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6 Spectacular National Parks in South Dakota

A hiker in Badlands, one of the 6 national parks in South Dakota, wears a red shirt against the brown and orange backdrop
Unsplash Photo

South Dakota has more than just its two most famous national parks. In fact, in total, there are 6 national parks in South Dakota. This includes national parks, rivers, monuments, preserves, and historical parks. Each is unique, distinct, and gorgeous.

A visit to any of the South Dakota national parks will take your breath away. Here is a complete list of all the national parks in South Dakota, how to reach them, things to do there, and more.

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Map of National Parks in South Dakota

A blue map of South Dakota with the 6 national parks in South Dakota in green

National Parks in South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary

A map for a road trip to all the national parks in South Dakota

Fly in/out: I would recommend flying into Rapid City and out of Sioux Falls

Day 1: Drive from Rapid City to Mount Rushmore (1 hour)

Day 2: Drive from Mount Rushmore to Jewel Cave (1 hour) and Wind Cave (40 minutes)

Day 3: Drive from Wind Cave to Badlands (2.5 hours) and Minuteman Missile (15 minutes)

Day 4: Spend a day exploring Badlands National Park or continue on to Missouri National Recreational River (4 hours)

Day 5: Fly home from Sioux Falls

For more suggestions, check out my guide to planning a Black Hills road trip.

An image of the Badlands in South Dakota. The text on the image is encouraging you to download a checklist of the national parks in South Dakota by signing up for e-mail notifications.

All National Parks in South Dakota

Badlands National Park

A pink and purple sunset cascades orange light on Badlands, one of the 6 national parks in South Dakota
Unsplash Photo

Perhaps the most well-known of the national parks in South Dakota, Badlands National Park is a unique landscape. Hiking and exploring in this park feels like an out-of-this-world experience.

While it may look barren, this park is full of geologic and ecological surprises. Hundreds of thousands of fossils can be found in the rock layers here. Plus, you don’t have to go far to reach bright prairie grasslands. One of the best national parks for wildlife viewing, you can find everything from large megafauna, like Bison, to the small and endangered Black-footed ferret.

Badlands National Park is great for hiking, backpacking, scenic drives, birding, and stargazing. Cross this one off your list sooner rather than later!

How to Get There: Badlands National Park is located off of I-90 in southern South Dakota. You can also take Highway 44 from Rapid City, which is a bit more scenic but takes slightly longer.

Map: click here

Things to Do: Hiking, backpacking, scenic driving, birdwatching, wildlife watching, Fossil Preparation Lab, stargazing, horseback riding,  camping, bicycling, ranger programs, backroad driving

Park Entrance Fee: $30, valid for 7 days

Where to Stay: Badlands Budget Hostel, Wall Inn, Plains Motel, Days Inn, Travelodge

Official Website: click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: Call (605) 433-5361

Jewel Cave National Monument

Nailhead spar on the walls of Jewel Cave, one of the 6 national parks in South Dakota
NPS Photo

For being the third longest cave in the entire world, Jewel Cave is a pretty well-kept secret. One of my favorite national parks in South Dakota, this cave has a remarkable history and is still being explored today.

It is estimated, based on air pressure measurements, that we have only seen about 5% of Jewel Cave – isn’t that wild? Jewel Cave was one of the first national monuments, established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. It was thought to be a small but beautiful, shiny cave until the 1950s and 1960s when further exploration took place. It’s still full of surprises – cavers recently discovered standing lakes in the cave!

There are multiple tours of the cave. The most popular is the Scenic Tour, a moderately strenuous route involving hundreds of stairs. There’s also a historic lantern tour that involves climbing wooden ladders while holding a lantern. Finally, for the most adventurous, you can take the Wild Caving Tour – so long as you can fit through the tight squeezes!

How to Get There: Jewel Cave is located outside the charming town of Custer along Highway 16.

Map: click here

Things to Do: Guided cave tours, hiking

Park Entrance Fee: No entrance fee, however, there is a cost for cave tours; prices vary per tour

Where to Stay: Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn, Best Western, Bavarian Inn, Comanche Lodge

Official Website: click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: Call (605) 673-8300

Read More About Jewel Cave National Monument:

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Looking down the hole of a missile silo at Minuteman Missile, one of the 6 national parks in South Dakota
NPS Photo

Of all 400+ national parks, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is the only site dedicated to the Cold War. It’s one of the most unique national parks in South Dakota and the country!

Featuring a newly renovated visitor center and a new park film, this site is ready to give you a punch in the gut. The information you learn during your visit will blow your mind, including things like the sheer number of missiles buried underground here during the Cold War, and the numbers that are still active today.

