Choose from 3 Fun Things to Do in South Dakota
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The jagged, tree-covered peaks of the Black Hills rise abruptly from the Great Plains of South Dakota. This rugged mountain oasis has drawn visitors for centuries, from the Native Americans who considered them sacred to the gold miners that illegally settled the infamous Wild West town of Deadwood, and modern visitors who come for Mount Rushmore, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally or simply to hike and camp within the stunning wilderness. The Black Hills boast numerous must-see attractions tucked into an area only 120 by 50 miles in size. Just outside of Custer, drive the stunning Needles Scenic Byway to see its iconic rock formations, while the Wind and Jewel Caves offer unique underground adventures. Perhaps most recognizable is Mount Rushmore, the 60-foot sculptures of U.S. presidents on the side of the mountain resides near another massive sculpture, the Crazy Horse Memorial, which has been under construction since 1948, and would be the largest sculpture in the world at 563 feet when finished.
The Black Hills are located primarily in southwest South Dakota, bordered by Spearfish to the north, Hot Springs to the south and Rapid City to the east, though the western edge extends to Carlile, Wyoming.
Address: Black Hills, West Pennington, South Dakota 57745, USA
From $ 75
The stony faces of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt peer out from the iconic granite outcrop known as Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota is an American symbol, and with some 3 million visitors each year, it’s the state’s most popular attraction.
Completed by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his team in 1941, Mount Rushmore is operated by the National Park Service and includes an interpretive center and recreational trail network. Many travelers visit this popular South Dakota attraction on a day trip from nearby Rapid City. A typical sightseeing tour includes a meal at Carver’s Marketplace, time to explore the national memorial and its visitor center, and a visit to other Black Hills attractions, such as nearby Crazy Horse Memorial and scenic Custer State Park.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Mount Rushmore is a must-see for history buffs, families, and visitors experiencing South Dakota for the first time.
- Combine your visit to Mount Rushmore with stops at Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park on a tour.
- Much of the memorial is wheelchair accessible, including the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center and the Presidential Trail.
- Don’t forget to bring water, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat.
How to Get There
Mount Rushmore is about a 30-minute drive southwest of Rapid City, South Dakota, and most visitors arrive by car. There’s no entrance fee to visit the site, but there is a per-vehicle parking fee.
When to Get There
To strike a balance between good weather and sparser crowds, visit Mount Rushmore in September or October. Expect rainy and cold conditions in spring, and peak crowds during June, July, and August. No matter what time of year you visit, plan to come once during the day and again when the sculptures are illuminated at night.
Gutzon Borglum’s Sculptor’s Studio
While touring Mount Rushmore, don’t miss a visit to the Sculptor’s Studio, the space where Gutzon Borglum worked from 1939 to 1941. See the scale model of Mount Rushmore, and hear ranger-led presentations on the tools and techniques Borglum and others used in carving out the American presidents.
Address: Keystone, South Dakota, USA
From $ 50
With its rolling hills, roaming wildlife, and natural beauty, Custer State Park is one of the most scenic areas of South Dakota. Its clear streams, tall granite mountains, and open plains present much to see. Herds of bison, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, and even wild turkey are frequently seen from one of the park’s walking trails or scenic drives.
The Needles Highway, Wildlife Loop Road, and Iron Mountain Road are some of the most beautiful drives in the park. Five beautiful lakes and various streams provide opportunities to go fishing, kayaking, and swimming as well.
After gold was discovered in the Black Hills by Lieutenant Colonel George Custer, the area quickly developed. Today it is known more for its wide open spaces and events such as the annual buffalo roundup. There is more than 71,000 acres of wild land to explore, with tunnels, forest, bridges, and viewpoints to stop at throughout.
Custer State Park is just 15 miles outside of the town of Custer, South Dakota on the Highway 16 East. Various visitors centers are located within the park, which is open year-round and costs $15 per vehicle to enter.
Address: 13329 US Highway 16A, Custer, South Dakota, USA, USA
Hours: All day
Admission: $15 per vehicle
From $ 88