Skip to main content

Wyoming Road Trip Day 5: Wind Cave National Park & Mt. Rushmore


After a great day at Rocky Mountain National Park, it was time to go in a new direction - North - and into the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Route: I-25, US 85, US 18, SD 89, US 385, SD 87, US 385, SD 244, US 385, US 16

With it being offseason in the Black Hills, we ended up staying the night in Rapid City.  It made travel a lot easier.

Photo Set on Flickr: Wyoming Road Trip - Day 5

The night before, a cold front came through Cheyenne.  The wind gusts shook the old windows of the rental.  And in the morning, the drive north on US 85 was full of grey flannel skies with complimentary chilling drizzle.  I was surprised that there was more traffic than I expected on US 85 between I-25 and US 26 in Torrington.  Once beyond Torrington and Lingle, any vehicles on US 85 became nearly non-existent; and the weather improved. 


A progression of improving skies along US 85 in Eastern Wyoming.

At Mule Creek Junction, it was a right turn onto US 18 and into South Dakota.  Here, the scenery continued as we entered the southern Black Hills.


Wind Cave National Park:

Our first stop was Wind Cave National Park.  Joe's ankle was still bothering him - so trekking into the cave was out.  While he checked out the Visitor's Center and its surroundings, I took the one-mile Prairie Vista loop trail for a hike.




A recent controlled burn charred the landscape black; however, it made the backdrop for the hike unique.



Since it was a Tuesday in early November, hardly anyone was at the park.  I had the whole loop and what felt like the entire prairie to myself.  There are over 30 miles of trails at Wind Cave National Park - I'd love to come back here again off-season and explore the trails.  The quiet open prairie is very soothing.

South Dakota 87:

I highly recommend driving South Dakota 87 if you ever get the chance!

After the hike, it was time to take South Dakota Route 87 North through the northern part of the park and into Custer State Park.

The Beaver Creek Bridge, built in 1929.

Almost immediately, we found out why this is such a recommended drive.  Less than a quarter of a mile after turning onto the highway, a great view of the Beaver Creek Bridge awaits you.  This bridge opened to traffic in 1929 - and the open-spandrel concrete arch design fits the surroundings perfectly.



Immediately around the next bend was one of the highlights of the trip.  Two bison were grazing in the field - at most 150 feet from the road.  It was one of many up close and personal with wildlife experiences on this trip.  I quickly changed lens to my 75-300mm zoom lens to get as close of a shot as possible.  One thing from this trip that I learned was open wildlife photography is not easy.  A lot of practice is still needed.  So maybe another trip?

Prairie dogs must be the official greeters of Wind Cave National and Custer State Parks!  They are everywhere!


Highway 87 is an amazing drive with numerous opportunities to take photos - or simply ride and enjoy.  Prairie dogs are quite the common site within Wind Cave NP and Custer State Park.  Unfortunately, it appeared that highway work was occurring along the Wildlife Loop Route within Custer State Park.  So we were not able to take advantage of that opportunity to capture more wildlife.  That and we were down to about 50 or so miles on a tank of gas.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial:

The Avenue of Flags lead to Mount Rushmore.  Flags from all 50 states, one district, three territories, and two commonwealths are on display here.

Mount Rushmore was not originally on the agenda for this day.  However, the decision to stay the night in nearby Rapid City allowed us more time and enabled us a chance to visit.  The first thing I noticed about Rushmore was the number of parking decks which were fortunately not full in mid-November.  The numerous parking decks are a great example of how busy the memorial is during the Summer months.  

Side profile view of George Washington from the Profile Overlook on SD 244.

Rushmore is a sight to see - yet I found something else not on the memorial grounds that was more impressive.  On South Dakota 244, less than a half-mile west of the entrance to the memorial is the Profile Overlook.  This overlook showcases a side profile view of George Washington.  Washington seems closer here than it does from the straight-on vantage point at the memorial.  My shots of his profile are my favorites from Mount Rushmore.

Needles Highway and into Rapid City:



Sylvan Lake.

