A Sioux Falls to Brookings road trip will take you through eastern South Dakota, including areas of prairie, hills, lakes, and rivers. The largest cities, such as Sioux Falls, began as portage points, which are natural locations for trading posts and eateries. Other towns were established later as Gold Rush destinations. While the distance traveled on a direct road trip from Sioux Falls to Brookings is short, it allows a vacationing family to detour to national and state parks while traveling through major cities with incredible points of interest, shops, and restaurants.
Badlands National Park
From Sioux Falls, detour 348 miles west to visit Badlands National Park. The park's focus is the eroded buttes and pinnacles that are home to majestic animals, such as bighorn sheep, bears, cougars, and mountain goats. Around the edges of the mountains is a flat prairie with grass that attracts buffalo, deer, and prairie dogs. The terrain was once considered impenetrable and was the hiding place of several criminal gangs. No motorized traffic is allowed amongst the canyons and pinnacles, but hiking trails provide access to magnificent sights with panoramic views.
Wind Cave National Park
To reach Wind Cave National Park from the Badlands, travel about 40 miles to the southwest. The park consists of rolling hills with close-cropped grasses interrupted intermittently by small groups of trees, mostly ponderosa pine. Buffalo, deer, and antelope roam these hills and graze the lands, drinking from pools created by natural springs. However, the park has a special treat for adventurers, which gives the park its name. Wind Cave is a system of intricate caverns that run for over 140 miles beneath the surface. The caverns are filled with flowstone, stalactites, and stalagmites built with calcium and limestone deposits, making it a must for your Sioux Falls to Brookings road trip itinerary.
Voyageurs National Park
Though the journey to this park is an extension of your Sioux Falls to Brookings RV road trip, the 247-mile detour from Fargo is worth the extra time and mileage. Once you reach Brookings, take the road north to Fargo, and turn east to arrive at Voyageurs National Park. This national park consists of hardwood forests spread across 214,000 acres with 40% of the land taken up by lakes that are teeming with fish of a variety of species. Abundant hiking trails take visitors through the forests and along babbling brooks to see the hidden lakes.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
To visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park return to Fargo from Voyageurs National Park, and continue west across North Dakota through Bismarck. Theodore Roosevelt National Park covers 70,446 acres of prairies and high cliffs along the Elkhorn Mountains. As it did in Roosevelt's time, the area provides a rugged experience. Over 100 miles of hiking trails in the park with access to viewpoints above the prairie provide a seemingly endless horizon.
Newton Hills State Park
Located 24 miles south of Sioux Falls, Newton Hills State Park is the perfect spot to stop and rest while visiting the city and Falls Park. The park includes over 1,000 acres of rolling hills and prairie intersected by the Big Sioux River. Forested hillsides provide hardwood forest homes to marmots, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, red and gray foxes, squirrels, and rabbits. With both the Big Sioux River and Lakota Lake available, anglers are drawn to this park year-round. Boating and swimming are allowed on Lakota Lake, and there are six miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails.
Palisades State Park
Located 21 miles northwest of Sioux Falls, Palisades State Park is a fascinating stopover for those on a road trip from Sioux Falls to Brookings. The sights are impressive with Sioux Quartzite rocks up to 50-feet high providing a challenge for rock climbers. Wildlife such as deer, squirrels, porcupine, rabbits, coyote, elk, and beavers live beside over 300 species of birds, providing a wildlife lovers haven with several hiking trails that run beside Split Rock Creek that cuts through the park.
Bear Butte State Park
While you are visiting Rapid City on your detour to visit Badlands National Park, drive an extra 42 miles northwest to camp at Bear Butte State Park. The park is a convenient place to stop and rest while visiting legendary Deadwood, SD. Inside the park is Bear Butte, a landmark sacred to many Native American tribes. The views from atop the butte feature immense prairies bordered by some of the most picturesque mountains in the world. Hiking trails run throughout the park, and visitors are encouraged to fish in Bear Butte Lake at the foot of Bear Butte.
Before you leave Sioux Falls on your Sioux Falls to Brookings RV road trip, stop by Falls Park. The waterfall carries the entire run of the Big Sioux River into a plunge of 100 feet over a 100-yard distance. These falls are different than others because the brown-red rock over which the water drops adds deep color to the water, a phenomenon not found elsewhere on the planet. Other activities inside the park include hiking trails, picnic areas, and a five-story observation tower that provides fantastic views of the Big Sioux River as it approaches Falls Park.
Bear Country U.S.A.
Bear Country U.S.A. is an excellent stop on your western detour through South Dakota on your Sioux Falls to Brookings road trip. There are only a few places in the world where you experience the thrill and trepidation of a full-sized black bear peering into your car window and licking its chops. People often glimpse bear cubs as they dance between their mother’s legs. Other animals, such as deer, elk, and reindeer, populate the park and live in harmony with the bears, cougar, and wildcats that wander the paths.
Fargo Air Museum
While you are resting in Fargo during your second detour on your Sioux Falls to Brookings RV road trip, take the time to visit the Fargo Air Museum. The dual hangars at this museum house aircraft covering the entire history of aviation. An accurate replica of a Wright Brother original aircraft and a new modern drone sit close to each other, demonstrating the vast improvements made in flight in one glance. Occasionally, one of the exhibits will take off for the skies, a departure from the standard park-and-look format of other aviation museums.
Rapid City, South Dakota
Rapid City is on your route to Badlands National Park and Wind Cave National Park, a 348-mile detour directly west across the South Dakota plains. It is the second-largest city in South Dakota located on the eastern ridges of the Black Hills. In Rapid City, you find several attractions, including Art Alley, Dinosaur Park, the City of Presidents statues, Chapel in the Hills, Storybook Island, and Main Street Square. While you are here, take advantage of the dump stations and campgrounds that Rapid City offers.
Fargo, North Dakota
Fargo is 190 miles north of Brookings in North Dakota and serves as the junction on your travels to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Voyageurs National Park. Fargo hosts a unique assembly of gift shops. Take the time to stop and shop in stores like Adobe Décor and Gift, Grateful Cratefulls, and Stabo Scandinavian Imports to find unique gifts for friends and family. While you are here, take advantage of Fargo dump stations, or stay a night at one of the campgrounds in the area.
Bismarck, North Dakota
Bismarck lies across the road in North Dakota, about halfway on your detour from Fargo to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. There are restaurants of various cuisines with some of the most interesting names found in America. Try the Butterhorn, Laughing Sun Brewing, or Indian Clay Oven Bar and Grill for some intriguing tastes that you will remember forever. While you are in the city, take the time to clean your tanks at one of the local dump stations. To stay a night or two during your Sioux Falls to Brookings road trip, register at one of the many campgrounds in the area.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Sioux Falls to Brookings, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in Sioux Falls or Brookings.