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Home of the Perfect Road Trip

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National Parks and Treasures

Maybe you first saw the four faces of Mount Rushmore in a book or on a television show, but now is the time to see them for yourself. Nearly 3 million people a year visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Insider tip: It’s particularly magical to watch the faces softly change shades during sunrise; the early morning is the best light to take photos of the four U.S. presidents carved into the mountain.

Another of South Dakota’s must-sees, Badlands National Park makes for a truly amazing experience, whether hiking among the amazing formations on the Notch Trail or spotting the bighorn sheep that call the park home. Go underground in some of the world’s largest caves at Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument. Experience Cold War history by touring the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Don’t miss the relaxation and recreational opportunities along the Missouri National Recreational River, affectionately called “The Mighty Mo’.”

 

Native Culture

Home to nine American Indian tribes, South Dakota offers a tremendous opportunity to experience a variety of Native American culture. On the western side of the state, see the world’s largest in-progress sculpture at Crazy Horse Memorial, and experience the sacred beauty of Bear Butte State Park and Black Elk Peak in Custer State Park. In eastern South Dakota, visit the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village, the state’s only active archaeological site. Sica Hollow State Park and Good Earth State Park at Blood Run are both important cultural sites surrounded by nature’s beauty.

To view culture in action, make sure to attend a powwow. Also known as a “wacipi,” these traditional Native American celebrations are held at locations across South Dakota every year, featuring spirited drumming and singing as well as dancers in intricate regalia. The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Wacipi (typically held in July) is the oldest powwow in South Dakota and one of the oldest in the nation.

 

Wild West Experiences

Take in the Wild West where cowboys still roam the land. Visit the land of outlaws and heroes like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Seth Bullock in Historic Deadwood. Take a guided horseback ride through beautiful South Dakota scenery, explore museums full of memorabilia and history, or take in a live rodeo during the summer months.

 

More Natural Wonders

The beauty of wilderness can be found across the state. In western South Dakota, it’s not hard to spot bison (the locals call them “buffalo”), antelope, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and more in Custer State Park. In the surrounding Black Hills National Forest, take advantage of campgrounds, scenic byways, overlooks and 568 kilometers of trails. Eastern South Dakota is home to Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge and its nearly 400 species of birds. Rock formations, forests and open prairies provide a perfect setting for hiking and biking, while bodies of water across the state provide plenty of fishing, boating and paddling. Don’t miss the giant fields of sunflowers that bloom annually in late August across much of the central and eastern portions of the state.

Home of the Perfect Road Trip

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Fun Fact

Watching a local rodeo in South Dakota
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Rodeo is South Dakota’s official state sport. Favorite events include The Days of ’76 Rodeo in Deadwood (July), the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo in Mitchell (July) and the Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo in Rapid City (late January/early February).

Thousands of motorcyclists gathered for South Dakota’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
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South Dakota is home to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the largest motorcycle gathering in the world, held annually in August. Since 1938, this legendary rally has grown to attract crowds of more than 500,000 people.

Bison roaming in South Dakota
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The Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup, held each year in September, is a chance to watch cowboys and cowgirls round up and drive the park’s herd of 1,300 bison.

Must see places

The faces of Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

The faces of four U.S. presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln – gaze over the Black Hills in southwestern South Dakota on a mountainside sculpture that took 14 years and $1 million to complete.

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A hike through the Badlands

Badlands National Park

Among the stunning sharp buttes and gradient rocks at the 98,700-hectare Badlands National Park are fossil beds 25 to 35 million years old. Today, plants and wildlife thrive nearby in a mixed-grass prairie.

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Buffalo stopping traffic in Custer State Park

Custer State Park

Stay at a lodge resort, explore mountain ranges, tour a log cabin, fish for trout and take a scenic drive at the 28,733-hectare park, where an abundance of wildlife includes a free-roaming herd of 1,300 bison.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead under a dramatic sky

Ingalls Homestead

Tour the childhood homestead of “Little House on the Prairie” author Laura Ingalls Wilder and see what inspired her to write a series of books about her family’s adventures and growing up in De Smet.

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A long view of historic Deadwood

Historic Deadwood

History comes alive during tours of the Wild West gold rush mountain town, where Calamity Jane is buried, and where Jack McCall gunned down Wild Bill Hickok in 1876 during a poker game in Saloon No. 10.

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Spearfish Canyon’s jagged streams

Spearfish Canyon

Take a leisurely 35-kilometer drive along Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, where the elevation changes nearly 610 meters from one end to the other. Stop along the way, maybe at Bridal Veil Falls, for breathtaking views.

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Constructing the Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial

Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse astride a steed is being sculpted into the side of a mountain in Custer County as a tribute to American Indians. The state is home to Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Sioux Indians.

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Selfie time at Roughlock Falls

Roughlock Falls

This waterfall located in the Black Hills derives from Spearfish Creek and ultimately cascades down a limestone ledge. This is the perfect spot to hike, fish or picnic as well as to go birding – the rare American Dipper (known for its ability to walk and swim under the water) can be found here.

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Boating on Lewis and Clark Lake

Lewis & Clark Recreation Area

Find out why Lewis and Clark Lake, a reservoir on the Missouri River, is one of the state park system’s most popular resorts. Amenities include campgrounds, cabins, marinas, fishing, skiing, hiking trails and sandy beaches.

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A family touring Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park

As you enter one of the longest underground caves in the world, listen for the whistle of escaping air. Above ground, the 13,700-hectare park teems with plants and animals, such as bison, elk and prairie dogs.

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Spires along the Needles Highway
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Experience South Dakota

Ask a Local

South Dakota locals having lunch
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South Dakota locals having lunch
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