South Dakota Overview
Located in the northern part of the central United States, South Dakota is a varied state. The land of ‘Great Faces, Great Places’, offers infinite variety, reflected in the rolling prairies, glittering lakes, granite peaks, towering pines, old western towns and bustling cities.
South Dakota is home to Mount Rushmore National Memorial as well as five other national parks – Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Missouri National Recreational River and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, which is dedicated to preserving the history of the Cold War.
You’ll find fascinating places to learn about American Indian culture, Old West and pioneer history, and wildlife. The Crazy Horse Memorial, a mountain sculpture in progress in tribute to all Native Americans, draws crowds, as does Custer State Park, where visitors often spot bison, antelope, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and more.
Find respite in one of the state’s many friendly cities. Find out why South Dakota natives say visitors must eat a doughnut from Wall Drug in the town of Wall. Retrace pioneer footsteps in Deadwood, browse for American Indian-made goods in Rapid City shops and visit the chic boutiques in Sioux Falls.
Must See Places in South Dakota
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
This historical monument is South Dakota’s most prominent tourist attraction. Carved majestically into the side of the mountain are the heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. The carving, designed by Gutzon, was begun in 1927, halted for several decades, and finally completed in 1991. In its creation, more than 400,000 tons of rock was blasted from the side of the mountain.
Badlands National Park
The dramatic landscape of Badlands National Park consists of uniquely formed hills and pinnacles made from the erosion of clay and sand. A large herd of bison roams freely within the park, adding a unique element to the whole experience. This inhospitable scenery is strangely beautiful and one of South Dakota’s most visited destinations.
Custer State Park
As one of the best state and national parks in South Dakota, Custer State Park covers a wide range of different terrain, offering opportunities for outdoor recreation and sightseeing. A large herd of bison roams the peaceful landscape, which is also home to a wide variety of other wildlife. Granite peaks tower over the forests, lakes, and streams. Scenic drives, like the Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road, provide easy access to the park with great views along the way.
Crazy Horse Memorial
The Crazy Horse Memorial, north of Custer, has been a work in progress since it was begun in 1947. The head and upper body portion of Chief Standing Bear have been carved into this mountain, like the Mount Rushmore carvings just down the road.
Windcave National Park
Wind Cave National Park, located just north of Hot Springs, is home to a huge karstic cave system.
Nestled into dense Black Hills scenery and steeped in the rich history of the Black Hills Gold Rush, the city of Deadwood is a blast from the past. Deadwood’s Wild West origins are on full display and waiting to be experienced right from the streets. Some of the top-rated attractions of Deadwood include reenacted shootouts on Historic Main Street, the Adams Museum, and the Broken Boot Gold Mine.
Spearfish Canyon is a beautiful natural area known for an abundance of ponderosa and spruce pine trees, as well as stunning waterfalls and dramatic cliff walls. Popular roadside attractions and hikes in Spearfish Canyon include Bridal Veil and the Rough Lock Falls, and the Spearfish Peak and Little Crow Peak.
Video Credit: South Dakota Tourism