The peak time of this year for fall foliage is within the next couple of weeks, so get out and take full advantage of it by taking a beautiful drive through some of South Dakota’s most scenic routes. We have created the ultimate fall foliage road trip that includes the best drives for the season as named by the Travel Channel, South Dakota Magazine, and other publications. So buckle up and get ready, because you’re in for one heck of a journey!
This drive is about 4 and a half hours long round trip, starting and ending in Rapid City. You can go either direction, but for this explanation we are going to go clockwise, beginning by heading south on SD-79 from Rapid City to Hermosa. For full driving directions,
After reaching Hermosa, head west towards Custer - this will bring you through Custer State Park.
This is where the magic begins. The route will take you on 16A through the park, a beautiful drive that has gorgeous views. Custer is just outside of the park once you make it through, and from here you will head north on 385 for the next part of the journey.
Black Hills Parkway
385 is one of the longest drives through the forests of the Black Hills, at roughly 59 miles long. The views are absolutely breathtaking and the colorful fall leaves create splashes of color among the darker pine trees. It will take you past places like the Pactola Lake and makes for a perfect drive to appreciate the changes of the season. At the end of 385 you will head west on 85 to Lead, then onto 14A from there towards Cheyenne Crossing. Take a stop for lunch at the Cheyenne Crossing restaurant - they have great food!
Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway
After going through Cheyenne Crossing, you will head north on 14A to one of the most memorable and arguably the most beautiful section of this drive - the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. It's only 22 miles long, but the speed limit is 35 mph, so you will be able to take your time and really soak up the sights. The winding rows will bring you through absolutely stunning forests and by waterfalls, lakes, and through towering hills. I suggest a stop or two at some of their most famous waterfalls, such as the Bridal Veil falls, which is right next to the road. At the end of this section, you will reach the town of Spearfish. From here you can head east on I-29 towards Sturgis for a quick drive to the next gorgeous byway.
From Sturgis to the tiny town of Nemo is an amazing route that will take you through a beautiful landscape full of the shifting colors of the leaves. This part of the drive is less busy than places like the Black Hills Parkway and the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, so you can enjoy it to its full potential. This beats taking I-90 all the way to Rapid City. It takes a little longer, but the views are totally worth it. You can go all the way through Nemo and back to Rapid City this way, through the more gently rolling hills.
Interested in more South Dakota road trips to get yourself into the season? Why not take a more spooky approach for the upcoming holiday and try our
Haunted South Dakota Road Trip. If you’re brave enough, that is!