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Summer escape: Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota

By David Hanson
Cottage Living

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The unique landscape of Badlands National Park dazzles South Dakota visitors.

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South Dakota
Tourism

(Cottage Livingexternal link) -- This remote, relatively unknown region hides a fascinating, unique landscape. In "Travels with Charley," novelist John Steinbeck says of the area: "It was so beautiful that I stopped near a thicket of dwarfed and wind-warped cedars and junipers, and once stopped I was caught, trapped in color and dazzled by the clarity of the light."

Few natural sites surprise the first-time visitor like the crumbling, fantastical shapes -- like massive drip castles -- tucked into the calmly swaying expanse of prairie land. Plus, just a few hours west, the Black Hills rise out of the Badlands, inviting exploration of rock spires, clear lakes, cool forests and main-street-strolling towns.

Where to sleep

Rent a cottage

Audrie's Bed & Breakfast, (605) 342-7788 or audriesbb.comexternal link. Just outside Rapid City, this B&B rents seven separate cottages at surprisingly low prices.

So you're not into roughing it

State Game Lodge and Resort, (800) 658-3530 or custerresorts.comexternal link. It's not the Ritz, but the stone and timber architecture feels grand, and the rooms are comfortable. Choose from lodge rooms or creekside cabins, all with an ideal location for easy access into the Black Hills.

You love camping

At Sage Creek campground, http://www.nps.gov/badl/pphtml/camping.htmlexternal link, in Badlands' remote western corner you'll feel like a plains pioneer. It's worth a night on the ground just to see the carpet of stars above the spires' imaginative silhouettes and the ridges' wrinkles against the deep blue horizon. No frills -- the show is in the setting.

Where to eat

Breakfast

Dry Creek Coffee, (605) 574-3500 or drycreekcoffee.comexternal link. Strong coffee and warm baked goods set the day straight on your way through Hill City to explore the Black Hills.

Our picnic pick

Main Street Market, (605) 341-9099 or themainstreetmarket.comexternal link. In the Badlands, where you won't find much in the way of groceries, the all-natural, all-gourmet selection of health foods is a welcome oasis to travelers in need of a granola fix.

Après hike

Corn Exchange, (605) 343-5070 or cornexchange.comexternal link. A former head chef at Brooklyn's Seasons restaurant, M.J. Adams, decided she had to bring good food to a place like South Dakota, and she's brought quite a gift. You could search the country and you'd be hard-pressed to find better hidden food gems. It's fresh, wholesome, rustic goodness. Be sure to make a reservation.

Sage Creek Grill, (605) 673-2424. Visit Mount Rushmore, then take a 20-mile drive to this restaurant in Custer, where you'll find huge salads, hearty soups and creative sandwiches.

Firehouse Brewing Company, (605) 348-1915 or firehousebrewing.comexternal link. Microbrew beer, burgers and a patio -- any questions?

More summer escapes:

Acadia National Park, Maine

Glacier National Park, Montana

Olympic National Park, Washington

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan


Copyright 2004-2006 Cottage Living magazine. All rights reserved.
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