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The Perfect Three-Day Weekend in the Black Hills & Badlands

Travelers are looking forward to summer travel plans, there’s no doubt about that. But while summer vacation might take priority in your pre-season planning, don’t let those three-day weekends pass you by, either.

Why a three-day weekend?  

We suggest three-day weekends in the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota because not only are these micro trips economical, but they are also rejuvenating and easy to slip into your schedule. A three-day weekend is a great way to experience more places more frequently and will also help you “sample” an area, kickstarting some ideas for a potential extended stay the next time around!   

Several hiking trails lead through Badlands National Park. Be sure to bring enough water and your camera – you’ll need both!

It’s time for Spontaneity. 

These three-day weekend trips are short in nature, so you can go one of two ways: either plan every detail, or simply see what awaits when you arrive. If you’re going with option one, it’s easier to plan every detail with a list of attractions because of the smaller number of days. This is a sure-fire way to fit things like Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorialâ, and other itinerary items of the Black Hills and Badlands into your weekend during a pointed trip! There is, of course, also room for option number two. We still recommend planning things like lodging and start/stop times, but sometimes going on a mission for surprises is a great idea! Shorter bursts of travel are naturally open to more spontaneity because travelers will have more energy than they might during a week-long endeavor.  

 If you’re driving, there are so many opportunities for you to stop at key spots along the way! Have you ever seen an active dig site of a prehistoric tar pit? Check out this piece of prehistory and the fossilized remains of mammoths on your way through the ‘southern Hills’ at The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs! 

If you’ve ever wanted to spend an hour or two among exotic plants and spunky critters, you can stop at Reptile Gardens on your way to Rapid City. The biodome is an easy place to fall in love with, but don’t take our word for it, see it for yourself!  

The whole point of the three-day weekend is to refresh yourself, and nothing, we’ve found, does that better than adding a dose of spontaneity to your weekend.  

What’s traveling to the Black Hills and Badlands really like?  

Another reason why three-day weekends work in the Black Hills and Badlands is because of the excellent road trips to get here. No matter which direction you are coming from, there’s always something cool to see, whether it be Custer State Park in the south, or even Badlands National Park from the east!  

Custer State Park is home to a herd of over 1,300 bison! Come see the bison roam, and maybe even get caught in a “buffalo jam.”

From Denver, CO, the Black Hills and Badlands region averages a six-and-a-half-hour drive north, meaning… it’s close. It’s the equivalent to driving to some of the most beloved mountain towns or open spaces within Colorado, except by going north, you’ll cross over two (or three) states! That relatively short road trip will also leave you plenty of time to get where you’re going while also not expending too much energy, that way you’re ready to hit the ground running when you arrive.  

If air travel is more your style, try flying into the Rapid City Regional Airport. Flights from Denver are not only affordable but are barely an hour long! Unlike larger, international airports, the drop-off and pick-up experiences are seamless, ensuring that your quick three-day weekend starts and ends on a smooth note.  

Some tips for making the most of your three-day weekend:  

  1. Plan Ahead – use resources such as to map out potential sites and attractions. We’re a local not-for-profit tourism association, and we want to help make your time here the best it can be!  
  2. Get a Guide – Download or order a South Dakota Vacation Guide and a Black Hills & Badlands Vacation Guide to use on the fly in any region of the Black Hills and Badlands 
  3. Tell a trusted friend about your travels! Not only is this a good idea for safety reasons, but also for encouragement and a potential last-minute tagalong! 
  4. Stop by the Black Hills Visitor Information Center at 1851 Discovery Circle, Rapid City, SD, 57701 
  5. Tell us what you think! Tag Black Hills and Badlands or use #DiscoverBlackHills for a chance to see your trip highlights featured!  

Before peak traveling season picks up, we hope you’ll take some time for yourself to enjoy your three-day weekends. We’ll see you in the Black Hills and Badlands!