Can’t Miss Spots For Your Sightseeing Tour
RAPID CITY, S.D. – With tourism being South Dakota’s second-largest industry, you can bet there is a lot of sightseeing to do here. The Black Hills, especially, is packed with picturesque, tourist hot spots. Clint Jones, owner of Fort Hays, remains optimistic about this year’s tourist season despite its rough start due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Jones explains, “we’re cautiously hoping that as this starts to pass, there’ll be enough cabin-fever to make people want to come on out for a bit.” When it comes to whether you should explore the hills on your own or take a guided tour, Jones believes that a tour is the way to go. “Tours are a perfect way to get the lay of the land, have your questions answered by a knowledgeable guide, and listen to stories about the places you visit that you might have otherwise never heard,” says Jones.
So, with tourist season starting up once again, which places in the area are worth the visit or even a revisit?
No sightseeing tour of the Black Hills is complete without Mount Rushmore. The monument is recommended by nearly everyone, and for good reason. Completed in 1941, Mount Rushmore is a cornerstone in South Dakota tourism. Towering at 5,725 feet, with each head being the size of a six-story building, this goliath of a monument is truly a sight to behold. Be sure to visit this memorial before noon. According to Jones, “Mount Rushmore was carved with the intent of viewing it in the morning. It’s facing the eastern sun, so the light hits the mountain perfectly in the morning hours.” Viewing the Shrine of Democracy is only one of the many things you can do while visiting Mount Rushmore. Take your time and hike multiple trails available on the property and visit the sculptor’s studio and museum where you can learn all about the monument.
Iron Mountain Road
While you are going to Mount Rushmore, be sure to take the scenic Iron Mountain Road on the way there. This winding road is full of magnificent Black Hills scenery, pigtail bridges, and gorgeous tunnels that perfectly frame Mount Rushmore as you approach the monument. Constructed in 1933 and designed to do the scenery justice, it’s suggested that you take this road at no more than 20 mph to really take in everything the Black Hills has to offer.
If you’ve come to South Dakota to visit the Old West, you may be disappointed to find that it no longer exists. That is unless you visit Fort Hays. Set up to replicate life in the Old West, Fort Hays has plenty in store for those who seek to revisit Old Western times. Each morning starts out with a good, old fashioned, all-you-can-eat, Cowboy Pancake Breakfast. Grab a home-made tin plate and fill up on freshly made pancakes and biscuits and gravy. Next, travel back in time by visiting shops made to replicate life in the Old West. A Blacksmith, a Sawmill, and even an Old-Fashioned Penny Press are only some of the attractions you’ll see. While you’re there, visit the film set of the Academy Award-winning movie, Dances with Wolves, and tour the South Dakota Film Museum where you’ll find remnants of over 50 movies that were filmed in South Dakota.
Custer State Park
A can’t miss destination on your list should be Custer State Park. The 71,000 acres of the Black Hills offers a home to lots of natural wildlife, including a chance to see the famous South Dakotan bison, just be sure to remain in your vehicle or stay back at least 100 yards from them! Custer State Park has a little bit of adventure for everyone, from camping and hiking to fishing and swimming, there isn’t a more picturesque place to visit for a good time.
Completed in 1922, this National Scenic Byway was deemed impossible to construct. The roadway was planned out by former South Dakota Governor Peter Norbeck, who marked the entire course on foot and horseback. This extreme highway offers 14 miles of sharp turns, narrow tunnels, and granite spires that are sure to leave you in awe.
Crazy Horse Memorial
Often clumped together with Mount Rushmore, this memorial deserves a place all its own. Sculpted to resemble Tasunke Witco (Crazy Horse) of the Oglala Lakota, this monument is the largest in-progress mountain carving in the world. Much more than just a colossal mountain carving, the Crazy Horse Memorial is home to several museums dedicated to not only the development of the monument but also the diverse histories and cultures of the American Indian people. Additionally, the monument is host to multiple programs and fellowships meant to honor artists, performers, and culture bearers as well as University programs for the next generation of young native people.