South Dakota Self-drive Itinerary】What to do in South Dakota, 5 Days Tour, Accommodation, Food Tips and Tricks

South Dakota Driving Schedule

When it comes to traveling in South Dakota, most people would ask what is there to do, South Dakota is a sparsely populated state, the most famous scenic spot is probably the Presidential Hill, which is often seen in movies, in fact, I didn't know that South Dakota is a suitable place for self-drive itinerary before I came here. South Dakota self-drive itinerary can be divided into several parts with Rapid City as the center.Badlands National Park, and Minuteman Missile National Historic Site National Historic Memorial AreaThe Black Hills National Forest is located on the west side of the city. To the west is the Black Hills Attractions Area, including the Black Hills National Forest,Custer State ParkThe first is the Angostura State Park, which is located on the south side of the city,Mt. Rushmore.,Wind Cave National ParkIf you go to all of them, you can spend three to five days there.

Although this article focuses on South Dakota, if you are flexible enough, you can also drive all the way north to North Dakota, with theRoosevelt National ParkTogether, you can travel through the old town of Deadwoods, or further west to Wyoming.Devil's tower.

Our time in South Dakota was due to the winter season and some of the attractions were closed. We spent a total of five days in South Dakota and the itinerary is as follows:

This is actually a very relaxing itinerary. In fact, we added four days in the middle of the itinerary to go toRoosevelt National Park, and Devil's TowerIf you are interested, you can refer to the linked travelogues, but in this post, we will only discuss the part of South Dakota.

South Dakota Transportation and Lodging

The most convenient place to start your driving trip is in Rapid City. Rapid City airport is a small airport, and it is a direct flight from San Francisco, and the price is also cheap. You can rent a car directly from the airport at a reasonable price.

According to our personal itinerary, some of the better places to stay and eat are Rapid City, Wall, Custer, Sturgis, and Deadwoods, all of which we stopped for dinner or lodging.

Scenic Spot Summary

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park is famous for having the largest Badlands landscape. The park is actually divided into three sections: the North Unit, the Stronghold Unit, and the Palmer Creek Unit, with most visitors being concentrated in the North Unit, which is traversed by Highway 240, while the other two sections are more difficult to access. The most common activities in Badlands National Park are visiting the Visitor Center, taking a scenic drive, walking the trails in the North Unit, and checking out the wildlife.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Minuteman Missile National Historic SiteThe National Historic Area in South Dakota is the site of dozens of U.S. nuclear bombs deployed during the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union from 1946-1993. The history of this area is the history of the U.S.-Soviet nuclear race during the Cold War. After the end of the Cold War, these nuclear bombs were disarmed, but two bases were left for tourists to visit to commemorate this history.

Wind Cave National Park

The main selling point of Wind Cave National Park is the huge cave system below the ground, which is 104 miles long, one of the longest cave systems in the world, and is called the Wind Cave because of the strong winds that blow out of the caves all the time. You do not need a ticket to enter Wind Cave National Park, but you must take a guided tour to visit the caves. There are five types of cave tours: Garden of Eden, Natural Entrance, Fairground, Candlelight, and Caving, but some of these tours are not available during the off-season, so you need to go there before you go.The official website of the National Park explainsConfirmation. Compared to other cave systems, this side is best known for the Boxwork structure, a beehive-like structure rarely seen anywhere else in the world, with 951 TP3T of boxwork in Wind Cave National Park worldwide.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park is the best place to see wildlife in the nearby Black hills area, on the road from Wind Cave National Park to Mt. Rushmore, close to the nearby cities of Custer and Rapid city. We recommend driving around the bend and taking the Wildlife Loop to see many animals.

Iron Mountain Road

Iron mountain roadThe park is connected to Presidential Hill in the north and Custer State Park in the south, and was built in 1933 by Senator Peter Norbeck. The original design was to enjoy the scenery, so the route is designed as a curvy scenic drive, if you are in a hurry or don't want to spend money to enter the park to see the Presidential Hill, take the Iron mountain road to see the Presidential statue from different angles in several places.

