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Road Trip Series: Part Two...The Dakota’s

Road Trip Series: Part Two...The Dakota’s

Road Trip Series: Part Two...The Dakota’s.

Mike R back here with another guest contribution post to One80Out Adventures.  I am grateful I get to go on so many road trips around the country. When I tell people I am heading out on these trips I often get people who immediately recognize where I am going and they tell me they wish they were going or they share a memory when they did.


I have people give me an odd look and are curious as to why I picked that location.
There’s mainly not much in between!

The recent road trip I went on to North and South Dakota was more odd looks than exciting ones.  However I want to tell you that if you haven’t been to the Western sides of the Dakota’s then you are missing out on one of the most iconic, family friendly, and adventure filled road trips in the lower 48 of the United States!

The reason for the location of the trip was two fold:

  1. I was going to be in the Northwest corner of Iowa for Easter and Badlands National Park was only five hours from there.  Sure it’s not around the corner but it’s 14 hours (via car) closer to the park than I normally am!
  2. I am on a quest to visit all 61 of the US National Parks so eventually I was going to make my way here again to visit Wind Cave National Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. (I had been to the Badlands twice as a kid.)

10 Dakota’s Road Trip Highlights:

  1. Total Days: 6
  2. Total Mileage: 1,347.7 Miles Roundtrip.  One way car rental from Omaha Nebraska that was then dropped off in Bismarck North Dakota.  Cost $200.00 extra dollars but saved 12 hours in the car; worth it to me!
  3. Main Destinations: Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Roosevelt National Park.
  4. Favorite stop along the way: Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming.
  5. Top Outdoor Adventure: Hiking to the summit of Bear Butte Mountain in the Black Hills just outside of Sturgis, SD. It’s a sacred hike to the native tribes lined with prayer flags and in the belief that spiritual awakenings occur on the hike.
  6. Biggest Surprise: Nothing was open on Easter between LeMars Iowa and Badlands National Park, I mean nothing!  We ate chips and salsa, trail mix, and scrounged up some Goose Island IPA’s at one gas station we found for Easter Supper.
  7. Eat: Little Missouri Saloon and Dining House in Medora, North Dakota. Best walleye and sauteed green beans I have eaten in years; plus the only open restaurant in shoulder season in this town.
  8. Best Song on Road Trip Playlist: Blue Monday by New Order and White Blank Page by Mumford and Sons.
  9. New friend: I met a couple at the top of Bear Butte Mountain that are training for Rim to Rim in Grand Canyon and they climbed the mountain for the 3rd time that day when I had met them!
  10. Read: The Radiance Sutras: 112 Gateways to the Yoga of Wonder and Delight by Lorin Roche.

The three national parks were the main reason for going on this trip but we found so much more along the way like any good road trip that you don’t rush.  From visiting the World’s Only Corn Palace (not sure why we need a second one) to the towns of Spearfish and Sturgis South Dakota to spending time chasing the camera lense around the prairie dog towns at Devils Tower there was so much to take in and experience.

The buffalo roam at Wind Cave National Park and the photo opportunities there that you can take of them are absolutely mind blowing.

The other great pieces that I noticed from this road trip was that as a trail runner the elevation was not out of this world at these parks.  Rather it was slow and steady and lent itself perfectly to being able to have fun and doable trails runs.

The final piece is there is so much to do with kids out here.  South Dakota has some very funny and cheesy attractions (Wall Drug, The Town of 1880, etc) that is a great rest from yet another outdoor activity if your kids want to do a different type of “play.”

If you think a road trip out to the Dakota’s is one that you’ll pass on I implore you to think again.  There is more outdoor adventure, charming small towns, wildlife, and attractions that you could imagine.  Our one week trip could have easily been twice as long. When you start planning this year’s summer road trips put the Dakota’s on the list as a viable option; they won’t disappoint!

This is one of several road trips I’ll be taking this year and I can’t wait to share the next one with you.  I’ll be hitting the road again in late May to acclimatize in Colorado in preparation for a trip to Peru in June, until then throw some road trip questions down in the comments on the Dakota’s and I’m happy to share more.

Thanks for reading and supporting the One80Out family and community!

Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,
Mike Rudd

Mike Rudd is a 3 Time Author, yogi, outdoor and active events curator, marketing strategist, world traveler, speaker, and marketing/outdoors blogger. His marketing energy is located at MarketingFunWithMike and his outdoor adventure work can be found at Hashtag 59. Always spread good vibes.

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