South Dakota Fall Foliage Destinations That Deserve a Weekend Road Trip
Ask several people in South Dakota what their favorite season is and fall will usually be the most popular response. The chill in the air, the carnival of colors, the brilliant crimsons and oranges splashing the canvas of the Rushmore State makes for a perfect getaway with the camera.
Where can we best see the landscapes alive with color in South Dakota?
Fall Foliage Destinations in Southeast South Dakota:
Newton Hills State Park: Tucked in a valley near the Big Sioux River, Newton Hills State Park has all the trappings of a leaf-peeping hot spot (minus the traffic). Its dense forest of maple, oak and sumac blankets the ground. The best way to explore this natural display? On foot or by bike. Over 200 species of birds visit the area each year. White-tailed deer, wild turkeys, marmots, rabbits, red and gray fox, and squirrels are also found within the park. The trees also burst with vibrant colors and the trails are worth a good afternoon of hiking.
Lewis and Clark Recreation Area: One of the area's most popular resort parks, the paved trail that parallels the Missouri River is a must for autumn walking and sight-seeing.
Good Earth State Park at Blood Run: Located just southeast of Sioux Falls, Blood Run is an important cultural and historical site as well as a unique nature retreat adjacent to the most developed and populated part of our state. The site itself is one of the oldest sites of long-term human habitation in the United States.
Union Grove State Park: Located just south of the Beresford exit on I-29, Union Grove offers campsites along a tree-laden road and other hiking trails, it's one of South Dakota's "hidden gems" of foliage.
Fall Foliage Destinations in Western South Dakota:
Spearfish Canyon: Still the king when it comes to sightseeing year-round. However, the scenic highway comes alive every autumn. Spearfish Canyon is one of the oldest and most miraculous canyons in the west. Located in the northern portion of the Black Hills National Forest, the canyon spans 20 miles along a scenic and unique State and National Scenic Byway. Less than a mile wide, the canyon is always ‘close and upward’ dwarfing the one-million annual visitors.
George S. Mickelson Trail: Nestled in the heart of the beautiful Black Hills, the trail features gentle slopes and easy access allowing people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the beauty of the Black Hills. Much of the trail passes through National Forest Land and is popular for bicyclists, hikers, and horseback riders. Stroll through the spruce and ponderosa pine forests to make this a hike to remember. It's 109 miles of packed gravel.
Central South Dakota:
West Whitlock Recreation Area: Located 18 miles west of Gettysburg off US Hwy 212, this is one of the stops on our tour where bringing a fishing pole is a good idea. The walleye abound on Lake Oahe and the mighty Missouri.
Fall Foliage Destinations in Northeast South Dakota:
Sica Hollow State Park: Along the Trail of the Spirits, you'll see gurgling reddish bogs, which Indians saw as the blood and flesh of their ancestors. Indian lore gives new meaning to Sica's streams, rustic bridges, waterfalls, and wildflowers. An interpretive guide is available to bring these legends to life. The foot trail was designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1971.
Joseph N. Nicollet Tower: Climb to the top of Nicollet Tower for a breathtaking three-state view. The observation tower honors Joseph N. Nicollet, the French mapmaker who explored the Coteau Des Prairies in the 1830s. Just off I-29 exit 232.
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Gallery Credit: Hannah Lang