Most sightseers in South Dakota head straight to places like Mount Rushmore and Badlands, or even Custer State Park. While those big-name parks are certainly worth your time, there is so much more that our state has to offer. We all need a dose of the outdoors every once in a while, and sometimes you need to enjoy nature away from the crowds. If you’re looking for a little more solitude with your time outside, try these underrated parks and trails in the Mount Rushmore State.
Black Hills National Forest
Technically, yes – this vast swath of forest does encompass several of the aforementioned popular haunts like Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, and the Crazy Horse Memorial. But the enormity of this 1.2 million acre stretch of land that even extends into Wyoming is what puts it on this list. You just have to do a little bit more digging to find the less-trafficked trails – and there are plenty. Head west of Green Star Camper Center’s hometown of Rapid City to Pactola Lake to find scenic hikes like Osprey Trail and McCurdy Gulch Loop. Or, explore the northern side of the forest as you head towards Spearfish to see Botany Canyon or climb Crow Peak.
Lookout Mountain Park in Spearfish
Spearfish is unsurprisingly known for Spearfish Falls, where you may encounter quite a few other visitors trying to see the sights. We can’t blame them for wanting to take in its beautiful cascading waters, but we love the sweeping views atop Lookout Mountain Park. It is close to the city, so it’s popular among locals, but it’s less of a tourist stop than other spots in our state. There is also an abundance of trails to try here, so you can forge your own route and get find a quiet corner.
Bear Butte State Park
This serene hike in Sturgis climbs a mountain that’s sacred to several Native American tribes in the area. The Lakotah tribe calls it “Mato Paha” or “Bear Mountain,” and it’s viewed as a place where the creator communicates with them. You’ll likely see colorful little flags and pouches tied to trees in the area that represent prayers offered on the mountain. If you’re looking for a slice of peace and tranquility, you’ll find it in the mountaintop views and spiritual aura of Bear Butte.
While you’re in Sturgis, head over to Sturgis Reservoir. Here, you’ll enjoy both waterside and mountaintop views on the 3.7 mile trail. These trails used to be closed to the public but in recent years have been opened for more people to enjoy them. You’ll still find a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle here though as you explore the Deadman Mountain and Vanocker Canyon area.
Homestake Trail in Lead
If you didn’t know this trail was there, you’d likely never find it! This 3 mile trail connects the towns of Lead and Deadwood and leads you on an old railroad path past an old gold mine. The Lead side of the trail begins in the back of a dog park, and it ends up in Deadwood, a short walk from the Mickelson Trail trailhead. Follow the white diamond markers to stay on the trail. You’ll find forest and hilltop views along the way, as well as a chance to see what’s left of the Homestake Gold Mine.
Underrated Places to Get Outside in South Dakota
Hopefully this guide has given you some ideas of new places to explore in our state of South Dakota. If you’re looking for a way to get there, we can help! Visit our South Dakota RV dealership at Green Star Camper Center in Rapid City. We carry new travel trailers and fifth wheels as well as used travel trailers and fifth wheels. Give us a call today at 605-343-6877 or visit us at 120 N. Cambell Street Rapid City, SD 57703.