Hiking in the Badlands and Visiting Mount Rushmore

Our Epic Vacation: Day 3

The end of Day 2 found us calmly setting up camp at Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  The morning of Day 3 found us not wanting to get up quite as early as we needed to, but we couldn’t waste the day away on something so frivolous as sleep!

Everyone was feeling a little sick (maybe it was the bison meat from the night before), but after a breakfast of scrambled eggs and fruit we felt well enough to break camp and drive to the Badlands Visitor Center.

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It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and Badlands is a really cool place, so we were excited to do a little bit of hiking and exploring.

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We were not, however, excited about the prospect of seeing rattlesnakes. Thankfully, we never did!

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We started off to “hike” the scenic loop and see what we could see.

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The Badlands are very fossil-rich, so my husband had a great time looking for fossils with the girls, and not surprisingly, the girls loved it, too.

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Don’t I have the cutest family?

We came upon a hill? a formation? a badland? that you could climb, and the girls were in heaven. Literally! Look how beautiful that sky is! It was also terribly hot, but they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

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A bit later in the “hike” we came upon a rock with an amazing view of the park. Some ladies came by and offered to take our picture, and then I took theirs with seven different cameras. It turns out that they were all in a nursing program together in college 40 years ago and they still get together once a year and go somewhere cool. Isn’t that neat? Hey college friends reading this—let’s totally do that, okay?

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I guess it was windy because I don’t have any other explanation for my daughter’s shirt. We might be halfway through the photos now.

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More climbing, and then we perused the visitor’s center for a while. We got to watch the staff paleontologist work on some bones and get our stamps in our National Parks Passports and buy souvenirs and all that jazz. Then we were off for our next adventure.

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On our way out of the park we saw this bighorn sheep. Or is it a ram? An animal specialist I am not, but whatever it was, it was pretty cool and right next to my car window.

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And then we drove for a while on I-90. And if you’ve ever been on I-90 in South Dakota, then you know about the 237,842 signs for Wall Drug. Actually, I don’t know how many there were because we gave up counting after about 30. And we started in the middle of the state!

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Because of all the subliminal messages, and because our friends told us it was fun, we stopped at Wall Drug for lunch. Wall Drug has a pretty cool story behind it, and if you don’t know what it is, you should look it up, because this post is already way too long. We had fun there, but I took ZERO pictures. We ate homemade donuts and ate ice cream and drank (free!) ice water and did a bunch of the other fun things they had there, too.

And then it was on the road again.

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This time we were headed for Mount Rushmore.

The girls were so excited to see it in real life. We actually had studied a bit about how it was made before we left on vacation, and they were fascinated. I was very excited, too. And it was definitely worth it.

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There is definitely a feeling of reverence there, and we sat and contemplated it for a long while before we got up and did the little hike called the Presidential View Loop which also leads to the sculptor’s studio where we could learn more about how the sculptures were made.

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The Presidential View Loop was pretty cool, because it gave you unique views of each president, like this one of George Washington which I took from a little cave with a small opening in it. Unfortunately, this was when my camera battery died, so it’s the last good picture I have of Day 2. The rest are Instagrammed from my phone. But yay for phones, right?

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Here I am being a little less than noble with all of that nobility behind me.

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And here is a cool shot that my 5-year-old took with my phone.

After we finished hiking and seeing the sculptor’s studio, we had to check out the gift shops and visitor’s centers to get our passports all stamped. Then we were off again, this time to Custer State Park where we would not have to sleep in a tent because we had rented a cabin for the night!

As we drove into Custer, all the cars were stopped. If you are a National/State Park frequenter, then you know what this means: wildlife.

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This herd of bison was right next to my car window and I was so disappointed that my camera had died (and also so happy we were in a cabin with electricity so I could charge it overnight!) because I didn’t get very good pictures with my phone. But, it was an awesome sight. There were mothers and babies and bulls and more bulls. Amazing.

We settled into our cabin, showered (hurray for that!), and fell into bed exhausted. Well, all except my husband and middle daughter who stayed up for another hour playing battleship.

***End of Day 3***

States visited:

South Dakota

Hours Driven:


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My husband suggested we visit Mount Rushmore for our family vacation this year, but I was a bit skeptical. You have given me more positive vibes. Thanks!

The Atomic Mom

Well yes, you do have the cutest family. Seriously.

And one day, when my boys are old enough, we will come and visit you in the UP. So there, college friends get together taken care of.



Gorgeous pictures and the girls look like despite camping, they are having fun. I love the one that the three are standing together and the youngest is hugging them. LOVE IT!