South Dakota’s natural beauty is best seen up close, and these nine hiking trails will certainly show off some of the state’s most impressive scenery. While nine trails barely scratches the surface when it comes to gorgeous hiking, it’s a great list to start with, and you’ll find some hikes for every skill level here.
1. Sunday Gulch Trail, Custer State Park
Sunday Gulch Trail is a four-mile loop that starts and ends at Sylvan Lake. It's a fairly strenuous trail that requires navigating some steep slopes. The descent into the gulch requires some tricky navigation, but the park service has provided railings to help you along the way. You'll climb some steep stairs on your way back out.
2. Trail of the Spirits, Sica Hollow State Park
Trail of the Spirits is a shady, quiet trail that makes its way through forest that some say is haunted by ancient spirits. Whether you feel a sense of peace on this trail, or a sense of dread, you can't deny the natural beauty that surrounds you. Sica Hollow State Park is located in Sisseton.
3. Highpoint Trail, Black Elk Peak
Highpoint Trail is 7.1-mile loop trail that's considered moderately difficult. You'll climb 1,630 feet in elevation during this hike, which affords some of the best views South Dakota has to offer. Black Elk Peak (previously called Harney's Peak), is the highest point in the state at an elevation of 7,244 feet.
4. Notch Trail, Badlands National Park
Notch Trail is a one-of-a-kind-experience, but it's not for everyone. The 1.5 mile trail takes you through a canyon, then up a ladder to the ledge above, where you have some excellent views of the White River Valley. If you're afraid of heights or aren't in good enough shape to climb a hanging ladder, give this one a pass.
5. Roughlock Falls Trail, Spearfish Canyon
This easy trail is just over two miles out and back, and it takes you to one of the most beautiful spots in South Dakota. You'll want to allow plenty of time to watch the mesmerizing Roughlock Falls at the overlook.
6. Spirit Mound Historic Prairie Trail, Vermillion
South Dakota's majestic prairie should definitely be explored, and this easy little trail is a great choice for just about everyone. It's just 1.4 miles out and back. At the top of the hill, you'll catch some pretty sweet views, and you can imagine what Lewis & Clark thought when they visited.
7. Big Sioux River Recreation Trail, Sioux Falls
This trail is really more of stroll than a proper hike, but it's a real gem in the state's largest city. The trail makes a 26-mile-long loop through Sioux Falls, starting at Falls Park. Walk or ride your bike along the river for as far as you'd like.
8. Presidential Trail, Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Every South Dakotan should brave the crowds of tourists and take this easy trail at least once in their lifetime. The trail makes a loop that's just over a half mile long and gives you some stunning views of our most treasured attraction.
9. Crow Peak Trail, Spearfish
Crow Peak Trail is probably the most difficult trail on this list, but it's well worth the effort. The journey is nearly six miles out and back, and has an elevation climb of 1,696 feet along the way. Bring your dog with you - he'll love the trail, too!
These nine trails just scratch the surface of what South Dakota has to offer! What’s your favorite trail? Tell us in the comments!
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