South Dakota is home to one of the most iconic locations in the USA, Mount Rushmore.  Mount Rushmore features the heads of former US Presidents carved into mountain.  Another top attraction in South Dakota are the dramatic landscapes of Badlands National Park.  Additionally, head underground at either Wind Cave National Park or Jewel Cave National Monument.  How about a visit to the worlds only Corn Palace?  Let me quickly share how to plan a South Dakota road trip with Kayak before I share pictures and descriptions of the top things to do in South Dakota.

Why Use KAYAK to Organise your South Dakota Road Trip?

KAYAK gives you the power to compare hundreds of car rental websites at the click of a button.  In fact, not only car rentals but also hotels and flights.  As a result, you’ll find the best choice for your road trip.  When you’ve found the best booking option, all there is to do is click through and reserve.  Bookings can be completed and confirmed within seconds.

How to Find a Hire Car with Kayak

Being in the right car is the most important part of any road trip.  For this reason, you must get the hire car to enjoy your South Dakota road trip to the max.  Kayak searches hundreds of different car options at once.  When you perform your search I’m sure you’ll find options that you didn’t know existed and hire cars even better value than you imagined.  Upon finding your perfect choice, you can confirm your reservation online within seconds.

How to Find a Hotel with Kayak

As you’re exploring South Dakota on a road trip, I recommend you don’t have too specific a plan.  A strict schedule where you have to be at a certain place at a certain time may cause you to rush and miss any hidden beauty spots.  Consequently, I recommend you download the KAYAK app on your phone and search by location during your road trip.  In contrast, if you are incredibly organised with your bookings and know where you’ll be on certain dates go ahead and book you hotel in advance through KAYAK.


South Dakota Road Trip Inspiration from KAYAK – Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

The KAYAK team highly recommend a drive through Badlands National Park.  Even the name, Badlands, sparks curiosity!  Take the Badlands Loop Road and stop off at beautiful sights along the way.  There are even short walking trails that begin and end at parking lots by the road.  The more adventurous may take Sage Creek Rim Road which is a dirt road to off the beaten path locations in Badlands and great for wildlife watching.  Lastly, with your own hire car you have the freedom to arrive early for sunrise or stay late for sunset when the Badlands landscapes are at at their most spectacular.

Wildlife at Badlands – Prairie Dogs

Prairie Dog, South Dakota

I didn’t even know what a prairie dog was until I saw one at Roberts Prairie Dog Town.  What’s more, he was used to people so stayed around for a photo.  Other wildlife found at Badlands National Park include bison, bighorn sheep, deer, coyotes as well as snakes and a variety of birds.

More South Dakota Road Trip Ideas – Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore features the sculptured heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.  It’s truly a wonderful sight made famous by so many American movies.  What’s more, it’s easy to visit Mount Rushmore by simply driving there, parking up and admiring the cliff face.  My recommendation is to stay overnight in Keystone and visit for sunrise when you’ll likely be the only one there.  Tip:  the sun shines on the Presidents faces at sunrise.

Read more about how to visit Mount Rushmore and the best time to photograph.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial, South Dakota

Crazy Horse is a work in progress.  As a matter of fact this will be a cliff face sculpture of a Lakota war leader called Crazy Horse from the 19th century.  Crazy Horse fought against the United States federal government and encroachment by white American settlers on Native American territory.  He simply wished to preserve the traditional way of life of the Lakota people.  Although the Crazy Horse sculpture is unfinished, visitors are welcome and it’s located very close to Mount Rushmore therefore very easy to visit.

Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota Road Trip

Have you ever descended into a cave?  Visit Wind Cave National Park to safely explore caves with a guide.  Not only do these caves feature stalactites and stalagmites but also boxwork, frostwork as well as cave popcorn.  As a result there are lots of opportunities for unique Instagram shots – dressed in a hard had and all!  Lastly, if you don’t like being in an enclosed environment, simply view Wind Cave National Park from above ground.  The beautiful forested landscapes are home to bison and elk.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park, South Dakota Road Trip

Take your South Dakota road trip on the wildlife loop within Custer State Park.  Although this loop should take between 1 or 2 hours, it can take much longer when you stop at beauty spots and even more so when wildlife watching.  Wildlife regularly seen in the park includes bison, white tailed deer, mule deer, antelope, mountain goats, elk, coyotes, burros, bighorn sheep, birds, wild turkeys and prairie dogs.  What’s more, you can see all this without leaving your vehicle.  Finally, Sylvan Lake is a good place to sit, relax, enjoy the view and potentially see birds including belted kingfisher, American three-toed woodpecker, red headed woodpecker as well as red crossbill.

Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave National Monument, South Dakota

Park your hire car up and take a guided cave tour at Jewel Cave National Monument.  Have you ever seen calcite crystals?  Do you want to take a tour with a Park Ranger like it’s the year 1941?  Shall we explore the cave with an oil lantern?  Have you ever seen bats?  Do you want to try wild caving with an experienced caver? Everything is possible at Jewel Cave National Monument!  Alternatively, stay above ground while you admire the beautiful nature and wildlife.

The World’s Only Corn Palace

The World's Only Corn Palace, South Dakota

There are many famous palaces around the world such as Buckingham Palace in London or Fontainebleau near Paris.  However, none of these famous palaces can claim to be a Corn Palace as you must drive to South Dakota to see the worlds only Corn Palace.  Originally built to show the world South Dakota has a healthy agricultural environment, today you can make your Instagram shots with various unique corn murals.

Minuteman Missile Visitors Center

Minuteman Missile Visitors Center, South Dakota

Throughout the Cold War both the US and Russia were building a military arsenal.  Today, you can visit where the US were storing and preparing several missiles ready for this potential war.  Here you can learn all about this Cold War site and discover the 15 launch control facilities which controlled over 150 launch facilities.  A scary thought!

Dignity Sculpture

Dignity Sculpture, South Dakota

Dignity of Earth and Sky is a sculpture of an Indigenous woman wearing a traditional Great Plains style dress.  This monument is located near I-90 and overlooks the Missouri River.  Visit at sunrise or sunset when the suns golden light brings Dignity to life.

Lastly… Pierre

Pierre, South Dakota Road Trip

What is the capital of South Dakota?  Pierre.  Many would guess the bigger cities of Sioux Falls or Rapid City, even Keystone and many would be wrong.  Visit Pierre to see the grand South Dakota State Capitol building.  What’s more, this city is adjacent to the Missouri River and features an island called LaFramboise Island State Nature Area.

Enjoy Your South Dakota Road Trip

Enjoy Your South Dakota Road Trip

Do you want to stay an extra day at the Badlands National Park?  Wake up at sunrise to see Mount Rushmore come to life?  Maybe you want to see the Dignity statue at sunset?  Alternatively you may want to spend days relaxing by Sylvan Lake as you watch the wildlife?  Whatever you choose to do, you have the freedom to make it your own South Dakota road trip when you book through Kayak.  Enjoy.

Interested in making your own road trip?  Read about how to plan a Colorado road trip, Utah road trip, Oregon road trip, Nevada road trip, California road trip, Washington road trip and Arizona road trip.