Pack up the car because it’s time for a road trip. Follow this several day route across the Mount Rushmore state for a true adventure. South Dakota boasts some of the most beautiful scenic vistas, excellent hikes, orchards, restaurants, and haunted houses you’ll find in the U.S. So fill up the gas tank and start your journey on this perfect fall road trip in South Dakota!
Start the road trip in Sioux Falls and grab breakfast at Josiah’s Coffeehouse & Cafe. This hip and friendly coffeehouse has a fresh atmosphere and warm staff. The menu features breakfast favorites like healthy fried eggs, omelets, egg bakes, French toast, sandwiches, granola, oatmeal, and a huge variety of pastries from homemade Pop-Tarts to cinnamon rolls. Lunch is also offered and includes items like salads, protein bowls, sandwiches, empanadas, flatbread pizza, wraps, grilled paninis, and soup. These healthy and nourishing dishes are the perfect road trip fuel!
Only eight miles from the coffee shop is Harrisburg and this small town apple orchard. Country Apple Orchard has about 6,000 trees with 13 varieties of apple. Walk through this pleasant rural orchard and pick apples to your hearts content. This is the perfect fall activity and is only miles from Sioux Falls! They are open for apple picking from early September through late October. Apples not your thing? Pick out a pumpkin on their seven acre pumpkin plot.
After a morning of driving, stretch your legs on a trail (or trails!) at Lake Mitchell. The trail begins at Lake Mitchell Campground one mile north of Mitchell on Highway 37. The scenic trail connects the picnic shelter, beach, campground area, and a view of the city. In the fall seasons, the leaves change colors to vibrant yellows, reds, and oranges. There is something for everyone at this lake, whether fishing, camping, birdwatching, hiking, geocaching, kayaking, or simply enjoying the views.
This hometown restaurant is the perfect lunch stop. After an exciting morning of apple picking, hiking, and viewing fall foliage, stop in the friendly Anchor Grill and Shipwreck Lounge in Chamberlain for an unforgettable meal! Local favorites are the buffalo burger, walleye, steak, and homemade pie. Another enjoyable road trip stop in this small town is the Dignity statue. This 50-foot tall stainless steel statue depicts a Native American woman surrounded by a star quilt. The blue diamond shapes making up the star quilt move in the wind.
Eastern South Dakota is famous for its sprawling grasslands and prairies, and the Fort Pierre National Grassland is one of the most serene! It is over 115,000 acres of beautiful scenery, and part of the movies “Dances with Wolves” was filmed here. This land is at its most beautiful in the fall, when the few trees are changing color, wildlife is still active, and autumn flowers are in bloom. The Fort Pierre National Grassland is the perfect destination to get some exercise in while driving across the state!
After a long day of driving and sightseeing, nothing hits the spot like an ice cold drink. Before heading to bed, go to Badlands Distillery in the tiny town of Kadoka. This family owned and operated distillery features handcrafted distilled spirits and spirit tasting sessions. It is unique in that the fact that they use corn grown on their family ranch. So customers know that they’re only using the highest quality, freshest ingredients. They use only locally sourced ingredients like honey, jalapenos, and more.
Less than half a mile from the Badlands Distillery is Lakota Lodge, Kadoka’s best lodging. For over 50 years, Lakota Lodge has provided a cozy bed and warm hospitality to travelers going across the state or to the nearby Badlands National Park. Each room includes free Wi-Fi, cable TV, microwave, mini fridge, and continental breakfast. Best of all, however, is the friendly small town charm this hotel radiates! This lodge is the best place to get rested for tomorrow’s driving and sightseeing.
All roads lead to Wall, including the route to the best breakfast around! Since 1931, Wall Drug has attracted tourists to the small town and kick started the local economy. The town is now a hot spot, with shopping, attractions, and history! The onsite cafe is a great morning pit stop, with five cent coffee, fresh homemade donuts, French toast, eggs, oatmeal, breakfast potatoes, hot cakes, breakfast plates, and more.
Spearfish Canyon is considered one of the best places in the state to view the colors of autumn—and for good reason! This canyon has about a dozen wonderful hikes through fall forests, by bubbling brooks, and near hidden waterfalls. Some local favorite trails are Community Caves, Bridal Veil Falls, and Devils Bathtub. Drive down the entire Spearfish Canyon Highway to see the whole canyon.
Terror in the Dark is the spookiest experience around. This haunted house is only open for select dates in late October, but attracts folks from all around. The scary monsters like sulking vampires, vengeful ghosts, hungry zombies, and crazed criminals roam the halls of this haunted house as visitors work their way through maze-like corridors filled with smoke, flashing lights, and—most of all—darkness.