After leaving Longmont, we high-tailed it straight through south-eastern Wyoming and into South Dakota where we were hoping to find a free, scenic spot to park in the Black Hills National Forest. However, after driving through the area and reading through several boondocking and RVer forums, we were disappointed to learn that much of the land in the National Forest is actually private property. As it was getting late and we were tired from a long day of driving, we opted instead to camp overnight at the Wind Caves National Park’s Elk Mountain Campground as this was the cheapest camping option we could find. (Custer State Park is located nearby and also has camping, but it’s a little more expensive.)
This was intended to be just a quick stop-over for us, so we opted to skip the hiking trails and instead took a scenic highway through the park – and boy are we glad that we did! The Black Hills are certainly beautiful, filled with meadows, historic sites, tall pines, bison, prairie dogs, and streams. A low clearance warning prevented us from stopping by Mt. Rushmore, but there’s always next time.
After leaving the Black Hills, we opted for a route that would take us through the Badlands National Park. “Badlands” is certainly an apt name for this place – it’s an eerily beautiful but frighteningly inhospitable landscape. As we drove our bus through the parched peaks, I couldn’t help but think about how dismaying it must have felt to encounter this landscape in a covered wagon. (After having just trekked through miles of bleak South Dakota prairie, no less.) My subsequent thoughts ran something like, “Holy crap, this would be a terrible place for our bus to break down.”
(Thankfully, no engine issues yet.)
From there we hopped onto I-90 and headed eastward across South Dakota to our next stop: Palisades State Park.