Top Things to do in South Dakota

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, USA

I visited South Dakota to see a friend but ended up seeing some amazing places.  A few I had heard of previously but had no idea they were in South Dakota.  It’s a great state with lots to see.

Watertown

Lake Kampeska, Watertown, South Dakota

On my 2 month trip around the US, I decided to visit South Dakota to visit a friend I had met in Patagonia to see him and his wife.  He lived in Watertown, a small city in the East of South Dakota.  Luckily the greyhound bus made a stop here at a gas station out of town and so I got dropped off there before Bipin picked me up.

The first night Bipin and his wife Surekha took me to see Lake Kampeska which is quite near there house.  It’s a great lake for taking a walk or cycling around.  Though it is 13.5 miles around it.

Lake Kampeska, Watertown, South Dakota

The next day Surekha took me to Yoga, the first time I had ever tried.  I didn’t understand the whole breathing part but it felt good to have a good stretch.  After we had lunch before going to the Redlin Art Centre.  Terry Redlin was born in Watertown and is one of America’s most popular wildlife artists.  The centre contains most of his artwork.  It is free to visit and I really enjoyed seeing his paintings.

Redlin Art Center Watertown, South Dakota

Thanks Bipin for the pic and for letting me stay with you and Surekha, I had a great few days.  That evening we went to their friend’s for a meal and the next morning, I left to carry on my trip to Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

Sioux Falls is the biggest city in the state of South Dakota and the city was originally settled around the falls which is in the centre of the town.  The falls are beautiful and are lit up at night too.  There is also a 16 mile bike trail along the river.

Rapid City

After my visit to Sioux Falls I got the bus to my next stop in Rapid City. I arrived about 6pm and found that the local bus service finishes at 5.30pm and so I had to walk the 2 miles to my hotel.  Unfortunately there were no hostels in Rapid City but I did manage to get a cheap hotel/motel that had a pool!!

The next morning I then had a short walk to go pick up my car from the rental company before I headed off for the day.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, USA

I had previously seen Mount Rushmore in films and once I found out that it was in South Dakota, I knew I had to visit.  As I had just picked up a rental car in Rapid City it only took me 35 mins to drive out.  The entrance is free but it costs $10 to park.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park, South Dakota, USA

Custer State Park was one of my favourite parks in the US, but maybe that’s because it was the first time I had seen Bison, it is a great park, with a lot of wildlife.  It’s about a 40 minute drive from Rapid City or as I did it, a 45 minute drive from Mount Rushmore.  It costs $20 per vehicle into the park and this is valid for 7 days.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota USA

Crazy Horse Memorial is still a work in progress.  They began work on it in 1948 and there is no finish date as all work is funded by donations or the fees from visitors.  It costs $11 per person and an extra $4 to take the shuttle for a closer look.  Though being able to get right up to the face of Crazy Horse will set you back about $125.  On a evening there is a laser show, which is well worth staying to watch if you visit late afternoon.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

Badlands National Park is located about an hours drive east of Rapid City.  It’s a great park to visit and see the way the landscape has been shaped over the years.  The mountains have been eroded by water over time and further on in the park is a prairie.  It costs $20 per vehicle or if you are visiting a few national parks then worth investing in the $80 annual pass as I did.

Is there any other places you have visited in South Dakota, you think should be on the list? If so, let me know.

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A day trip to Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USAWhile I was in South Dakota, I decided that I had to visit Badlands National Park.  I ended up falling in love with the US National Parks on this trip and ended up seeing 10 and changing my plans.  They are well set up, with such helpful staff to advise you the best things to see and do in the time you have there.

I had just visited Sioux Falls and got the greyhound bus across to Rapid City.  I had wanted to rent a car and drive but it was going to cost an extra $900 to pick the car up in Sioux Falls and drop it off in Rapid City!!  To rent it in Rapid City for 2 days was less than $100.

My first day in Rapid City, I visited Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park and Crazy Horse Memorial and the second day I decided to visit Badlands National Park.

Badlands National Park is around 60 miles from Rapid City back towards Sioux Fall, so it takes about an hour to drive and I entered at the Pinnacles entrance as it was the nearest to Rapid City.  It costs $20 per vehicle to enter the park, though if you are planning to visit a few of the parks it might be worth buying the annual pass for $80 which is what I did.  Visiting 10 parks on this trip I certainly saved a lot of money!!

It was originally declared a National Monument on 4 March 1929, before becoming the 39th National Park in November 1978.  It covers an area of 242,756 acres with a large grass prairie and rocks eroded over time to create pinnacles and spires.

For 11,000 years this area was used by the native americans to hunt.  The prairie’s were home to many animals with the views from the higher rocks making it an ideal hunting ground.

The area is also popular with fossil hunters, with fossils from 77 species being found in the White River which flows through the park.

I decided first to drive part of the Sage Creek Rim Road to see the views, it is a gravel track so you are unable to drive fast along it, but it’s worth doing part of it to see your first views of the park.  The road is 25.5 miles but I only did the first 4 miles to see these views.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

I then decided to drive along the Badlands Loop Road, it is 22 miles long and winds through the park and takes you to the Northeast entrance where the visitors centre is located.

The views along this road are amazing and there are quite a few overlooks and viewpoints to stop at to admire the views through the valley.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

The colouring of the different layers of rock is stunning to see as you drive through the valley.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

Once you get near the visitors centre there are also a few trails that you can walk, with the castle trail being the longest.  Unfortunately as I had to be back in Rapid City to catch a bus to Bozeman for the next part of my trip, I never had time to do any of the walks.

There are quite a few nice boardwalk walks that are short, the Window Trail, Door Trail, Notch Trail and you also walk down into the prairie.

You could easily spend a full day exploring Badlands National Park but if you are short of time then it would take you half a day to do the trip I did.

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Read about my trip to Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA and what there is to see and do there

 

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