South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary: Must Visit Places

If you are planning a trip to the stomping grounds of Wild Bill Hickok, you may be hoping to see everything that South Dakota has to offer.

But, when planning your epic road trip and itinerary, there are certain things you absolutely won’t want to miss, like Black Elk Peak, Mount Rushmore, and Custer State Park. 

Parks

There are many beautiful parks in SD where you can view wild animals such as mountain lions, prairie dogs, mountain goats, and coyotes. 

Badlands National Park

The Badlands National Park is just east of Rapid City. This astounding park features beautiful landscapes and is home to many different animals and plants. 

Badlands National Park is also where you can find the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. 

You can find the 244,000 acres that make up Badlands National Park in the southwest corner of the state. 

Custer State Park

Custer State Park is in the Black Hills and has many trails, clear waters, and fantastic wildlife. The park entrance at Custer State Park welcomes you into 71,000 acres of grasslands, hills, and mountains. 

Custer State Park is only 45 minutes from downtown Rapid City. 

Other State and National Parks For Your South Dakota Road Trip

There are plenty of other amazing parks and nature areas in South Dakota for you to discover. Some that you’ll definitely want to see include:

  • Wind Cave National Park
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • Falls Park
  • Sica Hollow State Park

Monuments

Be sure to add some monuments to your South Dakota road trip itinerary. There are monuments all over the state, and they offer great history lessons and a lot of fun memories for your South Dakota vacation. 

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore is possibly the most well-known monument in South Dakota and the Black Hills. Mount Rushmore National Memorial features the images of the US’s most memorable presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. 

Every year this National Historic Landmark attracts thousands of visitors and is a modern marvel that is definitely worth the trip when you visit South Dakota.

Crazy Horse Memorial

The Crazy Horse Memorial is also in the Black Hills in western South Dakota and is the world’s largest mountain carving. It’s great for people of all ages and isn’t too far from Custer State Park or Rapid City. 

The carving shows Crazy Horse riding a horse and pointing to his tribal land. The memorial is on private land, but it’s easy to see when visiting the museum.

Jewel Cave National Monument

If you want to see a new side of SD, be sure to check out Jewel Cave. Take a tour and snap some photos of this amazing underground marvel located in southwestern South Dakota. 

You can easily make Jewel Cave your first stop when leaving Rapid City Regional Airport.

Scenic Locations

South Dakota has some of the most beautiful views in the country. So, when you are on your South Dakota road trip, be sure to check out some of these scenic locations that are within driving distance of Rapid City.

Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls is also close to Rapid City and full of things to do and see. There are shops, parks, museums and plenty of beautiful sites. 

Sioux Falls is easily worth a few days of your road trip, and it’s an excellent chance to see eastern South Dakota.

Black Elk Peak

Black Elk Peak is in the Black Elk Wilderness area. It’s the highest point in the state and offers some fantastic views of the Black Hills National Forest.

Other Scenic Locations

Other scenic locations that you can find in the state include:

  • Hill City
  • Black Hills National Forest
  • Sylvan Lake
  • Deadwood 
  • Bear Butte 

Scenic Drives

While in SD, you may want to go for a scenic drive which is not only beautiful but will also give you an idea of what you want to see and do on your trip. So, check out some excellent scenic country to top off your South Dakota adventure.

Needles Highway

Needles Highway is a part of Custer Park and winds all the way through beautiful pine forests, meadows, and mountainous areas. It’s a great way to see the park and get close to nature.

Iron Mountain Road

This beautiful drive gives you an in-depth look at the Black Hills. It’s peaceful but also has enough turns and surprises to keep you on your toes and make your trip interesting. 

Iron Mountain Road is one of the most scenic rides you can take through South Dakota.

Other Scenic Drives To Consider

Other scenic adventures you can take when you visit the state include:

  • Badlands Loop Road
  • Sage Creek Rim Road
  • Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway
  • US Highway 385
  • Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

Trails

If you are interested in getting some exercise and seeing something unique, consider hiking on one of the state’s many trails. Hiking is so much fun, and it will give you a way to stretch your legs after being in the car during your road trips around the state. 

Thus, don’t forget to add some of these hiking trails to your South Dakota itinerary:

  • Door Trail
  • Castle Trail
  • Window Trail
  • Black Elk Peak Loop 
  • Cathedral Spires Trail 

However, Notch Trail is a favorite in the state. 

Notch trail is popular because it’s easy and perfect for hikers of all levels. It also has lots of waterfalls, mountainous scenery, and other beautiful features of the Badlands.

Interesting Stops

SD is full of amazing sights and lots of things to do. If you are looking for something out of the box, consider visiting one of the state’s most popular attractions.

Cave Tours

There are many different cave tours available in South Dakota. Whether you want to visit the state’s longest cave or are looking for something unique like a wind cave, you will find it here.

Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center

Before you take off exploring on your own, be sure to stop by this fantastic visitor center to learn about the many attractions that the state offers. Here, you can find maps, brochures, and plenty of information on all your favorite places.

Wall Drug Store

If you really want to get a feel for Main Street South Dakota, be sure to stop by Wall Drug Store. This unique store offers everything you need for a long or short visit with plenty of necessities and fun souvenirs.

You can also check out the other exciting attractions on the street, like more novelty shops, delicious restaurants, and interesting museums. 

Other Fun South Dakota Stops

  • Corn Palace
  • Prairie Dog Town
  • Black Hills Central Railroad
  • Ben Reifel Visitor Center

Places To Stay

While you are in SD, you might need a nice place to stay. You can stop by one of these lodges or campgrounds after you’ve finished your itinerary for the day to take a short break:

  • Legion Lake Lodge
  • Sage Creek Campground
  • Cedar Pass Campground
  • Sylvan Lake Lodge
  • Cedar Pass Lodge
  • State Game Lodge
  • Blue Bell Lodge

Conclusion

Whether you are driving to South Dakota or flying in for a few days, you want to make the most of your trip. So, go ahead and check out a National Historic Site here or some scenic drives and hiking trails that will give you a real feel for this beautiful state and everything it has to offer.

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