The state of South Dakota has never been on my list of exciting places to visit. After spending the past few days there in the mountains they call the Black Hills, I realize it should have been. There aren’t many parks or forests in the state as a whole but the southwest corner near Rapid City, is a must-visit spot. Here is my list of top things to do and see if you ever make it out that way.
Bison right next to the road
1. Take a scenic drive – Of course hiking is the best way to get out and enjoy nature but scenic roads are a happy alternative. Check out the Needles Highway which winds through pine and spruce forests and needle-like formations which line the horizon. Or travel down Iron Mountain Road which is surrounded by beautiful scenery, wildlife, wildfire exhibits, tunnels, and pigtail bridges.
Going through one of the tunnels on Iron Mountain Road
2. Explore Badlands National Park via automobile and/or foot – Created by millions of years of weathering and erosion, this is a unique place to visit. You can enjoy the scenery by driving along Badlands Loop Road. If you’re more adventurous there are several trails that lead you out onto the badlands.
3. Go on a guided cave tour at Wind Cave National Park – This is a unique cave system because it contains 95% of the world’s boxwork formation. It’s really interesting to see and there are several guided tours available throughout the year.
Wind Cave’s famous boxwork formation
4. Experience the wonder of Jewel Cave National Monument – Take one of several cave tours available to see the seemingly never-ending calcite crystal and other rare formations.
5. Visit Custer State Park – This park has everything for the nature lover. You can camp, hike, canoe, hunt, fish, view wildlife, etc. Take a drive along Wildlife Loop Road to see bison, pronghorn, deer, coyotes, prairie dogs, eagles, hawks, and more.
Pronghorn on Wildlife Loop Road
6. Hike the Presidential Trail at Mount Rushmore – There’s a stair trail that goes around the famous monument providing different views at varying elevations. There’s also lots of information plaques with history and quotes from the presidents along the way.
So when you start planning that summer vacation, don’t discount South Dakota! It’s got more going for it than you might first imagine.