If you want to travel through most of Southern Minnesota and South Dakota, then a Minneapolis to Mount Rushmore road trip might be right up your alley. Before you reach Mount Rushmore, you’ll get to visit a variety of all-American national and state parks, tourist attractions and cities along the way. Gas up your camper, pack your bags and hit the open road on your road trip from Minneapolis to Mount Rushmore.
While traveling through Minnesota and South Dakota, there are several national parks that you will pass. Definitely add the following parks to your road trip itinerary for Minneapolis to Mount Rushmore.
Voyageurs National Park
If you’re willing to travel 4 hours and 20 minutes north of Minneapolis before you start your Minneapolis to Mount Rushmore RV road trip, you’ll be able to explore gorgeous Voyageurs National Park. It is close to the Canadian border and is known for its waterways and lakes as much as its forests. Winter sports are popular here. This is a great place to go snowshoeing, ice fishing, snowmobiling and more. You can also hike, bike, kayak or even swim if the water’s warm enough for you. Whether you want to take an easy walk to Beaver Pond Overlook or a strenuous hike on the Kab-Ash Trail, you’ll easily be able to find spectacular views at this park.
Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park is known for its rugged terrain and inhospitable environment, but its extreme nature is usually what attracts people. Numerous visitors come here to explore these eroded buttes and pinnacles on foot or by bike. You can even go off-trail and explore the entire park to your heart’s content. Even if you’re not up for such a trek, you can still take advantage of multiple easy trails. This park is one of the country’s best places for stargazing since it is so remote.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
President Theodore Roosevelt was passionate about conservation and creating parks, so naming a park Theodore Roosevelt National Park was an appropriate tribute to the former president. Also appropriate is the diverse nature of the park, which features a badlands area, a prairie space and a stretch of the Little Missouri River. This is an amazing place to view bison, bobcats, elk, prairie dogs, horses and numerous other animals. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is close to four hours north of Rapid City, South Dakota, but it’s worth the drive.
Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park is much closer to your final destination. In fact, it’s less than an hour away from Mount Rushmore. The park is known for the wind cave itself, but it also boasts a large area of natural mixed-grass prairie that’s home to bison, elk and other such animals. Wind Cave is the world’s densest cave system, so you’ll want to devote much of your time here traversing some of the more than 140 miles of explored passageways. Between the park itself, Custer State Park and the Black Hills National Forest, there are plenty of great places to park your RV if you want to spend a few days exploring Wind Cave National Park.
Since your Minneapolis to Mount Rushmore RV road trip will take you through two states, you will have plenty of opportunities to explore some iconic state parks.
Clear Lake State Park
Clear Lake State Park itself may only comprise 55 acres, but since it provides access to a 3,643-acre lake, it’s well worth adding to your Minneapolis to Mount Rushmore road trip itinerary. The lake at this park in Iowa is great for boating, swimming, fishing, sailing and other similar activities. There are also plenty of places for viewing wildlife and picnicking.
Palisades State Park
Palisades State Park is close to the Minnesota/South Dakota border not far from Interstate 90. Its biggest attraction is Split Rock Creek, which provides ample space for canoeing and kayaking. Fishing is also popular here. You can fish from your boat or the shore. There is also a variety of places suitable for rock climbing and hiking.
Newton Hills State Park
Newton Hills State Park is close to the Iowa/South Dakota border. It’s located south of Sioux Falls and Interstate 90. Open prairie, clear waters and old forests are all ripe for exploration. Deer, foxes, wild turkeys and many other animals call Newton Hills State Park home.
Bear Butte State Park
Bear Butte State Park is located a bit north of Rapid City, so it’s not far off your route. This large body of igneous rock is sacred to multiple Native American tribes. Boating, fishing and hiking are popular here thanks to Bear Butte Lake and several lovely trails.
Custer State Park
Custer State Park is a large park nestled between Mount Rushmore and Wind Cave National Park. Bison herds roam its plains, and bobcats and mountain lions wander the grounds at night. Fishing, swimming, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding are all available here.
This hidden gem is tucked away at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. At Linnaeus Arboretum, you can explore a variety of plants from multiple environment types. Coniferous forests, tall-grass prairies and deciduous forests are all represented here.
Great Plains Zoo
The Great Plains Zoo is in Sioux City close to the Big Sioux River. In addition to viewing many different types of animals from all over the world, guests can take advantage of attractions like the Sanford Carousel, the Savannah Express Train Ride and the Mining Sluice.
Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village
Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village is located on Lake Mitchell and close to the town of Mitchell, SD. It’s the only dig site that’s open to the public in South Dakota. Visitors may even be allowed to help wash and sort artifacts. You can also take a tour of Audrey’s Garden, which is comprised of plants that these Native Americans would have grown and gathered in their lifetimes.
Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center
If you want to learn even more about Native American history, you can stop by the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center in Chamberlain, SD. Exhibits featuring tipis, tools, canoes and more are on display at this museum on the banks of the Missouri River.
You’ll reach Reptile Gardens near the end of your Minneapolis to Mount Rushmore road trip. No other zoo or animal park in the world has more species and subspecies of reptiles than Reptile Gardens. You can pet Aldabra tortoises, walk through lovely botanic gardens and take a tour of the bi-level Sky Dome at this park in Rapid City.
Mankato, MN, is built along a large bend in the Minnesota River, so there are plenty of great campgrounds and dump stations in the area as a result. Local attractions include Land of Memories Park, Minneopa State Park and Riverfront Park.
Sioux Falls is fairly close to South Dakota’s borders with Minnesota and Iowa. The Big Sioux River winds its way through town, providing multiple places for RV campgrounds. You can visit places like the Butterfly House & Aquarium and the Pettigrew Home & Museum.
Mitchell, SD, is close to Lake Mitchell and Interstate 90. A couple of dump stations are nearby, so you can clean out your trailer. The city features a popular attraction called The World’s Only Corn Palace.
Chamberlain is located on the banks of the Missouri River in South Dakota. Multiple dump stations and campgrounds are in the area. Local attractions include the South Dakota Hall of Fame and the Lewis and Clark Memorial Bridge.
Rapid City is South Dakota’s second-largest city, so there are ample dump stations and campgrounds available. It’s known as the Gateway to the Black Hills due to its proximity to Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills National Forest. Places to visit include Storybook Island, Skyline Wilderness Area Park, and Dinosaur Park.