Introducing South Dakota

Mount Rushmore. Epic national parks. Great plains, wild frontiers and John Wayne-style prairies. South Dakota is big on everything. But delve a little deeper and there are lesser-known gems to discover. Custer State Park is the place to wild swim in lakes, with wild elk and buffalo strolling shore-side – and eagles overhead. While in winter, waterfalls become a wonderland as Falls Park is transformed for the holidays.

Things to do

It’s easy to see why so many South Dakota visitors make a beeline for Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Over 60 years in the making, this cliff-side carving displays the heads of US Presidents – from George Washington to Theodore Roosevelt. Further into the state, the ever-evolving Crazy Horse Memorial pays homage to Chief Standing Bear, capturing his story in stone.

It’s difficult to know which spectacular landscape to step into first. Badlands National Park could take up days of your trip simply walking its striking, lunar-like rock formations circled by ribbons of coloured strata. Head out on the range at Black Hills, where there are must-visit sights at every turn. For families, the enormous fossils at Mammoth Site here will turn the littlest visitors into budding archaeologists. Or lace up hiking books and venture into Wind Cave National Park, its underground caverns a stark contrast to the pine forest-carpeted landscapes. 

Spaghetti westerns come to life in South Dakota. And adventures here could see you following in the hoofprints of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, who lived and died in Deadwood. Follow the gold rush to this kitschy town, where historic mansion houses and the courthouse museum shine a light on this fascinating frontier. 


Top Tip from SLH

One of the more unexpected highlights of road trips around the 40-mile Badlands Loop are the vintage roadside stops – the quirky Wall Drug is a must.