On road trips, there is beauty you plan to see and beauty that surprises you along the way. Seeing Custer State Park in South Dakota is so beautiful it hurt. Hurt, because we were just driving through!
Bello and I thought we had planned the most scenic route from Ohio to Portland. The northern route has many National Parks like The Badlands along the way. Custer State Park in South Dakota tipped us off to our epic oversight. This state park is a stunner!
The day of our journey, we awoke outside the Badlands inWall, South Dakota. Elevation 2,400 feet. Hikes here, had been under intense sun with temperatures in the 90’s.
An hour and a half later, we were gliding through the pines of Custer State Park at 4,721 feet. I kept saying “are we still in South Dakota?” The second we stepped out of our car at needles highway overlook, we felt it, full on fall. My face turned a grin ear to ear. Fall is my favorite season, hands down. I hadn’t expected to see it so soon.
With 71,000 acres of winding, twisting roads to explore, we suddenly realized we were in for a treat!
Twists and turns on Wildlife Loop road in Custer State Park are pure driving bliss. Nanty, our new car finally got to show us what she was all about. Those 18 miles of the park were classic pure driving delight. Like watching a car commercial only better, because we were in it.
Prairies rolled by our window, dotted with ponderosa pines and buffalo. We had seen a few in Badlands but far off in the distance. Here, 1,300 buffalo roam in herds. It was truly the first time, I had witnessed their beauty so close. Well not that close! Buffalo can reach 2,000 pounds so getting close enough for a buffalo selfie is a very, bad, idea.
On a smaller scale, prairie dogs scuffled about and pronghorn antelope seemed to be saying “Ciao” while nibbling nearby. Bello and I are not hunters, this is as close as we get to shooting anything in our National Parks.
What made us realize we needed more time here? All the amenities we kept passing. Camping, lodges, horseback riding and a newly opened visitors center.
Hindsight! For Americans who want a to vacation without a passport, this is a great state park to consider. Fodor’s even included it on their America’s 10 Best State Park List this year. We’re hoping we can get back with more time, before people catch on to how much beauty there is in South Dakota!
I’m sharing all our favorite stops from last week’s Cross-Country Road Trip including many National Parks. Relive the journey with us here on ALOR, Twitter: @ALORGypsyTip or on Instagram and hopefully, you’ll find a little travel inspiration along the way.