The Badlands of South Dakota and North Dakota

Follow this simple 4-day guide to experience all the good of the Badlands
Man in sunglasses hiking Badlands

Day 1

Your trip officially begins in Wall, home to the international icon of Wall Drug. Snag some breakfast before you wander the Western mall, or get an early start to catch the sunrise in Badlands National Park, which brings shades of pink and orange out of the rocky outcroppings. 

Follow Highway 240, also known as the Badlands Loop, and don't be afraid to pull over and wander. The park is open for exploration, whether on the open land or on popular trails like Door Trail, Window Trail, and the Castle Trail. Grab lunch at Cedar Pass Lodge, known for its giant Indian taco.

Once your exploration is complete, head to the Black Hills via Highway 44, then south on Highway 79 and west on Highway 40 to Keystone, the little town at the base of Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Explore the town's kitschy offerings before turning in for the night.

Buffalo along Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park

Day 2

First stop of the day is Mount Rushmore National Memorial! Stroll the Presidential Trail for some unique perspectives on the four faces, but don't miss the Lincoln Borglum Museum at the memorial to learn more about this amazing sculpture. If you are ready for ice cream, ice cream is ready for you, especially the kind made from Thomas Jefferson's own recipe.

Continue on Highway 16A to Custer State Park. This scenic drive, also known as Iron Mountain Road, curves and winds through pigtail bridges and mountain tunnels. Once in Custer State Park, enjoy the sites on the Wildlife Loop Road (pictured above), where visitors have excellent chances of spotting wildlife like buffalo, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep and more. If you have the time, give yourself a few hours to hike Black Elk Peak, the highest point in North America east of the Rockies. 

From Custer State Park, it's only 10 minutes to Crazy Horse Memorial, the world’s largest in-progress mountain carving that's also home to a museum, restaurant, and sculptor's studio. Continue north to the Old West mining towns of Lead and Deadwood, each of which have their own special offerings. In Lead, you can learn about cutting edge science (and blast a golf ball into a 1,200-foot-deep chasm) at Sandford Lab Homestake Visitor Center before or after grabbing a legendary burger at Sled Haus or Lewie's Saloon and Eatery. Spend the evening at one of Deadwood’s gaming parlors or Old West shows before turning in for the night in Deadwood or Lead.

Vehicle driving in Spearfish Canyon (drone shot)

Day 3

Start the day with a drive through Spearfish Canyon, a National Forest Scenic Byway (pictured above). Pullover options include a variety of waterfalls. Enjoy the High Plains Western Heritage Center in Spearfish. Depart the Black Hills via the western town of Belle Fourche -- home to the Center of the Nation Monument -- and head north on Highway 85 north to Medora, North Dakota.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Day 4

Medora, a restored cowboy town, was founded in 1883 and offers a nightly musical, trail rides, several museums, buggy rides and more. Spend time in Theodore Roosevelt National Park (pictured above) and explore the area until it's time to turn in, pleased with your decision to explore some of the more amazing parts of the Midwest.

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Illustration of BigHorn Ram in Badlands National Park at Sunrise with flowers and the colorful striated spires leading off into the horizon
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