Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Trip Report Tuesday // South Dakota and Wyoming 2021 Trip Conclusion | Days 4 & 5

Welcome to the finale of this vacation's trip reports!  I am so thankful to the Lord for this refreshing getaway with my family!  I'm also happy to now have it captured here and to have had the opportunity to share it with you, my sweet readers and cherished friends!  I hope these posts have served as a virtual vacay of sorts for you.  Should you plan a trip to the Black Hills too, perhaps some of our favorite spots will make it to your itinerary as well!  Ready to hear about the rest of the trip?  Let's get to the day 4 and 5 deets!

South Dakota & Wyoming Trip 2021

Day 4 - Saturday, June 19th, 2021 

This sweet Saturday was a cool one.  In the peak of midday the temp reached just 64 degrees.  It was as comfortable as a fall day.  We appreciated it all the more knowing that the temps on this particular week back home were 20 - 30 degrees hotter. 

Our day began with a stroll to the lodge's restaurant where they serve up a deluxe continental breakfast complete with a waffle bar, a variety of fresh fruits, bread and bagels, yogurt, pastries, eggs and a daily rotation of meats.

We grabbed our grub and found a cozy table outside.  I'm not normally a breakfast eater, so my plate may not look all that exciting, but these cheesy eggs, crispy bacon, and OJ hit the spot and helped fuel me for an active day.

After breakfast we hit the road bound for adventures at Custer State Park.  Along the drive we enjoyed the roadside views of Mount Rushmore.  

Continuing down the road, just past Mt. Rushmore's entrance, there's a pull-off parking lot where you can get a glimpse of George Washington's profile.  I'm a fan of seeing monuments from different and interesting angles, so I was happy to pop out of our SUV to snap a couple shots of Mr. Washington from here.

I never tire of riding through tunnels cut from rock.  While there the grandness of this scene struck me with awe and wonder.  The beauty of God's creation and the ingenuity of man to make ways for us to enjoy and explore it makes my heart happy!

The views here are spectacular!

Custer State Park

Custer State Park is a beautifully scenic family favorite.  We usually spend a good chunk of a day here when visiting South Dakota.  Allow me the pleasure of showing you around a bit...

Needles Highway

The stunning needle-like rock formations give this 14 mile stretch of highway an almost otherworldly feel.  No matter how many times I visit this place I'm always in awe of the beauty!

Bison spotting

Bighorn Sheep

Sylvan Lake

When my girls were little Sylvan Lake used to be a spot we'd come to picnic and simply take in the the lovely lake view.  In more recent years it's become a spot for adventure!  We love walking the trail that wraps around the lake which requires passing over water from stepping stone to stepping stone, through narrow stone passageways, and various terrain.  Here's a pictorial trail tour...

A rock-top view of the lake

Soon we were back down on solid ground, lakeside with some cool cloud cover above.

My littlest love posing for a snapshot on the rock above.

On the Road Again

My oldest daughter and I commented on how this section of the park reminds us of what we think a drive through Ireland would look like.  Maybe it just reminded us of one of our favorites movies, Leap Year. :)

The amount of wildlife we've seen in Custer State Park over the years has varied greatly.  It likely depends on the time of day, weather, ect..  Sometimes we see animals galore throughout the park.  This trip the wildlife was much more scarce.  We only saw a couple bison, a few bighorn sheep, and these donkeys.  However, a drive through this park is never a disappointment.  The scenery alone makes it destination-worthy!

I almost forgot about these little guys!  We did see an abundance of prairie dogs, here and throughout our trip!

Needles Eye Tunnel

Although traffic travels through both ends of Needles Eye Tunnel, the tunnel is less than eight and a half feet wide which makes things interesting.  Typically guests honk to let others on the opposite end know that they are coming through.  On this particular day the park was packed so there was a steady flow of traffic taking turns a few cars at a time with quite a bit vehicles backed up awaiting their opportunity to pass through.  It's not a bad place to wait though.  The surroundings are gorgeous!  If you've got the added bonuses of great company and some vacay snacks on board with you, there's really no rush at all. 

