Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park,  Destinations,  South Dakota,  U.S. National Parks,  United States

The Dakotas Road Trip Day 1 and 2

This summer after cancelling multiple plans to travel abroad I settled on visiting two states that had been on my list for a while, North and South Dakota.

I have had a goal to visit all 50 states and all 62 National Parks but there are some locations hard to reach than others. The Dakotas have been an area that I have wanted to visit for a long time but also just out of the way enough that I never made my way there.

Being the summer of covid and not allowed to really travel abroad I decided to embark on an awesome solo road trip!

The original planned ended up changing along the way for a variety of reasons but it was the road trip I needed after being locked down for weeks on end. The only thing that did change this summer compared to most of my previous road trips is the lack of camping. Most campgrounds at all National Parks where closed or extremely restricted so I decided to skip them all together.

Day 1

I left Texas straight north to head for a day of pretty much non-stop driving. My goal was to get as far North as I could safely and ended up spending the night in Nebraska. I spent the night in North Platte, Nebraska at a small motel that was shockingly not too bad.

The one thing that was amazing and unexpected was stopping at the Joe Exotic Tiger Zoo in Oklahoma! I was not expecting to stop at the zoo but after seeing a sign off the highway for it, I could not skip it!

Joe Exotic Zoo

Full disclosure I only saw it from the outside for two reasons, 1) the lack of masks wearing staff and 2) I could not support what looked like such a sad zoo from outside.

Day 2

After an early morning I drove straight North once again to make my first stop of the trip! I was not expecting to see it in person but after stopping at Minuteman Missile Site in South Dakota I found out they were trying a soft opening! Originally, I was just going to see the outside due to closure covid notices online but surprise!

Minuteman Missile Historical Site

The Minuteman Missile Historical Site in South Dakota is one of the sites where during the Cold War men and woman stood ready to potentially start or retaliate with nuclear war.

The site is cool and lets you walk through what it looked like to live in these silo locations ready for potential war with Russia. If you are in the area, I highly recommend stopping by to read through the history of the site.

After Minuteman Missile I headed straight to what I wanted to see the most on this trip. I made my way to Badlands National Park!

I will be covering Badlands National Park a lot more in depth in later posts since I genuinely love this park so much.

My initial plan was to do quite a lot more hikes than I ended up doing since I just did not realize how large of a park it is! I ended up entering the park through the east entrance closest to Minuteman Missile site and driving through all the way to Wall, South Dakota. I rather enjoyed this drive and it gave me a chance to see the scenic drive of highway 240 and get a sense for the park.

Wall, South Dakota is a famous little town with a cool spot call Wall Drug Store. The drug store is more of a big outdoor and indoor mall with plenty of shops and locations to grab food at. I must say overall it is a pretty big tourist trap that while nice to see I would not plan to spend too much time here. Now I know some people love Wall, but it just did not stand out to me.

Once I got some supplies and a bite to eat, I headed back into Badlands National Park to get some hikes in! As I said I will go over these more in-depth later but my recommendation for someone short in time is to stop at the parking lot for the Window, Door and Notch Trail head and make that your main venture for hiking. There are plenty of hikes in this area that give you a great sense of what the Badlands look like and just how it feels like being on the moon!

The must do hike that is not too strenuous is the Notch Trail and I cannot recommend it enough!

My day wrapped up by heading to Rapid City, South Dakota for what would be base camp for the rest of the trip. Rapid City offers proximity to Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Custer Sate Park, and a plethora of other fun day trips!

Stay tuned for the rest of my Summer 2020 Road Trip Recap and in-depth reviews on all the parks and attractions I visited!

Have you been to South Dakota? Have you visited Badlands National Park? If so what was your favorite hike?

Follow along the adventures on:

Instagram @gusontherun or Twitter @gusontherun


  • Emma

    I’ve always wanted to go to the Badlands National Park too so this looks awesome, and I’m excited to read more of your posts about it. Good reasons not to go to Joe Exotic’s zoo for sure. Was it really only a few months ago everyone was talking about that? Feels like years!

    • Gus

      I cannot recommend Badlands enough it truly is a whole different world out there. And I feel like Joe Exotic was ten years ago yet it was only March lol.

      Time is slow crazy during covid.

  • Sarah

    The Minuteman site sounds really interesting and the Badlands looks fun (I didn’t realise that it was an actual place until now as I know almost nothing about the Dakotas!)

    • Gus

      Right! So the Minuteman was a pretty awesome site and there are three locations one even has a mock missile to show how it would look!

      The Badlands area is something that always looked cool but honestly until I researched this trip I had no idea how much stuff there actually was up here!

  • Riana.AngCanning

    What an awesome start – I love how joyous you look in your photos! Badlands seems like such a cool place and I’m excited to read/see more. That giant drugstore also looks like it’d be a blast to discover.

    • Gus

      Thanks! The joke with my friends is that I have one set face for photos and its the same in all photos LOL. Gotta be happy to enjoy a trip!

      Badlands is a must for anyone in South Dakota and I cannot recommend it enough.

  • The Holidaymaker/Renee

    I would definitely like to hike in the Badlands. Great tip you shared about the Window, Door and Notch Trail head. Can only dream what epic views you might have.

    • Gus

      It truly was an amazing National Park but definitely out of the way for most people.

      I do love a park that offers so many hiking options and scenery with just one trailhead area.

  • Brooklyn

    I would love to go to Badlands! This is such an epic solo road trip, great choice! I’ve never really thought much of North and South Dakota before, but looks like loads of fun!

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