On our way to Rapid City, we drove through Badlands National Park. Before you get to the park, you go by a place that advertises feeding the prairie dogs. Although we did not buy any peanuts to give them, we saw plenty of prairie dogs and were able to get very close to them for pictures. They are absolutely adorable.
Our drive through the Badlands was incredible. If it had not been 93 degrees (at 4pm) I would have loved to explore some of the trails. However, it was extremely hot, but beautiful summer day. We were lucky enough to spot a group long horned sheep at the top of a rock outcropping as we turned a corner, including a baby. We were sad we could not manage a picture, but as we continued our drive we came upon another group with two babies!
As we drove through the Badlands, I could not help but feel like we were in another world. The massive rock formations did not look like anything that would be on the Earth and juxtaposed with the flat prairie land made it more astonishing. We saw quite a few more prairie dogs on our drive through park along with a few pronghorn deer.
The next day, we decided to try a couple of the tourist attractions in the Rapid City/Mt. Rushmore area. There are quite a few to choose from, but we were interested in the alpine slides and coasters. We tried the slide first, which is in an actual sled with a handbrake. There are no other safety features. You take a chairlift to the top of the mountain (you can see Mt. Rushmore in the distance on the way up). At the top, my boyfriend asked the attendant if anyone has flipped off the side for going too fast. He responded very seriously, “Yes, all the time.” That gave my boyfriend enough incentive not to barrel down the whole mountain, thank goodness.
The other option was an Alpine Coaster. This is just like riding on your own individual roller coaster car. You are strapped in with a seat belt and you have a control to move forward or brake. It takes you to the top of the mountain in your own car. You can choose to ride double if you like and is a bit cheaper. This coaster was very fast. There were two turns in which I had to break quite a bit because I felt like I was going to slide off the track. It was a fun ride, but like any roller coaster, it was over quickly. We did both before 11am and beat the crowds.
Our next stop was Mt. Rushmore. Although it does not cost anything to go see the monument, you have to pay $10 to park there. The park was a bit disappointing because they were doing some work on it and you couldn’t go as close to the mountain as you can normally. The trail around the monument was also closed and there were visible people on top of Teddy Roosevelt’s head. I didn’t care. It was amazing. I could have stood there for hours. My grandmother was an artist and she instilled in me a love and appreciation for good art work that I cherish. Mt. Rushmore is an astounding piece of art.
We left Mt. Rushmore and headed to Custer State Park. If you go the correct way, you can see the profile of Washington.
In Custer State Park you have the opportunity to see bison/buffalo up close. We were also lucky enough to see several pronghorn and a coyote who was stalking a pair of them. My boyfriend visited the park in December a few years ago and the bison/buffalo were on the road, surrounded him, and licked the salt off his car.
After Rapid City, we started our journey to Montana. We made sure to stop on the way to see the massive Devil’s Tower. It did not disappoint.