Are you looking for the best state parks in South Dakota to add to your bucket list?
Then you’ve come to the right place!
I was born and raised in the Midwest and one of my favorite things to do there is exploring the many state parks.
The Midwest is one of the most varied parts of the country, so there are some really amazing state parks throughout the region.
Sometimes, the South Dakota state parks are some of the best hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.
Spread out in the extensive uninhabited land of South Dakota there are over 60 state parks.
They include parts of the Black Hills, beautiful lakes, historic sites, and more.
No matter what kind of adventures you like to enjoy, you’ll easily find a state park in South Dakota you’ll love!
So, let’s take a look at the 15 best State Parks in South Dakota that you definitely want to add to your bucket list.
15 Best State Parks In South Dakota For Your Bucket List
Explore One Of South Dakota’s Most Unique Areas At Palisades State Park
SD state parks are incredibly varied and unique.
Palisades State Park is easily one of the most unique park in South Dakota.
It is home to Split Rock Creek.
Split Rock Creek is lined with some really cool Sioux quartzite formations.
The quartzite formations have varying heights, but some of them are over 50 feet tall.
You can hike along the creek bed and get some amazing views of the creek and the landscape of Palisades State Park.
There are also campsites, picnic areas, and other spots to relax and enjoy this beautiful state park in South Dakota.
Custer State Park Is The State’s Most Popular State Park
The most popular South Dakota state park is Custer State Park. Visiting here is one of the best things to do in South Dakota.
Inside the acreage of Custer State Park, there are over 71,000 acres of the beautiful Black Hills.
The Black Hills are an incredibly beautiful area in South Dakota.
While you enjoy hiking, biking, and water sports, you’ll get to see tons of unique wildlife.
Custer State Park is home to elk, bison, and much more!
There is also plenty of places to go camping in Custer State Park.
At this awesome South Dakota state park you can check out the Bison Center, the Outdoor Education Center, and the Visitor Center.
From outdoor activities to cool wildlife centers, there are tons of fun things to do at South Dakota’s Custer State Park.
Visit The Lake Louise Recreation Area
The Lake Louise Recreation Area was created in 1932.
It’s actually a man-made lake that was created by the south fork of Wolf Creek being dammed.
The lake is about 164 acres and in most places about 9 feet deep.
However, there are some areas where the depth is up to 25 feet.
People enjoy exploring this SD state park because it’s great for all kinds of watersports.
You can go kayaking, swimming, and canoeing on the lake.
It’s also a great spot to go bird watching, especially if you like pheasant and ducks.
Lake Louise is one of the great state parks in South Dakota and would certainly make a fun Midwest road trip destination!
Explore The Beauty Of Bear Butte State Park
The Lakota Nation calls this area of land ‘Mato Paha’, which means ‘Bear Mountain’.
It’s actually part of the Black Hills.
The mountain formation was created millions of years ago, along with the rest of the Black Hills.
Many Native American Nations consider the mountain bluff to be sacred.
So when you visit this state park in South Dakota, please be respectful of their religious practices.
The park itself is beautiful with prairies, roaming bison, and the large mountain formation in the distance.
There are hiking trails, you can go kayaking, and there are also places for horseback riding.
Bear Butte is one of the prettiest parks in SD.
Go Birdwatching At Newton Hills State Park
Newton Hills State Park was named after the Newton family.
The Newton family settled in the area in the 1850s.
Mrs. Newton was actually the only skilled midwife in the area for 20 years.
This skill gained her a lot of respect, and the family itself was widely respected by European settlers in the area.
Today, the Newton Hills State Park is one of the best places to go birdwatching in South Dakota.
The park has a dense dark forest as well as sweeping prairies.
Because of this unique and varied landscape, the park sees over 200 different types of birds a year.
Birdwatchers come from all over to see the different species of birds. It is easy to see why this is one of the best state parks in South Dakota.
Good Earth State Park And Visitor Center Is One Of The Best State Parks In SD
Just southeast of Sioux Falls you’ll find Good Earth State Park and Visitor Center.
Good Earth is actually an incredibly important cultural area.
It’s also a historical site.
Good Earth is the oldest site of long-term human habitation in the United States.
With its full river, an immense variety of wildlife, and fertile lands, it was a perfect place for Native American’s to call home.
As early as 1300 AD the site was home to tribal peoples, seasonal ceremonies, and even trading posts.
Today, this beautiful SD state park is a favorite for visitors.
There is geocaching, birdwatching, biking, and hiking.
You can also learn more about the history of the park at the Visitor’s Center.
Stay At The Lewis And Clark State Recreation Area
You can find the Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area in southeast South Dakota.
It is just outside of Yankton.
Inside this park in SD, there is a massive 31,000-acre lake.
The lake is actually a large reservoir that is part of the Missouri River.
Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area is actually the most popular resort park in SD.
A resort park is one that is mostly used for camping.
At Lewis and Clark, there are tons of different types of campsites.
From modern cabins, RV campsites, and tent campsites.
No matter what kind of camping you’re interested in, you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of Lewis and Clark.
While you’re there, enjoy swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and hiking.
Go Camping At Oakwood Lakes State Parks In South Dakota
Oakwood Lakes State Park has two lakes inside the park grounds.
There is Johnson Lake and Lake Tetonkaha.
Both lakes are popular for swimming.
But you can also go canoeing, kayaking, and boating on the lake.
