The Best Road Trip Stops In South Dakota
One of the best things about South Dakota is it's expansive yet sparsely populated. And this means you can find many natural wonders during your road trips.
It’s a midwestern state where beautiful prairies are overshadowed by the dramatic Black Hills National Forest and towering granite peaks.
And in this article, I’m going to introduce you to the best road trip stops South Dakota offers!
Where To Stop On Your Road Trip In South Dakota
South Dakota is famous for many reasons, which has brought people to the state from all over the world. And today, I wanted to spend some time pointing out some of these historical locations for your road trip. Let’s take a look:
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
If there’s one location burnt in people's memory of America, it must be the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The 60 ft granite faces depict four of the most revered US presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
It’s found in the Black Hills region of South Dakota and was completed in 1941 under the direction of Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln.
And while some say Mount Rushmore is slightly underwhelming, I disagree due to the size, time it was built, and how it was built. I mean, 90% of it was done by using dynamite!
Badlands National Park
It’s hard to describe the splendor of Badlands National Park because it’s so unique. The closest thing you can say is it looks and feels like you’re on an entirely different planet.
Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park is known for the dramatic landscapes it provides, its layered rock formations, steep canyons, and massive spires.
And it’s not just the landscapes people come for; you also have a good amount of wildlife, from bison to prairie dogs.
Crazy Horse Mountain Memorial
The Crazy Horse Mountain Memorial has a very similar feeling to Mount Rushmore. It’s still under construction on private land in the Black Hills area of South Dakota.
Crazy Horse Mountain Memorial
When finished, it will depict the famous Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding his horse while pointing toward his tribal land.
Although it’s not finished yet, it’s still a pretty memorial place to check out while you’re on your road trip.
Custer State Park
The Custer State Park Provides visitors with over 71,000 acres of beautiful terrain and stunning wildlife.
Custer State Park
While you’re there, you’ll find clear mountain water that invites you to jump in and many open ranges waiting to be explored. Throughout the park, they have over 1,300 bison roaming freely along with antelope, goats, deer, elk, turkeys, and much more.
Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway
You might not think this tiny two-lane road that stretches 31 miles has much to offer, but you’d be very mistaken. The Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway passes through some of the most stunning landscapes in the US.
The loop is so highly recognized that it’s been consistently placed on the “Top Ten” lists for various media outlets.
Wall Drug Store
This cowboy-themed shopping mall has become a top-rated tourist attraction. The Wall Drug Store is located in the small town of Wall, South Dakota.
This place is unique from your average mall because each store operates under a single entity instead of being run like a separate business. While you walk around, you can check out the local drug store, gift shops, restaurants, and an 80-foot brontosaurus sculpture.
Wind Cave National Park
The Wind Cave National Park is found in the southwest corner of South Dakota and is known for its extensive underground cave system.
While exploring the unique cave system, you’ll find a maze of passageways leading to chambers like the Post Office and Elks Room. It’s actually one of the world's longest and most complex caves.
The Dinosaur Park is located in Rapid City, South Dakota, and has become a top-rated tourist attraction for many people.
It was dedicated in 1936 and now contains many dinosaur sculptures for you to discover with your family. All the sculptures look over the Black Hills, hoping to capitalize on tourists coming for Mount Rushmore.
World’s Only Corn Palace
Each year around 500,000 tourists come to visit the world’s only Corn Palace. It’s Mitchell’s most explored attraction and was built to prove that South Dakota had a healthy agricultural climate.
Now the facility hosts stage shows and sporting events in the arena and many murals for people to admire.
Throughout South Dakota's history, the Big Sioux River waterfall has been a focal point for those who live there and those who visit. It has the Native Americans that first used to come here to tell stories of European explorers.
Today the park covers an expanse of 123 acres and a water drop of 100 feet for people to explore and enjoy.
Black Hills National Park
The timbered mountains of the Black Hills National Forest are a lovely place to visit. It continues 10 to 40 miles beyond the South Dakota Border. While there, you’ll find rugged rock formations, canyons, wildlife, and much more.
Needles Highway is a 37.9-mile-long state highway deemed impossible to construct at the time.
And now, it’s one of the most scenic highways in the US. It was created in 1922 and included 14 miles of sharp turns, low tunnels, and impressive spires.
The Mammoth Site
The Mammoth Site is a museum and paleontological site close to Hot Springs in South Dakota. While there, you’ll take tours around dig sites and view fossils that date back to the Ice Age in the largest mammoth research facility.
National Presidential Wax Museum
Just beneath the gaze of Mount Rushmore, you’ll find the National Presidential Wax Museum, which gives visitors an insight into the nation's democracy.
The museum features life-sized and life-like wax figures of the presidents that helped to shape the country's history.
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Created in 1999, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site was established to mark the significance of the Cold War, the arms race, and ballistic missile development.
It was hidden in plain sight for thirty years while storing 1,000 missiles that the government kept on constant alert. Still today, hundreds remain that can be viewed while touring the location.
Final Thoughts & Takeaways
South Dakota is a place with a remarkable history and stunning landscapes for you to visit while you’re on a road trip.
And while places like Mount Rushmore will always come to people's minds, there are many other places to visit, as you can see from this article.
Road Trips > Cross Country Road Trip > South Dakota Road Trip Stops
About the Author
Jason Fox: Four years ago, I decided to quit my job as a chef to travel the world and see where life took me. The skills I learned while traveling led me to become a freelance writer so I could share my experiences with the world. Since then, I've been traveling the world working as a digital nomad. Find me on Instagram.