Badlands National Park, South Dakota
South Dakota Department of Tourism
Sturgis Main StreetWelcome to “ground zero” -- the hub of activity during bike week. Sturgis may be named after a 19th-century military officer (Samuel Sturgis) but its claim to fame is the annual bike rally. Every year, the small city of 6,700 people sees huge crowds -- last year’s rally attracted 416,727 people. Here, a shot of Main Street during rally week. 960 1280
Black Hills Copter RideIt’s not just motorcycles you can enjoy during rally week, it’s helicopters, too. Soar above the Black Hills mountaintops, and take in views of the area’s other historic towns -- Lead, Deadwood, Keystone and Custer -- that also roar with activity during bike week. 960 1280
Sturgis TricksAt Sturgis, it’s often the time to turn tricks and show off. The rider is Jeremiah Wood, a performer in the AMD Wall of Death crew. The bike is fastened down to 2 metal poles, which allow the riders to run the engine and make the wheels turn without the bike going anywhere. 960 1280
Ride to Mount RushmoreBikers head 37 miles from downtown Sturgis to see the top landmark in South Dakota’s Black Hills area: Mt. Rushmore. The most direct route is Interstate 90 -- exit at Rapid City and follow US Highway 16 southwest to Keystone and then Highway 244 to Mount Rushmore. 960 1280
Deadwood CasinosGambling was part of the scene in the Old West -- and still is today. Head 11 miles from Sturgis to Deadwood: The historic town bustles with the cha-ching of slot machines at casinos such as The Midnight Star (owned by actor Kevin Costner) and, pictured here, Mustang Sally’s. 960 1280
Lodging in SturgisLodging options in the Sturgis area include mountain cabins, bed-and-breakfasts, campsites, chain hotels and mom-and-pop operations like Welsh’s Motel in Wall, SD -- about 80 miles from Sturgis. Closer by, the towns of Rapid City, Hill City, Keystone, Spearfish and Custer are especially busy during bike week. 960 1280
Crazy Horse MemorialIn 1929 a Lakota elder named Henry Standing Bear wrote a letter to a Polish-American sculptor (Korczak Ziolkowski) about creating a monument to honor Native American war hero Crazy Horse. Today, work on the “world’s largest mountain carving,” as the Crazy Horse Memorial is called, is still ongoing, about 17 miles from Mt. Rushmore. During bike week, 2 mountain blast-carvings will occur. 960 1280
Broken Spoke CampgroundPitch a tent at Broken Spoke, one of several campgrounds near Sturgis. The 600-acre grounds hold plenty of action during bike week: Activities include live musical performances (Uncle Kracker is among the headliners) and the first-ever Miss Broken Spoke Saloon beauty contest -- see contestants vie for a $5,000 cash prize … in bikinis. 960 1280
Ride-Thru SaloonSpanning 3,000 square feet, the Broken Spoke Saloon isn’t just made for walking. Here, bikers rev up for a ride-through the saloon. The enormous space features a tattoo shop, 2 retail shops, an art gallery, a VIP lounge, a mechanics shop, 5 bars and a huge performance stage. 960 1280
Devils TowerAnother must-see attraction is Devils Tower, a rock formation that rises more than 1,200 feet above the surrounding terrain. From Sturgis, head west on 1-90 to cross the Wyoming border -- the scenic route includes views of rolling hills and rivers, pine forests, rock formations and bluffs, small towns, ranches and farmland. 960 1280
The Wall That HealsThis half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, was unveiled on Veteran’s Day in 1996. Since then, it has traveled to more than 350 towns and cities nationwide. Now comes Sturgis. For the third year in a row, the area’s Broken Spoke Campground will be home to The Wall That Heals during bike week. 960 1280
Sturgis StuntsA biker “pops a wheelie” at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. That’s just the beginning of the stunts on display. This year stunt rider Toby Baker will attempt to reclaim the Guinness World Record’s title of “Longest Motorcycle Ride Through a Tunnel of Fire.” The fiery tunnel will exceed a distance of 230 feet -- and temperatures of 2,900 degrees. 960 1280
Hill City RallyHill City may be 55 miles from Sturgis but it still roars with motorcycles during bike week. Nearby attractions include Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park. The town is also near the center of the Black Hills, earning it the nickname “Heart of the Hills.” 960 1280
Iron Mountain RoadA biker winds through the southern part of the Black Hills on Iron Mountain Road. The 16-mile stretch of road is part of US Route 16A, which is famous for its “pigtail” bridges and scenic 1-lane tunnels that align to frame the presidential faces on Mount Rushmore. 960 1280
Custer State Park BuffaloBuffalo roam free in Custer State Park, about 67 miles from Sturgis. The park is the largest in South Dakota, spanning 71,000 acres. Bikers visiting the park during the annual motorcycle rally can pay a flat fee of $10 for an extended pass to the park. 960 1280
Sturgis RodeoThere’s more than one way to get wild in Sturgis. This year also brought a regional rodeo event to the town. The June event attracted top cowboys and cowgirls on the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) circuit -- along with the fiercest bulls and broncs. 960 1280
