Adventures in Wind Cave National Park and Needles Highway, South Dakota

We have now visited 2 national parks centered around caves and not visited either cave. Traveling with Daisy is posing some limitations on our explorations in national parks, but we would not have it any other way.

Wind Cave National Park is one of the lesser known and visited parks in the U.S., but since we were staying in the Black Hills, we wanted to incorporate it into our visit, and even without seeing the cave, it was worth the stop.

Within the park, dogs are only allowed on 2 trails, each about a mile long, and once we saw the crowds at the visitor’s center where one of the trails began, we opted for the trail near the campground. After eating our lunch overlooking a herd of bison, we made our way to the campground and set off on the trail.

Bird is newly obsessed with both her hat and sunglasses, so she was definitely making waves in the fashion world with her adventure getup for the day. While we thought about having her walk the trail since it was on the shorter side, we are glad we opted to take her in the backpack as it was not necessarily an easy hike. It was our first hike in awhile and our first hike at any significant elevation, so Will and I were both still acclimating. Plus, spring was still springing in the Black Hills, and our allergies are still trying to adjust.

The hike took us to some nice views of the park, and it was really nice to get away from the crowds we continued to encounter (so much for a not very visited park!) and be alone on the trail.

After our quick hike, we made our way through the Hills toward Needles Highway. Needles Highway is part of Custer State Park, so there is a $20 per vehicle entrance fee. However, the pass is good for a full week.

I have been on the Needles Highway multiple times with the previous time being in a surprise Mustang convertible rental car with the top down and very few people on the road. This visit in a truck on a busy weekend was just not the same. Sure, it was nice visiting with my family, but there is not much that will ever top that previous visit with the road to myself and the wind in my hair.

However, no matter how you are traveling, there is nothing better than driving this winding highway and seeing the rock formations jutting into the sky above and around you. The tunnels alone are so much fun.

Of course, we stopped to see the Eye of the Needle, even though there were lots of people milling about and cars waiting to go through the tunnel. But, once we gave it a few minutes, the place cleared out a bit. We spent a little time there, letting the girls get out and explore to enjoy the moment and the beauty around us. We were unable to stop at several pull-offs due to parking, so we fully made the most of our time at this popular spot.

While we had hoped to make it back on a day that was less crowded, this ended up being our only trip on the Needles Highway. No matter the traffic, it is still a beautiful drive that you truly cannot find anywhere else.

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