It stormed heavily the night before we planned on exploring the Badlands, but after breakfast the next morning, the sky rapidly cleared and a beautiful day had begun.
During our night’s stay in Wall, South Dakota, we had asked a few people if we could drive the Badlands in our motorhome with a car in tow, and half said they’d recommend just taking a car, and half said it would be no problem if you liked winding roads—no problem!—so we decided we’d head out with the motorhome and toad, and make our way though a small loop of the Badlands before continuing west again.
We arrived at the entrance to the National Park minutes after they opened the gates.
There were two loops, one which headed east through the visitor center then back up to I-90. The other headed west on 44 past the visitor center and we were told it’s a 75 mile trek with no gas stations.
Well, we had forgot to fill up before leaving Wall, and only had about half a tank. Technically, I think we had plenty of gas for the trip, but worried that all of the traveling up and down hills would burn through gas, so we ended up taking the shorter loop, which worked out great. It travels from exit 110 to 131 (essentially back-tracking for us) and there was a Conoco gas station at the end of the loop, which also happened to be right next to the Minuteman Missile Silo Visitor Center—two birds, one stone!
We encountered our first large group of bikers there at the gas station, who casually parked in groups right in front of the pumps. It was bike rally week in Sturgis so a mind boggling number of motorcycles have descended upon the area. When we pulled up, there were about 10 motorcycles parked right in our exit path, with absolutely no way around – if you were a car, you’d still be challenged with going forward rather than backing out, as long as no one was behind you. Jason was prepared to just sit at the pump until the group departed, which fortunately wasn’t long. Just as we were finishing up, the group was returning to their bikes, hotdogs and drinks in hand, preparing to disperse :)
In all honesty, I wasn’t prepared to like the Badlands, it’s just craggy old bad land, right?
It was breathtaking!
And the ash rock formations were sooooo interesting.
We also made a quick stop to look at the Minute Man Missle Silo. But beware, parking is rustic and the lot is small…and there’s a small dip as you drive into the space, which makes it easy to bottom out if you’re towing a car with a low hitch. Ours travels about a foot off the ground, and we took out a chunk of the dirt.
Right next to the Conoco gas station was an information center, where you can watch a short movie to get some background on the silo before visiting. They had a cell phone tour at the site but we didn’t make the call; he plaques and the actual viewing of the missile was enough.
They do offer tickets to tour the missile command center but the only time left was at 1:30 pm, and by then we’d be long gone. Maybe another time.
And yes, a trip through the Badlands was definitely worth back-tracking for :)