Earlier this summer, my mom and I took a road trip out to South Dakota. With one day driving there and one day driving back, we spent four jam-packed days exploring western South Dakota (and eastern Wyoming!): two national parks, two national monuments, one national historic site, and one state park! Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing what we did and where we went each day, along with some of my favorite photos from each day!
We camped at Big Pine Campground in Custer, SD. We chose it mainly because it had good reviews on TripAdvisor and was basically located in the middle of everything we wanted to do, and we truly couldn’t have chosen a better place. Ron and Angie were so courteous, friendly, and helpful every day when we walked down to the main office to get ice for our cooler. They have a mix of tent sites (we chose a tent site with a water and electric hook-up which makes charging and cooking a breeze) and RV sites with full hook-ups. Each site is spacious and surrounded by tall pines that are beautiful at all times of the day. The bathrooms were spotless every time I walked in them…y’all, I seriously cannot say enough good things about this campground! If you’re planning a trip out to South Dakota and will be staying in a camper or tent, I highly recommend you look into staying at Big Pine.
Say what you will about tent camping, but I’m such a fan of it. I love the feeling of the breeze coming through the tent, snuggled up in my sleeping bag and hearing crickets chirping and the wind whistling in the trees. Sure, camp stoves are sometimes finicky and if it’s too hot or too cold at night you kind of just have to deal with it. But for me it’s completely worth it.
On our first full day in South Dakota, we decided to…leave South Dakota. We went to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming for the day, which was absolutely beautiful! It was only a ~2 hour drive from our campsite, and well worth it in our opinion. The national monument really does rise like a tower from the prairie around it, and it makes a perfect day trip from the other sites in western South Dakota. We opted to do two hikes while we were there: the shorter 1.3 mile walk around the base of the tower, and a longer 2.8 mile hike that still forms a loop around the base, but with a larger circumference. The shorter loop, the Tower Trail, is a paved, flat trail that’s suitable for everyone. The tower is lined with boulders all around that you can climb onto—and the plethora of kids who were there certainly took advantage of that!
The longer loop, called the Red Beds Trail, is not paved and is moderately difficult. We also did it during the middle of the afternoon in the hot, blazing, Wyoming sun. 0/10, do not recommend. If you do it at this time of the day, make sure to bring plenty of water! We had a full bottle of water each, but both our bottles were long dry once we finally made it back to our car. The views of the tower from this trail, however, are stunning—but watch out for rattlesnakes! While we didn’t technically see any, I will go to my grave saying that we definitely heard at least three distinctive *rattling* sounds that I pretended not to hear in the moment so as to not lose my cool.
After returning to our campsite, we set up shop and cooked some super delicious chicken burgers on our super cool camp stove and I was in my sleeping bag by 8pm. I blame it on the time change.
Check back in a few days to see what we did on our next full day in beautiful South Dakota!