When most tourists visit South Dakota they drive through with a quick stop at Mount Rushmore, but what they don’t realize is that there’s so much more. Growing up in Rapid City we were able to see a lot more of the state and in this post I'm going to share some of my favorite things for a weekend getaway.
South Dakota Road Trip
Rapid City to Spearfish
If you plan on flying to South Dakota you’ll fly into Rapid City Regional Airport. Since we live in Denver it was just a 6 hour drive for us to get there.
Spearfish Canyon Scenic Drive
Make your way down HYW 385 North on the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway through the Blackhills for some epic views. There are several short hikes & waterfalls not far off the road that are worthwhile. There are 3 waterfalls that are easily accessed within a 5-minute walk. We visited Roughlock Falls, Little Spearfish Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. Our favorite was Bridal Veil waterfall. There is a viewing platform right off the road. I think the best time to go up to Spearfish is in the fall. The colors are beautiful through the canyon in September and October.
Other cities along the way to check out:
- Deadwood (Old gold town, now it's home to several casinos in historic buildings)
- Sturgis ( Sturgis Rally is a week long event usually the first week of August so keep this in mind when planning a trip to Rapid City, SD)
A trip to South Dakota wouldn’t be complete without visiting Mount Rushmore. Head back down 385 on the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. You will pass by Lake Pactola. Gorgeous reservoir and their is a campground if you wanted to stay the night after your drive down from Spearfish.
If you travel during the summer months it will be busy no matter what time of day so no need to rush. If you happen to be visiting during the evening try and stay for the evening lighting ceremony of Mount Rushmore. There is a cafeteria, otherwise Keystone few miles down the road has a few restaurants. Mount Rushmore is nothing short of amazing and if you are lucky you might see a mountain goat.
- Cars, Motorcycles, and RVs – $11 per vehicle
- Evening lighting ceremony of Mount Rushmore May 26, 2017 – Oct 1, 2017
Crazy Horse Memorial is the world’s largest Mountain Carving in progress. We personally didn’t visit. I went once when I was younger and now just look from the road at the progress.
- $28.00 Per car – more than 2 people
- $22.00 = 2 people in car
- $11.00 = Per person
- $5.00 = Per person on motorcycles, or bicycles
Custer State Park
After exploring all the things to do near Mount Rushmore make your way to Custer State Park. It’s South Dakota’s largest and oldest state park. There are several scenic drives, hikes, over 1,500 free roaming bison, fishing, and much more. One of our favorite things in the park was driving the Needles Highway. The rock formations on the drive will blow you away.
If you want to stay right on the edge of the park check out Sylvan Lake Lodge. It has some of the best views of Sylvan lakes and the perfect location for exploring Custer State Park.
We highly recommend eating dinner at the Alpine Inn. The Alpine Inn only serves two things for dinner, filet mignon or a Spaetzle Primavera. We opted for the 9-ounce bacon wrapped filet for $13.95 and we weren’t disappointed. This place is a steal, for less than $50 we each got a 9-ounce steak dinner, dessert, drinks. If you visit during the summer expect there to be a line before dinner service even starts. Their lunch menu is much larger and specializes in European cuisine. My family loves getting the Rueben sandwich every time we go back.
Another favorite place is Prairie Berry Winery. Home of the famous Red Ass Rhubarb wine. Start your visit with a complimentary wine tasting and you can pick five to sample. Most of the wines they make are sweet but they do have a few dryer and full bodied wines as well. My favorites are the Red Ass Rhubarb, Strawberry Fusion, and Calamity Jane. Within past couple years they have really transformed the place and serve food and cocktails made from the wines. Last time we were there they made the Red Ass Rhubarb into a margarita, which I would have never thought to do but was really shocked with how delicious it turned out. They also did a blueberry lemonade with the Blue Suede shoes wine and was really impressed with that drink too. Both were refreshing, treat to enjoy on the patio with a flat bread pizza. We joined the Gen 5 wine club and get shipped four bottles of wine a month. Plus 20% off wine in the store when you shop. If wine isn't your thing they have a brewery next door, we haven't had a chance to go there yet.
Badlands National ParkOn your way to the park make sure to stop at Wall Drug in Wall South Dakota. You will see sign after sign along I-90. It’s a great place to stop and have lunch before heading into the park.
The Badlands look out of this world. The park is 244,000 acres and is said to contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Apparently, even rhinos and saber- toothed cats, once roamed in South Dakota. Now you will find bison, big horn sheep, and prairie dogs. You will find several hiking trails and the sunset and sunrises are phenomenal in the park.