4. Wall: Mount Rushmore & Badlands Self-Guided Audio Tour
Start by downloading the Action Tour Guide app, which will function as your personal tour guide, audio tour, and map all in one. Purchase one tour per car, not per person. Everyone listens together! Note: This 43+ mile-long tour covers the essentials of Badlands & Mount Rushmore in 4-5 hours. Once downloaded, your tour of Mount Rushmore begins outside the Information Center. As you walk toward the mountain, you’ll stop at a memorial to the sculptor behind this monument and hear his story. Next, you’ll stroll down the Avenue of Flags, before arriving at the main viewing platform, boasting a clear view of Mount Rushmore. Too many people? A less-crowded platform waits just ahead, where you’ll hear how workers carved the presidential faces. Then you’ll stop at the Sculptor’s Studio, where you can see a plaster model of the monument’s original design and learn more about Borglum himself. After that, you’ll walk the Presidential Trail, a boardwalk through lush natural scenery. Along the way, you’ll hear about the Lakota perspective on Mount Rushmore. Your tour ends at the conclusion of the Presidential Trail, back at the main viewing platform. At Badlands National Park, your tour begins in the town of Wall (or Philip if it’s more convenient). Upon entering the park, you can choose to detour to a prairie dog colony that’s perfect for animal lovers! That’s followed by Pinnacles Overlook, a great place to see bison or bighorn sheep. At Ancient Hunters Overlook, next, the ancestors of the Lakota used to butcher bison they’d hunted. Then you’ll pass Yellow Mounds Overlook, which reveals millions of years of geologic history! Homestead Overlook comes next. Here, you’ll find out how the Homestead Acts forever changed the Badlands. Then, at Burns Basin, you’ll get a chance to see the site of one of those homesteads! Prairie Winds Overlook is next, offering views of lush, flowing prairie. Then there’s Panorama Point, one of the park’s best spots for photos. After that, you’ll learn how to identify a golden eagle, one of the Badlands’ most iconic residents. The Fossil Exhibit Trail follows, and is a must-see for anyone with younger travelers. This trail uncovers the history behind the many fossils and prehistoric creatures of the Badlands. Next, you’ll come to Saddle Pass Trail, a hike that’s great for birdwatchers. Then there’s the Cliff Shelf Trail, which takes hikers through a juniper forest to break up the rocky landscape. You won’t want to miss the next trio of trails known as The Notch, The Castle, and The Door. Boasting a whole breadth of difficulties and lengths, there’s something for everyone here! Finally, you’ll reach Big Badlands Overlook, offering some of the best views in the whole park. Your tour concludes here.