Camaro RallyThe Sturgis Motorcycle Rally isn’t the only time to rev it up in town. An annual Camaro Rally, now in its third year (the next event is scheduled for June 27-30, 2013), attracts Camaro lovers from all over the country. Activities include poker runs to Mount Rushmore. 960 1280
Buffalo Chip Fire-BreatherA fire-breather puts on a show at the Buffalo Chip. Additional campground shows during rally week include midget bowling (don’t ask), “lingerie for life” (see “one-of-a-kind” bras) and a skit by Cheryl the Hypnotist (audience members have imagined everything from being exotic dancers to, um, witnessing UFOs). 960 1280
Buffalo Chip CampingIt’s just you, the blue skies and your motorbike at the Buffalo Chip campground. Well, maybe, you should bring just a little bit more -- don’t forget to look over your motorcycle trip checklist. 960 1280
Badlands National ParkBad boys head for the Badlands. About 90 miles from Sturgis, Badlands National Park spans 242,756 acres of eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires; it’s also home to the largest protected mixed-grass prairie in America. The Badlands are easy to reach from I-90. 960 1280
Wild Bill Hickok GraveThought Sturgis was crazy? Explore the wild and crazy times of Wild Bill Hickok in the town of Deadwood. The folk hero of the American frontier met his end while playing poker in Deadwood back in August 1876; you’ll find his gravesite monument in town. 960 1280
Sturgis Rally ConcertsAnd when night falls, it’s time to … "rock and roll all nite"! Legendary acts like KISS have performed at the annual motorcycle rally. This year’s headliners include classic-rock favorites like Journey and Lynyrd Skynrd, as well as contemporary acts such as Zac Brown Band, Sugarland and Uncle Kracker. 960 1280
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 38 Photos
Great National Park Lodges 10 Photos
Despite its foreboding name, Badlands National Park is a magnificent landscape teeming with jagged ridges, pinnacles, towers, buttes, ravines and gulches, softened by vast regions of mixed prairie grasses. This rugged topography, the result of powerful wind and water erosion, is composed of alternating layers of soft and hard rocks, and was named by early settlers as the "Badlands," a term used to describe similar geographies around the world.
Badlands National Park encompasses close to 243,000 acres in South Dakota, with some 64,000 acres designated as official wilderness. The park itself has been divided into multiple units, most notably the Badlands Wilderness Area, which has gained prestige for its reintegration of the endangered black-footed ferret into the environment. The park's Stronghold Unit is co-managed with the Oglala Sioux Native American Tribe, and was once the site of the now infamous Ghost Dances of 1890.
The Badlands is home to the world's richest fossil beds from the 23- to 25-million-year-old Oligocene era, and erosion of rock layers has made this natural wonder easily visible to the naked eye. Layers of rock stratification are visible in the tumbling landforms springing up from the earth, and the park's numerous hiking and biking trails have made exploration of this amazing landscape easy.
"Badlands" is the term used to describe a landscape that has been formed by severe wind and water erosion, which, instead of forming rolling hills and valleys, carve the earth into sharp ravines, gullies, buttes, ridges and pinnacles. In order to form Badlands, the land must consist of alternating layers of hard and soft rocks and soil, and they develop in semi-arid climates where rainfall is sudden and strong, quickly eroding these alternating rock layers.
The greatest way to experience the geological wonders and fossil history of Badlands National Park is by hiking the park's many accessible trails. Incredible vistas of the White River Valley are found on the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail, a half-mile loop trail through a wooded prairie with boardwalks and steps created to protect the land's delicate resources. Geology lovers will enjoy the 3/4-mile Door Trail that winds through the Badlands through a break ("The Door") in the Badlands Wall. The Fossil Exhibit Trail is an easy hike exhibiting fossils of the ancient and extinct creatures that once inhabited the Badlands.
Where to Stay
A paragon of Western hospitality, the Triangle Ranch Bed and Breakfast is a cozy retreat tended by owners Kenny and Lyndy Ireland, who are quick to remind guests that theirs is a real Sears, Roebuck and Co. Honorbilt home. Four bedrooms, and one separate "Carriage House" feature everything from hand-crocheted blankets, claw foot tubs and sleigh beds, to authentic Western d��cor. Highlights include an eclectic series of tour packages such as the "Prairie Game Hunting Special" and the "If It Weren't for the Last Minute Special."
Nearby Sights/Side Trips
Upon its completion, the Crazy Horse Memorial will be the largest stone sculpture in the world -- all 4 heads of Mt. Rushmore will fit on Crazy Horse's face. Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski was commissioned by Native Americans to create the sculpture, which is a work in progress. The memorial honors the courage and tenacity of Crazy Horse, who fought valiantly for the freedom of his fellow Native Americans. The memorial also features the wonderful Indian Museum of North America.