Great American Road Trip Itinerary | Black Hills & Badlands - South Dakota

Great American Road Trip Itinerary

  • Great American Road Trip Itinerary

The Black Hills and Badlands, a place where history, culture, and nature intertwine to create an unforgettable travel experience. Immerse yourself in the rich heritage of Rapid City, explore breathtaking vistas in a 200,000-acre national park, and delve into the Central Hills' unique activities and charming towns. Uncover the Old West's mystique in the Northern Hills, marvel at the Southern Hills' stunning natural landmarks, and embrace Wyoming's history and culture through its best-kept secrets. Embark on a once-in-a-lifetime journey that promises adventure, learning, and awe-inspiring beauty at every turn.

Rapid City

It's no wonder Rapid City is a top travel destination. Explore the rich heritage through interactive exhibits at museums, narrated tours of downtowns, and famous landmark chapels' architectural beauty. Discover diverse wildlife and natural landmarks, including preserved forests with off-road hiking trails or wildlife parks with North American animals. Experience a once-in-a-lifetime journey that embraces history, culture, and nature in the Black Hills.

Things to See & Do in Rapid City

  • Rapid City - With friendly locals, vibrant downtown, entertainment, rich cultural history, and access to some of the region's most iconic natural landmarks, it's no wonder that it's a top travel destination.
  • Journey Museum - A museum offering a glimpse of the rich heritage of the Black Hills region.
  • City View Trolley - A narrated tour of the downtown area.
  • Stavkirke Chapel - A landmark chapel located in Rapid City.
  • Petrified Forest of the Black Hills - A preserved forest with off-road trails for hiking and exploring.
  • Reptile Gardens - Home to the world's largest collection of reptiles.
  • Bear Country, USA - A wildlife park with North American animals, including bear cubs.
  • Black Hills Caverns - A unique cavern system discovered by gold miners in 1882. 

Badlands Region

Explore a 200,000-acre national park with breathtaking vistas and unique geological formations at your own pace. Learn about life on the prairie with a visit to a preserved sod dwelling, and discover a charming gateway town with year-round outdoor activities, dining options, and accommodation. Don't miss a chance to stop by a famous roadside attraction with western-themed shops, restaurants, and photo opportunities.

Things to See & Do in the Badlands Region

  • Badlands National Park - A national park spanning nearly 244,000 acres of unique geological formations and breathtaking vistas.
  • Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway - A scenic drive that winds through the heart of Badlands National Park.
  • Prairie Homestead - A preserved sod dwelling that provides a glimpse into life on the prairie during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Wall - A gateway community to the Badlands National Park and an iconic tourist attraction, that offers year-round activities, accommodation, dining options, and a unique charm with its history and small-town charm.
  • Wall Drug - A famous roadside attraction located in the town of Wall that features western-themed shops, restaurants, and unique photo opportunities.

Central Hills Region

Discover adventure and history in the Central Hills. Explore charming towns, interactive exhibits, scenic landscapes, and enjoy unique activities like zip lining, train rides, and museum visits. Unleash your inner archaeologist, or shop for bags and accessories at specialty stores.

Businesses and Destinations in the Central Hills Region

  • Keystone - A charming town with unique attractions including the world-famous Mount Rushmore National Memorial, galleries, restaurants, and a zip line tour.
  • Rushmore Borglum Story Museum and Gallery - Learn about Gutzon Borglum and the history of Mount Rushmore.
  • Hill City - Located in the heart of the Black Hills, is a picturesque small town that is perfect for outdoor recreation and exploring the rich history and culture of South Dakota.
  • 1880 Train - Enjoy a scenic train ride through the Black Hills.
  • South Dakota State Railroad Museum - Discover various displays of railroad equipment and memorabilia specific to South Dakota and related American Railroads.
  • Everything Prehistoric Gift Shop at the Museum at Black Hills Institute - View amazing dinosaurs, fossils, minerals, and collectibles from all over the world.
  • The Handbag Store - Shop for all types of bags, scarves, wallets, and coin purses.

Northern Hills Region

The Northern Hills offers a unique experience of the Old West and mining history, showcasing a range of sites such as historic homes, cemeteries, reenactments, and lodges. Visitors can explore the Homestake Mine and enjoy picturesque drives through scenic byways, giving breathtaking views of natural attractions. In addition, visitors will find museum tours, fish hatcheries, and rodeo events, making the visit to the region an all-encompassing adventure.