Lunch at Coolidge General Store 
Inside Custer State Park

A stop in the General Store was good for adding a souvenir magnet to our collection and mini pizzas to our grumbly tummies.  

We hit the road refreshed and ready for more splendid scenery.

While the girls opted to stay cozy in the car for a bit, Jason and I strolled hand in hand to this lovely lookout spot.  He is forever my favorite travel buddy and the love of my life.  I cherish moments like this and look forward, Lord willing, to exploration at his side for decades to come!

Just like that, we were bidding the park a fond farewell and heading back to Keystone. 

Our Last Evening in Keystone, SD

If you think having mini pizzas for lunch in Custer State Park would hinder us from one last meal at our beloved Jane's Boardwalk Pizza, you'd be mistaken. 

Jason ordered our dinner and the girls and I made our way upstairs to a plaid covered picnic table with a view of the boardwalk. 

I love panoramic pics for their ability to capture a wider view of any scene.  However, as you can see from the distorted cars in this comical shot, it doesn't always do a great job when movement is involved.  Ha!

Jason got one last sarsaparilla refill at the Wild West Soda cart.  It was good.  He shares.

My firstborn sweetie opted for a grilled cheese meal this time around.  Hot cheese on warm bread is always a good idea too. :)

Just before our pizza was prepared we noticed that Keystone was under a severe thunderstorm warning so we moved our party to a table down below.  Shelter from a potential storm and a dry dinner sounded like a priority over the bird's eye view.  

Thankfully the storm missed us and we concluded dinner with talk of, what else, dessert!  The sweetest way I could think to wrap up our last evening of vacation was by taking the girls back for their favorite South Dakota sweet treat, ice cream at Mt. Rushmore.  With happy hearts we headed to the monument for cool cones.  Sadly, when we arrived at Memorial Team Ice Cream in Carvers' Cafe we found they were closed for the day.  The hours listed on their website are 11 am to 9pm, but as is the case for many things right now, hours of operation seem to vary during this Covid-19 era.  Thankfully, the girls didn't let disappointment damper their day.  It made us all the more thankful that we were able to enjoy our cones/dishes on a previous day of this trip.

We sat for a bit enjoying each other's company with this monumental view.

As you can see in this snapshot, the crowds were very minimal on that night.  Perhaps the severe thunderstorm warning caused many guests to head out shortly before our arrival.  In any case, there was plenty of wide open space which is always nice anywhere you go on vacation!

We headed back to K Bar S Lodge for a restful finale to our trip.  I packed up anything that was no longer needed and then spent the remainder of the evening out on the patio with my hubby.  We reminisced about our favorite parts of this vacation and all the memories made while watching the Mt. Rushmore lighting ceremony from afar.  It was a sweet and enjoyable evening.

Day 5 - Sunday, June 20, 2021

We woke up bright and early for our travel day.  After getting ready and packing everything up, we headed over to enjoy the complimentary breakfast.  Once again I kept it simple opting for the hot selections of the day, cheesy scrambled eggs and ham.  And once again it tasted better than it looks in this quick photo.  Ha!

For whatever reason I didn't get a pic of everyone at the table, but here's my baby and her bagel with a side of strawberry yogurt.

Bye, K Bar S Lodge!  You were a lovely home away from home for a few days!

On the road with a cool morning temp of just 62.  We were heading for our final destination along the drive home, Wall Drug.

Loved these cool storm clouds!  We encountered a decent amount of rain on this drive through South Dakota.

Wall Drug
Wall, South Dakota

If you've ever driven through South Dakota chances are you've seen signs telling you how many miles you are from Wall Drug.   It's a classic tourist trap, through and through, but we love it all the same.  It began in 1931 enticing passersby with the offer of free ice water.  To this day you can get your cup of free ice water, but they've grown far beyond a simple drug store.  They offer several shops filled with souvenirs - everything from trinkets and toys to glass bobbles and western wear.  You'll also find a western art and historical news clippings scattered throughout that make for interesting browsing.

