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Top Picks For Outdoor Adventure At 9 Parks & Monuments

Travel? Why yes she does. From Abu Dhabi to San Diego, Lisa comes from an eclectic family whose personalities will inspire future comedic films. She’ll do close to anything that will give her an adrenaline rush. It fuels her love to absolutely live life and pursue creativity on an entirely new level. She hopes to pass on that same energy in her writings and inspire others to add a little adventure to their travels.  

May 23, 2022

When it comes to big adventures, Rapid City has them. I’m talking everything from a climb behind the famous four of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, to prehistoric dinosaurs at Skyline Wilderness Area, and everything in-between. When I say big adventures, I mean it.

1. Climb Garfield Goes To Washington At Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Views from the Presidential Trail at Mount Rushmore

You read that right – climb. For the rock climbers, Garfield Goes To Washington is a class route located behind those classic presidential profiles that will give you an impressive view. Left your carabiners at home? (Yeah, that’s the reason.) Don’t fret! Take the Presidential Trail in the memorial for a wonderfully walkable, photogenic, and scenic route. 

2. Hike Notch Trail at Badlands National Park

Hikers climbing the ladder at Notch Trail in Badlands National Park

With a trail ladder waiting for you, this rugged route is a must-see for adventure seekers who want a cliff’s edge view. Take your time and be sure to stick around after the sun goes down because stargazing out here is something you won’t want to miss.

3. Hit the Water at the “Crown” Jewel in Custer State Park

People playing in the water at Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park

On your mark, get set, HIT THE WATER! Sylvan Lake, the “crown jewel" inside one the world’s top wildlife destinations (Custer State Park), is where you’ll find kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats ready to rent. The wildlife you’ll see is not included in the rental. 

4. Participate In The Volksmarch At Crazy Horse Memorial

Hikers on the arm of Crazy Horse Memorial during the Volksmarch
©Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation

This 10K (6.2-mile) round-trip hike is one you’ll never forget. Hilly terrain will take you up the world’s largest mountain carving-in-progress. The surreal, no filter needed, view atop Crazy Horse’s arm happens twice a year in the spring and the fall and, trust me, it’s one for the books and your social feed.

5. Trek Through History On The Centennial Trail At Wind Cave National Park

Elk in in a prairie at Wind Cave National Park

There’s more to Wind Cave National Park beyond touring the cave. Although, the cave is pretty sweet. A six mile segment of the 111-mile Centennial Trail, the longest trail in the Black Hills, runs through Wind Cave National Park. Along this trail you'll have a chance to experience the parks wildlife, including elk and bison. This segment can be combined with Lookout Point and Highland Creek trails, making it one diverse adventure. 

6. Take One Of Four Ranger-Guided Tours at Jewel Cave National Monument

Cave Tour Guide in Jewel Cave National Monument

Not afraid of a little, ok a lot, of dirt? Me either! The Wild Caving Tour at Jewel Cave National Monument is, in a word, wild. You’ll get to belly crawl through passageways, climb semi-vertical rocks (with the help of rope assistance), and even shimmy through crevices! Move over Indiana Jones. There’s a new adventurer in town.

7. Rock Climb at Devils Tower National Monument

Approaching the base of Devils Tower National Monument

Get cracking because this area has not just some, but hundreds of parallel cracks waiting for fellow climbers looking to tackle vertical faces. It’s no surprise that rock climbing at Devils Tower is one of the most appealing areas in North America. Just wait until you see the view atop this natural wonder.

8. Touch the “M” at Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park

Scenic view of Rapid City from M Hill Trails

It’s all downhill from here. In a, “I love single track mountain biking and if I could I’d quit my job and ride here full time” kind of way. Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park is a 20-mile-plus mountain biker’s playground with a variety of tracks for every level of rider. Locals refer to it as “M-Hill”, hence the large “M” at the top - feel free to bike or hike straight up to it. And it’s minutes from downtown, so it’s easy to work up an appetite on the hill and stop into a local pub for a pint and a burger. Win. Win.     

9. Get Prehistoric at the Skyline Wilderness Area

Family walking up to the Brontosaurus at Dinosaur Park in Rapid City

Keep roaming because after you’ve explored the Skyline Wilderness Area, you’ll be met by some prehistoric giants. This 150-acre forest in the heart of Rapid City is a place where my prehistoric dinosaur friends call home and hikers and cyclists of all ages are welcome to visit.