Top 2 Activities for an Amazing Afternoon – Wind Cave NP

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Day 3 of our Arizona to South Dakota road trip we spent the afternoon at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. After a great experience, Buddy and I are sharing our top two favorite activities we did at Wind Cave NP.

1. Hiking

We hiked the Cold Brook Canyon Trail a 2.8 mile out and back trail. The views were lovely. The flowers and butterflies were beautiful. Being from the Southwest, we especially loved seeing the prairie dogs up close. We did not see any bison on the trail. Unfortunately, we did not do the complete the trail. We had to end the hike early to be on time for our cave tour. But, we did get the chance to film a Movement Postcard before we wrapped up the hike. “It was a good hike and nature walk,” Buddy says. “I saw prairie dogs for the first time.”

“It was a good hike and nature walk. I saw prairie dogs for the first time.”

Buddy

While we loved the Cold Brook Canyon Trail, the trail was not our first choice. We had our hearts set on the Lookout Point Trail a 5.7 mile loop. Perhaps we can hike this trail during our next visit.

What to bring

  • Water Bottles

This is for the hikes only as the cave tours do not allow water or other drinks.

  • A Hat for sun protection

I bought this hat in 2018 for a trip to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando. The hat has since traveled with me to Hawaii, Guatemala, New Mexico, Colorado, and on numerous hiking trips around Arizona. I like that it can easily be folded up to fit into a carryon.

  • Sunscreen

Living in Southern AZ, we are exposed to the sun year-round. Buddy’s pediatrician recommended Blue Lizard sunscreen when he was a toddler. We have been using it ever since. We love that the bottle turns blue when the UV rays are strong.

2. Cave Tour

The first thing we did when we arrived at Wind Cave NP was make a beeline for the Cave Tour desk. If you are interested in taking a cave tour, I highly recommend you do the same.

While planning the trip, I read that cave tours can sell out during the summer months and it was best to arrive early. We arrived around 2pm and were happily surprised to find that there were tickets available for tours that afternoon.

We arrived a bit early for our cave tour. That allowed us some time to explore the museum and learn about the cave before our tour.

The Natural Entrance Cave tour lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes. There are stairs that take you down into the cave but an elevator that takes you up. We found the descent into the cave to be easy. However, it is very slippery. Buddy slipped and fell once.

The tour was smooth. Even though there were 40 of us in our group, it seemed very intimate. We only ran into another tour group once. We loved seeing the boxwork and cave popcorn. Buddy took many photos to share with his friends on social media. “The cave, that was fun,” says Buddy. “I have never really been that deep before. So, it was fun to look at things that you wouldn’t usually see above ground.”

What to bring

  • Jackets

Packing for Wind Cave NP in July is like packing for two different climates. This is because the temperature inside the cave is roughly 54 degrees F. The National Park rangers recommend long sleeves or jackets and comfortable shoes with non-slip soles. We packed layers for both the hike in the sun and the journey into the cave.

  • Jeans or sweat pants

We put jeans and sweatpants over our shorts for the cave tour. It must have worked because we did not feel chilly at all.

Why just an afternoon?

We began the morning packing up our tent and leaving Cheyenne, WY KOA Journey. After driving for a few hours, we stopped at Hot Spring, SD to visit The Mammoth Site. We spent about an hour there. Although the site was interesting, we agreed it is geared towards families with younger children. After our pit stop at Hot Springs, we drove to Wind Cave National Park.

We also left Wind Cave NP a bit early to check into our cabin in Hill City, SD. Unfortunately, it meant less time at the national park. But the silver lining was that we had time to explore Hill City and grab a bite to eat at Desperados. (Learn more about our culinary adventures here).

If we were to plan another trip to Wind Cave National Park, This is what I would do differently:

  • Arrive early. I wish we would have arrived earlier. If we were to do this trip again, we would skip the Mammoth Site for more time at Wind Cave NP.
  • Camp overnight. Camping overnight would have allowed for us to spend one day hiking and one day exploring the cave without being so rushed. The area was beautiful. If we were to go back, we would definitely camp overnight.
  • More time for hiking.

We would definitely go back to Wind Cave National Park. Have you been to Wind Cave National Park? What did you most enjoy?

