The western region of South Dakota offers several, relatively close by, points of interest. The following list and map describe them:
In the map Badlands National Park (about which you can read here) is marked in yellow, Wind Cave National Park marked is marked in black, The Black Hills are marked in green, Mount Rushmore is marked in pink, Custer State Park is marked in blue, and Bear Butte State Park is marked in red (while visiting this region one can lodge at the towns of Rapid City or Keystone)
- The town of Hot Springs: a nice wild west themed town with a main street which seems as though it was taken from a western movie set. The town has a couple of hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, and an indoor pool heated by natural hot springs. The town also has a museum dedicated to mammoth fossils which were found in its premises.
- Wind Cave National Park: A small national park not far from Badlands National Park. Wind Cave is the first national park designated with a cave as its main feature. At over 150 miles of explored passages, Wind Cave is the 7th longest cave system in the world. The cave’s name derives from the air currents which blow out of its entrances due to air pressure differences between its interior and the outside. Entrance to the cave is permitted only through guided tours, which tend to be unimpressive. Hence if your time is short you can skip visiting the park. (The park has a nice campground). In addition to the cave, the park has open spaces where you can watch Bison herds roaming. Not far from here lies Jewel Cave National Monument– the third longest cave in the world at over 200 miles long.
the entrance to Wind Cave National Park
- Custer State Park: In the heart of the Black hills, Custer state Park offers a chance to spot wildlife, drive great scenic roads, and visit beautiful lakes (with campgrounds adjacent to them) where you can swim, canoe, and fish. Wildlife Loop Road is an 18-mile-long scenic way from which you can see Bison, Antelopes, Elk, Coyotes, Prairie Dogs and more. Another impressive road in the park is Needles Hwy, which is in fact part of Hwy 87, in a par consisting of many curves, cliffs, stone spires and especially beautiful scenic views (be sure not to miss Cathedral Spires and Needles Eye overlooks – which also have hiking trails nearby). See the following map, Wildlife Loop Road is marked in yellow. Needles Hwy is marked in purple (Sylvan lake – a charming lake with kayaks for rent near Needles Hwy is marked in red).
- The Black Hills: A small mountain range steeply rising above the plains of South Dakota (North of Wind Cave, south of Mount Rushmore, west of Badlands). The Black Hills have several recommended scenic roads such as: Iron Mountain Road (Road 16 A) which leads to Mount Rushmore and is marked here in blue (The drive is most impressive if driving north. You should stop at Norbeck Overlook.) You can combine this drive with Needles Highway (see previous section about Custer State Park) into the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway – marked here in yellow (along the way there are several long tunnels which are not fit for long RVs).
Another recommended Road in the northern Black Hills is Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. In addition to stunning views, several splendid waterfalls such as Bridal Veil Falls and Spearfish Falls adorn the way. The drive is most impressive in the Autumn months when the fall in the area is marvellous. Devil’s Bathtub is a great hike nearby. The Byway is marked in yellow on the following map, if already in the area you should stop for a short visit in the town od Deadwood.
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial: The iconic sculpture of four former US presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln) carved on a mountainside. A short walk from the parking lot leads to a flag avenue overlooking the mountain. The place also has a museum and visitor center. A hike which climbs the mountainside and approaches the stone figures also embarks from here. As the place is a national icon, the whole area is very touristic and offers several tourist attractions, in a way not typical for such a remote location. These include gold digging, a wildlife park (Bear Country USA), a reptile park (Reptile Gardens) and more.
- Crazy Horse Memorial: A mountainside in which the figure of Crazy Horse – a Lakota tribe leader is being carved (work has yet to be finished and has been in progress since 1948). The place offers several lectures and tours of the local Native-American history and culture.
- Bear Butte State Park: North of the town of Rapid City, Bear Butte is a unique hill towering above the area’s grass prairies. The area is sacred to the local Native-American tribes. The park has a nice Campground, a lake, and several hiking trails.