Glamping in Mount Rushmore

Growing increasingly tired with seeing the same surroundings for months on end, we decided we needed an adventure. In a never ending show of how polar opposite we are, Adam suggested camping while I suggested a fancy VRBO. We compromised on Glamping. 

Under Canvas Mount Rushmore was the most incredible experience and I am so grateful Adam has pushed my boundaries. I have grown to love exploring and (safe, not too steep) hiking. South Dakota is incredibly beautiful and although we experienced rain most days, it didn’t stop us from doing much. 

Day 1

We left Fargo about 8am with a plethora of hand sanitizer, toilet covers for rest areas, and firm instructions given to the boys they were to touch nothing. They did so well, and their inability to touch and linger helped our pit stops considerably. As Jack has never met a stranger and can (and will) literally talk to anyone, we also told him he couldn’t do that because of the virus. It might have been a white lie, but it helped!

Only an hour from Under Canvas is Spearfish, SD and Spearfish Canyon. We left an indifferent, and annoyed, Sam in the car and set out to explore Bridal Veil Falls. Jack bowed out after he realized he would have to cross a rocky stream to get under the waterfall and watched us from a distance (a grandma offered to watch him and he said, “no thanks, I’m fine. I’m 9.”). There were a ton of other stops, but I can’t remember their names, or if they even had names. Just be prepared to stop often. Bring water shoes along if possible as your shoes will get wet. Just ask Jack. 

That night we ate dinner at Under Canvas and had s’mores. Their COVID guidelines had changed things a little bit, so there was no table service, but it was still super delicious and enjoyable. The dining tables are scattered throughout the landscape, with beautiful views, including a great view of Mount Rushmore. 

We unpacked, fought over who would sleep where, and collapsed into bed. 

Day 2

The evening prior, Adam and I had requested coffee delivered to our tents. It was a little “extra,” but ask me if I cared as I was keeping Claire from setting fire to herself and trying to escape the tent.
For breakfast, I had made a few batches of muffins and we ate those. Eli was ready to hike from the second he woke up, so we explored the campground and remarked approximately 20 times that he is meant to live on a farm/in the mountains/a transient lifestyle.

We eventually set out for Mount Rushmore. It is a quick 10 minute trip from Under Canvas. Seeing the monument was anticlimactic (I just don’t get it), but they have a great climbing area for kids and fabulous ice cream. We even got Sam to climb!

Hoping for a Claire nap, we next went to Bear Country. Jack and Eli absolutely loved this. Claire, thank goodness, slept almost the entire time. And Sam, again, remained indifferent and annoyed. 

We ordered pizza from a place in Keystone and ate it back at our campground. The rest of the day was spent relaxing (ha!), exploring, hiking, etc. That night we ate at the restaurant again. It was actually a lot of fun to just do “nothing,” and hang out with the kids. Next summer we plan to stay an additional day and just build in an entire day spent only at the campground.

Day 3

I was so excited for this day and it did not disappoint! We ate breakfast (muffins again) and got ready to go to Custer State Park. Sylvan Lake was our first stop and it was beyond beautiful. Eli ran towards the climbing hills and Claire ran straight into the lake. I had to fish her out for sunscreen and she was very unhappy. Leave it to Jack – he didn’t feel like climbing, or swimming, but he sat down on a bench and started talking to people immediately. Turns out, they were some of the sweetest women on earth and they had their 8-year-old son/nephew swimming in the lake. This wasn’t their first trip to Sylvan Lake, so they had brought all the good stuff – sand toys, water floaties, tons of snacks, etc. and let us use everything. 

Sam, super impressed.

After about two hours, and several Sam complaints, we thanked our new friends and headed back to the car and off to see more of the State Park. The views were breathtaking, and we stopped several times to get out and view the scenery. 

Legion Lake had a great restaurant, so we had a late lunch and decompressed. The boys each got to pick out a souvenir and while they did that, I made the mistake of letting Claire see a playground. The girl never turns down an opportunity to play (nor should she!). We explored Legion Lake, the playground, the walking path, and eventually got a call from Adam asking if we were lost. With a promise of dessert, Claire reluctantly agreed to go back to the car. It was a great afternoon. 

That night, Sam had had enough. Long story semi-short, he refused to come to dinner with us so we offered to bring him his food when it was ready. By this time, our close friends had arrived (not planned overlap of their glamping trip!), and the kids were all playing happily as the moms started drinking. As Adam was ordering dinner, one of the staff came to our table and asked what tent we were staying in. When I told him our number, he advised me that my son had been screaming and crying so loudly that a neighboring tent had called the front desk out of fear that something was wrong. Now, please be advised that we had A) repeated to Sam several times where we were going and that we would be back, B) he had repeated to us where we were going, and C) instructions were written down should he forget. This, my friends, is life with Autism and we perhaps should have known better. It is what it is, and I’m grateful that the staff were tremendously caring and supportive, and that we were with our best friends who treat our kids like their own and watched our other three while we both went to comfort Sam.

That was my cue to turn in for the night with an overwhelmed Sam (and Claire, who was just… Claire) and start packing. Adam, Jack, and Eli explored the other side of the campground with our friends and the sounds of those two laughing made me sort of forget what a disaster the night had been just an hour prior. 

Day 4

We packed up our car quickly as we had one goal: be back in time to pick up Poppy! The road trip home was pretty blissful, as the kids were able to watch movies and/or their iPads almost the entire time. 

I’m not exaggerating when I say this might have been my favorite family trip. Next summer we plan to stay 4 nights. Please reach out if you have any questions – I know several friends who have already booked their stays and I’m happy to help with anything I can. 

Things to Pack:

Cooler for food/snacks

Water bottles

Snacks

Sunscreen

Snacks

Water shoes

Flashlights

Deck of cards/some games

Snacks

Of note: Next time I would probably make use of one of their grills and just do hot dogs or something. The food was delicious, but it would have been just as easy to have a cookout. Adam had offered to do some grilling but I had told him this trip was just for figuring things out. I didn’t know if I could manage a Sam meltdown + Eli exploring + Claire attempting to run away while he grilled and drank a beer. So we compromised, and I got my way. 

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