#51 best destination in the world

Notch Trail, Badlands National Park

Best time to travel: April-June, Sept-Nov
Walk difficulty: Moderate
Ease of travel: Easy
Cost ($-$$-$$$): $

  • National park of sharply eroded buttes and pinnacles, along with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States
  • The national park was originally a reservation of the Oglala Sioux Indians and spans the southern unit of the park
  • The area around Stronghold Table was originally Sioux territory, and is revered as a ceremonial sacred site rather than a place to live
  • In 1868, at the Second Treaty of Fort Laramie, the United States assured the Sioux that the Badlands shall forever be the property of the Sioux
  • In 1889, however, the treaty was broken and the Badlands were confiscated by the United States and unilaterally incorporated into a national park.
  • At the end of the 19th century, the Sioux Indians used this area as the site of the Ghost Dance, a ceremony to revive the souls of buffalo and the dead
  • After the last ghost dance in 1890, the United States banned the ritual, but it was revived by the Red Power movement, a movement to restore Indian rights that began in the 1960s
  • In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court awarded compensation to the Sioux for the abrogation of the 1868 treaty, but the Sioux did not accept the money

Mount Rushmore, Keystone

Best time to travel: May, Sept-Oct
Walk difficulty: Moderate
Ease of travel: Easy
Cost ($-$$-$$$): $

  • Colossal sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore, in the Black Hills near Keystone, South Dakota
  • The project was executed from 1927 to 1941, and the sculpture features the 60-foot heads of Presidents George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)
  • The four presidents were chosen to represent the nation’s birth, growth, development and preservation, respectively
  • Each president was originally to be depicted from head to waist, but lack of funding forced construction to end in 1941

Wind Cave, Wind Cave National Park

Best time to travel: late May-early Sept
Ease of travel: Moderate
Cost ($-$$-$$$): $

  • National park established in 1903, by President Theodore Roosevelt
  • It was the first cave to be designated a national park anywhere in the world
  • The cave is notable for its calcite formations known as boxwork, as well as its frostwork
  • Approximately 95 percent of the world’s discovered boxwork formations are found in Wind Cave
  • The cave is recognized as the densest cave system in the world, with the greatest passage volume per cubic mile
  • Wind Cave is the seventh longest cave in the world with 154.2 miles of explored cave passageways and the third longest cave in the United States
  • Above ground, the park includes the largest remaining natural mixed-grass prairie in the United States

Black Elk Peak Loop: South Dakota Highpoint, Custer State Park

Best time to travel: April-early June
Walk difficulty: Moderate
Ease of travel: Easy
Cost ($-$$-$$$): $$

  • South Dakota State Park and wildlife reserve in the Black Hills
  • The park is South Dakota’s largest and first state park, named after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer
  • The park covers an area of varied terrain including rolling prairie grasslands and rugged mountains
  • Bison, elk, coyotes, mule deer, white tailed deer, mountain goats, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, river otters, pronghorn, cougars, and feral burros also inhabit the park
  • The park is known for its scenery, with views of the bison herd and prairie dog towns

Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer County

Best time to travel: April-June, Sept-mid Oct
Ease of travel: Easy
Cost ($-$$-$$$): $

  • Mountain monument under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills, in Custer County
  • It will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing to his tribal land
  • The memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski
  • The monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain, on land considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota
  • The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is far from completion
  • If completed as designed, it will become the world’s second tallest statue, after the Statue of Unity in India

Jewel Cave National Monument, Custer County

Best time to travel: late May-early Sept
Walk difficulty: Easy
Ease of travel: Moderate
Cost ($-$$-$$$): $

  • Jewel Cave National Monument contains Jewel Cave, currently the third longest cave in the world, with 200.3 miles of mapped passageways
  • It became a national monument in 1908
  • The Park Service offers three tours: the scenic tour, a half-mile loop through a paved and lighted central portion of the cave accessible by elevator; the historic tour, a candlelight tour through the earliest-discovered part of the cave; and a wild caving tour, through an undeveloped part of the cave near the scenic loop

Wall Drug

Best time to travel: late May-early Sept
Ease of travel: Easy
Cost ($-$$-$$$): $

  • Roadside attraction located in the town of Wall, that consists of a collection of cowboy-themed stores, including a drug store, gift shop, several restaurants, and various other stores, as well as an art gallery and an 80-foot brontosaurus sculpture