Road Trip: South Dakota (SD)

Road trip across America is seriously an adventure of a lifetime. The vastness of this country gives you a myriad of choices to explore and experience new places and culture. Your American journey is incomplete without the great American road trip. Having traveled across the east and west coast, I wanted to take a major road trip across the Dakotas. To appreciate the beauty of the flatness of the American midwest and, also due to a slight influence of Robert Pirsig’s cult classic ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’.

South Dakota is best known for Mount Rushmore National Memorial monument. The rocky mountain carved with four faces of the most prominent US presidents. Namely: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. If you came all the way to South Dakota just to see Mt Rushmore, you would be highly disappointed. The good news though, there’s more to Southwest South Dakota than simply the Mt. Rushmore.

Rapid City

Rapid City

We began our journey from Rapid city. It’s the main city in the tourist area also known as the Gateway to the Black hills. With the inflow of international and local tourists flocking this region, this place gives a really cool small town, rich cultural vibe.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Located in Keystone, SD this memorial is about 30 miles from Rapid city. Interesting facts about this monument: Over 450,000 tons of rock were removed from this mountain to carve the four presidential faces. It took 14 years (1927 – 1941) to complete the sculpture. Inside the monument they have built a nice park to walk around the mountain including museums with historical information about the details of the building/sculpting process. And information about each president.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial

After spending an hour or so at Mt. Rushmore, we made our way to Crazy Horse which is approx. 16 miles away. The memorial dedicated to a native american warrior – Crazy Horse, depends entirely on visitors fee with absolutely no federal government help. That’s why it has taken more than 60 years to finish carving of the face alone of the crazy horse. If completed, it could become world’s largest mountain carving ever. Interesting fact: The face carving of crazy horse alone can fit all four of Mt Rushmore’s presidential heads.

Custer State Park

Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park

The natural beauty of this park allows you to reflect, reconnect and introspect. This park is spread across 71000 acres. Offers a variety of activities: kayaking, fishing in the lakes, hiking, camping as well as rock climbing.

Main highlights of the park:

  • Sylvan lake
  • Needles eye
  • 18-mile long wildlife loop

Badlands National Park


We ended our journey with a breathtaking drive through the scenic Badlands National park. Badlands of south dakota makes you feel so insignificant in this world. The beauty of our mother earth, the universe, this unknown power all coming together – to form structures so massive and awe-inspiring. There are many things to do here; from camping, hiking to learning about geologic formations. But I bet, nothing would beat stargazing on a clear night sky.

I managed to shoot a few snippets of our road trip. Given below is the compilation:

Trip Across the Heartland of South Dakota from Shailiza Manandhar on Vimeo.

More pictures from this road trip can be found on my instagram (@shailza) account as well.

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