1. Getting on the water at Lewis and Clark Recreation Area
This spot might just be the best way to spend $6 in South Dakota. Six miles west of Yankton is
But boating is really where this place shines. Grab a few friends, rent a sail- or powerboat, and spend a day on the water. The marina is absolutely huge and has everything to keep you covered. When you’re done, grab a drink at the restaurant or picnic along the shore.
2. Climbing the spires in Custer State Park
Far more than just a “Plains State,” South Dakota offers legit classic rock climbing, and the Cathedral Spires in
There are several spires you can climb here, but a solid bet is to hike up the Cathedral Spires Trail to the backside until you reach the gully between spires 3 and 4. Once you ascend to the top of your climb (spire 4 is the highest and the most popular), you’ll have sweet views of Harney Peak (the highest in the Black Hills) and an aerial view of one of the most photographed places in South Dakota. Just be sure to be well-prepared or take a guide from
3. Joining South Dakota’s Native peoples for a traditional Wacipi
South Dakota’s Native American
The day will continue with traditional dance competitions, and don’t resist an offer to enter the arena during an intertribal dance! Visitors can also shop for fine crafts or taste traditional foods, like sweet wojapi or fruit jam. Note: It’s important to learn
4. Paddleboarding one of South Dakota’s many lakes
In addition to the major man-made reservoirs along the
If you’re new to the activity, don’t worry — there’s not much of a learning curve, you can get an inflatable board that fits in your trunk, and it’s a workout that doesn’t really feel like a workout. Start on Deerfield Lake — a 435-acre no-wake lake where boats are limited to 5mph and under. Just be sure to bring the sunscreen; it’s easy to spend an entire day out in the elements, especially with
5. Spelunking the hidden caverns of Jewel and Wind Caves
South Dakota is home to two of the longest and most intricate caves on earth.
6. Feeling the earth thunder at the annual Buffalo Roundup
You may have seen the spectacular herd of buffalo grazing in the prairie grasses of
7. Drift diving the “Oahe Tailrace”
South Dakota may be miles from the ocean, but that isn’t stopping any of the locals from honing their scuba skills.
Don’t stop there, though. Leave some time to track down the bigmouth buffalo, a fish that can reach up to 80 pounds, in an underwater spearfishing escapade. You’ll find South Dakota’s best freshwater diving in Lake Oahe, Lake Francis, and the Pactola Reservoir.
8. Backcountry camping in the Badlands
There is absolutely no better way to explore this
Your best bet is to go in September or October when temperatures are at their most pleasant. Bring plenty of food and water (and a way to dispose of it), sturdy boots, and always let a ranger know you’ll be out there before you go. You’ll find backcountry registers at the Medicine/Castle Trail Loop, Saddle Pass Trailhead, Conata Picnic Area, Sage Creek Basin Overlook, and the Sage Creek Campground. To explore the South Unit (where some of the land is privately owned and thus requires permission to access), talk to a ranger at the White River Visitor Center to map your best route.