It all started in 1938 by a group of Indian motorcycle riders.
And now, 79 years and half a million people later, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota has turned into a monster. A fun monster!
But with all those people around, where do you go when the crowds get to you and the hangover is too real? Into the wilderness, of course!
Here are 4 places to visit while you’re in the land of ‘Great Faces and Great Places’.
1. Custer State Park - South Dakota’s First and Largest State Park
South Dakota joined the union in 1889 and within a decade was granted a massive tract of land (over 60,000 acres) by Congress to be used as school lands. Unfortunately, the difficult terrain meant they couldn’t do much with it so they gave it back.
In exchange, South Dakota received close to 62,000 acres of untouched, undeveloped forest land in both the Custer and Harding Counties. The area became collectively known as Custer State Park on July 1st, 1919.
Several points of interest are conveniently located along the several highways that wind through the hills in the state park.
Points of Interest:
• Needles Highway - A 37-mile long highway curving through scenic views and natural tunnels.
• Sylvan Lake - Public lake with large, boulder rock formations.
• Cathedral Spires - Large, eroded granite pillars resembling the steeply pointed architecture found in cathedrals.
• Mount Rushmore - Memorial sculpture featuring 4 key figures in American history chiseled into the face of a mountain by sculptor Gutzon Borglum.
2. Badlands National Park - 224,000 Acre Fossil Bed
Visually stunning and historically rich, the Badlands have been a must-see for tourists and researchers alike for over a hundred years.
Paleontologists frequent the site due to its collection of rare fossils. Previously thought to be an ancient seabed, the Badlands contain the richest deposit of fossilized mammals from the Oligocene period (33 million years ago).
Visitors can choose to enjoy the park on foot or on a highway that runs along the north side of the area. Rangers lead a summer night sky viewing from Memorial through Labor Day that offers some of the clearest sightings of the planets and the Milky Way.
3. Devil's Tower - America’s First National Monument
Steven Spielberg wasn’t too far off folkloric history when he decided the top of Devil’s Tower would be the site of an alien landing in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
For centuries, the native tribes that inhabited the area surrounding Devils Tower created elaborate origin stories involving giant bears and gods to explain the existence of the strange structure. To this day, geologists differ on what they believe caused the Laccolithic rock to form.
Despite the arguments, Devil’s Tower remains an imposing and impressive natural structure that can’t be truly appreciated solely in a photograph. You must see it for yourself.
Visitors to Devil’s Tower can enjoy the park mainly on foot.
4. Spearfish Canyon - The Oldest Canyon in the West
The most majestic canyon in the west is dwarfed only by its more famous cousin—the Grand Canyon. To this day, Spearfish Canyon remains one of the most underappreciated places in the United States.
Canyon walls that tower 1,000 feet above you on either side loom over your head as you drive the scenic by-way where an old railbed once lay. The massive gorge was the product of years of erosion by Spearfish Creek. Similar to the Badlands, Spearfish Canyon was also the site of an ancient seabed over 600 million years ago.
Visitors to Spearfish Canyon can drive the scenic road that runs a total of 19 miles through the gorge. Various pull-offs allow you to access trails and scenic areas.
Points of Interest:
• Bridal Veil Falls - Waterfall resembling the veil worn by a bride.
• Devil’s Bathtub - Natural rock pools formed by erosion deep in the canyon.
• Roughlock Falls - Multi-tiered waterfall named after the wagon wheel locking technique used by early settlers to travel across the slippery rock.
Download the Map
We just couldn't stop at 4...
Our scenic area has so much to see, we just couldn't fit it all in one place. So we expanded on our 4 Most Scenic Places to Visit to our Top 10 Places to Visit during your stay at Sturgis.
Download a printable map or open the Google Map to plot your course!