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Two lesser-known South Dakota gems

Not many travelers know about these two destinations, but both make a great addition to a group trip to South Dakota.

Scenic Spearfish Canyon
Not far from Black Hills tourism hot spots such as Deadwood and Sturgis, Spearfish Canyon is considered one of the most scenic areas in southwestern South Dakota. Geologists believe that the 1,000-foot-tall limestone palisades that compose this creek-carved gorge are older than the walks of the Grand Canyon.

The canyon is a wildlife haven, home to deer, mountain goats, porcupines and bobcats, as well as numerous bird species. Visitors may see some of those animals during a stop at Roughlock Falls, one of the most photographed areas of Spearfish Canyon.

Groups can also get a sense of the area’s beauty by taking a drive along U.S. Highway 14A, which follows an old railroad through the canyon for about 20 miles.

Minuteman Missile Site
About 75 miles east of Rapid City, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site stands as tribute to the catastrophic nuclear war that never happened.

During the Cold War, the U.S. military developed the Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, which was capable of delivering nuclear warheads to America’s enemies abroad. Throughout the 1960s, some 150 of these missiles and 15 launch control facilities were buried beneath the South Dakota prairies.

Though the missiles were deactivated after the Cold War, two of the launch facilities have been preserved as Minuteman Missile National Historic Site to tell the story of the arms race and the secret armory in South Dakota. Rangers offer guided tours of the launch facilities and tell stories about that fascinating time in American history.