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 Cross-country skiing in South Dakota

South Dakota

5 Unexpected Adventures in South Dakota

By: Joel Welin

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  • States:
    South Dakota

Break out of your routine and try something new: You’re in South Dakota, the state that welcomes exploration. 

World-class fishing, hunting, hiking and camping have long been favorite pastimes in the Mount Rushmore State, but there are many other outdoor activities to thrill adventure seekers.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park, 80 kilometers east of Rapid City, affords an opportunity for stargazing at its very best – perhaps in the nation and maybe even in the world. Witness the awesome glory of the Milky Way with the naked eye while walking through fossil beds that are 37 million years old. The eroded buttes and jagged crevasses are home to buffalo, bighorn sheep, deer and pronghorn. By day, visitors can explore hiking trails or drive Badlands Loop Road.

View the galaxy against the backdrop of the otherworldly landscape of Badlands National Park.

View the galaxy against the backdrop of the otherworldly landscape of Badlands National Park.
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Rock Climbing

In the Needles area in Custer State Park, 40 kilometers southwest of Rapid City, particularly in the granite and pegmatite formations known as the Cathedral Spires, adventurers encounter breathtaking vertical adventures. And if you’re not inclined to scale the heights yourself, hunker down between the rocks and photograph the ascenders as they climb.

Scaling the granite crags in The Needles area of Custer State Park is a bucket list challenge for climbers.

Scaling the granite crags in The Needles area of Custer State Park is a bucket list challenge for climbers.
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Sailing

One thing is certain: Whether setting sail on Lake Oahe in the center of state, on Lewis & Clark Lake near Yankton in the southeast, or on Angostura Reservoir near Hot Springs in the southwest, you’ll never want for steady winds. Rent a boat at any of the marinas that dot the shorelines, take a quick lesson to update your skills and you’ll soon find yourself on the water and in the wind. 

Near-constant winds make for great sailing on Lewis & Clark Lake near Yankton.

Near-constant winds make for great sailing on Lewis & Clark Lake near Yankton.
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Winter Sports

South Dakota is naturally good at accumulating snow. Snowmobiling is a favorite pastime throughout the state as is snowshoe touring and cross-country skiing. For alpine skiing and snowboarding, the Black Hills offers two areas with slopes and runs of varying degrees of difficulty through the powdered Ponderosa pines – Terry Peak and Ski Mystic, both near Deadwood and Lead in the northern hills.

Snowmobilers enjoy the powdery roads and trails in Spearfish Canyon near Roughlock Falls.

Snowmobilers enjoy the powdery roads and trails in Spearfish Canyon near Roughlock Falls.
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Mountain Biking

With an annual festival held outside Rapid City, fat-tire touring is fast becoming a favorite sport in the state. The 175-kilometer Mickelson Trail through the Black Hills offers easier, more family-friendly fun, while the 179-kilometer Centennial Trail, also in the Black Hills, is a more strenuous and adventurous ride.

The annual Fat Tire Festival is a popular draw for mountain bikers.

The annual Fat Tire Festival is a popular draw for mountain bikers.
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Getting There

Getting to South Dakota is easy and convenient via connecting flights from many international gateway airports, including: Minneapolis-St. Paul in Minnesota, Denver in Colorado, Chicago O’Hare in Illinois, Salt Lake City in Utah, Dallas/Fort Worth in Texas and Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, Georgia.

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