A year ago we rented a travel trailer for about two weeks and left Kansas City for South Dakota. We came back and decided that we wanted more! Within a year we were full time! That being said, we obviously think South Dakota is an amazing spot for RVers!
What we crammed in last time we visited: Sioux Falls waterfall, Mitchell’s Corn Palace, Wall Drug, Deadwood, Mount Rushmore, The Mammoth Site, Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, Needles Highway, and Sage Creek Rd campground in the Badlands. We recommend all of these stops!
This time we spent nearly twice as long and saw half as much. It was perfect! The benefit of full time travel is that we can take our time (when we want to) and immerse ourselves in an area. We also don’t consider ourselves tourists so we don’t always have to fill our time with constant activities! It also helps that we had already hit up some of the spots and agreed that we didn’t need to see them again so soon. We spent our first night in SD at a Cabela’s in Sioux Falls and then headed for the Badlands by way of the Corn Palace. You have to at least drive past to see what the new pictures are since they redo the entire exterior in murals made of corn (actual corn!) with a different theme each year. Last year it was Rock of Ages and this time it was South Dakota weather.
After boondocking at a Cabela’s in Sioux Falls we filled up our fresh tanks, emptied our grey and black tanks, got some gas for the generator, and headed into the boonies! We found a perfect dispersed camping spot along the wall of the Badlands. Campendium
calls it Nomad View Dispersed and Steer Pasture Overlook Dispersed. They are pretty much the same place and technically are in the Buffalo Gap Grasslands. The rangers call the area “the radio towers” because of the two giant radio towers that are there. You don’t need a pass to go there. It is located less than a mile before you get to the Pinnacle entrance of Badlands National Park. It is unmarked and there is a barb wire gate you need to open. The area accommodates pretty much any size rig if you are brave! We saw everything from tents to giant, fancy-shmancy class As. It is slick and muddy if it has rained so beware! We perched on the side of the wall (when it got really windy I was nervous, not gonna lie!) and had the most amazing view for nearly two weeks! There is a 14 day limit although I don’t think it is strictly enforced. It is dry camping so we ran our generator when we needed to recharge the batteries or if we wanted to watch TV or charge devices. We ran into Wall, which was about 20 minutes away, to get water every day or every other day in our water jugs. We got it from the ranger station in exchange for a few dollars in their donation box. There are two RV campgrounds in town as well so you can dump tanks when you need to. We bought expensive groceries in Wall when needed or headed to Rapid City for weekly grocery shopping. There is a laundry mat in Wall you can use but if you plan to go to Rapid City I would recommend bringing your laundry with you. Your clothes will thank you. We had excellent cell service too – total bonus! Watch our video on boondocking here!
When you are staying in a place as amazing as this you can be content looking at the view or going exploring by foot. We also did some touristy stuff in Wall. You have to (I think it is a law) visit Wall Drug. It is a tourist stop that originated as a drug store in 1931. Now it is a fun roadside stop for food, knick knacks, gifts, souvenirs, etc. We heard the donuts are amazing but never did try them. I know, what is wrong with us?!
We ventured into the Badlands National Park to take in the amazing views and stunning landforms. Funny enough, after several months on the road, it was our first National Park. We finally got to break in our America the Beautiful pass! We drove through the park several times. On one drive we saw a bald eagle, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and bison. It was one of those days where you go to bed smiling because it was such a great day! We checked out the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site and walked through the museum. We also went to the Ranger station and completed our first Junior Ranger program!
What was our favorite part? We made some great friends! That is one thing we miss about living in a neighborhood so we got a little taste of home. Mom and dad got some adult conversation and the kids had some playmates. We even all stayed an extra day. It was tough to leave for some many reasons!
Black Hills and Mount Rushmore
We went from one dispersed site to another. We stayed a few night at Taylor Ranch Road. It was a beautiful spot tucked into the Black Hills. We were close enough to Hill City and Keystone that we did some day trips in for sight seeing (and free WiFi because we had ZERO T-Mobile service). Hill City has a small but very cool dinosaur museum.
Mount Rushmore ($10 vehicle pass)
We had visited Mount Rushmore last year but felt like it was a must do anyway since we were in the hood! Last year we saw it during the day and walked the Presidential Trail and spent a few hours there. People warned us that we would be underwhelmed but we were anything but. Visiting the monument is really amazing and we enjoyed everything from the view and the history to the hike and the Thomas Jefferson ice cream afterwards! This year we decided to see it at night. There was a ranger program and movie about the impact of the four presidents that played after dark and concluded with the monument being lit up. We sang the National Anthem and veterans were invited on stage for the flag ceremony. You left feeling like “YEAH AMERICA!” If you have already been there, make sure to go back and see it at night – it is a whole different experience.
Over 100 years ago my (Jeri) mom’s family settled in South Dakota Territory. Kimballs and Whitneys were part of its history as it joined the Union and became the 40th state. From 1923-1929 my great grandfather was even a Senator. My grandfather was born there and is buried there with his parents and siblings. I have an ancestor who survived a scalping and another who escaped capture by Indians as a child! Thankfully our time in the state was not as dramatic! We were there for almost a month and we understood why one might come and want to stay. Most of the places where we stayed gave us views that were similar to what the early residents saw. It is so easy to pretend like you are the first one to ever come across it. I love that places like this still exist ❤️