did finally make it up and then back down. The views were worth it, but I definitely had to garner my courage. I guess I just wanted to forget that experience, because no pictures were shot of that darn ladder (downloaded the picture below later).
Our original travel plans had called for us to leave home early on a Thursday morning and travel with a one night stopover near the Minnesota / South Dakota line. We left late on Wednesday, stopped in Peoria, IL overnight and Roy forged along all day Thursday arriving a day early in the Badlands. We were so happy to have that extra day in Wall, as there are so many trails to explore. Also, just down I-90 from Wall is the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, with a lot of history on the Cold War. The visitor center has a museum and details of the dormant missile fields in South Dakota. If you plan ahead, you can schedule a visit to the underground control center. We didn’t have a chance to do that, the control center was booked solid for two weeks out when we visited in June. We did see one of the underground missile silos, which was really interesting.
When we left Wall on Sunday morning, no buffalo sightings had occurred. However, we had no clue what was to come in the next week!
Next up, Mt Rushmore!!