Route Distance: 529 miles
Recommended Trip Duration: 7 days
Drive Time: 8 hours
From Great North to Old West
The Black Hills — they’re always calling. Heed that call with a road trip that offers days of natural beauty & wonder and monuments large & small. When you’re ready to travel safely, pack the car and get ready to experience the awe that awaits you when you visit your neighbor to the south. And, don't forget to order your Vacation Guide before hitting the road to discover even more South Dakota adventures!
Downtown Sioux Falls alone is packed with attractions. The SculptureWalk consists of dozens of 3-D works of public art, culminating on the riverfront with Arc of Dreams. Falls Park is where the city’s namesake cascades through the city. For a casual dinner and a beverage, music lovers 21 and older will dig Vinyl Tacos (3609 S Western Ave). Or, head to 22Ten Kitchen (2210 W 69th St.) for eclectic, sophisticated fare and craft cocktails.
Grab coffee from The Source (421 N Phillips Ave.) or The Breaks Coffee Roasting Co. (311 E. 12th St.) before heading west on I-90. There’s a lot to see along the way, starting with an hour’s drive to the World’s Only Corn Palace (604 N Main St.) in Mitchell. Learn the story of this structure’s unique façade and pick up a popcorn ball or two on your way out.
Your last stop along the way is Wall Drug (510 Main St.), the iconic roadside attraction you know from all the billboards and bumper stickers. Meet the elusive jackalope, check out some Western art, and get some of their famous donuts and five-cent coffee to go.
The Black Hills
Where to Stay
Once you’ve reached the gateway to the Black Hills, there are plenty of places to settle in to inspire your days of exploring: Sylvan Lake Lodge in Custer State Park (24572 US Hwy 87), Trail’s End Cabins & Motel (20 Park St.) in Hill City and Martin Mason Hotel (33 Deadwood St.) in Deadwood. (See all places to stay in western South Dakota.)
Things to Do
The Black Hills are an absolute bonanza for outdoor exploration, with a side of rough-and-tumble Old West tales and monuments to larger-than-life figures. Go underground to see the glimmering rock formations at Black Hills Caverns (2600 Cavern Road) just outside Rapid City, then head into town to stroll among Rapid City’s many sculptures (including those depicting nearly all U.S. presidents) and brilliant murals.
You’ll want to carve out a day to explore all there is around Keystone, roughly 30 minutes to the southwest. It’s where you’ll find Mount Rushmore National Memorial, home to the famous presidential faces as well as the Presidential Trail and Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center. For a scenic drive, check out Iron Mountain Road.
In the heart of the southern Black Hills, Custer is full of monumental adventures, including the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is set to be the largest mountain carving in the world. Gaze at the stone likeness of the Lakota leader, then check out the on-site Native American Educational & Cultural Center to delve into the stories of indigenous people.
Avid hikers will be delighted to scale Black Elk Peak in Custer State Park, the highest point in the state – carve out at least half a day for this trek. For a 3.2-mile round trip with amazing vistas, head to Cathedral Spires Trail, which starts out deceptively easy but proves challenging further in (including some rock scramble toward the top). Don’t worry, though; you’re rewarded with breathtaking scenery. For a slightly longer, somewhat easier hike with rewarding views, head to Little Devil’s Tower Trail.
And since these astonishing Black Hills vistas never get old, check out Needles Highway Scenic Overlook, where you can spot gorgeous rock formations – and wildlife like buffalo and elk.
Places to eat
Restaurants to look out for include Rapid City’s legendary Dakotah Steakhouse (1325 N Elk Vale Road). For healthier fare that’s just as filling, opt for Indian and Nepalese food at Himalayan Kitchen (1720 Mount Rushmore Road) or Kathmandu Bistro (727 Main Street). For dinner with a side of old-timey entertainment, check out Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper & Cowboy Music Show (2255 Fort Hayes Road). If you’re near Custer, head to Skogen Kitchen (29 N 5th Street) for hearty Black Hills-style pub fare.