South Dakota’s 300 miles of hiking and walking trails wind their way through the great outdoors, rewarding travelers with scenic overlooks, encounters with wildlife, and the pleasant coolness and hushed tones only a dense ponderosa pine forest can provide. The hiking trails of South Dakota are extensions of the natural landscape and ecosystem. Trail developers are careful not to disturb ecosystems, lakes, or forests. High-quality hiking trails are found throughout the state, catering to travelers of all skill levels.
The many state parks of South Dakota provide hiking opportunities and a wide range of terrains, inclines, and surrounding scenery. In addition to hikers, the network of state park trails is also frequented by bikers, joggers, and walkers. Whether you prefer leisurely, level prairie trails or challenging climbing paths, you’re sure to find your perfect trail here.
Below are some of the most popular South Dakota hiking trails:
- Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve: With more than 10 miles of scenic trails, Adams is a mecca for hikers. You’ll meander against a backdrop of sweeping meadows, lush forests, and pristine water reservoirs. The Adams Homestead Nature Trail is fully accessible, and offers guided golf cart tours to visitors with limited mobility.
- Angostura Recreation Area: Hikers enjoy miles of sandy coastlines and sparkling lakes. The trails are fully accessible.
- Bear Butte State Park: Considered hallowed ground by many American Indian tribes, Bear Butte State Park is home to an awe-inspiring mountain rising out of the Black Hills. The park sits at the northernmost point of the Centennial Trail, which spans 111 miles in length.
- Big Sioux Recreation Area: Located along the Big Sioux River, this outdoor recreation area boasts seven miles of hiking trails, which meander along thick forests and rolling grasslands.
- Big Stone Island Nature Area: Accessible by boat, this island is a national refuge for songbirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds.
- Burke Lake Recreation Area: The .75-mile shoreline trail provides excellent bird watching opportunities.
- Chief White Crane Recreation Area: Located along Lake Yankton, Chief White Crane Recreation Area features a hiking trail that connects the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area to the city of Yankton.
- Custer State Park: One of the premier natural wonders of South Dakota, this picturesque slice of history offers hikers miles of paved trails and logging roads. (Steer clear of areas that are posted as closed due to preservation efforts.) Portions of the hiking trail are fully accessible.
- Farm Island Recreation Area: Explore this nature lover’s haven by striking out on the eight miles of hiking trails.
- Fort Sisseton Historic State Park: Guided walking tours are available to explore the fully accessible hiking trails.
- George S. Mickelson Trail: Meandering hundreds of miles through the pine-blanketed mountains of the Black Hills, the George S. Mickelson Trail provides a relatively level surface, making it ideal for families and groups of hikers. Bikers and horseback riders also utilize the trail.
- Hartford Beach State Park: Five hiking trails provide close-up views of wildlife and scenic landscapes. Cultural and historical sites abound. Interpretive trail guidebooks are available.
- Indian Creek Recreation Area: Three trails totaling 2.5 miles in length offer hikers beautiful river views and ample opportunities for observing wildlife.
- LaFramboise Island Nature Area: For the hiker who enjoys bird watching and wildlife tracking, this nature area is a prime choice. Seven miles of trails traverse rich habitats of forests and meadows.
- Lake Poinsett Recreation Area: A short but scenic one-mile hiking trail spans a diverse landscape, meandering through forested areas, flat prairies, and shimmering lakes.
- Lake Thompson Recreation Area: A 1.4-mile, fully accessible hiking trail offers striking waterfront views.
- Lewis and Clark Recreation Area: One of South Dakota’s most popular recreational parks, the Lewis and Clark Lake boasts a paved hiking trail and a dedicated mountain bike area. Fully accessible.
- Newton Hills State Park: Six miles of hiking can be enjoyed along the densely forested Woodland Trail, which is catalogued in the registry of National Recreation Trails.
- North Point Recreation Area: Located along the Missouri River, this site features a paved trail for hiking.
- Oahe Downstream Recreation Area: Listed as a National Recreation Trail, the Cottonwood Trail provides a dirt loop for more adventurous hikers.
- Oakwood Lakes State Park: This park offers a network of hiking trails that affords views of several historical sites.
- Pease Creek Recreation Area: Those seeking a more demanding hiking excursion will enjoy this region’s mountainous topography. Dense forests provide plenty of shade.
- Pelican Lake Recreation Area: Hike along lakeshores and prairie meadows when you embark upon this region’s 5.2 miles of marked trails.
- Pierson Ranch Recreation Area: Linked to the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area, Pierson Ranch features an accessible hiking and biking trail.
- Richmond Lake Recreation Area: Hikers can take advantage of more than 10 miles of trails, which meander through scenic prairies and wildlife sanctuaries.
- Springfield Recreation Area: One of the state parks located along the Lewis and Clark Trail, Springfield offers a hiking trail that connects to the town of Springfield.
- Union Grove State Park: Set off on several miles of wooded hiking trails along the picturesque Brule Creek.