The interesting and varied landscape of South Dakota invites exploration. When travelers leave their vehicles behind, they will be treated to amazing views only found on foot, and those who exert a little extra effort on South Dakota hiking trails will be able to admire nature at its finest. Hiking in South Dakota is a possibility no matter what corner of the state is part of your vacation plans. From the bluffs of Sioux Falls to the lunar-like Badlands and points in between, miles of hiking trails wind through scenic places. Those looking for a challenge or an easy stroll have their pick of places for hiking in South Dakota.
The Missouri River, which cuts through the middle of the state, is a favorite place for South Dakota hiking. Pierre, the state capital, is known for its scenic river views, bird watching, and other recreational activities. The state parks and recreation areas in and around Pierre offer plenty of hiking trails, including the paths that wind along Lake Oahe and Lake Sharpe. The Oahe Downstream Recreation Area is home to the Cottonwood Path, declared a National Recreation Trail. Miles of hiking, walking, and biking trails twist and turn through the woods and meadows of LaFramboise Island, while the Farm Island Recreation Area features an interesting nature trail adjacent to the Native Plant Arboretum. The trail ends near the Riverwalk, which follows the Missouri River for fourteen miles.
In and around Sioux Falls, outdoor enthusiasts can explore natural sites at an array of attractions, in addition to the options for hiking in South Dakota. The Outdoor Campus is an education and nature center with both indoor and outdoor activities. Two miles of trails wind through the site, and hikers should take time to admire the butterfly garden. A hike through Falls Park with the Big Sioux River as a scenic backdrop will give visitors the chance to see how the city got its name.
South Dakota hiking trails also meander through the scenery of the western third of the state. Within a 50-mile radius of Rapid City, nature buffs will find the Black Hills, Badlands, and the high plains, along with Mount Rushmore. Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, and the Black Hills National Forest are just a few of the places to enjoy South Dakota hiking through amazing scenery. More than 100 miles long, the Centennial Trail crosses the prairies near Bear Butte State Park, continues into the high country, and ends at Wind Cave National Park near Hot Springs. Both this cave and Jewel Cave National Monument provide opportunities to explore both above and underground and do some South Dakota hiking.
Travelers also can follow the South Dakota hiking trails that cross lands shaped by glaciers. Sica Hollow State Park's rolling hills, a striking site among the prairies, are crossed by the Trail of the Spirits, an interpretive hiking trail that has been designated a National Recreation Trail. The park also has horse trails, camping, and cross-country skiing paths.
Near Watertown, the Pelican Lake Recreation Area is crisscrossed by nearly ten miles of trails. Along one of the paths, hikers can pause at an observation tower to watch the large white birds that gave the state park its name. The nearby Redlin Art Center is known for its scenic grounds, another place to watch wildlife.