Hot Springs: Off the beaten path in the Black Hills

There are plenty of noteworthy attractions in the Black Hills of South Dakota: Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, and Wind Cave National Park name a few. Head south from Wind Cave, though, and you'll be delighted with the heaps of attractions, great for the whole family.
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Leave the gimmicks at home, these attractions are actually super interesting and definitely worth a visit. The best way to see these places is with a basecamp in Hot Springs, South Dakota, and at least a 2 day itinerary. Here’s what’s on deck:

Day 1, Morning

Geographically speaking, start your journey at Wind Cave National Park. The drive around the Park is scenic; rolling hills abound and buffalo roam wild. Many hiking trails wind throughout, but even just passing through in a vehicle is rewarding. The real treat in the Park is the cave itself. The Wind Cave website calls this place “a hidden world beneath the prairie”. This couldn’t be a more accurate statement! Get on a tour, any tour, and enjoy this hidden underworld. The cave is one of the longest and most complex systems in the world. Additionally, the boxwork formations inside are one of nature’s greatest works of art and super unique. Bring the kids, bring grandma, no one will be disappointed.

Day 1, Afternoon

Check out downtown Hot Springs. The sandstone architecture of Hot Springs is super unique, and many buildings have castle-like details. Additionally, the Fall River runs through town, with large walls on one side–feeling a bit like a moat. Don’t just marvel at the buildings, head inside and peruse the many independent, specialty shops and cafes. Everyone’s friendly, so feel free to ask questions about this quaint town.

Day 1, Evening

Before dinner, pay a visit to the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. I was blown away by some of the statistics at this dig site: 61 mammoth have been discovered there, and they’re still digging! Excavation efforts have been taking place since 1975, and the site has continued to grow ever since. A massive sinkhole dating back to the Pleistocene era also known as the “Ice Age” is what swallowed up so many mammoth. I can’t wait to return to this place in the future and see what more has been uncovered.

Day 2, Morning

Start your day off with a dip at Evan’s Plunge! Early in the day you’ll find a little more peace and relaxation as the crowds are generally fewer. There are wonderful hot tubs for soaking, as well as a sauna and steam room for ultimate relaxation. When you’re ready, zip down the waterslides–fun for adults and kids alike. One of my favorite things about the pool is that the warm mineral water is completely free of chlorine and stinky sulphur smells. With 5,000 gallons of water flowing through the springs every minute (whoa!), the water stays clean. The historic photos lining the hallways of Evan’s Plunge are interesting to look at too, dating the place back to 1890.

Day 2, Afternoon

As you continue your journey south, make time for the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. For 30 years, the sanctuary has been welcoming wild horses from many places to roam freely on 14,000 acres of beautiful land. The visitors center and gift shop are a lovely place to start, but joining a tour through the property is a wonderful way to see the horses in a natural environment. Revenues generated at the sanctuary ensure that the horses are well-cared for, and that they can continue to make a home for horses in need. More information about this incredible organization can be found on their website.

This story has been created in partnership with the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, South Dakota.

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