South Dakota motorcycle trips keep things interesting with so many diverse highways to explore that open up new vistas of sights to see, areas to explore, and new places to discover. With an abundance of riding destinations, there is a ride for everyone from novice cyclists to seasoned road warriors.
1. Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway
Distance: 19 miles
Time To Ride: 1 hour
A short and exhilarating ride awaits when traversing the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, whatever time of year a cyclist yearns for a ride that offers a challenge or two. The byway winds its way from Keystone along a highway with plenty of hills and valleys, exciting twists, challenging switchbacks, bridges to maneuver, and a series of elevation changes. The byway goes past Mount Rushmore and on to Custer State Park with views of rock formations along the way. The park and wildlife reserve are situated in the Black Hills and is the perfect place to take a break and enjoy the views. There are hiking trails if you want to stretch your legs or refresh yourself with a swim in the park’s clear, cool mountain waters. Before you go, get in the know and check the park’s calendar of upcoming events.
2. Native American Scenic Byway
Distance: 350 miles
Time To Ride: Full Day
To experience extended South Dakota motorcycle trips, one of the best is the Native American Scenic Byway. On this trek, riders enjoy the openness of the rolling hills and prairies highlighted by limestone cliffs. The byway runs north to south along challenging terrain with views of the Missouri River. With its rugged and diverse landscapes, expect to see a variety of wildlife, such as elk and bison. There are plenty of places to pull over and enjoy the views. Be sure to bring a camera.
3. Custer State Park Wildlife Loop Road
Distance: 18 miles
Time To Ride: 1 hour
For motorcyclists who not only enjoy a satisfying ride, and also appreciate the diverse wildlife in South Dakota, the Custer State Park Loop is one ride not to be missed. The landscape along the route features rolling hills dotted with pine trees and open grasslands, which make it a desired location for a variety of wildlife, such as coyotes, prairie dogs, white-tailed deer, elk, and North American bison. This means staying focused and keeping your eyes on the road ahead to avoid any potential collisions.
4. Vanocker Canyon
Distance: 80 miles
Time To Ride: 1-2 hours
With a combination of twists, turns, and curves, the 80-mile Vanocker Canyon is a good choice for motorcyclists of all skill levels. Take the scenic drive through the forested landscape of aspen and birch trees for a relaxing and scenic ride. There are several stopping points along the route, such as views of Box Elder Creek and the historic town of Nemo. Continue on to the infamous town of Deadwood, situated on the edge of the Black Hills National Forest. Deadwood is known for its history with Wild Bill Hickok, gold mines, the Historic Adams House built in 1892, Mount Moriah Cemetery, Adams Museum, Mt. Roosevelt Monument, and Historic Old Town. While in Deadwood, test your luck with one of the games at Cadillac Jack’s Gaming Resort.
5. Sturgis to Devils Tower (The Lasso)
Distance: 116 miles
Time To Ride: Half Day
The Lasso is an interesting ride that has cyclists cruising from Sturgis on I-90 and crossing the Wyoming border. From there, it’s smooth riding on route 111 to Aladdin. Once you reach Aladdin, take route 24 and make your way to the Devils Tower National Monument, established in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt. Take some time to check out the unusual rock formation before getting back on route 24 to US 14 and heading to Sundance, Wyoming. Refresh and replenish yourself at one of the local restaurants or pubs. When you are ready to leave, take either I-90 or retrace the route back to Sturgis.
6. Rapid City to Badlands National Park (Hwy 240)
Distance: 120 miles
Time To Ride: 2-3 hours
A ride to Badlands National Park is a great way to start and end the day. Unlike other rides with scenic landscapes of rolling hills and towering forests of assorted trees, this ride features creative rock formations, towering spires that reach for the clouds, and canyons with steep drop-offs. Along the route, take advantage of the scenic lookouts to get stunning views of the area. Don’t be surprised to see bighorn sheep, bison, and prairie dogs standing their ground in the expansive grasslands. Allow plenty of time to enjoy the park with a short hike along the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail, soaking up the views from Hay Butte Overlook and Panorama Point, visit the Yellow Mounds,
7. Needles Highway (SD-87)
Distance: 39 miles
Time To Ride: 1 hour
A popular highway destination for inquisitive motorcyclists who enjoy something different in the scenery is a ride along the Needles Highway in the Black Hills region. The “needles” refer to the tall granite rock formations the highway makes its way around and through. The highway takes riders through two granite tunnels that were created via blasting of the solid granite walls. For those who have never ridden the highway, be prepared to use your maneuvering techniques as you pass through narrow tunnels and navigate around granite needles and sharp turns. You will also be faced with sweeping curves gently zigzagging through the landscape. The majestic views of the granite spires along the miles of highway are impressive.
8. South Dakota Plains Tour (Route 44, I-90)
Distance: 263 miles
Time To Ride: Half to full day
When you just want to put the pedal to the metal, this is the motorcycle trip that lets you do it with ease. Start the ride on route 44 near Platte and go from there. Along with the wide-open landscape, the Missouri River is also accessible, as well as nearby Wounded Knee, Hot Springs, and finally, Rapid City. There are plenty of places to pull over for a break as well as small towns for food, fuel, and places to spend the night.
Every state has its share of “roads less traveled” that provide a closer look at everything the state has to offer. South Dakota is no exception with its rich history and vibrant landscape. Pack your gear and head out for an adventure unique to your slice of the world when planning South Dakota motorcycle trips.