Road Trip in South Dakota

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If rugged outdoor adventures topped with a healthy dollop of history get you excited, you're going to love road tripping through South Dakota.

The Mount Rushmore State hosts a wide array of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, fishing, boating, horseback riding, and—of course—taking in the breathtaking splendor that is Mount Rushmore!

However, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Before packing your bags and filling up the gas tank, you must first make sure you're legal to drive in the state, you have solid resources for traffic laws and other rules of the road, and plan your trip based on the destinations and activities that interest you most.

Driving in South Dakota

You can legally drive in South Dakota as long as you have a valid out-of-state driver's license.

SD State Traffic Rules

Understanding South Dakota's traffic laws and other rules of the road can help you avoid traffic stops and car accidents.

First, check out the South Dakota Driver's License Manual where you'll find information on laws and other considerations such as:

  • Basic rules of the road such as traffic signs and signals; pavement markings; right-of-way rules; and information on legal parking.
  • How to handle emergency situations, including traffic accidents.
  • South Dakota's consequences for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Next, refer to our section on safety laws in South Dakota for more information on laws regarding headlights, using cell phones, child car seats, and more.

South Dakota Major Roads

You're not going to make any headway on your South Dakota road trip without using the roads.

Just a few of South Dakota's major interstates and highways include:

  • Interstate 29.
    • I-29 is a major interstate in SD. It runs north and south and will bring drivers through the state's largest city, Sioux Falls. I-29 also traverses on the eastern side of the state, allowing travelers to drive from the Iowa border (near Sioux City) to the North Dakota border (near New Effington).
  • Interstate 90.
    • I-90 is another major interstate in SD. It runs east and west along the southern part of the state. The interstate enters South Dakota in Lawrence County, and drivers can use exits in counties like Lawrence (to Black Hills National Forest), Pennington (to Mount Rushmore), and Minnehaha (to Sioux Falls).
  • Interstate 229.
    • I-229 is a short auxiliary interstate that runs mostly through the city limits of Sioux Falls, and in between the state's major interstates, I-29 and I-90.
  • US-16.
    • US-16 runs east and west and helps drivers travel between Rapid City and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The highway also is known as “Mount Rushmore Road."
  • US-85.
    • US-85 travels along the Black Hills region, one that is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destination thanks in part to Wind Cave National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Harney Peak.

SD Road Trip Destinations

South Dakota overflows with opportunities for outdoor adventures; however, that's not to say the state doesn't offer its fair share of delicious dining, special events, another other state attractions.

Some of South Dakota's top destinations include:

  • The Great 8.
    • South Dakota refers to its eight most popular outdoor attractions as “The Great 8," and for good reason. These destinations include:
      • Mount Rushmore National Memorial—Often called our nation's “Shrine of Democracy," Mount Rushmore features the faces of a few of the country's past and most influential presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Several hotels are located near Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and visitors can take advantage of a walking trail, museum, and dining.
      • Badlands National Park—Visitors can hike, camp, and travel through the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway all while taking in the breathtaking canyons, pinnacles, and more in Badlands National Park.
      • Crazy Horse Memorial—A tribute to the Lakota leader “Crazy Horse," the Crazy Horse Memorial also features the Indian Museum of North American and the Native American Educational & Cultural Center.
      • Historic Deadwood—What was once an 1800's gold rush town is now a National Historic Landmark and boasts concerts, museums, parades, and more.
      • Jewel Cave National Monument—The underground world full of passages surrounded by delicate crystals of vibrant colors, the Jewel Cave National Monument is one of the longest caves in the world.
      • Custer State Park—One of the wildest terrains in the country, Custer State Park allows visitors to trail rides, bike rides, scenic drives, and safari tours to gaze upon an array of wild animals including bison, elk, antelope, burros, and mountain goats.
      • Wind Cave National Park—Wind Cave National Park is a centuries-old maze of boxwork formations and the first cave designated as a national park.
      • Missouri River—Take advantage of boating, fishing, and other water recreation along the multiple reservoirs alongside the “Mighty Mo'."
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant:
    • This summer outdoor event presents a family-friendly performance based on Laura Ingalls Wilder's writings. Lodging, camping, dining, and other Wilder-related attractions are available.
  • Rodeos:
    • Even if you're not a fan, it's hard to imagine South Dakota without thinking of rodeos. Fortunately, the state presents a multitude of rodeo events throughout the year, and thanks to the South Dakota Rodeo Association, you can keep tabs on the yearly schedule.

Remember, these are just a few examples of what South Dakota has to offer residents and tourists alike during their road trips. For a more comprehensive list, including help on how to plan your trip, visit Travel South Dakota.