During winter, South Dakota’s great outdoors transforms into a snow-covered wonderland, offering new ways to explore our cities, towns and natural places. We’ve put together the most Instagram-worthy, selfie-inspiring, family-Christmas-card-backdrop-finding guide to photogenic spots around the state. Stop for a smile at your favorites for a winter vacation that you’ll never forget.
In our great outdoors — especially our national and state parks — you’ll see why a picture is worth a thousand words. Map your winter adventure to include these epic stops and get ready to snap a melt-proof masterpiece.
Take the scenic byway in Spearfish Canyon for nature shots made even more majestic by soft, fresh snow. You’ll want to have your camera nearby for close-ups of the thrills, laughs and good times at Mystic Hills Hideaway. Nestled in the Black Hills, this resort is made for winter adventure. While you’re in the Black Hills National Forest, don’t miss a photo op while snowmobiling on one of the many managed trails.
Take in one of the most photogenic spots in South Dakota at Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park. Photographers, painters and artists from all over the world are drawn to its beauty. Hike or snowshoe one of the surrounding trails for different angles of the lake and towering boulders. Another unforgettable spot is the Wildlife Loop Scenic Byway, also in Custer State Park, where snow-covered buffalo and burros aren’t shy about photo ops.
One of South Dakota’s “pinch me” moments is the pink glow of sunrise contrasting against the snowy spires and pinnacles of Badlands National Park. Have your camera ready for the exact moment the sun rises over the horizon.
When the sun goes down, the photo ops don’t stop. From rustic cabins and mountainside hideaways to historic stays in the heart of Old West towns, South Dakota lodging options are poised for the perfect shot.
After a day of wildlife viewing or ice fishing, warm up at the Creekside Lodge in Custer State Park. Surrounded by creeks or snow-covered hillsides, it’s a great home base for shooting landscape or wildlife photos in the park.
Set against the Black Hills’ snow-covered pines, the Sheep Hill Chalet vacation home welcomes everyone in the family to this cozy yet spacious cabin. Curl up on the couch and watch falling snow from behind the giant floor-to-ceiling windows. Take a selfie by the wood-burning fireplace. Find easy access to the George S. Mickelson Trail out your backdoor.
Tucked beneath towering pines, the Glass Lodge is a photogenic vacation home that boasts luxurious amenities and rustic charm. With Mount Rushmore National Memorial just miles away, this stunning three-bedroom retreat is a relaxing winter escape near Keystone.
When it’s time to call it a day after exploring Rapid City, check into the Hotel Alex Johnson. This historic hotel has hosted celebrities, dignitaries and families since 1928 and is listed on the national Register of Historic Places. A blend of traditional Germanic Tudor and Native American interior design, it’s the perfect base for any winter trip – even if it is a little haunted.
Find yourself in Deadwood and stay the night at the Historic Bullock Hotel. You’ll be treated to a combination of elegance, tradition and maybe even a little paranormal activity. Located in the heart of downtown, the hotel is within walking distance to ice skating at Outlaw Square and the popular Saloon #10.
Hotel On Phillips in Sioux Falls started as a bank and was the tallest building in South Dakota when it was built in 1918. Today, it’s a chic boutique hotel that boasts plenty of Instagram-worthy photo ops. Each room has a stylish design while the hotel’s restaurant, The Treasury, offers a classic speakeasy vibe with innovative cocktails and small plates.
You’ll find family holiday photo ops around every turn on the 1880 Train Holiday Express. Take a magical ride from Hill City that whisks everyone away to the enchantment of the North Pole. Rumor has it, even Santa makes a special appearance.
Plan on an evening stroll through Storybook Island’s glimmering Christmas Nights of Light in Rapid City. This classic holiday event with a storybook twist comes with plenty of chances to snap photos you can cherish for years to come.
Also in Rapid City, the Holiday Celebration and Winter Market gives you a taste of everything the holidays have to offer. Take a selfie before lacing up your ice skates, browsing for unique gifts from local vendors, and capturing the festive spirit of Main Street Square.
After a day in the snow, make your way to Christmas at the Capitol, a cherished holiday event in Pierre. Dozens of Christmas trees festooned with colorful lights, ornaments, garland and tinsel gleam in the halls of the South Dakota Capitol building, creating a delightful stop for a photo op.
For the highlight of holiday backdrops in Sioux Falls, look to Winter Wonderland in Falls Park for 25 miles of lights, 275 decorated light poles, and 270 glowing Christmas trees to brighten your spirits.
Picturesque holiday celebrations during Frontier Christmas at Fort Sisseton Historic State Park near Lake City are reminiscent of times past. Horse-drawn carriage and wagon rides, festive treats and Christmas caroling are all part of the fun.