An All-American Road Trip Through South Dakota

Published Date: 13 Jun, 2023 Updated date: 13 Jun, 2023 By Phil

South Dakota, a state in the American Midwest, can be easy to dismiss. The state is the fifth least populated, which perhaps contributed to the idea that Mount Rushmore State doesn’t have much going on.

South Dakota, a state in the American Midwest, can be easy to dismiss. The state is the fifth least populated, which perhaps contributed to the idea that Mount Rushmore State doesn’t have much going on.

However, South Dakota is a great place to be. The state has much to see and experience, from the mountainous landscape in the west to the rolling plains in the east.

The ideal way to experience the beauty of South Dakota up close is a road trip through the state.

Mode of Transport

You need some planning for a perfect South Dakota road trip. That starts with figuring out your mode of transport.

Plenty of options exist depending on your style and needs. Whether you’re traveling solo or with a loved one, you could just hop in your car and get on the road.

Cars are fun, simple, and low-maintenance. It’s not the most comfortable option when you have to stop and rest. But you can eliminate that inconvenience by pitching camps or stopping at hotels.

Other modes of transport are RVs and campervans. These vehicles are ideally suited for life on the road, and the upside is that you won’t need to pay for a hotel room.

You will still enjoy your South Dakota road trip, whichever transport option you choose.

What to Pack for the Trip

How much you can pack is limited by your mode of transport.

Regardless, you don’t need much to make your road trip comfortable and enjoyable.

You want to be minimalistic as too many things will only clutter your space and be in the way.

While you need bare essentials, here is a list of must-haves for a South Dakota road trip:

  • Clothing: Winters are cold, so pack heavy clothes. Summers are hot and semi-humid, with temperatures averaging 90°F. At night, the temperatures can quickly drop to 40°F, so pack light, breathable clothes for the day and something heavy for the nights, especially if you plan to camp.


  • Water Bottles: road travel exposes you to the elements, speeding up dehydration. Regardless of the season, bring enough water, even if you plan to replenish your supply whenever possible.


  • Food and Snacks: food and healthy snacks are essentials. You will cover many miles and spend much of your journey on the highways and deserted roads.


  • First Aid Kit: pack an emergency first aid kit in case you sustain an injury on the road


  • Medication: if you’re on certain medications, bring enough for the duration of the trip. But avoid bringing in medical marijuana. Out-of-state patients can still access the drug through the state’s program.

Your Road Trip Itinerary

There’s plenty to include in your South Dakota road trip itinerary, such as places and things to see. Much of that depends on your interests. But here is a highlight of notable places you don’t want to miss:

Rapid City

The county seat of Pennington County is at the center of many famous attractions in South Dakota. Drive downtown to view the bronze sculptures of US presidents. From here, drive to the nearby town of Deadwood, famous for its Wild West aesthetics.

Badlands National Park

Off the I-90, east of Rapid City, is the Badlands National Park, a scenic expanse of rolling hills and prairie plains. You may camp for a night or two at the Cedar Pass or Sage Creek campgrounds to fully experience the park and its wildlife.

Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway

The City of Spearfish is near the Black Hills, known for its fishing, hiking, and biking activities. Whether you’re stopping or driving through, you can’t afford to miss out on the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, a breathtaking drive marked by stunning views of Spearfish Creek and Spearfish Canyon.

Mount Rushmore

You can’t leave the Black Hills without visiting the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone to marvel at the giant historical statues of former US presidents curved on the hillside.

Sioux Falls

A long drive east on the I-90 will bring you to Sioux Falls, the most populous city in the state. Experience the city’s rich culture by planning your trip to coincide with local events like the Downtown Riverfest, SculptureWalk, and Party in the Park.


A road trip to South Dakota can easily turn into the most memorable adventure of your life. You will experience plenty of thrills along the way, with more places and things to do than you can handle.

Category: Lifestyle