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Classic Family Vacations: South Dakota

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South Dakota

This underrated travel spot is home to some of America’s most revered monuments and offers some of the best road and trail riding in the country.

There’s a lot that people don’t know about South Dakota — including that it features six national parks, boasts the world’s third-largest cave, and is home to some of the best cycling in the country.

“We’ve recommended visiting South Dakota to all sorts of people. It’s really an underrated part of this country,” says Bob Mobeck, 71, of Branford, Conn., who in August 2016 spent a week biking through the state with his wife and two grandkids.

A few years ago, the Mobecks decided to treat each of their seven grandchildren to a special trip. But these wouldn’t be Disney vacations. They wanted to model their love of physical activity, introduce them to some cultural and historical elements, and make sure to leave plenty of time for bonding. Their oldest two grandkids joined them on a cycling trip in Germany, but the Mobecks decided to offer the next two, ages 12 and 13, a chance to explore some of the natural beauty and culture available stateside.

“I’ve always wanted to see Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial, and we thought, Why travel to Europe when we have so much to see here?” Mobeck recalls. They found what they were looking for with the help of Bicycle Adventures, an outfitter offering international and domestic tours, including five in South Dakota.

They chose the Mickelson Trail Bike Tour, a six-day trip along 109 miles of reformed rail-to-trail pathways that included stops at Mount Rushmore, the still-under-construction Crazy Horse Memorial, the legendary town of Deadwood, Wind Cave and Badlands National Parks, and even the site of a paleontological dig.

Starting in Rapid City, the group rode for four to five hours a day and made regular stops, including lunch breaks featuring gourmet dishes. The tour operator supplied maps and encouraged them to pedal at their own pace; they would meet at clearly marked spots along the route. This worked well for a group with mixed generations and abilities.

“The kids didn’t feel inhibited by us,” Mobeck notes. “They went off by themselves or rode with other people.”

At night, in their hotel, the group dined together before retiring to their rooms, where they could relax, recount the day’s highlights, and prepare for the next day’s ride before falling into a welcome sleep.

The trip accomplished everything Mobeck and his wife had hoped it would. He says the kids loved the exercise, experienced American cultural sites and an unfamiliar landscape, and created great family memories.

$2,566/person includes gear, meals, and lodging; discount for kids. www.bicycleadventures.com

Where: Start and end in Rapid City, S.D., and pedal your way to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Wind Cave National Park, Wall Drug, and other sites.

Perfect for: Couples or a fitness-loving family of all ages looking to explore some of America’s most revered monuments.

Why go: South Dakota offers some of the best road and trail riding in the country, abundant open space, and fascinating geography.

Best time of year: Late spring to early fall.

Don’t miss: Badlands National Park.

Pack: A camera.

This originally appeared as “Family Classics” in the September 2017 print issue of Experience Life.

is a writer and editor based in Boulder, Colo.

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