Step back in time to the American Wild West

Step back in time to the American Wild West

Behind agriculture, tourism is South Dakota’s second-largest industry. Visitors are drawn outside of city limits to the state’s recreation and wildlife-watching opportunities at myriad sprawling national and state parks and along scenic byways. While discovering off-the-beaten-path treasures, the inherent thread of Wild West history and American Indian culture piques one’s curiosity, fueling the desire to explore some more.

Although the peak season to visit is the summer months, there will be fewer crowds and pleasant weather in late spring and early fall for traveling through varied terrain that includes farmland, river hills, prairies and mountain ranges. For a premium road trip, drive Interstate 90 from east to west to take in natural wonders and roadside attractions.

Nearly 3 million people a year put Mount Rushmore National Memorial on their itinerary. The locals tell visitors that sunrise is a special time here. Mount Rushmore faces east, so the best light to take photos of the four U.S. presidents carved into the side of the mountain is in the early morning.

South Dakota has five other national parks – Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Missouri National Recreational River and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, which is dedicated to preserving the history of the Cold War.

Visitors will find fascinating places to learn about American Indian culture, Old West and pioneer history, and wildlife. The Crazy Horse Memorial, a mountain sculpture in progress in tribute to all Native Americans, draws crowds, as does Custer State Park, where visitors often spot bison, antelope, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and more.

Find respite in one of the state’s many friendly cities. Find out why South Dakota natives say visitors must eat a doughnut from Wall Drug in the town of Wall. Retrace pioneer footsteps in Deadwood, browse for American Indian-made goods in Rapid City shops and visit the chic boutiques in Sioux Falls.