This summer I took my first trip to South Dakota, and blame you all for not sending me sooner. It’s my new favorite place. I can’t get over how beautiful it is.
We flew into Rapid City Airport, a great little airport with phenomenal onion rings (which is how all airports should be measured, IMO) and headed out of town. Because it was high season, the hotels in Rapid City were all booked out but we snagged a cabin somewhere in the Black Hills.
Somewhere. Pfft. This place was heaven. Our cabin was on Deerfield Lake, where deer literally drank in the mornings. Where sunrises looked like this:
And sunsets looked like this:
We strolled around the lake, played card games until way too late, and ate till we got the meat sweats. We grabbed our wine glasses and watched a lightning storm roll past.
Me, braving out the storm by drinking two glasses of wine like a hero.
Mind you, this was in the first 24 hours of our adventure. This doesn’t even account for going into the town of Hill City to wait for two hours to eat (admittedly good) German food. Or exploring Rapid City by looking for local butchers from which to gain those meat sweats. Or doing the math on how we could move here. We were the most productive non-productive people on vacation in the history of the world.
Later, we finally got it together enough to go exploring. Our first big stop was, of course, Mt. Rushmore. We’d only heard it was the “only” thing to see in South Dakota, and to keep our expectations low. Well, they were wrong on both counts. Mt. Rushmore was wonderful. Bigger and more majestic than we thought it would be, with many, many ice cream and beer stands for that extra dash of ‘Murica. It really is a must-see–and not just for the photo opportunities.
It was hard, but we managed to stay away from our cabin long enough to spend a day at Cathedral Spires and Sylvan Lake. The perfect weather made for two perfect hikes, even for not-so-perfect hikers. Pictures below!
We had fun at Cathedral Spires, with its dramatic outcroppings and cool mountain breezes, and were a little reluctant to try and top it. But we ventured on to Sylvan Lake, a VERY crowded parking lot that abuts a VERY charming lake. It was crowded, but absolutely worth it (especially because we snuck our way into not paying for parking. Shh.). We strolled around the lake, trying to break away from the herds of families, and found our opportunity on a tall set of rocks above the main path. Once we hopped up out of eyesight–daintily, I’m sure–we were in a whole ‘nuther world. A world where no one was obstructing our view or yelling in our ear or judging our boom. In other words, a perfect world.
Our own private rock kingdom, as seen from below–like a peasant
After we were done with our picnic, we strolled complacently around the rest of the lake. The crowds were back but didn’t bother us. After all, we’d just had a perfect hour admiring the landscape without anyone to interfere. Everyone else was a sucker who was playing on the busy beaches. We were, for a moment, quite literally above them.
We finished off our trip with an excursion to Deadwood, which was a fun night but nowhere near as effective at making you breathe deeply, sleep soundly, or turn your face to the sky in gratitude at how lucky you are to experience South Dakota in the summer.
Go in the summer. South Dakota gets major weather. You’ve got like two months to really enjoy the place before it’s snowing. Plan ahead.
Stay outside. Hike, kayak, go wine tasting (seriously!). You can go to a museum or a restaurant anywhere else, at any other time. Pack a picnic and appreciate the outdoors.
Book your flight well in advance. We’re last-minute travelers, which did not bode well for us trying to leave on a summer Sunday. Rapid City has a ton of flights in the summer but they are all sold out. We ended up renting a car and driving to Denver (six hours) to get home, so get that confirmation.