Photo Courtesy of a TripAdvisor Traveler/CraigSabineMount Rushmore National MonumentSouth Dakota Visitors BureauSouth Dakota Visitors BureauSouth Dakota Visitors BureauSouth Dakota Visitors BureauSouth Dakota Visitors BureauSouth Dakota Visitors BureauMitchell Corn Palace

Families will love:

  • Outdoor adventure at Custer State Park
  • The scenic Needles Highway
  • Mount Rushmore

A vacation doesn't get much more American than a classic road trip to South Dakota's Black Hills. Even kids too young to know any presidents can appreciate the feat of carving Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln from the rough granite of Mount Rushmore. Just as impressive is the engineering that went into one of America's most stunning scenic byways: the Needles ... more
A vacation doesn't get much more American than a classic road trip to South Dakota's Black Hills. Even kids too young to know any presidents can appreciate the feat of carving Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln from the rough granite of Mount Rushmore. Just as impressive is the engineering that went into one of America's most stunning scenic byways: the Needles Highway. Together with Iron Mountain Road, the byway climbs along granite spires, winds past pine-flanked hills, spirals down pigtail bridges and requires you to honk your horn and take turns going through one-vehicle tunnels that frame views of Mount Rushmore like postage stamps.

Plan for many stops along the way: pausing to watch a mountain goat, admiring a climber scaling the famed eye of the needle rock formation, waiting for bison to cross the road or exploring countless trails or caves tucked into the Hills. Paths around Sylvan Lake -- part of the climax in the movie "National Treasure 2" -- literally sparkle with bits of mica and hunks of rose quartz that kids find enchanting.

The Black Hills boomed in the golden era of road trips and station wagons, so you'll find a few pockets of old-school tourism (especially with the famous huckster-style advertising for Wall Drug), but it can be part of the charm or easy to escape. Outdoors lovers hike, bike, fly-fish, rock-climb and enjoy some of America's best wildlife watching at Custer State Park. Guides and outfitters make it easy if you're trying the sports for the first time. Budding geologists and archaeologists can do simulated digs at the Mammoth Site, explore several dinosaur museums, and hike among the otherworldly red jagged peaks and buttes of Badlands National Park east of Rapid City.

Overall, it's a winning blend of pre-historic history, Native American and Old West legends, wildlife, and pioneering spirit nestled among the beautiful and intimate Black Hills.

Written by Lisa Meyers McClintick less

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