The Truth About Cheyenne, WY KOA: Pros & Cons

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We arrived at the Cheyenne, WY KOA Journey at the end of the second day of our July family road trip to South Dakota. That day, we left Las Vegas, NM, drove through Colorado, and pulled into Cheyenne in the late afternoon. After stopping at a few nearby stores to stock up on supplies, we found our way to the KOA ready for another night of tent camping.

After a good experience, Buddy and I are sharing our Pros and Cons for camping at the Cheyenne, WY KOA Journey.


PROS

  • Friendly Staff

It was busy when we arrived at the campground with many families checking in at once. Nonetheless, the staff was friendly and kind. Despite being busy, they took the time to hop on the golf card and show us to our tent site.  

  • Space

We loved that the tent sites were a bit more spread out than the location we stayed at the night before. It was nice to have some space of our own. Well as much space as you can get in a completely booked KOA in the middle of summer!

  • Greetings from Cheyenne Mural

We loved the Greetings from Cheyenne mural. In fact, we like the mural so much that we filmed one of our Movement Postcards at the mural. The Mural is colorful and fun. It is a great stop for selfies or to capture a picture to send home to family and friends. Buddy says “Yea, I agree.”

Buddy in grey stands in front of a brown wall with a yellow, blue, and red Greetings from Cheyenne, WY mural.
Buddy in front of the Greetings from Cheyenne Mural
  • Private & Clean Shower Stalls

This KOA had single one person shower stalls. The showers were located near the bathroom entrances rather than inside the bathrooms. I really liked the privacy of having a single shower stall all to myself. Side note: The KOA had good hot water.

  • Quiet

Despite being completely full of families on vacation, the campground was very quiet at night. Everyone respected quiet hours. It was very calm and peaceful both in the evening and the following morning.

  • Cute Mini Golf

The Cheyenne KOA has a very cute mini golf set up. Buddy and I were charmed by the set up. Some of the holes included a Saloon, a Livery, and a Bank that was being robbed. Although we wanted to play a round of mini golf, we did not get the chance. There were a few families playing and others waiting. Maybe next time!

Cheyenne Depot Plaza mini golf. A hole with green turf, a wood miniature rail road bridge, and a sign that reads Cheyenne Depot Plaza.
Cheyenne KOA Mini Golf

 

CONS

  • Noise from the Freeway

The KOA is located very close to Interstate 80. Sleeping in a tent near I-80 means that you hear Every. Single. Truck. Big Rig. Semi. Passing by at all hours of the night. If you are a light sleeper like I am, I highly recommend earplugs or noise canceling headphones. These are our favorite noise canceling headphones. Although I must admit, they aren’t ideal for sleep! Buddy says “Yea, my mom and I love our XM3s and XM4s. We wear them every day to work or do homework. They have good noise canceling and sound.”

 

  • Small bathrooms

As much as we loved the private showers, we do have to admit it is kind of cozy in there. Also, the bathroom itself, although clean and up to date, it is a bit of a squeeze at times. Especially when there are a handful of people in there getting ready in the mornings. The stalls and sinks fill up quickly and there is a lot of dancing around each other

Yvonne taking a bathroom selfie with a blue towel around her shoulders and hair in a bun. The selfie shows the mirrors, stalls, and some of the sinks.
Yvonne’s Bathroom selfie

 

Buddy says, “The Cheyenne KOA was good. I enjoyed setting up the tent.”

Speaking of the tent, before our trip I read that there can be high winds at this campsite. For that reason, I purchased these Eurmax multiuse heavy-duty steel tent stakes just for the Cheyenne KOA. Luckily, we did not need them in Cheyenne. However, the stakes did come in handy later in the trip when we tent camped in Badlands National Park.

Also, the tent site was gravel. For a more comfortable sleep, I bought three Coleman self-inflatable camping pads with pillow. I love the fact that they are self-inflatable. However, we learned that some of the pads inflate more than others. It might take some letting the air out after the pad is inflated to find the amount of air that works best for your comfort. Buddy and I didn’t use the inflatable pillows. We brought our pillows from home for the car ride. Chava, however, did inflate the pillow on the first night of our trip. He did not to inflate the pillow again. The pillow does not self-inflate.

And yes, there was free WIFI. Our tent site was a bit far from the office which made the signal a bit spotty for us.

Overall, our time at the KOA was short, we only stayed for one night. But it was a good experience. We would stay again, and we would recommend it to a friend.

Have you visited the Cheyenne, WY KOA Journey? If so, what are your pros and cons?

