South Dakota’s Badlands are truly alive with American history. From Devils Tower to Deadwood to Badlands, the region is brimming with iconic historical sites. But that’s not all—this area is also home to a number of unique fauna, flora and natural features. Tourists visiting the region can watch herds of bison roaming the grassland prairies, stop off at the Wind Cave (one of the largest caves in the world) or explore a fossil bed and check out some of the amazing creatures that once called the Badlands home. While you can explore the region in a number of different ways ranging from car to hiking, one of the best ways to see all of the major sights is to plan a cycling trip. If you decide to cycle through the Badlands, here are a few things that you should plan on checking out.
The Badlands: You can’t visit South Dakota without devoting at least a day or so to exploring the Badlands! Consisting of roughly 244,000 acres of grassy prairie, rocky canyons, austere buttes and pinnacles, pine-covered hills and more, the Badlands region is famed for its natural beauty. Currently, there are a number of unique creatures that call the Badlands home, and you can see many of them while riding along the Wildlife Loop Road (which runs through Custer State park). You can watch bison, elk and bighorn sheep grazing throughout the prairies, and you can also spot other animals, like prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets, darting through the grass too. Interestingly, most of the area used to be covered by a shallow sea during the prehistoric era, so there a number of fossil beds that you can meander through too. It’s often common to see the fossilized remains of such animals as saber-toothed cats, rhinos and even three-toed horses!
Wind Cave and Mt. Rushmore: The Wind Cave consists of a number of strange natural formations, and it’s actually one of the largest cave structures in the world—the cave earned its name due to the barometric winds that occur at the entrance. After visiting the cave, go ahead and stop by Mt. Rushmore. The memorial boasts four impressively large carvings of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. The memorial was built in 1941, and each carving is roughly 60 feet tall—in fact, when workers were building the memorial, they removed roughly 450,000 tons of rock.
Crazy Horse and Deadwood: South Dakota is also home to the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is considered to be the largest sculpture and memorial-in-progress in the entire world. A chief of the Oglala Sioux, Crazy Horse is famously known for being involved in the Battle of Little Big Horn, and also for resisting the forced removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands. Afterwards, you can also stop by and visit Deadwood, which was once a rough-and-tumble gold rush town back in the days of the Wild West.
Devils Tower: Lastly, while Devils Tower isn’t in South Dakota, you can ride over to Wyoming to check out the famed natural feature, which is actually considered to be the country’s first national monument (it was listed as a monument by Theodore Roosevelt back in 1906).
Cruising through the Badlands on your bike will be a real adventure—one that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Remember to enjoy yourself, and do take as many pictures as you can!