As full-time RV’ers we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each series will include at least 1 epic boondocking area, some complete with pictures and all with GPS coordinates.
South Dakota is the state we chose for our domicile as full-time RVer’s. We decided we should probably know a little about the state since it was now our state of record.
Fun Fact – Did you know that South Dakota purchased the building designs from Montana for their capital building for $15? So the capital building in Pierre is exactly the same as the capital building in Montana.
Our Top Picks for the 9 Hidden Gems in South Dakota.
South Dakota has a ton of amazing, popular wonders to see. Don’t miss the Badlands! I won’t go too much into this as it’s a very popular place, but can I just say WOW! To think about the early settlers coming upon this area and trying to cross it is remarkable. Imagine what they thought as this area came into sight. It is one of the most scenic places of color, beauty and history.
Wall Drug – Do you know the story behind this place? Wall Drug started simply enough when Ted Hustead purchased the South Dakota town of Wall’s drugstore in 1931. But it was Ted’s wife Dorothy who hit upon the idea that changed not just the drugstore, but the entire 231-person town of Wall. The idea: ice water. In an attempt to attract people, Dorothy Hustead put up a sign advertising free ice water to parched tourists on their way to the attraction. It was a big hit. From then on Wall Drug grew under its own strange power, adding a bizarre assortment of fiberglass animals, including the iconic Wall Drug jackalope, giant dinosaurs, and and an array of taxidermic jackalopes. Wall Drug now has billboards as far away as 500 miles. If you are a honeymooner, veteran, priest, hunter, or truck driver, you can also get free coffee and donuts. They still give out ice water too. Some 20,000 cups a day. Though we don’t personally travel with our kids any more, as they are now grown adults with their own lives, this is a super fun place for kids. Every 30 minutes the dinosaur inside comes to life and gives you a little show. Seriously make sure you spend a day in this little eclectic town. The little unique shops are really fun!
Another fun fact. Did you know? Everyone knows about Mount Rushmore. But did you know hidden behind Lincoln’s head is a 70-foot-long chamber containing enamel plates documenting American history, sealed in a teakwood box in a titanium vault? It’s not open to the public, but a really neat part of history for sure!
Corn Palace – It happen to be raining when we decided to visit. The Corn Palace is built out of concrete, not corn. However, each year, the entire exterior is redecorated in murals made out of corn and various other local grains and grasses. These decorative facades are redesigned annually around a different theme created by local artists. Decorations from years past are displayed inside the building itself. We didn’t venture inside, but it’s a pretty cute little town surrounding the Corn Palace. We were there in May of 2017 and it all about Rock of Ages. Super cool!
Roughlock Falls State Nature Area – Spearfish Canyon – This trail is handicap-accessible and winds its way slowly to Roughlock Falls, a breathtaking waterfall that flows into Spearfish Canyon from Little Spearfish Creek. Spearfish Canyon highlights an outdoor wonder that is impressive and unique to the Black Hills. From Spearfish, take 14A (Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway) to Savoy. The trail begins near Spearfish Canyon Lodge and is signed and accessible from the lodge parking lot.
Speaking of Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway – This is a breathtaking 19-mile stretch of US Highway 14A. Gradually climbing from the town of Spearfish on the northern edge of the Black Hills, this canyon is one of the gateways into the heart of an ancient mountain range. Spruce, pine, aspen, birch and oak trees cling to the hillsides. Spearfish Creek flows along the canyon bottom, acting as a natural guide for the scenic byway. Getting There: To start at the northern end of the byway, take either Exit 10 or Exit 14 off of Interstate 90 to Spearfish and hop on 14A. To find the southern end, take Highway 85 east from Wyoming or west from Lead/Deadwood. When you come to the Cheyenne Crossing junction, head north on Highway 14A and let your scenic drive begin. Before you go, check out some of the reviews on where to pull off and what to check out on the Byway. It’s different depending on the season you go.
Devil’s Gulch – Garretson – The ravine where Jesse James supposedly performed an impossible jump to evade capture. We just think it’s an amazingly beautiful area.
Thunderhead Underground Falls – A waterfall 600 ft. inside a mountain is a spectacle of nature. Unfortunately this place closed down in May of 2017. Seriously just days before we were there. We’re keeping it on our list though!! Keep it on your radar to see if it ever opens up again. It’s one the most unique and different things to see for sure.
Awesome for kids (and kids at heart) Splash Central Waterpark in Huron with plenty to offer with its water slides, pools and lazy river.
We think this has become popular, but it’s definitely a place to put on your list. Falls Park (or Sioux Falls). We highly recommend spending a few hours here. The waterfall, one of the best in South Dakota, is the crown jewel of the 123-acre park. Falls Park also protects some of the city’s oldest and most historic buildings. The falls themselves are about 100 feet tall, and 7,400 gallons of water drop over them each second.
Hippie Hole (funny name, right?) This is one of the most amazing hikes in the Black Hills (we think) You can approach the waterfall from two directions, a short hike (our choice) down Battle Creek from the small parking area found off of South Rockerville Road or from an extremely strenuous hike off of Hwy 40. Once you reach the water from either direction, it is all worth it. You can jump from the waterfall, float in the pool, or just sunbathe on the rocks. The hike is about 1/3 of a mile, and it’s a great place for playing in the water, jumping off of a cliff, and taking in the scenery. From Rockerville, head south on S Rockerville Rd, or head north if coming from Highway 40, until you come to Foster Gulch Rd (gravel). Drive about a mile until there is a marked road to the right and then another right about a mile later, after the next cattle guard. Stay right on all forks and the road comes to an end at a parking area.
- Buffalo Gap Grasslands. Anyone who boondocks probably knows about this place! It’s just outside the entrance of the Badlands and you just can’t pick a bad spot! It overlooks the Badlands, and is truly breathtaking. You’re literally on the edge of the cliff if you decide to be. GPS: 43.890031, -102.226789
- North Shore Recreation Area – Fort Thompson. We loved it here. Our only complaint was that the locals seemed to come here and trash it. We picked up a huge bag of trash while we took a walk to the dumpster (yes, they provide a dumpster and still lots of trash). GPS: 44.066185, -99.475708
We’d love to hear from you! Do you have somewhere in South Dakota to share with us? Please leave a comment below and share it with us.
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