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South Dakota: An Underrated Travel Destination for Adventurers

by Angelique Platas

Nov 5, 2019

Mountain Goat on Harney Peak in the Black Hills of Custer State Park in South Dakota. Photo: Henryturner | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / North America

There’s more to South Dakota than Mount Rushmore — this northern territory is an underrated gem for adventure travelers. Visit anytime between May and October for the best seasonal colors and pleasant temperatures South Dakota has to offer.


Outdoor adventures abound in South Dakota. There’s almost too much to take in on one trip.


First stop, the historic town of Deadwood, which you may already know from the HBO show of the same name. While this rough-and-tumble town offers enough Wild West fun for the whole family, you’re going to want to get out into the open plains and experience the wilderness for yourself. Enter the Badlands.

Badlands, South Dakota. Photo: Holly Kuchera | Dreamstime.com


With enough hiking, climbing, cycling, wildlife viewing and even scenic drives available in the historic park, this locale is a must for all ages — and not at all scary as the name would suggest. With more than 244,000 acres of land, the diverse terrane boasts desert, grassy plains and pointed rock formations as far as the eye can see.


Another stop for adventure seekers, Black Hills National Forest offers even more challenging biking conditions and hiking trails. Work your way to a campsite and set up before dark for a fun, old-fashioned family camping trip. There’s nothing like the wide-open night sky from your piece of South Dakota land for the night.


Get a better view of the landscape from the Crazy Horse Memorial. Climb the rock dedicated to a Lakota leader and take a break in the Indian Museum of North America and the Akta Lakota Museum Cultural Center for more information on the project. As with most adventures in South Dakota, the views are worth the climb.


Another adventure of the Great Eight, Cluster State Park is a true beauty. Peep the granite mountains popping out over the rolling green landscape, winding waterways and roaming wildlife — some 1,300 bison often seen herding through the plains. Get out on the water on kayaks, canoes and paddleboards, or take a swim after a long hike through George S. Mickelson Trail. Your family may want to spend a few days exploring this one, as there is so much to see and do.


Wander through Jewel Cave National Monument when it reopens for visitors in late May, or take a dark journey through Wind Cave National Park. Both offer a unique perspective of South Dakota’s dark, interesting geological history.


American Bison Buffalo in Wind Cave National Park. Photo: Henryturner | Dreamstime.com


For more water sports and recreational adventure, head out on the Missouri River. The waterway runs through South Dakota diagonally, offering fishing and boating, all an easy drive away from most cities where your family may stay.


Last, but certainly not least, a visit to South Dakota demands a visit to Mount Rushmore. Learn about the history of the monument, how it came to be and the faces carved on the rock formation. Take a ranger tour and explore the area or just pop in for a photo — whatever you choose, it’s a must while in South Dakota.



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