If you are looking for the best foliage and seasonal activities during fall in South Dakota, keep reading!
Fall is a great time to visit South Dakota since there are fewer crowds and the weather is cooler. Of course, there is also the amazing autumn foliage to consider as well!
The many forests and mountains of South Dakota change into a blanket of reds, oranges, and yellows. There are many scenic drives that will take your breath away.
Most of the leaves in South Dakota begin to change around the beginning of October and peak by the end of the month. However, some areas in the Badlands and the Black Hills peak much earlier, so check the fall foliage tracker ahead of time.
Along with leaf peeping, other popular fall activities in South Dakota include pumpkin patches, hay rides, corn mazes, and Oktoberfest.
Here are the best things to do in South Dakota in the fall!
Fall in South Dakota: Best Fall Foliage + Activities
Hike in Spearfish Canyon
Spearfish Canyon is one of the most gorgeous places for fall colors in South Dakota! The aspens and birches turn yellow and orange, contrasting well with the evergreen spruces and Ponderosa pines.
As you enjoy some of the best hiking in South Dakota, you will be awed by the towering limestone cliffs and many beautiful waterfalls. It will all look extra magical with the autumn flare.
Drive along U.S. Highway 14A to see some of the best fall colors in the U.S.A! The road winds you through the canyon and gives amazing views of the trees and historic sites.
Spearfish Canyon is one place where the fall colors peak early. Try to arrive by the end of September to see the leaves in all their glory during a South Dakota fall!
Watch the Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park
Custer State Park is a great place for autumn leaves and also one of the best fall events in South Dakota. On the last weekend of September, the annual Buffalo Roundup takes place.
The park is home to over 1,300 buffalo and the roundup is important for maintaining the herd. Watch people on horseback corral the buffalo from safe viewing areas.
Make sure to bring your own folding chairs and binoculars to see the action. After the roundup is over, you can check out the Arts Festival with up to 150 vendors.
No matter the time of year, this state park is one of the best things to do in Custer for nature lovers.
Celebrate Oktoberfest in Deadwood
Deadwood is one of the cutest small towns in South Dakota with cool Wild West vibes. The Oktoberfest they put on here has some fun twists that make it unique to Deadwood.
Along with traditional German activities like playing polka music, wearing lederhosen, and eating brats, there are events you won’t see at any other Oktoberfest.
Take place in the Poker Run by collecting cards and hoping for the best hand. Cheer on your favorite dog in the Wiener Dog Races. The Beer Barrel Games involve rolling barrels down Main Street.
There is also a wine and cheese tasting and a German Cook-Off. This fall event is super fun so bring the family for a weekend of excitement and good food.
Explore Palisades State Park
Palisades State Park is one of the best places to see fall foliage near Sioux Falls, SD. You will love the sight of the pink Sioux quartzite forming cliffs above Split Rock Creek.
Mix in the colorful fall leaves, and you have the perfect palette for awesome nature photography. The hiking trails will loop you through the trees and give you great views of the water.
Rock climbing, birdwatching, biking, and fishing are popular things to do here as well. If you are looking for a place to spend the night, this park also has some of the best camping in South Dakota.
Attend the Great Downtown Pumpkin Festival in Rapid City
Visit Rapid City for the Great Downtown Pumpkin Festival, one of the best fall activities in South Dakota.
This event takes over Main Street at the end of September and is great fun for the whole family.
There are so many attractions to put you in the fall mood including a giant pumpkin weigh-off, carving competitions, and even a pumpkin slingshot.
Kids will love face painting, hayrides, and bounce houses.
There are also over 60 food and craft vendors. Come walk the decorated streets and soak in the autumn atmosphere.
there are so many cool things to do in Rapid City SD it should be at the top of your list!
Take a Candlelight Walk in Newton Hills State Park
Newton Hills State Park is one of the best state parks in South Dakota to visit for fall fun. At the beginning of October, the park hosts FestiFall and Candlelight Walk autumn activities.
FestiFall is an awesome event that kids and adults alike will love. There are hayrides, pumpkin contests, and a pumpkin catapult. Kids will have fun making crafts and playing games.
Once the sun goes down, it is time for the Candlelight Walk. You will be able to walk a 2.2-mile trail through the woods that is lit by candles and jack-o-lanterns.
Along the path, there are stations with musicians, storytellers, and more. This is a beautiful way to experience nature during the fall in South Dakota.
Solve the Corn Maze at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Campground outside of Sioux Falls is a fantastic place to visit any time of the year, but especially in the fall.
The corn maze here is an epic 7 acres of twists and turns. The design changes every year and when seen from above you can spot Yogi Bear and his friends in the pattern.
The campground also has a jumping pillow, wagon rides, and mini-golf. You will even have the chance to take pictures with Yogi Bear! The corn maze opens at the end of August so you have all of the fall season to enjoy it.
If you want Halloween fun in South Dakota, come to the campground at the end of October to attend the Monster Mash. This is a great time to get dressed up and play games.
Go Apple Picking at Country Apple Orchard
Country Apple Orchard in Harrisburg has been a place to make fall memories since 1984.
There are over 4,000 apple trees here with 13 different varieties. Whether you want something tart, sweet, or for baking, you are covered!
Every weekend in September and October, the Fall Festival has a ton of attractions to keep the kids entertained. You’ll even find the largest jumping pillows in the state here!
There is also a corn maze, haybale maze, petting zoo, apple cannon, zip line, pony rides, and more. Stop by the pumpkin patch as well.
Get Spooked at Sica Hollow State Park
Sure, Sica Hollow State Park is pretty in the fall, but it is the tales of hauntings that make it the perfect trip during the spooky season.
The legends here date back to the Native Americans who saw the “blood and flesh of their ancestors” in the water.
