This beautiful region of South Dakota consists of two parts, as its name implies: the Badlands, with canyons and rugged terrain; and the Black Hills, a mountain range with forests and the famous Mount Rushmore.
From the sky, you will likely have only one viable option for a point of entry: Rapid City Regional Airport RAP IATA. Flights arrive regularly from Denver, Chicago, Salt Lake City, and Minneapolis, as well as a twice weekly nonstop from Las Vegas.
Without a car, you won't go far. I-90 is the sole interstate in the region, running east-west, skirting Black Hills NF and Badlands NP to the north, and passing through Rapid City. It goes on to Sioux Falls in the east, and west to Wyoming to connect with I-25, which leads south to Denver.
The main sights are indisputably the cyclopean sculptures at Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the embryonic Crazy Horse Memorial, both of which are close to Custer. Wind and Jewel Caves, as well as Badlands National Park are also well worth a visit. But if you are here to just snap photos of a few main attractions, you are going to miss the point. This is beautiful, big, wild country, and to appreciate it, you'll need to spend days driving or hiking around to take in the glorious scenery, gawk at wildlife, wonder at the night stars, and enjoy the fresh, clean air.
- Drive through "Bear Country USA", a "drive-through zoo" containing many animals you otherwise would not want to be in proximity to.
- Hike or at least check out the incredible Badlands.
- Ride down Highway 16, off of which are conveniently located many of the area's numerous attractions.
- Tour the local highways, which can be very scenic in nature.
- Visit and enjoy Evan's Plunge in Hot Springs, a mini-water park fed by hot springs.
- Visit the area's most famous attraction, Mount Rushmore.
- Visit the Mammoth Site
- Watch the Old West Shoot-out in Hill City
- Circle View Ranch, 20055 E. Highway 44, ☏ .
- The Alpine Restaurant in Hill City: Dinner menu is limited: Small or Large Filet Mignon.
- The Hitchrail Bar and Restaurant in Pringle: A small town watering hole.
Circle View Ranch offers a unique view. Their 3,000-acre ranch is 6 miles from Badlands National Park.
You're not far from some interesting, less visited places across state borders. Devil's Tower National Monument is just west in Wyoming and Teddy Roosevelt National Park is just north in North Dakota. And if Badlands National Park and the North Dakota Badlands just don't slake that deep, deep thirst of yours for poor quality lands, you could point your car northwest towards the thematically significant Alberta Badlands.