• sparkfireswan

A&A South Dakota Tourism, the Badlands, & the Black Hills

Updated: Jan 13, 2020

End of Week #11


Grandma’s House, Wall/Scenic, South Dakota


Miles traveled since last week’s post = 0


It’s the morning after another severe storm in South Dakota, AGAIN, and we are all trying to dry out in the summer sun and put things back from where they have blown away to. This makes 6-7 severe storms since we got to South Dakota two weeks ago, and the end of our patience with them. We seem to have fixed our AC unit from leaking after the first handful of sideways wind and rain, but last night our living room windows leaked as we were pelted and pummeled with chaos. My Grandma’s deck was tossed like salad with all of her furniture, flowers and couches all over the place. The farmland is too wet to bail hay, and we are all just fed up to britches with this weather. After yesterday’s tornado watch, flash flooding alerts, and Saturdays 2 inch hail and 70 mph wind warnings – we are more than ready for a break!


South Dakota has been putting us through a ringer of anxiety and troubled weather conditions, testing our ability to withstand this full time RV life. But in between all of this madness we have done our best to explore fun things the state has to offer too. From the Badlands, to the Black Hills to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, we are still having a great time out here and spending a lot of time with family too. (Our last planned stop with family for some time to come!) 


A&A South Dakota Tourism, the Badlands, & the Black Hills

Ranch Life


Scenic, South Dakota


We have been given the awesome opportunity to park on my Aunt Missy & Uncle Evan’s land, where my Grandparents also live, and experience what life is like on the farm. We have been stationed right in my Grandparents front yard since July 31st, and are just a hop skip and jump away from them and my Aunt. This has been a wonderful time with family, with cousins I see very often, and a time for us to experience country living – full on ranch life.


From side by side rides through the rolling hills, to prairie dog hunting, to feeding the yaks, the barn cats and the momma cows. My Uncle Evan is a rancher, with a beef cow farm, and hundreds of them roam through the fields and right through my Grandma’s backyard! Adam also got to help out in the fields and drive a handful of different tractors to help fluff, cut and bail hay.


[Sidenote about the prairie dog hunting: At first thought it bothered me, but then I learned about the plague they carry from fleas, and about how they destroy farmland and thus harm farm animals in the process. They are the number one pest of South Dakota!]


I’m not going to lie, it’s a little tough for me to think about the fact that all the cows here are just a number, just a dollar sign or just a patty on a bun, but I’m working through it. I have always loved animals, have gone back and forth with vegetarianism in my life, and never really been a huge fan of red meat. But I also fully understand that it’s a different lifestyle out here, and that this is how a lot of people make a living too. It’s all another part of the great experience for me!


One thing is for sure, we are REALLY going to miss grandma’s home cooked dinners once we head out to Wyoming!


The Badlands National Park


The geological deposits of the Badlands make it one of the richest fossil deposit areas of the world! Ancient mammals definitely roamed here, including saber-toothed tigers, how badass!


Hiking in the Park


A few days before we arrived to Grandma’s house, I came across a post in our Full Time RV Living Facebook group, that reminded me to buy our Annual Park Pass. Access to more than 2,000 parks (including all National Parks), for just $80 – that’s a STEAL. The pass arrived a few days after we got to Grandma’s, and just in time for a sunny day of exploration.


20190805_1147316558283370588370190.jpg

Coming to the Badlands from the north, off of highway 240, there is a Badlands Scenic Route that winds you through the entire park, with perfectly placed overlooks around every corner. I believe we drove over 20 miles on this scenic road before we got to our first hiking location. It was a scorching hot day, high of 91, and extra dry and dirty in the park so we decided not to do the 10 mile hike we were originally planning on.


I used the Badlands website to judge which hikes would be best for us, and picked a combination of 3 shorter ones that seemed to offer the best views of the area.


  1. Saddle Pass Trail – A straight vertical quarter mile trail with overlooking views. The climb up was quite strenuous and slippery, but totally worth it to see the White River Valley.

  2. Notch Trail – This one was about 1.5 miles roundtrip, a moderate meander through a canyon, with a log ladder to climb to get to “the notch” up above. Definitely had to watch the ledges and drop offs on this one!

  3. Window Trail – This wasn’t really a trail, but a short walk to a ledge, that looked like a “window” in the rock to offer views of the Badlands and an eroded canyon. Lots of dirt!


img_20190810_073751_8574233576980215590784.jpg

#3 trail


After completing our 3 hikes we had thought about maybe adding in another 4 mile one to take up the afternoon, but decided against it as the heat and the dirt exhausted us over. When you are in the Badlands it almost feels like you are in a clay oven, just baking and roasting. Plus there really aren’t any trees for shade out there!


Sheep Mountain Table


My Uncle Evan’s land has been in his family for many generations, and butts up to the actual Badlands park (and you even drive in and out of the park a few times to get to his house). Just a few miles down the road from his land, there is a great place called Sheep Mountain Table that you are able to access and hike for free without paying park entry fees. Before our Annual Pass came, we took an afternoon with Evan, and my Grandparents, and drove up the high clearance road to Sheep Mountain to take a look around. Thankfully, we took my Grandpa’s suburban, as the roads were eroded and washed away with mud from one of the recent storm disasters. The road to the peak offered plenty of wonderful areas to stop and take in the view – “best views of the Badlands”, according to my family.


With Evan as our tour guide, we did a little off roading onto the peaks for even more extreme views. Being extra careful of ledges, slipping rock, snakes in the grass, and anything else out there, we were able to see some of the most amazing panoramic views of the Badlands you can get. A wonderful place to go if you don’t want to deal with all the noise of the park, or the fees!


Wall, South Dakota


Wall Drug


A historic tourist attraction, and the promise of free ice water! (They also have 5 cent coffee and a free coffee and donut for honeymooners!) Wall Drug is a modern small town shopping center to offer tourists a break as they travel through the area. It is said to have started in 1931 in this little prairie town of only about 300 people. Now the area is filled with shopping centers, restaurants, statue photo opportunities, crystal shops, leather shops, and so much more. It’s fun to walk through and take a look at everything, even if you are just window shopping.


20190809_1614354636409808298602364.jpg

While we were in Wall, Grandma also took us out to eat at the Badlands Saloon & Grill. The pickle chips were wonderful, and so was the salad I ordered. The only downfall is we were on high anxiety alert as we were tracking another severe storm heading right to our trailer in Grandma’s front yard!


Sturgis 79th Motorcycle Rally