With still daylight remaining, we decided to drive as much of the other half of SD 87, known as the "Needles Highway," as possible.  The highway typically closes in early November - so we were not sure if the road was open or not.  We took the drive southbound.  We got as far as SD 89 at Sylvan Lake - where a sign read that the highway was closed.  With conflicting reports on if the highway south of Sylvan Lake was open or not, we decided to take SD 89 south to Custer and then work our way back to Rapid City.  Though we didn't drive the whole highway - and took it south versus north - we did get to see more wildlife, go through a one-lane rock tunnel, and see some great views.

Sylvan Lake was as far as we went on SD 87.  We took SD 89 south towards Custer on our way to Rapid City for the night.

If you want to see a lot more of SD 87/"Needles Highway" - Tom has you covered.

We got into Rapid City at close to sunset.  I could have taken some time to walk and take photos of the downtown area, but the wind and colder temperatures made me stay in for the night.  Day Five was a full day of driving, sightseeing, and great experiences.

2021 Wyoming Road Trip Site Navigation:

Also at Gribblenation:

Comments

Anonymous said…
I didn't see any information how treaties were broken, and the land was stolen from the Indians.

Popular posts from this blog

Old NY 10 and Goodman Mountain in the Adirondacks

  Old highway alignments come in all shapes and sizes, as well as taking some different forms after their lifespan of serving cars and trucks has ended. In the case of an old alignment of what was NY 10 south of Tupper Lake, New York, part of the old road was turned into part of a hiking trail to go up Goodman Mountain. At one time, the road passed by Goodman Mountain to the east, or Litchfield Mountain as it was known at the time. As the years passed, sometime around 1960, the part of NY 10 north of Speculator became part of NY 30, and remains that way today from Speculator, past Indian Lake and Tupper Lake and up to the Canadian Border. At one time, the highway was realigned to pass the Goodman Mountain to the west, leaving this stretch of road to be mostly forgotten and to be reclaimed by nature. During the summer of 2014, a 1.6 mile long hiking trail was approved the Adirondack Park Agency to be constructed to the summit of the 2,176 foot high Goodman Mountain. For the first 0.9 mi

Ghost Town Tuesday; Vineland, Florida; the town killed by Disney

Vineland is a small ghost town located in southwest Orange County, Florida near the junction of Florida State Road 535 and Interstate 4.  Vineland is somewhat unique due to it largely being squeezed out of existence by Lake Buena Vista which is the company town where Disney World is located. Vineland was founded in the late 1800s as Englewood.  The town name of Englewood changed to Orange Center in 1911 before finally assuming the name Vineland in 1924.  Much like the rest of Orange County the community of Vineland was centered around Citrus Grove.  In the case of Vineland said orange groves were centered around Ruby Lake. The end of Vineland came as the Disney Corporation began purchasing parcels of citrus grove land to build Lake Buena Vista.  Vineland fell into a sharp decline in the 1960s but the community managed to continue to exist to modern times.  Much of the street grid of Vineland still exists east of FL 535 but most of the original structures are either gone or falle

Oregon State Highway 58

  Also known as the Willamette Highway No. 18, the route of Oregon State Highway 58 (OR 58) stretches some 86 miles between US 97 north of Chemult and I-5 just outside of Eugene, Oregon. A main route between the Willamette Valley region of Oregon with Central Oregon and Crater Lake National Park, the highway follows the Middle Fork Willamette River and Salt Creek for much of its route as it makes its way to and across the Cascades, cresting at 5,138 feet above sea level at Willamette Pass. That is a gain of over 4,500 in elevation from where the highway begins at I-5. The upper reaches of OR 58 are dominated by the principal pinnacle that can sometimes be seen from the highway, Diamond Peak, and three nearby lakes, Crescent, Odell and Waldo (Oregon's second largest lake). OR 58 is chock full of rivers, creeks, mountain views, hot springs and waterfalls within a short distance from the highway. OR 58 was numbered as such by the Oregon State Highway Department in 1940. OR 58 is a del