Every South Dakota vacation we've ever taken has concluded with Wall Drug as its finale.  When the girls were younger it was a sweet spot for choosing a small souvenir and has provided many opportunities for fun - everything from mining for gems to photo ops and small quarter-to-ride carousel and pony rides.  A longtime favorite that's still nostalgic for my girls to see is this T-Rex who roars every so many minutes accompanied by lights and sounds.  It always reminds me of Dinosaur in Disney's Animal Kingdom.  Side note:  We can hardly wait to return to WDW this fall! 

Time to journey homeward.

Lunch on the road.  Once again, Culver's for the win.

This was such a refreshing getaway.  We returned home fully satisfied and incredibly thankful.  One of my favorite things about this trip was simply being in South Dakota.  It is a beautiful state where good ol' fashioned American freedom offers its residents and visitors alike a welcomed feeling of normalcy.  After the past year and a half it was almost like a reset button for my mind and did my heart such good.  

Thank you so much for stopping by to hear about the conclusion of our summer family vacation!  I praise the Lord for the opportunity to take this trip and for all the memories made with those dearest to my heart!  I'm thankful to have it captured here in trip report form, and I hope you enjoyed following our Midwestern adventures!


I'm currently debating the possibility of recapping vacations that I skipped capturing in trip reports - our "just the two of us" 20th Wedding Anniversary Disney World trip in 2018 and/or our 2019 Christmastime at Disneyland family vacation.  If I decide to move forward with recapping one or both of those I'll be sure to share on Instagram and you'll find them right here on a future Tuesday.  If not, do plan to recap the WDW trip we have planned this fall.  So, either way I will return with more Disney Trip Reports in the not-too-distant future!  Hope to see you then!


  1. I love seeing all of the cool tunnels! Glad you had a great trip!

  2. "Never start a journey on a Sunday..." LOVE Leap Year! And I've loved these trip reports! Thanks for sharing them!

    1. My pleasure, Nik! It was a joy to create these posts and a delight to receive your sweet comments on each of them! Thank you!

  3. Love your trip posts! Thanks for putting so much detail into these. I can't wait for your WDW posts in the fall! Have you guys ever traveled to Colorado? My family goes to Colorado every August/Sept and its beautiful out there and we usually tack on a day or two in South Dakota depending on if we have my niece with us or not. She loves seeing the status and we appreciate the day or two or her running out the energy in South Dakota to break up the long drive to Colorado from Minnesota! Do your girls enjoy riding in the car for that long or would they rather fly??

    1. Thank you for reading, Lindsay! I look forward to sharing fresh new trip reports with you soon. Growing up my family took multiple trips to Colorado. What a beautiful place! My husband and I also went there together as newlyweds, but we have yet to take the girls. It's definitely on our family travel wishlist! While our girls enjoy flying when the destination's distance makes it a great option, they're always up for a good road trip too. South Dakota isn't quite a full day's journey for us, so we typically add fun stops along the way to make getting there (and back) part of the fun. :) I hope you and your family enjoy a fantastic trip to Colorado this year! That's such a fun tradition!

  4. I loved reading about your trip! My husband and I traveled through South Dakota in 2014 and we did a big day of hiking at Custer State Park! We have pictures at some of those same areas and that brought back some fun memories :) I vote for older trip recaps! I was actually thinking of recapping our 2018 Disneyland trip too! Either way, I can't wait to read about your fall trip!

    1. I love that you've created awesome memories in Custer State Park too and that this post brought back some of those for you! If you decide to share those magical Disney deets, I'll be right there at your sweet blog having fun reading them! :)


I would love to hear from you today! I enjoy reading each and every comment I receive. (I do moderate them before they're published. Gotta keep it family friendly! ;)) Let's chat! B.Y.O.C. {Bring Your Own Chocolate!}