If you’re not familiar with South Dakota, you may be missing a diamond in the rough. A simple drive through the state’s wide-open spaces, gently rolling grasslands, magnificent hand-carved rock formations and the crystal-clear night sky make you realize just what a gem this Midwestern state really is.
Pack up your Cruise America rental RV and prepare for a road trip that is sure to create lasting memories for the entire family. Not only will you want to visit the “Great 8” attractions of the state, but be sure to include some of the quirky side attractions as well. And if you're not insistent on dining in your motorhome for every meal, you won’t want to miss the small, quaint diners serving fresh farm-to-table fare!
Here are a few of the “Must Sees” as you RV your way through the Mount Rushmore State. And speaking of Mount Rushmore …
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
This is one of those “bucket list icons” of our nation’s Americana. You can look at pictures of it all day, but they do this enormous stone creation no justice … it’s best seen in person! These likenesses of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln have been vigilantly staring from the side of the mount for 75 years. The stone carvings of our past presidents rise 60 feet over the Black Hills National Forest. Interestingly, the sculptures were never really completed, as the original plan called for the busts to include the entire upper torso of each president. However, the project ended in 1941 due to lack of funding.
Crazy Horse Memorial
This project is still underway, and lies just 17 miles southwest of Mount Rushmore. This makes it convenient to visit both locations in the same day.
The Crazy Horse project is a tribute to the Lakota Sioux war leader, who died in 1877. The work began in 1948, and will eventually, upon completion, be the world’s largest mountain carving. Visitors can actually view this work-in-progress on guided tours. From Memorial Day through September you can visit with Native American artists, listen to lectures and visit museums dedicated to the history of the Native American heritage. There is also a Laser Light Show each night, and if you’re lucky, you will be there for one of the two annual “Night Blasts” featuring incredible fireballs and specially designed pyrotechnical wonders that light up the mountain in spectacular fashion.
Badlands National Park
This 244,000-acre park is a striking and breathtaking area that compliments the South Dakota landscape. As you explore the maze of buttes, canyons, spires and pinnacles, you are sure to see many fossilized remains, including those of three-toed horses and saber-toothed cats. You can pilot your RV along the unforgettable 30-mile Scenic Byway through the park, but be prepared to make several photo-op stops! Oh, and watch for wildlife, as it exists there in abundance!
While there, don’t miss the chance to gaze at the star-filled night sky, which reveals heavenly features that are sure to take your breath away and make you ponder about our existence here on earth.
Jewel Cave National Monument
About 45 minutes from Mount Rushmore is a wonderland of brilliant underground colors. The Jewel Cave offers up a show of yellow, red and pink hues that bounce off the calcite crystals when the manmade light hits the walls of what is the world’s third-longest cave. This underground wilderness is creased by prehistoric veins that are adorned with fragile crystals that erupt into brilliant colors for your viewing pleasure. Guided tours are available, so don’t miss this opportunity to don your headlamp and delve into an underground kingdom wrapped in several layers of midnight.
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
If you are into biking along with your RVing, then you probably already know that South Dakota is home to the world-renowned Sturgis Motorcycle Rally held each year in August. The entire town of Sturgis, located about 30 minutes north of Rapid City, is taken over by thousands of motorcyclists and their bikes. The otherwise quiet town comes to life with this weeklong celebration that features motorcycle shows, celebrity-led bike rides, pub crawls and concerts. If ever you have wanted to see what appears to be an infinite number of motorcycles and riders, this is the place for you!
South Dakota offers a large number of great RV parks, so you can stay practically anywhere you desire. Truth be told, you don’t even need an RV park, as each of our Cruise America class C motorhomes are completely self-sustainable!