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Quick Tips - What To Know About These Parks and Monuments

Rapid City serves as a central hub to some pretty amazing parks and monuments. Don’t believe me? Keep reading and find out why our area makes for one educational, adventure packed and thrilling vacation.

We will start with the one you probably know the most about. Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

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What you need to know: These four 60-foot faces were carved into a mountain side by nearly 400 men and women using 90% dynamite. Plus, it was completed in 1941 which is astonishing.

Why people go there: Mount Rushmore is known as one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States. People come here not only to stand in awe at this amazing mountain carving, but to also learn about our nation’s history and culture.

Fun Fact: Borglum planned to create a large room within the mountain to hold documents and artifacts important to American democratic history. Although construction on the room was halted by Congress in 1939, and it isn’t accessible to the public, there is a tunnel in the mountain that holds a repository of records in the floor of the entry.

Travel Time: It’s about a 25 minute drive from Rapid City!


Up next, Crazy Horse Memorial.

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What you need to know: When it is finished, Crazy Horse Memorial will be the largest mountain carving in the world. The entire carving is 641 feet long and is privately funded through admissions and contributions, they don’t accept federal or state funding.

Why people go there: The mission of Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation is to protect and preserve the culture, traditions and living heritage of the North American Indians. While visiting you can witness live Native American dances, learn about Crazy Horse, or if you come in the spring or fall you can participate in the annual Volksmarch allowing you to walk out onto the arm of Crazy Horse!

Fun Fact: All four faces on Mount Rushmore can fit in the side profile of Crazy Horse’s head.

Travel Time: About a 45 minute drive from Rapid City and only a half hour from Mount Rushmore!


Time to step onto (what feels like) another planet with the Badlands National Park.

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What you need to know: Badlands National Park spans 244,000 acres. Wildlife that can be found here are bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets.

Why people go there: If you love outdoor adventure, you’ll love the Badlands. From cruising the scenic Loop Road, to hiking one of the many stunning trails, this national park provides room to roam on remarkable yet bizarre terrain!

Fun Fact: The terrain at Badlands National Park also consists of rich fossil beds. The skeletons of ancient camels, three-toed horses and more have been found here!

Travel Time: About a 50 minute drive from Rapid City!


Now for my personal favorite, Custer State Park.

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What you need to know: Custer State Park encompasses 71,000 acres in the Black Hills. The terrain is a mixture of prairies, pine trees, mountains, and geological formations known as the “Needles” as well as 182 acres of water.

Why people go there: It’s another perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts! Rocking climbing, hiking, mountain biking, scenic cruising, water activities, off-roading, I could keep going but I think you get the point. Custer State Park is also full of amazing wildlife and was named one of the World’s Top 10 Wildlife Destinations by USA Today!

Fun Fact: Custer State Park is the second largest state park in America.

Travel Time: About a 45 minute drive from Rapid City!


Time to go underground with Wind Cave National Park.

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What you need to know: Wind Cave is also the seventh longest cave in the world, however, the experience isn’t just below ground at Wind Cave National Park. This 28,295-acre park is home to a variety of wildlife like bison, elk, prairie dogs, and more!

Why people go there: Wind Cave was actually the first cave to become a protected national park, and is one of America’s oldest national parks. With less stalactites and stalagmites than most caves, due to the dryer conditions, this cave has many unusual mineral formations like boxwork. The most distinctive feature of this cave is the strong winds, for which it was named after.

Fun Fact: The first known discovery of Wind Cave was in 1881 by the Bingham brothers. These two heard a loud whistling noise coming from the cave’s only natural entrance.

Travel Time: About an hour drive from Rapid City!


Sticking with underground exploration, let’s talk about Jewel Cave National Monument.

Jewel Cave_Explorer 2016_web.jpg

What you need to know: Jewel Cave was named after it’s dazzling calcite crystals that illuminate the walkways of the cave. It is also the place where hydromagnesite balloons were first discovered!

Why people go there: Jewel cave is the third longest cave in the world. They’ve explored over 195 miles, and it continues to grow as they discover around three miles of new passageways each year! The most popular tour is the Scenic Tour, which takes you to various cave chambers and passages full of calcite crystals and more!

Fun Fact: Cavers spend as many as four days underground when going on camp expeditions.

Travel Time: About an hour drive from Rapid City!


Last, but definitely not least is Bear Butte State Park.


What you need to know: Bear Butte or Mato Paha “Bear Mountain” (the Lakota name of this site), is a sacred place to many American Indian tribes and is a place of worship for them. While hiking you will notice colorful pieces of cloth or pouches in the trees, these are prayer cloths placed by individuals during worship.

Why people go there: From the peak you can view parts of four states, the Black Hills and sweeping plains. As the third most prominent summit in the South Dakota Black Hills, and without anything obstructing the views, it goes without saying the sight from the summit is pretty outstanding.

Fun Fact: Bear Butte is the remains of a volcano that did not erupt.

Travel Time: About a 35 minute drive from Rapid City!

All of these amazing parks and monuments are worth a visit during your trip, and all of them are right in Rapid City’s backyard!

Meet the Author

Kelsy Peterson

Raised in Rapid City and lucky to call it home, this outdoor enthusiast loves to explore the Black Hills with her husband and two dogs. When she’s not at work you’ll find her out hiking, at a local ice cream shop, or perhaps home taking a nap.

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Kelsy Peterson
Social Media and Content Manager

Raised in Rapid City and lucky to call it home, this outdoor enthusiast loves to explore the Black Hills with her husband and two dogs. When she’s not at work you’ll find her out hiking, at a local ice cream shop, or perhaps home taking a nap.

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