Skip to content
Home » North America » USA » South Dakota » Top 17 hidden gems to visit in South Dakota

Top 17 hidden gems to visit in South Dakota

  1. Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway – A 31-mile drive through the heart of the Badlands National Park, offering stunning views of unique rock formations and prairie landscapes. Keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and bison grazing in the park, but watch out for hitchhiking prairie dogs!
  2. Black Hills National Forest – A massive expanse of over 1.2 million acres of natural wonderland, the Black Hills National Forest boasts epic hiking trails, including the Black Elk Peak Trail (South Dakota’s highest point) and the Mickelson Trail (a 109-mile rail trail that passes through the heart of the Black Hills). The forest also offers opportunities for camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing, with elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats among the many species that call the forest home. Don’t forget to pack some bug spray!
  3. Crazy Horse Memorial – A massive sculpture-in-progress honoring the legendary Native American leader Crazy Horse, this monument is so big, it’ll make your head spin (or at least your neck). Learn about the vision of sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who began work on the project in 1948, and take in panoramic views of the surrounding Black Hills. Plus, the cultural center and museum offers exhibits on Native American history and culture, so you can impress your friends with your newfound knowledge.
  4. Custer State Park – Covering over 71,000 acres, Custer State Park is the place to be for all things nature. Hiking trails, scenic drives, and opportunities for wildlife viewing are aplenty here, with a large population of bison, pronghorn, elk, bighorn sheep, and other large mammals calling the park home. Cool off with a dip in one of the park’s four lakes, or saddle up and take a guided horseback ride through the park’s scenic landscapes. Yeehaw!
  5. The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary – For all, you horse lovers out there, this preserve provides a home for wild mustangs and burros. Take a guided tour to see the horses in their natural habitat and learn about the history and importance of these iconic animals in American culture. Don’t forget your camera to snap some insta-worthy shots, and maybe even adopt a horse to support the sanctuary’s mission (and fulfill your childhood dreams).
  6. Mount Rushmore National Memorial – A famous American landmark and one of the most recognizable sculptures in the world, Mount Rushmore features the faces of four U.S. presidents carved into the granite face of a mountain. See it up close, take a guided tour of the site, or hike one of the park’s trails for stunning views of the surrounding area. The park also offers interactive exhibits and a museum showcasing the history and significance of this national monument, so you can brush up on your American history and impress your friends with trivia.
  7. Wind Cave National Park – Located in the southern Black Hills, Wind Cave National Park offers visitors a chance to explore a unique cave system and see an abundance of wildlife. The park is home to a colony of endangered bats, as well as pronghorn, bison, and other large mammals. Take a guided tour of the cave to see intricate cave formations and learn about the park’s unique geology, but make sure to hold your breath when passing through the narrow sections.
  8. Jewel Cave National Monument – With over 200 miles of explored passageways, this vast cave system is one of the longest in the world. Take a guided tour of the cave to see rare and delicate cave formations, as well as learn about the ecology of the cave and the history of its exploration. Don’t forget to bring a jacket, as it gets pretty chilly
  9. South Dakota Air and Space Museum – Located in Ellsworth Air Force Base, this museum has more planes than a busy airport. With over 30 vintage aircraft and missiles, exhibits of spacecraft and satellites, and interactive displays, it’s the perfect place to learn about aviation and space flight. You’ll come away with a greater understanding of the Air Force’s role in national defense, and maybe even some new flying skills.
  10. Black Hills Pioneer Trail – This 15-mile trail takes you back to the good old days of the late 1800s, when gold seekers roamed the hills. It’s open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders, so you can choose your own pace as you take in the stunning views of hills, canyons, and valleys. Along the way, you can explore interpretive exhibits that explain the region’s geology, history, and natural resources. Just remember to leave your pickaxe at home!
  11. The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, located in the beautiful Black Hills region, is an extraordinary indoor archaeological site. The site is built over an active dig location that contains over 60 mammoth remains, including the largest mammoth ever discovered. Visitors can take a guided tour to get up close and learn about the scientific study of these magnificent creatures.
  12. For a look into the history of agriculture in South Dakota, check out the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum in Brookings. The museum’s interactive exhibits, educational programs, and hands-on experiences showcase the state’s agricultural past, with a collection that includes tractors, equipment, and other artifacts. The museum highlights the vital role that farming and ranching play in the state’s economy.
  13. If motorcycles are more your thing, make sure to visit the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame in Sturgis. The museum has a collection of vintage and modern motorcycles and celebrates the history and culture of motorcycles, especially the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Visitors can learn about the different types of bikes, their impact on American culture, and the history and design of these iconic machines.
  14. A trip to Pierre wouldn’t be complete without visiting the South Dakota State Capitol, a stunning capitol building with a grand dome, marble floors, and murals showcasing the state’s history and heritage. Take a guided tour to explore the building’s magnificent architecture and learn about the state’s legislative process.
  15. For live entertainment, head to the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park. The historic theater offers live performances of classic plays, musicals, and special events during the summer season. Visitors can soak in the scenic views of the park while enjoying a show.
  16. If you’re feeling a little wild, head over to the Old Style Saloon #10 in Deadwood, where you can experience the atmosphere of the Wild West. The saloon has a rich history of western hospitality and was the location where Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed. The saloon features live music, food, drinks, and a friendly atmosphere, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike.
  17. Lastly, don’t miss the Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City, a winery that produces locally grown and produced wines. Visitors can enjoy tastings of a variety of wines, take tours of the winery, and participate in special events and activities. The winery also offers a variety of food options, including a restaurant and a deli. The winery is situated in a picturesque location and offers stunning views of the Black Hills.