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Badlands of South Dakota

South Dakota

South Dakota’s ‘Great 8’: Icons and Adventures

By: Joel Welin

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  • States:
    South Dakota

South Dakota's "Great 8" beckon with adventures that rank among the world’s best.

South Dakota offers a wealth of natural surprises in the great outdoors. The “Great 8” is just a sampling of the fun that awaits you in the Mount Rushmore State.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park, sculpted by erosion, is breathtaking in its austere beauty. Badlands Loop Road was named one of the most scenic winter drives by Travel + Leisure, which called the park itself one of the best views in the nation.

The sky can be as dramatic as the spectacularly eroded landscape of South Dakota’s Badlands National Park.

The sky can be as dramatic as the spectacularly eroded landscape of South Dakota’s Badlands National Park.
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Crazy Horse Memorial

After work ended on Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Korczak Ziolkowski began carving his tribute to the Native American spirit on Thunderhead Mountain. The work depicts Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota warrior, on horseback. Want to witness the historic carving in progress? Tours are available spring through fall.

The warrior’s face has emerged and progress continues to be made on Crazy Horse Memorial.

The warrior’s face has emerged and progress continues to be made on Crazy Horse Memorial.
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Linda M. Uphoff
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Custer State Park

This beloved state park in the southern Black Hills, which is consistently named one of the 10 best state parks in the USA, has something for every exertion level, from walk-in trout fishing and climbing cathedral spires of granite, to plush lodges and wildlife watching from your car.

Kayakers enjoy the calm waters of Custer State Park’s Sylvan Lake.

Kayakers enjoy the calm waters of Custer State Park’s Sylvan Lake.
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Jewel Cave National Monument

The third-longest cave in the world with more than 280 kilometers of mapped passages, this underground maze features an abundance of calcite spar crystals and the rare hydromagnesite balloons.

Guided tours make the winding Jewel Cave National Monument come alive.

Guided tours make the winding Jewel Cave National Monument come alive.
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Missouri River

The Mighty Missouri in the center of the state, and its lakes – Oahe, Sharpe, Francis Case and Lewis & Clark – make up one of the state’s premier recreational areas offering hunting, fishing, boating, sailing, skiing, wildlife watching and archaeology. 

Recreational opportunities abound on the mighty Missouri River, which bisects the state.

Recreational opportunities abound on the mighty Missouri River, which bisects the state.
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Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Begun in 1927 under the direction of Gutzon Borglum and dedicated 14 years later, the faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt were an instant attraction, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial has become an iconic symbol of the USA.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is one of the nation’s most iconic attractions.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is one of the nation’s most iconic attractions.
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Wind Cave National Park

About 16 kilometers north of Hot Springs in the southern Black Hills is the first cave ever to be designated a national park. In Wind Cave National Park, visitors can see bison, pronghorn and elk. The Lakota people consider the cave to be the place where their ancestors emerged from the underworld.

Wind Cave National Park in the southern Black Hills is one of the longest caves in the world.

Wind Cave National Park in the southern Black Hills is one of the longest caves in the world.
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Historic Deadwood

The historic gold-mining town of Deadwood is a great base camp for your outdoor explorations in the Black Hills – not to mention a history-lover’s dream. Stroll its 1880s-era streets and find fine restaurants, gaming and diverse live entertainment. 

Downtown Deadwood offers diverse entertainment options, lodging options and plenty of Gold Rush-era history.

Downtown Deadwood offers diverse entertainment options, lodging options and plenty of Gold Rush-era history.
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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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