South Dakota Travel Information

Mount Rushmore

South Dakota Travel Information for a Family Road Trip

Look no further – here is all the South Dakota travel information you need for a trip to a Top US travel destination.

The Black Hills of South Dakota are calling.

It is like taking a field trip with your kids. There is so much for them to learn, see, and experience plus more fun than you can imagine for the entire family.

I have put together all of the South Dakota travel information and family travel tips we have found through the last 12 years of summer road trips to the Black Hills.

It is not easy to get to this destination by plane unless you fly into the small regional airport in Rapid City. So pack up the car and take a road trip!

Here are my travel tips and recommendations:

Where to go:

Hill City, Custer State Parks, Keystone or the town of Custer

When to go:

Summer! It is prime tourist season but that is also when everything is open. In October, it looks like a ghost town and there is no one but the locals around in the winter months.

How long to go:

A week at least but be sure to add your drive time too.

Where to stay:

Recommended: Custer State Parks for campers and families that prefer a lodge room or cabin.

For making reservations at the campgrounds or in the camping cabins, click here

For making reservations at the lodges or cabins, click here

Blue Belle has reasonably priced camping cabins. These are basic but have heating, ac, electricity and a porch. There are no kitchens, bathrooms or running water but it is a great, low-cost alternative to camping in a tent.

Center Lake has the best campsites but only take same-day reservations which can be scary during tourist season.

Note: Reservations for Custer State Parks start January 2nd. If you want to stay at your first choice options, call right away. Also, try to stay away from traveling to the Black Hills over the 4th of July and during Sturgis Bike Rally, these are extremely busy travel times.

Best campgrounds/campsites in Custer State Parks:

Sylvan Lake – campsites # 1E, 3E, 4E

Legion Lake – campsites #1, #2

Stockade Lake North – campsites #17, #19

Blue Bell – campsites #4, #21

Other campgrounds outside of the Custer State Park = Bismark Lake. Book through Black Hills National Forest. Best campsites = #4, #8, #14.




Top things to do in one of the Top US Travel Destinations:

Mount Rushmore National Memorial– hike the Presidential Trail. The National Monument has no entrance fee except for the parking fee.

Big Thunder Gold Mine – take a tour of the mine and pan for gold.

Bear Country USA – drive through wildlife park is a great way to see the animals up close without the danger. Try to go when they feed the animals, the bears were really active around lunchtime.

Reptile Gardens – this is the place to see every reptile you can imagine.

Crazy Horse Memorial – check out the progress of the Memorial.

Cosmos Mystery Area – for older kids. A slightly unbalanced tour for the family.

Wind Cave and Jewel Cave National Parks – this is for older kids, lots of stairs and walking.

Note: Book your tour by calling (605) 673-8300 before you go. Tours book up each day and the caves are not close by. You can book one week in advance.

Evans Plunge – a great place to cool off. It is located 1 hour south of Custer in Hot Springs, SD.

Mammoth Site – this is geared more for older kids and is also in Hot Springs, SD. Try to book one of the Educational Programs. They offer the Jr Paleontologist Excavation for ages 4-12 year olds and the Advanced Paleontologist Excavation for ages 13 and up. Make reservations in advance for these programs.

Badlands National Park – it is about 1 hour east of Rapid City. Kids of all ages will love to explore and hike around in the Badlands.

Note: Go early in the morning, it is about 10 degrees hotter in the Badlands than in the Black Hills. Bring lots of water and plan on at least 2-3 hours if you take the Badlands Loop Road.

Right after you visit the Badlands, stop by Wall Drug if you haven’t been lured in yet by all the signs. It is like nothing you have seen and I have seen a lot of touristy things. You can get a great lunch there and it is perfect if you need to get out of the car and stretch your legs.


Top things to do in Custer State Park

Swim in Legion Lake

Hike to the tallest point in South Dakota – Harney Peak, definitely for older kids.

Drive the Wildlife Loop, Needles Highway, and Iron Mountain Road (on different days of course). These are long, slow, winding roads; not for towing your camper or huge RV’s even though I have seen them.

Hike around Sylvan Lake

Find the buffalo herds and burros in the park.

Note: Ask your camping host or ranger where the buffalo have been spotted so you will be sure to find them.

Horseback riding at Blue Bell Stables


Great Family Restaurants:

Big Time Pizza in the Roosevelt Inn for family dining.

Looking for a western dining experience? Try the Circle B Ranch Chuckwagon, Flying T Chuckwagon or Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper & Cowboy Music Show

If you are looking for more information, contact me.

Have a great family road trip to the Black Hills!

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