Summer Kickoff in South Dakota :: Part One

Hi guys!

Finally recapping our big May road trip to South Dakota! Prior to this trip, my knowledge of this state was pretty limited (read : just passed through on cross-country trips). So going all in with this trip meant saying YES to every experience!

From Day One, we knew we were in for a unique adventure. Although we were heading into Memorial Day weekend, our starting point of Rapid City had just received two feet of snow the week prior! Making our very first stop, a hike in the Black Hills, a bit more interesting as we ended up hiking in the snow. But if you guys have followed me for awhile, I’m sure you can guess that my inner snow bunny was THRIVING ;) . After a quick pit stop to the incredible Chapel in the Hills (a replica of the 850 year old Borgund Church in Norway!), we checked into Hotel Alex Johnson. Located right in the center of the main strip, we were able to explore our surroundings on foot. Our time in Rapid City was short and sweet, but we still managed to collect a few favorite spots :

For dinner : Murphy’s Pub and Grill

For drinks : Press Start Arcade Bar

For dessert : Mary's Mountain Cookies

For coffee + baked goods : Harriet & Oak


Our first full day in SD started bright and early, for a kayaking date with Black Hills Adventure Tours. Our guide, Carrie, was AMAZING, and made sure we had a safe and enjoyable time exploring along the shoreline of Pactola Lake. Given the recent weather, we weren’t able to get out super far, but it was still a great experience! After a quick lunch in Hill City, we made our way to Custer State Park. The snow was definitely still lingering along the trails here, but we made it work and explored the trails around Sylvan Lake - Little Devils Tower and Black Elk Peak are two great ones if you’re in the area!


After hanging out in the city of Custer, we checked into the Bavarian Inn and crossed our fingers for sunshine. The following morning we woke up to just that!! Blue skies accompanied us on our way to our next destination : Wind Cave National Park. If you’re keen on wildlife, this is the place for you! Within mere minutes of being there, we were feet away from one of the many buffalo that call the park home. It was crazy to think that above ground were roaming buffalo + mischievous prairie dogs while below ground was the third largest cave system in the country! We had the chance to explore it a bit, joining on a Natural Entrance Tour (one of the many tours that are offered). We continued on our wildlife journey with a tour of the Wild Horse Sanctuary located in Hot Springs. I LOVE horses, so this tour was especially meaningful to me!


With our tour wrapped up, it was time to head out to a place I have been dreaming of since my very first cross country road trip almost TEN YEARS ago! Make sure to check out the second post of this trip to see where we journeyed next!



This post is in partnership with South Dakota Tourism.

Jessica Olm1 Comment