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7 of the Most Beautiful Places to See in South Dakota

Jamie Delos Reyes

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Nestled in the middle of America, South Dakota is famous for its natural beauty and lush woodlands. The vast plains of South Dakota were the home for many Native American tribes for decades. If you’re into nature tripping or museum hopping, you won’t be disappointed in the beauty of this state. Listed below are the most beautiful places to see in South Dakota!

1. Mount Rushmore National Monument

This grand spectacle is South Dakota’s most popular tourist attraction. Most importantly, it’s simply one of the most beautiful places to see in South Dakota. Here lies the heads of the former presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, carved into the side of the mountain.

Afterward, Gutzon Burglom and his son Lincoln started in the late 1920s only to finish it 60 years later. Over 400,000 tons of rock were blasted to make way for this sculpture.

The Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center is a place you shouldn’t forget to visit as well. Located on the terrace, this gives you an overlooking view of the monument. A less than 1-mile pathway called The Presidential Trail offers a closer look at the monument.

2. Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Photo Credits: Mark Kaletka

Consisting of hills and pinnacles that are results of countless erosions of clay and sand, The Badlands National Park boasts its phenomenal landscapes to its visitors. A number of species can be seen roaming freely within the park, making it a great addition to the whole experience.

Tours are widely available for visitors who would like to see one of the most beautiful places to see in South Dakota. The Badlands Loop Road starts at the northwestern Pinnacles entrance all the way to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The Buffalo Gap National Grassland, one of the last prairie landscapes of North America, can also be found here. Hiking trails in the Cedar Pass area are also safe for visitors to try.

3. Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial, South Dakota
Photo Credits: Stohl on Paper

This eighth wonder of the world is one of the most beautiful places to see in South Dakota. The Crazy Horse Memorial is considered to be the largest mountain carving since it began in 1948. This monument is dedicated to a Lakota Sioux warrior named Tasunke Witco or most commonly known as the Crazy Horse.

The members of this famed warrior have continued to advocate for the rise of this sculpture for it upholds its mission to preserve and protect the culture and tradition of the North American Indians. The sculpture, spearheaded by Korczak Ziolkowski, is at a towering height of 573 feet and 641 feet long, even bigger than the four heads of Mount Rushmore combined.

The memorial is one of the most visited attractions in South Dakota, bringing in about one and a half million visitors per year.

See it all:

  • Aside from the Crazy Horse Memorial, drop by the Indian Museum of North America and the Native American Educational and Cultural Center as well. Both feature over 12,000 historic items that range from pre-Colombian to contemporary times.

The “Legends in Light “ show is also one of the attractions you shouldn’t miss here!

4. Custer State Park

Custer State Park is one of the best national parks in the state. It covers about 70,000 acres of land in the Black Hills and is a thriving habitat for many animals and plants. This park offers a bunch of outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, swimming, biking, fishing, horseback riding, and camping.

Scenic drives and sightseeing are also popular here. The Needles Highway and Iron Mountain road allow easy access to the park while giving you a glimpse of its beautiful landscape.

5. Mammoth Site

Mammoth Site, South Dakota
Photo Credits: The Greatest Roadtrip

Featuring a huge number of Colombian mammoth bones, this site in Hot Springs is truly an archaeologist’s dream.

Over 60 of these magnanimous beasts have been discovered at this site. The visitors can take a glimpse of uncovered bones shown as to how they were found, in the site’s climate-controlled building, as well as the on-site Ice Age Exhibit Hall.

Tours are available for interested parties, even having people take part in the delicate excavation process. If you want to fulfill your inner archaeologist, go ahead and take up Junior and Advanced Paleontology classes also offered in Mammoth Site.

6. Spearfish Canyon

Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota
Photo Credits: Crooked Manners

This amazing natural area has an abundance of ponderosa and spruce pine trees. You cand find remarkable waterfalls and phenomenal cliff walls at the Spearfish Canyon. Located in the Northern Hills, it is a great spot for outdoor enthusiasts for it offers provisions for biking, hiking, and rock climbing.

In addition, a variety of wildlife lives here including deers, porcupines, bobcats, and mountain goats. The wide range of plant species is also perfect for the animals that consider this place their home. The Bridal Veil, Rough Lock Falls, Spearfish Peak, and Little Crow Peak are a couple of waterfalls that can be found in Spearfish Canyon.

The area is naturally beautiful all year round, but it is especially scenic during the fall season where hues of reds and oranges fill this beauty.

7. National Music Museum

National Music Museum, South Dakota
Photo Credits: National Music Museum

Located in Vermillion, the National Music Museum is a Landmark of American Music. It features a wide range of collection of American, European, and non-Western instruments from across the globe. Founded on the University of South Dakota in 1973, this wonder is one of the greatest of its kind. The New York Times also calls it the “musical Smithsonian.”

The collection includes about 15,000 plus instruments, ranging from Italian violins to guitars owned by popular celebrities. You may also find organs, dombaks, harps, gongs, and zithers from its massive collection. The National Music Museum is also the only one offering a graduate degree in musical instruments in entire North America, making it a center of excellence for musical- instrument research.

A true gem of the state, the National Music Museum brings in over thousands of visitors every year. It is indeed a “bucket-list” destination for music lovers around the world.

With its numerous museums, impeccable landscapes, and grand monuments, it is no wonder that “The Land of Infinite Variety” is South Dakota’s nickname.  Adding to that is the rich history of the Americans and the Natives that they take care of, South Dakota should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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