In fact, the bogs do have reddish water but because of minerals and nothing supernatural.
Even so, the park is said to be haunted and a Bigfoot-like creature has allegedly been spotted.
Walk the .5-mile Trail of the Spirits and keep your eye peeled for anything strange. You might also hear weird sounds!
Even if you do not see any ghosts, this is still one of the best places to see fall foliage in South Dakota!
Ride the 1880 Train Oktoberfest Express
In Hill City, a ride on the 1880 Train is a popular activity. It is an incredible and unique way to see the Black Hills during fall in South Dakota.
At the end of September, the train becomes the Oktoberfest Express. Hop on board to enjoy German food, seasonal beers, and live polka music. This is one of the coolest events in the fall!
This historic steam train connects Hill City to Keystone. The two-hour round-trip ride is narrated so you can learn all about the area as you watch the landscape go by out your window.
Have Fun at the Harvest Festival at Strawbale Winery
The Strawbale Winery in Renner hosts the Harvest Festival on the second Saturday of October. This is a great family-friendly fall attraction in South Dakota.
Sample some wine, shop from food and craft vendors, and listen to live music. Kids will love painting pumpkins and getting their own faces painted.
They will also love seeing the colorful chickens.
A visit to Strawberry Winery is one of the best things to do in Sioux Falls in the fall.
Learn About Native American Culture at the Black Hills Powwow
One of the best fall activities in South Dakota is the Black Hills Powwow. This cultural event takes place in Rapid City at the beginning of October.
The powwow celebrates Native American culture with singing, dancing, and drumming. There is also a fine arts show, a He Sapa Win pageant, and sports competitions in hand games, golf, and archery.
You will love seeing the dancers dressed in their colorful and intricate regalia. There is so much to see and do during this three-day event as you learn about Native American culture.
This event is easily one of the best things to do in Rapid City, SD!
Bring the Kids to Big Stone Pumpkin Patch For Fall In South Dakota Fun
Going to the pumpkin patch is one of the most fun things to do in the fall in South Dakota. There are many in the state and one of the best is Big Stone Pumpkin Patch in Big Stone City.
Your family can roam the field to pick your own pumpkin or grab one of the pre-picked pumpkins and gourds. They come in all sorts of sizes and colors.
After picking out the perfect pumpkin, you can have fun solving the corn maze, flying high on the jumping pillows, or taking a hayride. This is classic fall fun in SD!
Admire South Dakota Fall Colors at Vanocker Canyon
If you are looking for the best fall foliage in the Black Hills, head to Vanocker Canyon near Sturgis.
As you drive the 17-mile road through the canyon, you will be amazed by the yellow aspen and red sumac leaves.
Along the way, there are plenty of stops to make for viewpoints or hikes. You’ll be able to see mountain peaks such as Deadman Mountain and Veteran’s Peak as well as pretty reservoirs.
Sturgis is at the northern end of the canyon and is known for its annual Motorcycle Rally. Because of this, the twists and turns of Vanocker Canyon are popular among bikers.
Leaf Peep at Union Grove State Park To Experience Fall In South Dakota
Union Grove State Park is a nice place for hiking through the fall foliage of South Dakota. The variety of trees creates a diverse color scheme in the autumn.
This is a great place for birdwatching since turkey, pheasants, orioles, warblers, and so many more make it home. Other animals you might spot include deer and beaver.
Bring your bike to cruise through the trees. Horseback riding is popular as well. Bring a picnic to enjoy in the shade of the forest. Camping is also available so you can better enjoy fall in South Dakota.
Packing List When Visiting South Dakota In Fall
If you are searching, here are some tips on how to pack lightly when packing to experience fall in South Dakota.
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring along when experiencing South Dakota activities in autumn.
It is always important to protect your personal information. Identity thieves are everywhere.
This unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colors. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind.
If you have a pouch already that does not come with the RFID protection, as I do, these RFID sleeves are the perfect solution.
This configuration comes with enough credit card sleeves that the entire family would be protected. They are slim too, so they will easily fit into your pouch or wallet.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery. This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I carry with me on all of my trips.
It can be used on a variety of phones, not just an iPhone like I have. And wow is it fast!
I like that it holds its charging capabilities for several uses so I do not have to worry about it while out and about, and if I forget to recharge it at night, it will still be good to go the next day.
My daughter gifted me with this FugeTek selfie stick and tripod setup for my birthday. I absolutely love it! It is made of lightweight aluminum and is so easy to use.
It has Bluetooth connectivity and is a breeze to use for taking selfies when seeing the beautiful fall South Dakota scenery.
Hydration is so important when traveling. You want to remain hydrated throughout your travels to support your immune system which in turn will be stronger to fight off any germs you will encounter during your travels.
You will want to bring your own refillable water bottle with you.
I never leave home on a trip without my Bobble filtration bottle. The 18.5-ounce size is perfect for hiking and it fits nicely in the pocket of a backpack.
When filled with water, it is not too heavy to carry. And the charcoal filter ensures fresh clean water whenever you fill the Bobble.
Perhaps you are traveling a long distance and packing space is a premium in your suitcase, or in your car.
Then this set of collapsible silicone foldable water bottles would work well for you. Would not take up much space at all.
You will want a backpack or daypack with you to store snacks, your water bottle, phone, extra clothes, etc.. then this foldable water-resistant backpack would be great.
South Dakota has some of the best fall colors in the U.S.A but it is so underappreciated. There are many scenic drives and state parks that are absolutely gorgeous in the fall when the leaves change.
If you are looking for the best places to visit during the fall in the Midwest, South Dakota should top your list! There are so many fun activities in autumn that you can only find in South Dakota.