10 Best State Parks in South Dakota

Despite its low profile, South Dakota has some of the best natural beauty and state parks in the entire country. It’s not just Mount Rushmore. It’s striking rock formations, the breathtaking rolling plains, the fantastic dense forests. To soak up some of the state’s most phenomenal beauty, check out these 10 state parks in South Dakota. 

Custer State Park, Custer, SD

Located outside of the small tourist town of the same name, Custer State Park is a marvelous park with rolling plains and striking mountains and rock formations that have attracted rock climbers and hikers for generations. The park is famous for its wildlife loop drive, in which drivers can cruise around the park and catch a glimpse of the bison herds, donkeys, other wildlife, and some of the most scenic views in the area. The 71,000-acre park offers many hiking trails of varying difficulty and scenery, so there is something for everyone at this magnificent and varied state park.

Palisades State Park, Garretson, SD

At only 157 acres, Palisades State Park is the second smallest state park in South Dakota but it is one of the best! The park features dramatic rock formations and large water formations. It is a mecca for rock climbers, swimmers, nature lovers, hikers, and campers. There are about 2.7 miles of walking paths at Palisades State Park, but the scenery can’t be missed! There are over 30 campsites here, as well as a lodge and six cabins. 

Lake Herman State Park, Madison, SD

Formed by the melting of glacial ice thousands of years ago, Lake Herman State Park is a favorite among visitors due to the many camping, boating, fishing, hiking, and skiing opportunities. The park is known for its wide, vast prairie and oak woodlands that are full of unique wildlife. There are over 70 campsites available at Lake Herman State Park, making it a top camping location in South Dakota.

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Newton Hills State Park, Canton, SD

With expansive and thick forests, Newton Hills State Park has top notch hiking trails. The unique, dense forest is located amidst a huge, sprawling prairie environment that is typical of Midwestern scenes. The forest is the setting of many local legends and tall tales about buried treasures, horse thieves’ hideouts, and cowboy adventures. The park is also popular with birdwatchers, as over 200 species of birds visit annually. There are many activities at the park like basketball, biking, bird watching, boating, camping, canoeing, cross country skiing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, horseshoes, paddleboarding, snowshoeing, swimming, or volleyball.

Bear Butte State Park, Sturgis, SD

According to local Lakota legend, the Bear Butte geographical landmark is a sacred site in which one day, the “bear” shaped mountain will rise. It is not only a place of worship, but also a place of recreation! Visitors come to bear butte to hike the several trails that vary in difficulty, as well as camp and fish. The park is also home to a large herd of buffalo that can be viewed around the base of the mountain. There are over a dozen campsites available, including horse friendly campsites. 

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Oakwood Lakes State Park, Bruce, SD

Oakwood Lakes State Park is between eight connected lakes that were formed thousands of years ago by melting glaciers. The park is a popular destination year-round, with hiking and swimming in the summer to ice fishing and cross-country skiing during the winter. Supported activities include basketball, biking, bird watching, boating, camping, canoeing, skiing, disc golf, fishing, hiking, horse riding, horseshoes, paddleboarding, snowshoeing, swimming, or volleyball. 

Spirit Mound State Historic Prairie, Vermillion, SD

Explored by the famous Lewis and Clark, Vermillion’s Spirit Mound State Historic Prairie has great historical significance, as well as recreational and geographic significance. Sioux tribes have legends of the spirit mound being inhabited by evil tiny humans with huge heads. Today, visitors can follow Lewis and Clark’s footsteps around the park and see what the famous explorers saw. The park offers hiking trails, as well as scenic picnic areas.

Hartford Beach State Park, Corona, SD

Hartford Beach State Park is located outside of the small town of Corona and is known for its beautiful wooded forests and serene lake. Rugged shorelines and rocky bluffs surround the lake, but it is still popular among campers and picnicking visitors. There are a wide range of activities at the park including bird watching, boating, camping, canoeing, disc golfing, fishing, hiking, horseshoes, paddleboarding, snowmobiling, swimming, or volleyball.  

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Fort Sisseton Historic State Park, Lake City, SD

Fort Sisseton Historic State Park is a favorite among local history buffs. The historic fort is now a popular park that visitors can tour to see the way of life over a century ago. Visitors can walk among the stone barracks, guard buildings, officers’ quarters, and more. The visitor center tells more about the history of the fort and the surrounding area. Activities at Fort Sisseton State Park include bird watching, boating, camping, canoeing, fishing, hiking, and snowshoeing. 

