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12 Awesome Adventures in South Dakota and Wyoming

Pack the car full of gear, friends and snacks because a road trip from the Black Hills to Yellowstone is calling your name, and here are 12 adventures to hit along the way.

By: CampCo + Save to a List

It's called the Black to Yellow road trip and it deserves a top priority spot on any outdoor enthusiast's bucket list. It starts in the Black Hills of South Dakota and ends in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The trip is 400 miles of action-packed adventures, great food stops, and loads of history. It would be easy to get overwhelmed with the number of activities & options along this route, so we narrowed it down to 12 of our favorite adventures.  

1. Hike Door Trail 

A perfect intro to the magnificence of Badlands National Park, the Door Trail gets you straight into the rugged beauty with a very short (1-mile roundtrip) hike. The trail begins on a boardwalk that leads out onto a vast stretch of rolling mud hills where yellow signposts mark the route. It's a simple, family-friendly hike that allows you to enjoy getting off trail and experiencing firsthand the Badlands' unique terrain and geologic composition

2. Drive the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop

The Custer State Park Wildlife Loop Road runs for 18 miles across beautiful grasslands and pine-speckled slopes, which are home to much of the park's wildlife. Bison, pronghorn, whitetail, mule deer, elk, coyotes, burros, prairie dogs, eagles, hawks, and a variety of other birds may be spotted along the way. Hop on a Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour at the State Game Lodge Resort to get the full experience and access off-road areas. 

3. Hike to the Cathedral Spires in the Black Hills

The Cathedral Spires are some of the most beautiful features in the Black Hills, with tall granite spires rising hundreds of feet above the surrounding terrain, reaching a maximum height of 6,860 ft. It’s a moderate hike with a huge payout. Pro tip: Head out early to catch the sun as it just pops over the mountains and lights up the bowl formed by the spires. Keep an eye out for mountain goats and their kids defying gravity on the rock ledges. 

4. Walk the Presidential Trail at Mount Rushmore National Monument

No trip to South Dakota is complete without a stop at Mount Rushmore, but to get the best views and escape the crowds, take a walk on the Presidential Trail. It is 0.6 miles roundtrip and grants you the closest viewpoints of this magnificent piece of history. 

5. Kayak Lake Pactola

Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, this 785-acre reservoir houses a multitude of activities for residents and visitors to enjoy, such as swimming, relaxing on the beach, boating or stand-up paddle boarding, or fishing at the best spot in the state. The best way to truly explore this area is by hopping inside of a kayak and paddling your heart out. Paddlers can cruise along the coast, checking out the crystal clear waters hiding in a cove where full trees are submerged underwater, or take to the vast open waters.

6. Hike to Spearfish Falls

Plummeting 47 feet into Spearfish Creek, Spearfish Falls is definitely one of the prettiest waterfalls in the state. The trailhead is tucked behind the Latchstring Restaurant and is located across the street from Spearfish Canyon Lodge. The trail (0.8 miles out-and-back) is well-groomed and leads to an observation deck at the foot of the falls. 

7. Hike the Red Beds Trail at Devils Tower

Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming erupts out of the landscape, soaring 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River Valley below and holds the title as the first national monument declared in the country. The Red Beds Trail is a 2.86-mile loop with approximately 500 feet of elevation gain. It provides great views of both the Tower above and the Belle Fourche River Valley below.

8. Stand-Up Paddleboard at Keyhole State Park

Located on the western edge of the Black Hills, Keyhole State Park has more than 50 miles of shoreline and consists of a massive 9,300 acres. Cruising along the coastline is the best bet on a stand-up paddleboard both for seeing beautiful views and opportunities to grab a spot to take a break from paddling. 

Pro tip: Spend a night in the super hip treehouse at the Cottonwood Campground.

9. Explore Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite

Here is your chance to literally walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs. Discovered in 1997, the Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite is Wyoming's largest and most unique tracksite that hosts tracks and fossils from the Middle Jurassic Period (160 million to 180 million years old!) There are bathrooms and a set of gazebos at the trailhead that would make for a cool picnic spot before heading down the boardwalk along the site and searching for the tracks. 

10. Drive the Bighorn Scenic Byway

The Bighorn Scenic Byway is a 57-mile scenic drive that carves its way through the mountains of Bighorn National Forest. Grab an ice cream sandwich at the Shell Store and hit the road. There are multiple hikes and viewpoints as this gorgeous route weaves its way from Shell to Dayton, WY. 

Pro tip: Two of our favorite stops are the Shell Falls Interpretive Site for amazing views and Steamboat Point to get a quick hike in.

11. Take a sunset horseback ride at TA Ranch

Setting out across the gorgeous plains backed up against towering mountain ranges on horseback is the quintessential Wyoming experience and one that should be on every visitor's bucket list. There are only a few activities that offer the experience to relive the authentic, American Old West spirit, and horseback riding is among these iconic options.

Pro tip: We highly recommend TA Guest Ranch in Buffalo, WY. They have a truly authentic, personal touch that punctuates the experience of any of their on-site activities.

12. Fly fish at TA Ranch

The North Fork Crazy Woman Creek carves its way south and east through the limestone face of the southern Bighorns. In its lower canyon, the stream sinks and returns to the surface several times. Go for a drive through Crazy Woman Canyon and choose from the plethora of fishing spots.

Pro tip: We highly recommend TA Guest Ranch if you are looking for a guided tour and an easily accessible fishing spot.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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