My husband and I decided to celebrate our first wedding anniversary with a trip to explore the beautiful landscape of South Dakota.  It was also an opportunity for us to test out one of my dreams, traveling with a camper trailer! I have always loved the idea being able to take our dogs with us on our adventures and a camper has always seemed like the perfect way to do that in comfort! But we wanted to try it out before fully committing to the RV life, so we found the perfect rental on that allowed dogs and had plenty of room for us to spread out.

We rented the RV for a week.  Pick up was on a Tuesday afternoon where the owner was super helpful teaching us all the in’s and out’s of traveling and towing an RV and got it home and packed up.  We woke up at the crack of dawn and hit the road Wednesday morning making the 9 hour drive to Wall, SD to see the famous Wall Drug.  We got settled into Sleepy Hollow Campground around 3pm.  This was the perfect place to set up shop for the night with pull through campsites and a dog park to let our labs burn off all their pent-up energy from the drive.  Then it was off to check out the famous Wall Drug and all the cute shops and historical photos. The café at Wall Drug closes pretty early so we ended up heading over to Badlands Saloon & Grill for some cold beers and tasty Pizza.

The next morning, we packed up and headed out to the Badlands National Park.  We headed to the Badlands Boon-docking Area where we could park the camper while we walked along the ridge with the dogs taking in the beautiful views of this unique landscape.  There were several campers set up for Boon-docking or Dry camping along the ridge and I can only imagine how beautiful the sunsets they all got each night were! After exploring we got out our pre-packed picnic and chairs and sat along the ridge to enjoy lunch.

Photos of the badlands national park

It was then time to head to the Black Hills National Forest.  It was only about an hour and half to our campground we booked in Hill City, SD: Firehouse Campground.  We picked this location because it was centrally located between Rapid City, SD and Custer State park and Mount Rushmore, all things we were hoping to see and explore while in SD.  We got settled into our campsite and fully unpacked and then headed over to the Craft Brewery & Winery next door for some cold beers and food.

We woke up and enjoyed our coffee and homemade breakfast sandwiches before heading out for the biggest hike of the trip.  We headed into Custer State Park for a beautiful hike up to the highest peak in South Dakota, Black Elk Peak.  I found this hike on the All Trails app.  It started out at Sylvan Lake Trailhead.  We got a little turned around and started down the Sunday Gultch Trail and ended up taking about a mile detour. Neither of us were too bothered by this as it was a beautiful trail that I would love to hike more when we make our way back there some day!  For Black Elk Peak we headed up trail #9 up to the peak and came back down on trail #4.  This 7 mile loop was hard work, but worth every step for the views at the top.

On the way down from the peak, along trail #4, there is a side trail that heads over to the Cathedral Spires.  While this was on my list of sites to see, after our earlier detour, we decided the views of the spires from the trail were good enough, and honestly, they were beautiful from our trail.

After making it back to the truck, we ate another quick picnic lunch we had packed and headed off to see Mount Rushmore.  While there we learned a little about the history and how they made these 60ft tall faces using dynamite.  It was awesome to see the history, but ultimately was a pretty quick stop before we headed back to the campground for some time by the fire and a home cooked dinner.

Day 4 we decided was perfect for heading into Rapid City, SD for some exploring.  The dogs were tuckered out from the hike the day before and were ready for a day of relaxation while we went to some places that weren’t as dog friendly.  Being married to a firefighter, of course we had to start out with a couple beers and some nachos at Firehouse Brewing Company. We then headed to Independent Ale House for some of the best pizza I have ever had, they also had a great selection of beers on tap.

Then it was time to head to Dinosaur Park.  This seems like a cheesy tourist stop, and I am not going to lie to you, it is, but I loved the 70’s vibe of the statues and vies of the city were amazing! As a bonus the stairs to the top were a great way to burn off some of the pizza from earlier. The final stop of our Rapid City adventure was to check out Bear Country.  The animals were adorable, and it was so fun getting to see them all from the comfort of our car while they had space to roam.

The next morning, was time move, and with two dogs and big camper in tow we did not want to make the full 10.5 hour trip in one day so we found the most beautiful campsite at Hartford State Park. It was the perfect landing spot for our last night. The lake views were beautiful and had walking trails right outside our campsite to take the dogs on the next morning before making the final stretch of the drive home.

This was the perfect introduction into the RV life and we honestly are so excited to do it again! Comment below any suggestions on where we should head next for some fun adventures in our next RV rental!