Black Hills National Forest, Black Elk Peak, and Wall Drug!!
I want to preface this post by stating that South Dakota is so underrated! It has so many great attractions besides Mount Rushmore (which I skipped seeing because I don’t feel it is worth it). The Black Hills, Rapid City, Hill City, Badlands National Park, and Wall Drug to name a few.
Today I hiked the South Dakota’s high point, Black Elk Peak. It was formerly named Harney Peak, but was renamed in honor of Nicholas Black Elk and the significance of the summit and Black Hills to Native Americans. I ventured into Harney Peak Lookout and climbed the ladder to the top of the stone tower. The views from up there were phenomenal!
After getting back to the room and showering, I decided to head to Wall Drug, a famous tourist attraction in Wall, South Dakota. It started in 1931 as a small drug store that didn’t get many customers for nearly five years! The way that the store ended up taking off was by putting up signs on the highway offering free ice water! Now the store receives more than 2 million visitors a year. One can find free ice water here, 5 cent coffee, a meal, and endless shopping. Here are some more details about these locations below…
Black Elk Peak in Custer State Park.
When staying in Rapid City, South Dakota, you must realize how many outdoor activities there are around you. I had researched the Black Hills and found that the high point of South Dakota, Black Elk Peak, was just under an hour from where I was staying. It is the highest mountain east of the Rockies and the stone lookout on the summit was alluring…therefore I had to hike it! I will have a full detailed post on the hike eventually, but for now, here is a summary.
The hike starts at lovely Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park. It cost $20 for a seven-day pass, or $30 for an annual pass into the park. I took trail number 9 to Black Elk Peak which was roughly six miles. Initially it was a bit muddy, but dried up after about a half-mile. The air was dry and it was 85º out so naturally, I was sweating. Despite the heat, nothing could distract me from the beauty of the Black Hills and its wild landscape!
The summit of this mountain has sweeping views of South Dakota and being able to climb to the top of Harney Peak Lookout Tower was special. The stairs are VERY steep so if you are ever out here, be careful!
If you are driving through South Dakota, stopping at Wall Drug is an absolute must! It started as a small drug store in 1931 that did poorly for FIVE YEARS! The store picked up business after putting out out catchy signs along the highway and offering free iced water to travelers. Now the store gets over TWO MILLION visitors a year. You can find 5 cent coffee here, meals, souvenirs, boots, blankets….basically anything! They also still have free iced water! I enjoyed walking around the many stores and will probably purchase a few things after hiking in Badlands National Park!
Badlands National Park Tomorrow
I hit my fourth and last national park tomorrow while on this road trip. It’s a bit bittersweet, but I am ecstatic to hike in the Badlands and get some souvenirs. I will have hundreds of photos and some videos from this national park after tomorrow. I look forward to sharing more photos with you all! Thank you again for taking the time to read my words and check out my pictures. Don’t forget to hit the like button if you enjoyed this post! Leave a comment too if you’d like. I enjoy hearing from you all. Tap the follow button for more adventure pics and travel destinations!