Day Trips from Rapid City, South Dakota

Rapid City, South Dakota, is the home of Mount Rushmore and is a fantastic place for a family vacation!  Rapid City, the second-largest city in South Dakota,  makes a great home base for several other attractions in the area.  Instead of moving hotels every night, I suggest looking into renting a house or condo and taking day trips to nearby attractions.  The area surrounding Rapid City, South Dakota, has so much to offer, and I highly suggest you see it all if you can!

Before you venture off

Pack Lunch– several of these day trips are in rural areas without a lot of restaurant options.  Make sure you pack a cooler before you head out.

Bring Sun Screen and Bug Spray

Make sure you have a full tank of gas- You may want to spend time driving around viewing wildlife, so make sure you have a full tank of gas before you take off.

Consider downloading your google maps onto your phone. You may not get cellular coverage in all of these areas.  Download your routes onto your phone, so you can keep track of where you’re going!

Wind Cave National Park

42.6 miles from Rapid City

Ready to take a trip 100 feet underground into the 7th largest cave in the world?  Taking a trip down to Wind Cave is truly an adventure.  Wind cave is known for its vast underground rooms and was discovered in 1888.

You will need to arrive ahead of time and reserve tickets to go into the cave.  I suggest getting to Wind Cave in the morning to ensure you can get tickets for that day.   You will also want to make sure you wear shoes with traction and bring a sweatshirt because it gets cold down in the cave!

Badlands National Park 

62.1 miles from Rapid City, SD

Badlands National Park could be a vacation within itself, but it also makes a great road trip from Rapid City.  Badlands National Parks are full of layered rock formations, trails, and beautiful views that are so much fun to climb on!  I suggest going on all of the marked trails to check it out!

You will also want to take a drive around the park and check out all the prairie dogs!  They are so much fun to watch!  There isn’t a lot of shade in the Badlands, so bring sunscreen and plenty of water.  You might also want to pack a picnic lunch.  

Spearfish Canyon State Park

47.5 miles from Rapid City, SD

Spearfish Canyon is a breathtaking state park located north of Rapid City.  Spearfish Canyon offers many family-friendly trails that will take you through Spearfish creek and the Black Hills National Forrest.  I also suggest that you check out the fish hatchery in Spearfish, SD, while you’re in the area.

Mammoth Site & Museum 

57.2 miles from Rapid City, SD

The Mammoth Site and Museum and paleontological site, located in Hot Springs, South Dakota, was my favorite day trip we took while in South Dakota. This is the largest Mammoth research facility in the world.  It was just so interesting!  If you have small kids who like animals or dinosaurs or any history buffs in the family, you should take a trip down to Hot Springs!

Custer State Park

30 miles from Rapid City, SD

If your family enjoys spotting wildlife, or if you want to show your kids American Bison up close, I suggest you wake up at the crack of dawn and take a morning drive through Custer State Park.   Early in the morning is when you will most like spot herds of Bison.

Keep these safety tips in mind.

  • Stay in your car if you see Bison or any other wildlife near you.
  • Don’t mock the animals
  • Keep your windows rolled up if animals are near

Devils Tower

107 miles from Rapid City, SD

Devils Tower is the farthest day trip from Rapid City that I have on this list.  Devil’s Tower is located just over the Wyoming border. Devil’s Tower was the United State’s first National Monuments, being declared one in 1906.   You can see Devils tower in 1/2 a day, but you can easily spend an entire day here as well.   You can hike around Devils tower with small kids, and there are a few other trails in the park as well.

I recommend that you bring water, sunscreen and pack a lunch if you plan on visiting Devils Tower.

Bear Country USA

9.2 miles from Rapid City, SD

My kids still talk about our trip to Bear County!  Bear Country is a drive-through wildlife park with bears, elk, wolves, and other North American animals.  There are so many bears to see, and they will walk all around your car!

There is a walk-through zoo to go through at the end of your drive.  One rule you need to follow on this drive is to keep your windows closed!

My family enjoyed Bear Country so much that it made my list of Best Midwest Zoos! 

Crazy Horse Memorial 

38.6 miles from Rapid City, SD

Crazy Horse Memorial is the mountain monument in progress on privately-held land, close to Custer state park.  There are also museums, demonstrations, activities for kids, and a restaurant on the grounds.  You can easily spend a whole day at Crazy Horse Memorial.

While you’re at Crazy Horse, make sure you have lunch at Laughing Waters Restaurant, one of my top food stops near Rapid City, South Dakota.

I would love to hear about your favorite day trip from Rapid City, South Dakota!  Have you been to any of these sites?  Comment below and let me know!


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