You can tour the Delta 01 Launch Facility and visit the Delta 09 missile silo, pictured above. Tickets for the Delta 01 tour are required.

How to Get There: Minuteman Missile is located along I-90 in southern South Dakota near Badlands National Park.

Map: click here

Things to Do: Guided tours, park film, visitor center exhibits

Park Entrance Fee: There is no entrance fee, however, $8-12 tickets are required to tour Delta 01.

Where to Stay: Badlands Budget Hostel, Wall Inn, Plains Motel, Days Inn, Travelodge

Official Website: click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: Call (605) 433-5552

Missouri National Recreational River

Views of the Missouri River, one of the 6 national parks in South Dakota
NPS Photo

Did you know the Missouri River is the longest river in North America? Missouri National Recreational River in South Dakota and Nebraska protects a 100-mile stretch of this critical river.

Specifically, there are two sections: the 39-mile and 59-mile districts. The 39-mile unit is primarily in Nebraska while the 59-mile unit is one of the national parks in South Dakota. The units are littered with hiking trails and scenic vistas as well as river access points. There’s a little something for everyone here on the shores of the Missouri.

How to Get There: Directions here depend on where you’d like to go.

Map: click here

Things to Do: Hiking, fish hatchery, scenic driving and overlooks, wildlife viewing, paddling, fishing, camping, bird watching, bicycling, hunting, boating, ranger programs

Park Entrance Fee: There is no fee to enter the national park, however, their state park partners do charge.

Where to Stay: Broadway Inn, Kelly Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Lewis and Clark Resort

Official Website: click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: Call (605) 665-0209 ext. 28

Read More About Missouri National Recreational River:

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

The faces of four U.S. Presidents carved into granite rock on Mount Rushmore, one of the 6 national parks in South Dakota
Unsplash Photo

Mount Rushmore is one of the state’s biggest tourism draws, and a huge reason travelers visit the other national parks in South Dakota. The impressive carving draws visitors from around the country and around the world.

No matter what your feelings are about a white guy carving other white guys into a mountain on traditional Native lands, you can’t deny the feat was impressive. It’s interesting to wander below the mountain and look up at the highly detailed and intricate work while learning about the hardships endured to make it happen.

How to Get There: Mount Rushmore is located off Highway 244

Map: click here

Things to Do: Short walks, ranger programs, holiday and evening ceremonies, museums, ice cream!

Park Entrance Fee: There are no park entrance fees, however, you will be required to pay to park.

Where to Stay: Rockerville Lodge, Powder House Lodge, Under Canvas, Keystone Boardwalk, Roosevelt Inn, Holiday Inn

Official Website: click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: Call (605) 574-2523

Read More About Mount Rushmore National Memorial:

Wind Cave National Park

Boxwork on the walls of Wind Cave, one of the 6 national parks in South Dakota
NPS Photo

Though not quite as long as Jewel Cave, Wind Cave is still a fascinating underground wonderland. This is the best cave in the world to see the rare boxwork cave formation, pictured above. Like Jewel, it is also still being explored.

Despite the gorgeous cave, my favorite part of Wind Cave National Park is actually its surface. Easily the most underrated of the national parks in South Dakota, Wind Cave features miles and miles of stunning hiking trails. Its prairie grassland ecosystem is home to some of the purest bison in the world and is a great place for wildlife viewing.

How to Get There: There are multiple ways to reach Wind Cave National Park, depending on where you’re coming from.

Map: click here

Things to Do: Backpacking, hiking, cave tours, camping, wildlife viewing, bicycling, geology tour, bird watching, picnicking, horseback riding

Park Entrance Fee: No entrance fee, however, there is a cost for cave tours; prices vary per tour

Where to Stay: Dollar Inn, Stay USA, Baymont, Econo Lodge, Hills Inn

Official Website: click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: Call (605) 745-4600

Read More About Wind Cave National Park:

Pin All 6 National Parks in South Dakota

Did you know there are 6 national parks in South Dakota? Click here for the list, including things to do and how to get there. Plus, download my free checklist! | national parks in south dakota | south dakota national parks | #badlands #mountrushmore #southdakota
Did you know there are 6 national parks in South Dakota? Click here for the list, including things to do and how to get there. Plus, download my free checklist! | national parks in south dakota | south dakota national parks | #badlands #mountrushmore #southdakota
Did you know there are 6 national parks in South Dakota? Click here for the list, including things to do and how to get there. Plus, download my free checklist! | national parks in south dakota | south dakota national parks | #badlands #mountrushmore #southdakota
Did you know there are 6 national parks in South Dakota? Click here for the list, including things to do and how to get there. Plus, download my free checklist! | national parks in south dakota | south dakota national parks | #badlands #mountrushmore #southdakota

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