  • Belle Fourche - A city in South Dakota known for its cowboy culture and beautiful scenery.
  • Center of the Nation Monument - A monument marking the geographical center of the United States, located in Belle Fourche.
  • Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center - A museum in Belle Fourche showcasing the history and culture of the surrounding region.
  • Black Hills Roundup and Rodeo - A century-old rodeo event in Belle Fourche that takes place around the Fourth of July.
  • Spearfish - A lively town in South Dakota known for its downtown area, scenic byway, and western history.
  • DC Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery - A historic fish hatchery in Spearfish where visitors can feed trout and learn about the history of the facility.
  • High Plains Western Heritage Center - A museum in Spearfish that displays the history of the western frontier, ranching, mining, forestry, and transportation.
  • Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway - A picturesque drive through Spearfish Canyon with stunning views and natural attractions like Roughlock Falls.
  • Cheyenne Crossing - Nestled outside of Lead and at the top of Spearfish Canyon, this picturesque outpost is a much-needed rest stop for hungry travelers. 
  • Deadwood - A historic town in South Dakota known for its old-west architecture, Wild Bill Hickok history, and numerous attractions.
  • Historic Adams House - A Queen Anne-style home in Deadwood built in 1892, showcasing 19th-century architecture and furnishings.
  • Mt. Moriah Cemetery - A historic cemetery in Deadwood where notable figures like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried.
  • Trial of Jack McCall - A reenactment of the trial of the man who killed Wild Bill Hickok, held at the Masonic Lodge in Deadwood.
  • Cole Cabins - A collection of cozy log cabins in Deadwood, surrounded by pine trees and Strawberry Creek.
  • Lead - A city in South Dakota with a rich mining history and attractions like the Homestake Visitor's Center and Black Hills Mining Museum.
  • Homestake Visitor's Center - A center in Lead that provides information and exhibits about the Homestake Mine and the region's mining history.
  • Black Hills Mining Museum - A museum in Lead that offers exhibits, tours, and gold-panning experiences related to the mining history of the Black Hills.
  • Blackstone Lodge & Suites - A newly renovated lodge in Lead with comfortable accommodations and an outdoor hot tub.

Southern Hills Region

Home to stunning natural landmarks and national parks, the Soutern Hills is perfect for any nature lover. Experience the wonders of hiking, biking, and observing wildlife, or relax and rejuvenate in hot springs and indoor swimming pools. You can also explore the region's rich history by visiting museums, paleontology digs, and native American sites, and indulge in local cuisine while visiting charming towns. It's a perfect vacation that offers breathtaking scenery and adventures for everyone. There are many roads that lead to the Southern Hills. If you're coming in from the West, stay a night (or two) at the Sundowner Inn in Newcastle, Wyoming - It's the Western Gateway to the Black Hills.

Things to See and Do in the Southern Hills

  • Crazy Horse Memorial - Explore the abundance of history, educational center, gift shop, and don't miss the laser light show in the evening.
  • Hot Springs - Offering restorative hot springs water, rich history, unique architecture, and immersive experiences such as walking tours and historic festivals.
  • The Mammoth Site - Learn about the Ice Age, explore the museum, and participate in a Junior Paleontology Dig.
  • Evans Plunge - Enjoy the world's largest natural warm water indoor swimming pool.
  • Wind Cave National Park - Observe and enjoy the wildlife and beauty of nature in a wildlife sanctuary.
  • Custer - A thriving town that offers plenty of opportunities to hike, bike, explore museums, native American sites, and enjoy delicious cuisine.
  • 1881 Custer Courthouse Museum - Learn about the history of the area.
  • Custer State Park - Witness an array of wildlife, including the world's largest public-owned buffalo herd and Black Elk Peak.
  • State Game Lodge - Rest comfortably in the heart of history.
  • Needles Highway - Take a drive through rock formations called “Needles” and visit the Sylvan Lake for relaxation.


Explore the heart of Wyoming's history and culture through its best-kept secrets. Visit the unexpected Devil's Tower, the first National Monument in the United States, and go on to the quaint cowboy town of Sundance, nestled in the picturesque valley of the Bearlodge Range. Free your mind at Crook County Museum or travel back in time at Vore Buffalo Jump and discover the Plains Indians' hunting techniques and their reliance on nature. These locations offer an authentic experience to immerse you in Wyoming's history and culture.

  • Devils Tower National Monument - The nation's first National Monument that rises unexpectedly out of the prairie and grasslands of eastern Wyoming.
  • Sundance - a cowboy town nestled at the base of Sundance Mountain in the valley of the Bearlodge Range in Northeastern Wyoming, known for its history and folklore.
  • Crook County Museum - A free museum in Sundance where visitors can relive the history of the town and region.
  • Vore Buffalo Jump - An historic site off I-90 in Wyoming where visitors can learn about how Plains Indians hunted bison using a natural sinkhole.

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