South Dakota Vacation Planning Guide

South Dakota Vacation Planning GuideSouth Dakota draws a surprising amount of annual income from its tourism industry, relative to its population, and the reason why are the natural resources and landmarks existing within the state's boundaries. Caves, mountains and desert regions are all located in close proximity to one another, allowing for exciting day trips to venues rarely seen in other parts of the world. (Pictured: Road winds through Badlands National Park, SD)


Difficulty: Moderate

Step 1
Decide what area of the state you will visit. Most tourists to South Dakota choose the west side of the state, which is home to the Black Hills and Badlands. The east side is home to its largest city, Sioux Falls, and there's not much in between. Unless you will be passing through anyway, there isn't much on the east that the west can't also offer.
Step 2
Allocate an afternoon to visit Mount Rushmore, South Dakota's most recognizable landmark. The monument features hiking trails which take your up near the base of the mountain and into the natural setting at the foot of the four presidents.

13000 Sd Highway 244 # 81
Keystone, SD‎
(605) 574-2515
Step 3
Take scenic drives through the Black Hills National Forest and the Badlands, stop often for quick scenic hikes through the territories. Keep an eye out for buffalo, coyotes, foxes and the rare mountain lion. Hike the relatively desolate Castle Trail in the Badlands, or the Centennial Trail in the Black Hills, which runs from Bear Box Mountain to Wind Cave National Park.

Black Hills National Forest
(605) 673-9200

Badlands National Park
South Dakota 57780‎
(605) 433-5361
Step 4
Visit one of South Dakota's premiere caves, Wind Cave or Jewel Cave. These are two of the four largest caves in North America. Each also offer private tours that take visitors off the beaten path and rappelling into rarely visited depths. Crawl through small holes to access brilliant exhibits in the caves that are not accessible on foot.

Wind Cave National Park
26611 US Hwy 385
Hot Springs, SD 57747-9430
(605) 745-4600

Jewel Cave National Monument
11149 US Hwy 16
Bldg B12
Custer, SD 57730
(605) 673-2288
Step 5
Visit an archaeology site located in the Black Hills, such as the Mammoth site in Hot Springs. Take a walk around the active site while archaeologists work to uncover fossils. Mammoth is located an hour from Rapid City and features the highest concentration of uncovered woolly mammoth fossils in the world. On selected days, there are interactive venues available, particularly for children.

1800 Hwy 18 Truck Route
PO Box 692
Hot Springs, SD 57747
(605) 745-6017
Step 6
Find a river guide to take you on a whitewater rafting trip down one of South Dakota's numerous rivers. There are multiple options depending on the distance you want to travel and your expertise level. For less adventurous types, kayaking and canoeing on a stream or lake is another option. See Resources.

Tips & Warnings

Visit in early August, when the Sturgis Bike Rally takes place. It is the largest motorcycle rally in the country.
You can visit the Crazy Horse National Monument, but with its $20 entry fee, many prefer to view it from the highway, where you get just as good a look.


Article Written By Jonathan Croswell

Jonathan Croswell has spent more than five years writing and editing for a number of newspapers and online publications, including the "Omaha World-Herald" and "New York Newsday." Croswell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is currently pursuing a Master's of Health and Exercise Science at Portland State University.

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