North and South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary is a wonderful family vacation through the Midwest. There’s wonderful National Parks, State Parks and National Monuments to Explore. You spend a few days or a week exploring this area. See prairie dogs, wild horses, bison and more. Drive through mountain tunnels and see Mount Rushmore.
Sioux Falls, SD to Rapid City, SD
Start your trip in Sioux Falls, SD. If you are coming from the east coast you can travel on I-90 from the east coast to the midwest. Head out early as you will have a busy day. it’s a 4-hour drive to Badlands National Park so if you leave at 6 am you should arrive around 10 am.
*Time Zone Change, Rapid City is 1 hr behind Sioux Falls, so you gain an hour.
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Take a 4 hour Guide driving through with some scenic stops. If time you can spend the whole day driving through the national park with stops.
Badlands National Park is a great park to drive. Even though it is not a full loop, the main road through the park offers visitors great views and offers 13 scenic overlooks.
The following are some nice short hikes that are great for families.
- Fossil Exhibit Trail: easy .25 mile trail has a fully accessible boardwalk.
- Door Trail: easy .75 (round trip) mile hike has a .25 mile boardwalk
- Window Trail: This is an easy and short .25 mile trail
- Cliff Shelf: This moderate .5 mile (round trip) hike follows a boardwalk and includes stairs. The hike features a small pond which attracts wildlife such as the bighorn sheep
Wall Drug, South Dakota
Wall Drug is a giant Tourist trap. Yet they still keep visiting and so did we. We had to see what the hype was. Wall Drugs is where the coffee is still 5 cents a cup, the hot roast beef sandwich is fantastic and they say the blueberry pie will melt in your mouth. There are some photo ops outside the building as well. They have a gift shop heck they seem to sell just about everything. After ordering our food and eating I was pretty much ready to leave. The place is packed and definitely not my favorite place we stopped. But the roast beef was really good. Wall Drug is not too far from Badlands so you can head back between the two if you need to.
Next drive Drive 2 hours to Custer State Park or If you spent the day in the badlands head to your hotel Near Custer State Park.
If you are staying a week, I recommend spending the full day in the Badlands and Booking accommodations near Custer State Park, Needles Highway and Bear Country USA. This way you can spend 2 full days exploring this area.
Bear Country USA, South Dakota
We didn’t spend as much time at the Badlands National Park as we had thought. We enjoyed the park and felt the lookouts and small hikes were enough for us. With time to spare, we impulsively stopped at Bear USA and we are really glad we did.
We allow enjoyed the stop, especially the baby bears. The park is part drive-through and park walk-through. They have a variety of animals in addition to bears.
Custer State Park and Needles Highway, South Dakota
Needles Highway weaves through the mountains and through several tunnels. There’s a stop to view Mount Rushmore from afar. It passthrough parts of Custer State Park and there’s a good chance you may see Bison.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Depending on how many stops you make along the way it’s possible to arrive at Mount Rushmore in daylight. We were able to and also stay untill the sunset so we could see the mountain lit up at night. Head into the visitors center and complete the Junior Rangers program to earn your badge before they close. If you are considering a hike definitely determine your priority and do that first. There is a $10 parking fee for Mount Rushmore that is not covered by the America the Beautiful Pas or the 4th grade free pass but is free for active-duty military.
Rapid City to Dickensen
From Rapid City, you are 4 hours from Theodore Roosevelt National Park. However, this morning we will enjoy a few stops in the Black Hills before heading over to the hotel in Dickensen for the night. Black Hills encompasses Mt Rushmore to deadwood and rapid city
We were happy to stay in Rapid city however, Deadwood during that day wasn’t too impressive for us. I think it’s probably much more fun at night. However, you may need to cut out a little the day before (maybe the bears and visit Mt Rushmore earlier. This would allow you to arrive at Deadwood in the evening and check it out.
Deadwood is known for the wild west and many famous during this time lived or passed through here. Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok lived in Deadwood. You can drive by the Number 10 Saloon where Wild Bill was shot. There are small museums and historical artifacts everywhere.
Every night at dusk, there is a reenactment of the killing of Wild Bill Hickok and a mock trial where Jack McCall is found guilty. The gunfight is free to watch, but there is a fee to watch the trial.
There’s enough to do in the Black Hills for a week so if you have time you could add a day or a few and be able to see and do a lot more.
Spearfish Canyon has some easy waterfall hikes you can take. We did Speafish Falls and Bridal Vail Falls hikes before heading our to our next stop.
As you leave Speafish Canyon there is a place called Chayenne Crossing Store. They sell Indian Tacos which is a flat taco made from Fry Bread with all the typical taco toppings including meat and beans. It’s something my daughter absolutely loves so it was a great lunch after some hiking.
Devils Tower Nationoal Monument, Wyoming
Devils Tower National Monument 1hr 37 from rapid city 6hrs from yellowstone east entrance. It’s the first national monument in our country. It’s pretty neat to see but we chose not to take the hike as the sun was super hot in the afternoon and we didn’t feel the pay off was worth the hike. The visitors center was closed at the time but they had junior rangers booklets and bins out that you could take and so the kids completed the booklets on our drive.
The Junior Rangers Program is really great for many reasons. After completed select activities they earn a badge but they get to keep the books and our kids often complete the remaining activities during our drive.
On the way out of Devils Tower before the ticket booths, there is a pull-off in front of a Prarie Dog colony. We stopped for a little bit to watch them scurry around. We love seeing wild life and it was a nice relaxing place for a break.
Dickensen, ND & Theodore Roosevelt National Park
From Dickensen,ND you will be just under 10 hours drive to Glacier National Park. Maybe you are heading home or to another destination. But Before you leave head out to another wonderful National Park.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is our favorite place to view Bison. We also were able to see wild horses. The scenery is really magnificent. Stop by the Visitors Center and as for the Junior Rangers program books before you head on the wild life loop.
- AmericInn by Wyndham Rapid City (2king) for about 8,000 UR through Chase Ultimate reward portal
- Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Dickensen for about 6,000 UR Chase Ultimate reward portal
- If you decide to stay in Deadwood, the Double Tree by Hilton in Deadwood is around 35,000 Hilton points.
- If you want to book accommodations near Custer State Park, The Custer State Park Resort looks really cool.
Where to go From Dickenson, ND
After your road trip through North and South Dakota you can head west to Glacier National Park 8.5 hours away or Yellowstone National Park, 6.5 hours away. You also may decide to make Theodore Roosevelt National Park a day trip from the Black Hills which is approximately 4 hours a day so it would be a long day trip. However this would allow you to make one home base for about half your time.
From The Black Hills you can head home, or Yellowstone is 6.5 hours away and Denver is about 5.5 hours away. if your heading home you can head to Scotts Bluff National Monument 3.5 hours away and take route 80 home through Nebraska, and Iowa. This I-80 itinerary through the Midwest gives you a chance to change up your scenery and stops on your way home.
North and South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary
North and South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary is a wonderful family vacation through the Midwest. There’s wonderful National Parks, State Parks and National Monuments to Explore. You spend a few days on a larger road trip or spend a week exploring this area.
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