I didn’t know much about South Dakota aside from what the Beatles had told me: “Now somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota, there lived a young boy named Rocky Racco-o-on…” And I know things didn’t turn out so well for him.
And there was the one time, about 10 years ago and before kids, that my husband and I drove to Spearfish, South Dakota, about 45 minutes from Rapid City, to race in an off-road triathlon. We camped by the little lake, did the race, mountain biked in a woodsy area nearby the next day but then turned around and drove home.
Once I started telling people that Backpacker Magazine was sending the family—my husband Mark, our almost-8-year-old son, Sam, and 4-and-a-half-year-old son, Ben—and I on an assignment to explore Rapid City and the surrounding areas, I was told things like this: “There are great roadside attractions in Rapid City!” Huh, I thought.
The kids were fired up. My husband and I were ready for a family adventure, and we hoped to get out on some family hikes and expose the kids to historic things like Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, go underground in an expansive limestone cave…maybe see some bison up close and personal.
And so it began, our three-day tour of Rapid City. We’d kick it off discovering the downtown area—I was impressed by the statues of Presidents on every corner!—before we’d head out toward the Black Hills, State Parks and National Monuments over the next couple of days…Oh, while staying at the La Quinta Rapid City, which happens to be attached to the largest indoor waterpark in the Dakotas. Did I mention the kids were fired up?
**The one-minute video I shot and made about our trip to Rapid City can be found on the Backpacker.com Rapid City Content Hub, found here.