If you want to spend a weekend camping at Oakwood Lakes State Park, they have over 130 campsites.
Even if tent camping isn’t your thing, this SD park has 6 cabins you can rent.
People enjoy exploring all the great ways to have fun at Oakwood Lakes State Park.
Spirit Mound State Historic Prairie Is One Of The Best State Parks in South Dakota
Spirit Mound State Historic Prairie is actually one of the newest parks in South Dakota.
It was founded in 2001 as a way to restore the natural prairie.
The Plains Indians believe that Spirit Mound is the home to dangerous spirits and little people.
The park is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail as well.
In August of 1804, the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition visited Spirit Mound.
They described the prairie as beautiful, and over 200 years later, it still is a stunning landscape.
Surrounding Spirit Mound is a vast prairie land where you’ll see wild bison roaming.
If you’d like to go hiking in one of the prettiest parks in SD, you’ve got to visit Spirit Mound State Historic Prairie.
Experience Homesteader Days Harvest Festival At Beaver Creek Nature Area
Early European settlers called the area Beaver Creek because of the large beaver population they found there.
Today, Beaver Creek Nature Area is best known for the Homesteader Days Harvest Festival.
The Harvest Festival takes place every year on the Sunday after Labor Day.
It is a living history festival where you’ll get to see and experience what it was like for European settlers in the area.
You’ll see old-school farming techniques, historic displays, fiddle performances, and more.
There are also local prairie artisans who bring unique pieces to sell at the festival.
It’s a great way to explore one of the best state parks in South Dakota.
Admire Wildlife At Big Stone Island Nature Area
Big Stone Island was explored by Major Stephan Long and the geologist William Keating in 1832.
During their exploration, they discovered an abundant amount of wildlife.
They also discovered a Native American village living on the rocky island.
Since then, this SD state park has seen a number of changes.
During the 1800s and even into the early 1900s, there were resort hotels taking up most of the coastline.
Boats came back and forth delivering hundreds of people.
This led to the wildlife population becoming degraded and sparse.
Today, however, it is 100 acres of a natural wildlife refuge.
The island is only accessible by boat, and while you’re there you’ll see tons of bird varieties.
You’ll see waterfowl, songbirds, and even shorebirds.
It’s one of the best state parks in South Dakota if you are interested in birdwatching.
Sica Hollow State Park Is One Of The Best State Parks In South Dakota
Sica Hollow State Park has an interesting history.
The Sioux Native American Nation has stories of mysterious happenings taking place in what is now Sica Hollow State Park.
The park is full of spots that hold deep meaning to the Native Americans that once called it home.
Along the Trail of the Spirits, you’ll walk next to bogs that Native Americans saw as their ancestor’s flesh and blood.
Within the park, there are streams, rustic bridges, and waterfalls that you’ll see as you walk the 8 miles of trails.
There are also parts of the park that are National Natural Landmarks.
It’s a gorgeous and mysterious park in SD.
Learn About European Settlers At Adams Homestead And Nature Preserve
Along the Missouri River, you’ll find the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve.
This is one of the more unique state parks in South Dakota.
The park is a little over 1,500 acres and was donated to South Dakota in 1948.
Adams Homestead was originally owned by the homesteader, Stephen Searls Adams.
It was his granddaughters that eventually donated the property to the state.
Now, you’ll find a living museum of what it was like to be a homesteader in the 1800s.
There are restored buildings, including a country school, Adam’s house, a church, and a cabin.
You can tour the buildings with a reservation.
See Waterfalls At Spearfish Canyon Nature Area
Spearfish Canyon Nature Area is one of the prettiest parks in SD, especially if you want to see waterfalls.
Within the park’s acreage, there are two waterfalls.
You can hike to see the Roughlock Falls and the Spearfish Falls.
It’s also home to the Spearfish Pond.
There is a trail that connects all three of the park’s major natural attractions.
Spearfish Canyon Nature Area is a great place to go hiking, birdwatching, and especially picnicking.
If you’re looking for one of the best state parks in South Dakota, you’ve got to visit Spearfish Canyon.
Pickerel Lake Recreation Area Is One Of The Prettiest State Parks In South Dakota
You can find one of the deepest natural lakes in South Dakota at Pickerel Lake Recreation Area.
The lake is about 955 acres and is fed by a spring.
That makes the water cool and crisp, which is especially refreshing in the summer months.
Because it’s a recreation area, you’ll find tons of things to do there.
The park has basketball courts, biking trails, boating, and birdwatching.
You can also go camping at the park if you’d like to spend a few days enjoying this beautiful state park in South Dakota.
Packing List For Visiting State Parks In South Dakota
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring along when visiting South Dakota. 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.
You can place it under your hiking clothes next to your body to carry your ID safely.
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 staying in one of the best Airbnbs in Illinois.
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.. when hiking This foldable water-resistant backpack would be great
It is very affordable and is available in many color options for you to choose from. The fact that it folds down into a zippered pouch will make it easy to pack.
There are so many beautiful state parks in South Dakota.
It’s hard to pick one favorite, but the ones on this list are some of the best parks in SD. And any would make a great weekend getaway because they all have so much to choose from!
From beautiful lakes, homesteads, living history museums, and wildlife refuges, there are some great SD parks to explore.
Have you been to any of these SD state parks?
I’d love to hear about your favorite in the comments!