Mount Rushmore

President's Hill is a national monument in South Dakota, and probably the most well-known attraction in South Dakota. It was created in 1927 to represent the four presidents of the United States during the first 150 years of the nation's history. The four granite statues are 60 feet tall and stand spectacularly on the South Dakota skyline, and have been featured in many famous movies and have become an American icon.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Chief Crazy Horse was an Indian chief who led the Indian tribes against the U.S. government around 1870 and was considered a spiritual leader by the Indians. Because of this ancient conflict, Indian Chief Henry Standing Bear decided to carve a statue of Chief Crazy Horse on the opposite side of President's Hill. According to the original plan, the statue of the Mad Horse was to be on a horse with his hand pointing straight up at President's Hill, but because he refused a grant from the U.S. government and used only the ticket sales to fund the project, only the face has been completed so far.

Featured Towns


Wall is a fun little western town and a great place to stay if you're going to Badlands National Park. The Wall Drug Store is also the town's favorite tourist attraction, and there are many signs advertising it as you drive from Rapid City to Wall.

For a small town in a frontier location, Wall Drug Store is a surprisingly large store. It sells interesting things, has a restaurant, and looks like an old-fashioned department store. The store also has a museum of western culture and a church. In fact, it was very sluggish in the early days of its operation, but later the owner thought of providing free ice water and 5-cent coffee to tourists who came to see Presidential Hill, so the advertisements went all the way to Presidential Hill, and the signboard advertisements went all the way along the Highway 90 to bombard the tourists, and the violent publicity was the main reason for its success and fame.


Deadwood is a quaint western town with a great sense of history, originally an aboriginal reserve in 1870, but later became an illegal gold rush town due to the discovery of gold mines. Because it was illegal, the people who came here to pan for gold were outlaws who didn't care about the law, and so all the stores that opened up here were casinos and brothels, making it an extralegal area with a strong historical coloring. When you come to Deadwood, you can go to the visitor center to get a map and learn about the history of the town, and then follow the map to visit the monuments in four places. In fact, this area is still a casino town, and nearby Lead is a ski resort, so there are many tourists.

The Adams museum is the town's famous history museum, if you have time, you can come in to visit, the exhibits are related to the history of Deadwood, Deadwood has experienced three big fires, because at the beginning of the construction of the building is illegal, the town was destroyed very badly. The town was devastated because the buildings were built illegally at the beginning, and the town was saved from becoming a ghost town by the legalization of gambling in the area.

Food Record

I ate a lot of restaurants along the way in South Dakota. In fact, the food choices in several small towns are quite limited, so I'm going to share some of the places I ate at here.

Badlands Bar (Wall)

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Price: $$

A restaurant across the street from Wall Drug Store. It's the only restaurant open during the off-season, and it's severely understaffed. The menu is all American food with ordinary flavors, we only ordered a pizza and a bowl of soup, the pizza was actually quite good.

Sturgis Brewing Company (Sturgis)

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Price: $$

A brewery in Sturgis, most of the crowd came for the beer, which was good, the food selection was limited but not bad. the Flatbread was unexpectedly good.

The Custer Wolf (Custer)

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
  • Price: $$

The Custer Wolf is the best restaurant in South Dakota, and there were a lot of people waiting in line. We ordered the grilled chicken breast pasta and fried chicken, we didn't expect much but it was so good and juicy that we went back the next day and ordered the same thing again.

Independent Ale House (Rapid city)

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Price: $$

The Independent Ale House is a pub that does a great business, it's actually quite big, but it was still full when we were there. The specialty is a great selection of local beers which are all very good, and the menu is very up to date in theWebsiteYou can also see the amount of beer left in the keg. There are salads and pizzas that you can order to go with your beer, and they are not bad at all.

Further reading

Other Nearby Attractions

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