Hikers immersed in the otherworldly wilderness of Badlands National Park
A buffalo roundup
Black Elk Peak, the highest natural peak in the state
Stopping for a refresher before going back on the trail
Kayaking through a narrow passage
Cruising down Needles Highway
Snapping a selfie in front of Sioux Falls’ namesake waterfall
A dance contestant at the annual Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Wacipi (SWO Powwow), the longest running powwow in the state
Old West charm in downtown Deadwood during the Days of '76 parade
The iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial, featuring the faces of four former U.S. presidents
South Dakota: Step back in time to the American Wild West
Home of the Perfect Road Trip
Things to Do in South Dakota
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’.”
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.