South Dakota, Pierre to Badlands National Park

South Dakota, Pierre to Badlands National Park

This is how the rest of the world imagines American road trips to be. For a hundred miles or so, you’ll be travelling an empty road across wide open plains under brilliant blue skies. Sure, you could save a little time by taking the freeway but I guarantee, by the time you reach the famous Wall Drug Store and Badlands National Park, you’ll wish the drive was twice as long.

Some highlights of your journey:

Pierre (starting point)
It’s worth spending some time in Pierre if you can. As well as South Dakota’s charming capitol building, there’s a very picturesque trail along the banks of the Missouri and a number of sites nearby with Lewis and Clark connections.

Highway 14 (from Pierre for 40 miles)
OK, so it’s not a destination in its own right but roads are why we road trip and, for me, this is one of the finest. There’s nothing inherently spectacular about the section of Highway 14 but approach it in the right frame of mind and there’s a extraordinary beauty to the emptiness of the landscape and ever-changing colors of the grassland.

Wall Drug Store (mile 73)
You’ll start seeing the signs many, many miles before you get there. “Just 60 miles to Wall Drug – Free Ice Water”. Wall Drug Store is a South Dakota legend – stores, reconstructed western main street, life-size T-Rex, toy emporium, animated displays and even a chapel. It’s an oasis of tackiness in an area of outstanding natural beauty – and completely unmissable.

Badlands National Park (mile 81)
Created over millions of years by water and wind erosion, Badlands National Park is an other-worldy region of almost indescribable beauty. There are smooth, rounded formations; sharp pinnacles that look like eastern temples; sheer drops; distant rivers and breathtaking patterns created by different colored layers of stone. Look out for bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, deer and snakes.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
(mile 112)
If you want bringing back down to earth after driving the Badlands Loop, call in at the Minuteman Missile NHS and find out how the missiles that were once stored here served to maintain world peace / threaten its very existence (delete as appropriate) for three decades.

This route was first published on RoadTrip America. To see hundreds of other route suggestions, visit