South Dakota
Destinations,  South Dakota,  United States

South Dakota Must Do Scenic Drives

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?!

Follow along the adventures on:

Instagram @gusontherun or Twitter @gusontherun


  • Riana.AngCanning

    What epic drives! I love that there’s such a mix of scenery. The mountain backdrops and cave would be so cool. Though, I tend to get carsick with the switchbacks, so not sure I could handle all of these. I love the idea to get out and enjoy the scenery along the way!

    • Gus

      It truly is amazing how much different scenery was in just southern South Dakota you get a bit of everything. The switchbacks definitely do get to you fast.

  • Emma

    After growing up in the UK where most country roads are about that wide, I feel your pain of hoping no one comes the other way. Where I’m from it’s tractors which are not only big so you can’t get around them but they’re slow. Highway 240 looks incredible, I think I’d like to drive that one the most. Also those tunnels are cool. As long as everyone has the sense to drive slowly like you did

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