South Dakota surprised me with the amount of breathtaking scenic drives it offered in me in such a small state area. I never thought of South Dakota as a must-do picturesque drive state, but it honestly changed my mind from day 1.
Three main scenic drives will be a must for your vacation if you follow or take inspiration from my summer South Dakota Road Trip. The three routes are all relatively close to Rapid City, SD, where I highly suggest you set up base camp.
South Dakota Highway 240
This was the first scenic loop I did while in South Dakota and one that anyone visiting Badlands National Park needs to do. I covered it previously when I talked about some of the must do activities in Badlands National Park.
The highway cuts right through Badlands National Park, taking you from Cactus Flat to the city of Wall. The drive could take you around one-hour nonstop, but I don’t think you would be able to do that. You will get some of the best pull out sections for some of the best views anywhere in the park along the route.
Iron Mountain Road – 16A
Iron Road is probably one of the most unique and captivating drives I have ever done in the United States.
The road covers around 17 miles of switchbacks and one narrow car tunnels that make it a thrilling drive. The drive is mainly centered between Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park and deserves proper planning so you can enjoy the entire length of it.
At a minimum, you are looking at 45 minutes to cover the entire road due to slow speeds around 35mph for most of the drive. The drive is designed to be slow going so you can enjoy the valley backdrop and take in the spectacular views.
Needles Highway – Hwy 87
This scenic byway was deemed ‘impossible’ to construct and wrapped up all construction in 1922. The 14 mile stretch of road is a great companion to the Iron Mountain Road and truly makes for a day worth of great driving.
While I know not everyone loves getting behind the wheel of their car and cutting up switchbacks for an hour nonstop, I have to say it was one of my favorite parts of this trip.
If you are like me and always look for that special thing to do in a new town, then look no further. These drives will be one of a kind for almost anyone visiting and one they will remember forever.
Have you been to South Dakota before? What where your thoughts? Any must see places?!
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