The Best Outdoor Activities in South Dakota

Discover the best hiking, camping, backpacking, fitness, and more.

Drive Through Badlands National Park

South Dakota / Badlands Scenic Loop

Badlands National Park is on the western edge of South Dakota, about 60 minutes from Rapid City, and is a strikingly different landscape from the mostly flat typography of the state.

Casey Berner
294 Saves

Hike the Badlands' Notch Trail

South Dakota / Notch Trail

Notch Trail is on the south end of the Door Trail car park. The Trail sorta follows a dry river bed but there is also a actual trail you can also follow.

Spud Groshong
214 Saves

Hike to Little Devil's Tower in the Black Hills

South Dakota / Little Devil's Tower Trailhead

The trail starts at the Little Devil's Tower Trailhead which is located roughly one mile east of Sylvan Lake on Highway 87. Take Trail #4 for around 1/2 mile until a fork in the trail.

Jake Young
168 Saves

Hike the Sacred Steps of Bear Mountain

South Dakota / Bear Butte Trail

Bear Mountain or Mathó Pahá as it's called by the Lakota peoples, is the leftover remnants of an ancient volcanic plug.

Michael Wigle
161 Saves

Hiking to Harney Peak

South Dakota / Harney Peak Trailhead

The Harney Peak Trailhead #9 is located in the northwest corner of the parking lot just beyond Sylvan Lake.

Spud Groshong
149 Saves

Backcountry Camp off the Fossil Trailhead, Badlands NP

South Dakota / Fossil Exhibit Trailhead

Backcountry camping at Badlands National Park is very easy. While it is recommended that you contact a staff member at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center or Pinnacles Entrance Station, it is not required.

Cameron Cech
137 Saves

Drive the Sage Creek Rim Road

South Dakota / Badlands National Park Parking Area

A labyrinth of gullies, hoodoos, and ravines, Badlands National Park in western South Dakota is a welcome break from the unrelenting flatness of the surrounding prairie.

Joe Whitson
134 Saves

Tour Wind Cave

South Dakota / Wind Cave National Park Visitor Center

Established in 1903, Wind Cave National Park is home to over 140 miles of mapped cave passages.

Jason Hatfield
83 Saves

Stargaze at Spokane Ghost Town

South Dakota / Spokane Ghost Town

Great all year long but, especially stunning when the galactic center of the Milky Way is visible from Spring to Fall, Spokane Ghost Town is a local favorite and a hidden gem.

Michaela Mader
75 Saves

Tour Jewel Cave

South Dakota / Jewel Cave National Monument

Established in 1908, Jewel Cave National Monument is home to over 179 miles of mapped cave passages.

Jason Hatfield
67 Saves

Hike the Lookout Point Loop at Wind Cave National Park

South Dakota / Wind Cave National Park

The Lookout Point Loop actually combines parts of three trails to bring you through some of Wind Cave's best prairieland.

Joe Whitson
56 Saves

Hike to Poet's Table

South Dakota / Little Devil's Tower Trailhead

This hike starts at the Little Devil's Towers trailhead just east of Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park.

Isaac Parsons
53 Saves

Photograph Sunset at Wind Cave NP

South Dakota / Gobbler Pass

Above the famous Wind Cave, miles of natural mixed-grass natural prairie cover the Black Hills.

Jason Hatfield
38 Saves

Hike to the Cathedral Spires in the Black Hills

South Dakota / Cathedral Spires Trailhead

This trail starts at the parking lot along the Needles Highway. Follow the trail to the spires.

Ben NoLastName
29 Saves

Explore the Frozen Waterfalls of Spearfish Canyon

South Dakota / Spearfish Canyon

There are a multitude of frozen waterfalls throughout Spearfish Canyon. Some require a short hike and others can be seen from the road.

Jake Young
28 Saves

Hike the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail

South Dakota / Cliff Shelf Nature Trailhead

About 4 miles south of the Northeast Park Entrance, just past the Castle Trailhead, is the Cliff Shelf Nature Trailhead.

Michael Wigle
27 Saves

Camp at Black Fox Campground

South Dakota / Black Fox Campground

Black Fox is 9 miles west of Rochford has nine campsites along the Rhoads Fork Creek where it meets up with the South Fork of Rapid Creek.

Isaac Parsons
16 Saves

Drive the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop

South Dakota / Wildlife Loop Rd

Requires a state park pass to enter Custer State Park. Animals get very close to your car, but please do not touch or feed them.

Alex Thompson
9 Saves

Camp at Elk Mountain Campground in Wind Cave National Park

South Dakota / Elk Mountain Campground

Elk Mountain Campground is in a secluded area of the park, providing plenty of peace and quiet.

Kelley Dodge
5 Saves

Hike the Castle/Medicine Root Trail in Badlands National Park

South Dakota / Castle Trail trailhead

Very flat trail that is 10 miles round trip from the Door Trailhead to the Fossil Exhibit Trail and back. There is also parking along Old Northeast Road. Trail connects with the Saddle Pass Trail.

Alex Thompson
4 Saves

Paddle Sylvan Lake

South Dakota / Sylvan Lake Parking

Shared parking lot with the Harney Peak trailhead with bathrooms and picnic area. Several points for launching watercraft. There is a beach that gets crowded during summer weekend days.

Alex Thompson
3 Saves

Cross-Country Ski the Big Hill Trails

South Dakota / Big Hill Trailhead

From Spearfish, head south on Tinton Rd. for roughly 8 miles. There will be a large parking lot to your right with a pit toilet and an information kiosk.

Jake Young
3 Saves

Camp at Sage Creek Campground

South Dakota / Sage Creek Campground

There are no designated sites in this first come-first serve campground managed by NPS. There are pit toilets available for campers and covered picnic tables. A nearby creek makes for a nice walk.

Alex Thompson
2 Saves

Fly Fish from the Rapid Creek Trailhead

South Dakota / Rapid Creek Trail Head

To get the the trailhead for Rapid Creek you must turn to the east onto Pactola Basin Road or FS road 164 when on Highway 385 crossing the Pactola Reservoir.

Isaac Parsons
2 Saves

Camp at Sylvan Lake Campground

South Dakota / Sylvan Lake Campground

Medium-sized campground across the road from Sylvan Lake. Run by Custer State Park - reservations can be made online.

Alex Thompson
1 Saves

Camp at Lake Vermillion Recreation Area

South Dakota / Lake Vermillion Campground

The South Dakota State Park system has several tent sites on the north side of the lake. Nice lake for boating during the day.

Alex Thompson
0 Saves