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Home of the Perfect Road Trip

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Although the peak season to visit is the summer months, there will be fewer crowds and pleasant weather in late spring and early fall for traveling through varied terrain that includes farmland, river hills, prairies and mountain ranges. For a premium road trip, drive Interstate 90 from east to west to take in natural wonders and roadside attractions.

Nearly 3 million people a year put Mount Rushmore National Memorial on their itinerary. The locals tell visitors that sunrise is a special time here. Mount Rushmore faces east, so the best light to take photos of the four U.S. presidents carved into the side of the mountain is in the early morning.

South Dakota has 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.

Visitors will 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.

Home of the Perfect Road Trip

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Fun Fact

Watching a local rodeo in South Dakota
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The rodeo is South Dakota’s official state sport. Favorite events include the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo in Mitchell.

Thousands of motorcyclists gathered for South Dakota’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
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South Dakota is home to the largest motorcycle gathering in the world, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which began in 1938 and now attracts more than 500,000 people each year.

Picking the ideal kuchen dessert at the Delmont Kuchen Festival
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Kuchen, which is the German word for cake, is the official state dessert of South Dakota. The coffee cake-like pastry is usually made with sweet dough and a fruit or custard filling.

Must see places

The faces of Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

The faces of four U.S. presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln – gaze over the Black Hills in southwestern South Dakota on a mountainside sculpture that took 14 years and $1 million to complete.

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A hike through the Badlands

Badlands National Park

Among the stunning sharp buttes and gradient rocks at the 98,700-hectare Badlands National Park are fossil beds 25 to 35 million years old. Today, plants and wildlife thrive nearby in a mixed-grass prairie.

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Buffalo stopping traffic in Custer State Park

Custer State Park

Stay at a lodge resort, explore mountain ranges, tour a log cabin, fish for trout and take a scenic drive at the 28,733-hectare park, where an abundance of wildlife includes a free-roaming herd of 1,300 bison.

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The Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead under a dramatic sky

Ingalls Homestead

Tour the childhood homestead of “Little House on the Prairie” author Laura Ingalls Wilder and see what inspired her to write a series of books about her family’s adventures and growing up in De Smet.

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A long view of historic Deadwood

Historic Deadwood

History comes alive during tours of the Wild West gold rush mountain town, where Calamity Jane is buried, and where Jack McCall gunned down Wild Bill Hickok in 1876 during a poker game in Saloon No. 10.

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Spearfish Canyon’s jagged streams

Spearfish Canyon

Take a leisurely 35-kilometer drive along Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, where the elevation changes nearly 610 meters from one end to the other. Stop along the way, maybe at Bridal Veil Falls, for breathtaking views.

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Constructing the Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial

Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse astride a steed is being sculpted into the side of a mountain in Custer County as a tribute to American Indians. The state is home to Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Sioux Indians.

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Selfie time at Roughlock Falls

Roughlock Falls

This waterfall located in the Black Hills derives from Spearfish Creek and ultimately cascades down a limestone ledge. This is the perfect spot to hike, fish or picnic as well as to go birding – the rare American Dipper (known for its ability to walk and swim under the water) can be found here.

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Boating on Lewis and Clark Lake

Lewis & Clark Recreation Area

Find out why Lewis and Clark Lake, a reservoir on the Missouri River, is one of the state park system’s most popular resorts. Amenities include campgrounds, cabins, marinas, fishing, skiing, hiking trails and sandy beaches.

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A family touring Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park

As you enter one of the longest underground caves in the world, listen for the whistle of escaping air. Above ground, the 13,700-hectare park teems with plants and animals, such as bison, elk and prairie dogs.

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Official South Dakota Travel Sites

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Bear Butte rising to meet the clouds


Black Hills

The Big Sioux River running through Falls Park


Sioux Falls

Rugged landscape at Badlands National Park


Rapid City