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South Dakota panoramas

Photos courtesy South Dakota Tourism

Take your group to South Dakota, and you can guarantee them a trip full of amazing scenery.
South Dakota enjoys a variety of environments and ecosystems that few other states can match, each with its own distinctive beauty. The legendary Black Hills loom over the western reaches of the state, impressing visitors with their evergreen forests and rocky outcroppings. Central South Dakota is home to the Badlands, one of the most eerie and fascinating landscapes on earth. And in the east, plains and prairies offer abundant opportunities for outdoor adventures.

When you tour South Dakota, you’ll want to make the most of its scenic beauty and outdoor activities. Include the following stops on your itinerary to give adventurers in your group experiences they’ll rave about.

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
In the southwest corner of South Dakota, about 55 miles from Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary gives visitors a look at a beautiful unblemished landscape and some amazing wildlife.

“Our founder thought there needed to be a place where wild horses could have their own range and not have to be rounded up,” said sanctuary director Susan Watt. “So he created a beautiful sanctuary in the southern Black Hills. It’s 11,000 acres of beautiful, undomesticated land where 600 wild horses live.”

The sanctuary is a popular destination for tour groups, welcoming some 2,000 group visitors a year who go to see the horses. The staff offers a number of different experiences for groups. The most popular is a two-hour bus tour through the property.

“We take them around to see the wild horse herds,” Watt said. “We also take them to see Native American ceremonial sites, Native American petroglyphs and our pioneer history sites.”

Smaller groups can opt for a three-hour safari-style tour of the sanctuary in private jeeps. If your travelers are especially adventurous, consider the daylong tour, which takes guests to the “wild side” of the ranch and includes a picnic lunch. More traditional groups can have meals at the on-site restaurant and browse the sanctuary’s gift shop.

Whatever type of tour you choose, your travelers are sure to encounter the horses and other wildlife, such as prairie dogs, eagles, badgers, hawks, turkeys and deer.

“You get up close and personal with the wild horses,” Watt said. “You can even touch one if you want to. Some of our horses really love to have their pictures made.”

Badlands National Park
In parts of Badlands National Park, you can see nothing but grassy meadows, gently swelling up and down with the ground below. But this 244,000-acre park is known more for its striking rock formations than its grasslands.

Spread out through a section of west-central South Dakota, the Badlands have long been revered for their mysterious beauty. The original Lakota Sioux name for the area, Maco Sica, translates to “land that is bad.” Because of the rocky formations, the area has served as both an Indian hideout and a modern recreation site, but has never been much good for farming.

Groups that visit the park will enjoy simply riding on the roads that wind through it. Along the way, they’ll pass through canyons of crags and buttes formed by centuries of wind and water that eroded the local sandstone. Each of the rock formations sports a pattern of mauve stripes, perfectly straight and even lines that reveal the historic formation of the rock strata.

Numerous boardwalks, hiking trails and scenic overlooks make great places to get off the coach and take a walk, exploring some of the most beautiful spots that sit just out of view of the main road. Many visitors see bighorn sheep and other wildlife during their time in the park. During the spring and summer, colorful wildflowers blanket much of the landscape.