We arrived at Elk Mountain Campground Friday evening (after leaving Custer) and found a somewhat level spot to park the van.
The campground was nothing fancy and pretty small, but it was only 1.5 miles from the Wind Cave National Park Visitor Center and the cave tour that we planned to go on Saturday.
After making dinner we opted to head over to the amphitheater and listen to the nightly Ranger Talk on coyotes. These talks can be really fun and informative, so if you are ever in a park be sure to check them out!
In the campground, there was no cell service and I think almost everyone camping there went to the Ranger Talk. Party at the amphitheater!
The Ranger had a great coyote presentation that was really interesting (they can live anywhere!) and as a bonus we met and talked with quite a few fellow campers!
Saturday morning we woke up, did some working out, had our coffee and decided to run the short distance to the visitor center.
It’s always a perk when we can camp close enough to not have to pack up the van every time we want to do something.
We passed a few bison and a million prairie dogs on our short run to the visitors center, where signed ourselves up for an afternoon Fairgrounds Cave Tour.
Needing to kill some time we watched the park movie, went for a short walk on a prairie trail (where we kept our eyes open for snakes) before heading back to start the tour.
On our tour we met some new friends (Will and Sushila) a young couple who were full time RV’ers traveling from New York to Montana (currently) in their fifth wheel with their two cats!
Up until South Dakota we had rarely met any full time folks and this was just the start of meeting Many more over the next week.
Meeting fellow travelers is so fun, not only because they are a wealth of knowledge and a great resource for where to camp, where to go, etc, but hearing everyone’s different story is inspiring!
The cave tour was about 1.5 hours and we wound up and down and around several different rooms of the cave system.
Wind Cave National Park is home to one of the most complex cave systems in the world and it was apparent on the tour.
Looking off the path you could see passageways and tunnels that led who knows where.
The tour was a great mix of history of the area and information about the geology and formation of the cave. Wind Cave is also home to boxwork which is this crazy formation on the ceilings of certain rooms in the cave.
After our run back to the campground we closed up the van and drove into the town of Hot Springs, about a fifteen minute drive. Where we found something called… The Mammoth Site!
The Mammoth Site is an active dig site that currently has uncovered 61 different mammoths.
The site is covered and set up for a self guided tour that explains everything you are looking at and has a few nearly complete mammoth skeletons.
We learned a lot on the self guided tour and the bones were really amazing to see! Make sure you check out the pictures below!
Back in camp we made dinner, chatted with a few other campers, then headed over for another Ranger Talk. This one was sort of in celebration of the National Parks birthday and offered insights on how many places the Parks system operates as well as hearing about fellow campers favorite places.
Sunday we headed back into Custer to work for a few hours before heading to Mt. Rushmore.
Again, we definitely had some false images of what Mt. Rushmore would be like in our heads and were pleased to find out we were wrong.
The setting of Mt. Rushmore was just much cooler than we had anticipated and learning how they blasted the faces out of the rock with dynamite made you appreciate it even more.
We had good timing and were able to listen to a ranger talk about the history and how the monument was built which was another educational bonus!
After Mt. Rushmore it was time to reload of groceries and quick stop at a laundromat in Rapid City before heading to the Badlands!
Thanks for reading!