Embark on an unforgettable journey through South Dakota, a state renowned for its striking landscapes, rich history, and diverse wildlife. Home to iconic national memorials, a multitude of state parks, and six National Park Service units, South Dakota offers countless opportunities for adventure and exploration. Get to know the Great Eight destinations surrounding the majestic Mount Rushmore, each providing visitors with unique experiences and unforgettable memories.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
The iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial features the faces of four U.S. presidents carved into the granite of the Black Hills: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. This impressive monument pays tribute to the expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States. Visitors to Mount Rushmore National Memorial can take part in a range of activities, from ranger-led talks about Mount Rushmore’s history and symbolism to educational exhibits at the Visitor Center. The Presidential Trail, a half-mile walking path, provides closer views of the monument and opportunities to learn about the flora and fauna of the Black Hills. In the evenings, the memorial hosts a moving lighting ceremony that illuminates the faces of the presidents and celebrates the spirit of patriotism.
Badlands National Park
The Badlands, an otherworldly landscape of striking geological formations, covers over 240,000 acres of buttes, pinnacles, and spires. This unique terrain offers a glimpse into the past through its vast fossil beds, where prehistoric creatures once roamed. The rugged landscape is perfect for hiking, with trails ranging from easy, accessible boardwalks to more challenging routes that lead to stunning viewpoints. Photography enthusiasts will be captivated by the park’s dramatic landscapes, which change color with the shifting light throughout the day. Sunrises and sunsets paint the sky with vibrant hues, offering countless opportunities for memorable shots before giving way to starry night sky viewing.
Jewel Cave National Monument
Nestled beneath the Black Hills, Jewel Cave, the world’s third-longest cave, remains a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Visitors can explore the wonders beneath the Earth’s surface with ranger-guided tours and marvel at its stunning calcite crystal formations. The cave’s namesake “jewels” are the sparkling crystals that line its walls, reflecting light and creating a magical atmosphere. Jewel Cave National Monument visitors can explore this fascinating underground realm through various ranger-guided tours. The Scenic Tour, suitable for most visitors, offers a 1.5-hour journey along a paved and lighted path, where guests can observe the cave’s spectacular formations and learn about its geology and history. For the more adventurous, the Wild Caving Tour provides a thrilling, hands-on experience of crawling, climbing, and squeezing through undeveloped cave sections, all while learning about cave conservation and exploration.
Custer State Park
Custer State Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting over 71,000 acres of pristine landscapes. Visitors can spot bison, elk, and bighorn sheep while exploring the park’s many trails, such as the challenging Black Elk Peak Trail or the scenic Cathedral Spires Trail. The park also features the renowned Wildlife Loop Road, an 18-mile scenic drive that allows visitors to observe various animals, including the park’s impressive bison herds. For an unforgettable experience, book an open-air Jeep tour for prime wildlife viewing, followed by a private afternoon hiking excursion. Discover the park’s beautiful lakes, such as Sylvan and Legion Lake, which offer fishing, boating, and swimming opportunities. Sylvan Lake, often called the “crown jewel” of Custer State Park, is known for its unique rock formations and crystal-clear waters, making it an ideal spot for kayaking or paddleboarding.
Step back in time with a visit to Historic Deadwood, a town steeped in Wild West history. Stroll the streets where legends like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane once roamed, and immerse yourself in the rich heritage of this former gold-mining settlement established in 1876. During your time in Deadwood, explore the Adams Museum to delve into the town’s vibrant history and experience the nightly reenactment of the Trial of Jack McCall, a dramatic retelling of Wild Bill Hickok’s notorious murder.
The Missouri River, the longest river in North America, offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Visitors can experience the beauty of the river through canoeing, kayaking, or taking a scenic riverboat cruise. Fishing enthusiasts can try their luck catching walleye, catfish, and other species that populate the river. For a unique wildlife-watching experience, visit the Karl E. Mundt National Wildlife Refuge, a protected habitat for bald eagles along the river.
Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park, one of the oldest national parks in the U.S., is famous for its intricate cave system featuring unique boxwork formations. Guided tours reveal the park’s underground beauty, while the surrounding prairies and forests provide a scenic setting for hiking and wildlife viewing. Above ground, visitors can hike the Rankin Ridge Nature Trail, which offers panoramic views of the Black Hills and the chance to spot bison, elk, and pronghorn antelope.
Crazy Horse Memorial
The Crazy Horse Memorial is an ongoing tribute to the famous Lakota leader and a testament to the spirit of Native American culture. Once completed, this colossal mountain carving will stand as the world’s largest sculpture, symbolizing the resilience and determination of the Native American people. While visiting the memorial, explore the Indian Museum of North America, which houses a vast collection of Native American artifacts, and witness the fascinating process of the mountain’s carving during a guided tour of the site.
Under Canvas is Your Base for Adventure
Experience the beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota while staying at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore. Our luxurious, safari-inspired tents offer a unique glamping experience complete with ensuite bathrooms, king-size beds with plush linens, and wood-burning stoves. Let Under Canvas be your base for exploring South Dakota’s Great Eight destinations and creating unforgettable memories in the heart of the Black Hills.