Roy Lake State Park, Lake City, SD

Roy Lake is known for its wonderful fishing, but there is so much more to do at this state park! There are plenty of hiking trails, swimming, boating, camping, and more for visitors to explore. Keep an eye on their calendar for their “Family Fun Days.” 

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35250 191st Street, Miller, SD
Lake Louise was made in 1932, when the south fork of Wolf Creek was dammed. Water depth in this 164-acre impoundment averages nine feet, with a max... Read More
22154 West Bend Road, Harrold, SD
Excellent walleye and small mouth bass fishing is supported by a relatively stable lake level and cool water temperatures. With most fishing done f... Read More
27450 Buryanek Road, Burke, SD
Buryanek Recreation Area is popular with boaters and anglers, as well those looking for scenic beauty along the Missouri River. History buffs will ... Read More
35316 SD Hwy 44, Platte, SD
Lake Francis Case draws visitors to Snake Creek Recreation Area. The park is popular with boaters and anglers, as well those looking for scenic bea... Read More
17290 Fishers Lane, Frankfort, SD
The first crossing for the Watertown-to-Pierre stage line crossed the river here on American Indians' traditional rock river crossing. Belchers For... Read More
35910 282nd Street, Platte, SD
Fishing and water recreation draws a quieter crowd to Platte Creek Recreation Area to enjoy Lake Francis Case on the Missouri River. Visitors to Pl... Read More
29145 Burke Lake Road, Burke, SD
Like an oasis on the prairie, Burke Lake Recreation Area sits next to a 25-acre lake which is surrounded by trees. Whether boating, kayaking or can... Read More
29084 N. Wheeler Road, Geddes, SD
This small, quiet park is a great get-away for those seeking to relax. And, if your idea of relaxation involves a fishing pole, North Wheeler aims ... Read More
37270 293rd Street, Geddes, SD
With almost 600 acres to explore and easy access to the Missouri River's Lake Francis Case for great fishing, Pease Creek is a popular day use and ... Read More
402 Park Avenue, Mina, SD
Nestled along the wooded shores of Mina Lake, Mina Recreation Area is a water-lover's haven with plenty of room for boating, fishing and swimming. ... Read More
1301 Farm Island Road, Pierre, SD
Located east of Pierre, Farm Island attracts all types of visitors - campers, swimmers, hikers, anglers, bird watchers and bicyclists. With easy ac... Read More
Farm Island, Pierre, SD
LaFramboise Island Nature Area is a unique area along the Missouri River. The island is covered in trees and meadows, which are home to a variety o... Read More
37908 Youth Camp Road, Aberdeen, SD
Three separate areas in this park cater to the needs of campers, swimmers, naturalists, boaters and anglers. Campers stay in the South Unit, while ... Read More
136 Randall Creek Road, Pickstown, SD
A flash flood damaged the bridge leading into the Randall Creek campground. The campground is closed indefinitely as officials assess the situation... Read More
38180 297th Street, Lake Andes, SD
Located on the shores of the Missouri River just above Fort Randall Dam, North Point Recreation Area provides a spectacular river view. Lewis and C... Read More
20439 Marina Loop Road, Fort Pierre, SD
The park's three campgrounds give visitors a variety of recreational opportunities, from boating to hiking to disc golf. The Corps of Engineers beg... Read More
20439 Marina Loop Road, Fort Pierre, SD
A day-use park, Spring Creek offers water-lovers access to the Oahe Reservoir. The lake has more than 2,000 miles of shoreline and its clear waters... Read More
16157 West Whitlock Road Ste. A, Gettysburg, SD
A popular campsite for the Arikara and Mandan people in the past, West Whitlock now draws modern-day campers and fishermen to its shores. When the ... Read More
28229 Cow Creek Road, Fort Pierre, SD
Water-lovers enjoy fishing, boating, or just watching the waves at Cow Creek. Both primitive shoreline camping and campground camping are available... Read More
19425 Okobojo Point Drive, Fort Pierre, SD
Scenic rolling hills, wide expanses of prairie, and one of the most outstanding vistas along the Missouri River await those who love the outdoors.&... Read More
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