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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.