5 Interesting Things about the Las Vegas, NM KOA

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We love to travel. After a year of being homebound because of the pandemic, we decided to take a road trip. We planned a road trip. The idea was that driving on the open road, tent camping and staying in cabins would be a safer alternative to airports and hotels. In the middle of July, we set of on a long trek from Tucson, AZ to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The trip began with tent camping at Las Vegas KOA Journey. This was our first time staying at a KOA. Although we had camped before, it had been in national forests, not KOAs. And, it has been 6 years since our last camping trip! Because we had been so busy with the planes and trains of work trips that we had not camped in many years.

I read all the reviews for the KOAs I booked for the first leg of the trip but was still not sure what to expect when we pulled into the Las Vegas KOA Journey at dusk. We arrived much later than planned because a pet emergency had delayed our travels. (No worries, the cat is okay!). Thankfully, afterhours check in was easy. We quickly found our site – Tent Site 2. That ease of check in the tone for a smooth stay.

 

After a good experience at our first KOA, Buddy and I are sharing 5 interesting things about the Las Vegas, NM KOA Journey.


1. Friendly Campers

This was a delightful surprise! The fellow campers at the Las Vegas, NM KOA Journey were friendly. And quick to offer advice or a helping hand to their fellow campers. A few highlights:

 

  • The solo tent camper in the next site next to us offered to help set up the tent when we arrived after dark. We declined but appreciated the gesture.
  • Friendly conversation with fellow campers in common areas like the picnic tables and even the bathroom! Fellow campers were happy to share their experiences and recommendations of places to visit and explore around the area.
  • The campers who stayed in the Tent Site 2 before us left some logs in the fire pit. We were so grateful for this anonymous and random act of kindness. This gesture of good will was extremely helpful. Because we arrived late, the KOA store was closed, and we were not able to buy wood for a fire. What the kind fellow campers left for us was enough to cook a simple dinner in the dark.
Photo of a campfire and a tent at night. The orange and grey tent is illuminated from the inside by a flashlight.
Campfire and Tent

Speaking of cooking in the dark, our Black Diamond SpotLite 200 headlamps were a life saver! We used them at every campsite on our 10-day trip. We even made a Movement Postcard with them. Buddy says, “Now that we are not camping, we use the headlamps for our evening walks around the neighborhood.”

 

2. Hot Running Water

 

Running hot water is my amenity of choice. Meaning, if I must choose between hot water or electricity, I will chose running hot water every time. The Las Vegas KOA bathroom had excellent hot water.

 

“The tent site we stayed at did have electricity,” says Buddy. “I brought an extension cord to charge the Jackery. The Jackery is a battery generator that we put inside the tent to charge our phones, my dad’s laptop, and the GoPro. I think the Jackery is a very useful tool.”

 

3. Location

The Las Vegas, NM KOA Journey KOA is located 12 miles south of Las Vegas, NM on the east side of I-25. It was easy to find from the exit. Also, there is a Speedway gas station located at the exit to the KOA that makes stocking up on gas and snacks before your trip very easy.

 

4. The Mile Signs Tree

 

There is a tree adorned with many mile signs that is perfect for a photo shoot. I wanted shot a Movement Postcard on the tree but didn’t have the time. I had to settle for this photo shoot of Buddy. Buddy– eye roll!

 

Buddy is standing in front of the Mile Signs tree on a sunny day. .
Buddy in front of the Mile Signs tree

 

5. The Night Sky

Saving the best for last, the night sky was absolutely beautiful!! The stars were big and bright, and we could see the Milky Way. Las Vegas, NM has an elevation of 6,424 feet above sea level. This higher elevation means we were the closer to the stars. Las Vegas, NM’s location away from larger communities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe means less light pollution. Less light pollution combined with the fact that this KOA is located south of town where there is even less light pollution, and it makes for gorgeous night skies.

 


A few more things

We heard the KOA’s $5 breakfast was good, but we chose eat at Charlie’s Spic & Span Bakery & Café in Las Vegas, NM instead. (Learn more about our culinary adventures here).

Yes, there is free WIFI. But we did not stay long enough to use it.

Our time at the KOA was short, we only stayed for one night. But it was a good experience.

Buddy says “I was pretty zonked out at the time, but it was pretty good. I didn’t get to survey it much. I liked that they had a playground. I would stay there again.”

Have you visited the Las Vegas, NM Journey KOA? What would you add to this list?