Our RV travels have afforded us lots of beautiful scenery and landscapes, from deserts and caverns to ranches and farmlands to forests, lakes, and prairies. One thing we don’t tend to see a lot of is rock formations — well, at least we hadn’t until our trek west.
Fellow full-time RVer family members Tom and Molly met us in Iowa, and we formed a caravan. They had boondocked in picturesque areas before, and we welcomed their experience as the only other boondocking we had done had been with them.
Badlands National Park
Named “bad lands” in both Lakotan and French for its difficulty to cross, Badlands National Park near Rapid City, South Dakota, stretches across 244,000 acres and houses some of the most unique geological formations you might ever see. Driving through the park — which you can do in about an hour without stopping — can leave you feeling as if you’re in a dystopian or apocalyptic movie set.
Jagged limestone and sandstone peaks rise from the ground, lined with browns and pinks. As you keep driving, you come across some yellow mounds, strikingly different from the other rock formations as they’re rounded and display yellows, greens, and pinks.
The extraordinary landscape draws 1 million visitors per year, and it offers much in return. You can spend hours there photographing the landscape, hiking, seeing the scenery change as the sun hits it differently, and watching the wildlife. Bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, and prairie dogs roam the area — and seemingly pose for photographs to make your visit that much more rewarding.
While boondocking near the Badlands, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the landmark that gives South Dakota its identity as the Mount Rushmore State. The presidents etched in this iconic monument represent the country’s birth, growth, development, and preservation. It took 14 years to complete and is quite a sight to behold.
An avenue of flags leads visitors to the viewing area and amphitheater for a closer look at the granite sculpture. You’ll find flags for all 50 United States, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories and commonwealths of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
We would have liked to have visited the Sculptor’s Studio while we were there to learn more about the creation of the monument, but it was closed at that time.
As our caravan ventured farther west, the plains of Wyoming gave way to more rock formations. We boondocked on a mountain near Rock Springs, where we had an expansive view overlooking the city and I-80 below. Getting there took us over the best-maintained dirt road we’ve ever seen and presented various rock formations along the way.
Tom and Molly lingered in Wyoming while we traversed south. We decided to avoid the interstates and take the more scenic route. It took us along mountainsides dotted with oranges and reds in acknowledgment of the changing seasons and skirted Utah Lake, where boaters and windsurfers enjoyed their sports in the sun. Staying to the east of the state brought us close to Arches National Park and through the beautiful red rocks of Moab.
We spent a night in the small town of Bluff, a jumping-off point for both the Four Corners area and Monument Valley, among other geological wonders. Gulliver led us to scenic Monument Valley, with its rising red-sand formations that left us in awe. God is an amazing artist, and we’re thankful we were able to see such beauty on our journey.
This is the travel blog of full-time RVers Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong.