South Dakota is an enchanting state full of natural beauty. Topping the list of natural attractions are the state's Black Hills and Badlands. The Black Hills, situated on the western, Wyoming border, rise from the great plains, and are the highest mountain range east of the Rockies.
In Spearfish Canyon, US 14A winds around and through 1,000-foot-high limestone walls with scenic views once only visible by horseback. Rock climbing, biking, trout fishing and hiking attract adventurers into this spectacular gorge. From its trails, you’re likely to see mountain goats and sometimes the occasional bobcat makes an appearance. Don't be surprised if you stumble upon an old mining or logging camp, swallowed by the forest, lost in time.
Custer State Park, just south of Mount Rushmore, rivals national parks in scenic beauty and wildlife viewing. Elk and bison walk prairies and hills. Bighorn sheep descend from high elevations every autumn to forage for food and escape heavy snows. Custer's Needles district, 1,000-foot-high granite spires, pierce the mountain floor like spikes pointing up into the skies. The geology, wildlife, forests and history make Custer a uniquely rewarding South Dakota destination.
Just south of Custer is one of South Dakota's two national parks. Wind Cave National Park boasts one of the biggest caves in the world at 33,000 acres. Atop the cave lies prairie and forest with backcountry hiking and camping available. East of Custer lies Badlands National Park. The Badlands are 244,000 acres of sandstone, siltstone, limestone and shale formations carved and shaped by rivers and wind over thousands of years. The red, orange and tan multicolored landscape looks more like something that belongs on Mars than in the United States. Excursions by ATV or by hiking into the badlands reveal a land of beauty, fossils, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets.
The further east you travel, the deeper you roam into the tall grass prairies and river bottoms of the Great Plains. Here views are unobstructed by forests, and you can see sunshine or storm clouds on the horizon from what seems like hundreds of miles away.
South Dakota is home to 43 million acres of farm and pastureland. On average, ranch owners hold almost 2,000 acres, with some ranches totaling hundreds of thousands of acres. The agriculture industry boasts some of the country's leading suppliers of corn, beans, wheat and, of course, cattle.
These same vast open fields and grasses are also prime hunting habitats. The river bottoms leading into expansive prairie hold incredible whitetail, mule deer and pronghorn. Pheasants and prairie chickens offer top-tier wing shooting as they flush from brushy sage.
Low-lying areas in the east become wetlands known as the "prairie pothole." There are so many species of waterfowl here that they often literally block your entire view of the sky. Hunters enjoy limiting out on mallards, canvasbacks, mergansers, scaups, redheads and the list goes on.