South Dakota: A Pet-Friendly Road Trip

From the Badlands to the Black Forest

Posted by Billy Francis

South Dakota is the scenic setting for Fido’s next great American road trip. From vast prairies to thriving wildlife habitats, epic badlands and world famous monuments like Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial, it’s easy to see how the state has earned itself the nickname of “The Land of Infinite Variety.” Pack a pet-friendly wagon and blaze the same trails as Native American tribes like the Sioux and early pioneers caught up in the greed of the goldrush. Where will your road trip take you on the varied, historic roads of South Dakota?

Badlands Loop Scenic Byway

“B-b-b-b-badlands to the bone!” Photo by @Pawtraits_of_b

Start your adventure off the right way at Badlands Distillery. Dogs are welcome to accompany booze hounds who want to sample spirits with unique flavors like jalapeno and honey. As soon as you decide who the designated driver is, head over to Cactus Flat to join South Dakota Highway 240, also known as Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway. This stunning road will take you through sections of Badlands National Park, where you can experience the otherworldly rocky scenery from your car. The park itself isn’t super pet-friendly, so driving gives both you and your pooch a taste for it without having to venture far on paw.

With the Badlands as your inspiration, find out what life was actually like for early settlers at this authentic 1880 homestead cabin.

Wall Drug

“I’m glad that thing’s a herbivore!” Photo by @Ginger_thecatlover

If you drive non-stop, you can reach the other end of the scenic road in around an hour, but where’s the fun in that? Take your time and soak it in before you finally make it to the next attraction, Wall Drug. This historic pharmacy was first opened in the midst of The Great Depression in 1932. Nowadays, more than 2 million visitors stop by every year to walk down memory lane, grab a bite to eat and take pictures next to iconic sculptures like the giant Jackalope and T-Rex. Well-behaved dogs are welcome on a leash everywhere except the cafe.

Rapid City

“How come I’m the only one in this dog park with fur?” Photo by BringFido

Rapid City is known as the gateway to Mount Rushmore, but you don’t have to race through this quirky destination to get somewhere else. Instead, take a leisurely stroll through this historic town that was founded in the 19th century by disheartened prospectors who failed to strike it rich mining gold. Unlike Mount Rushmore, Fido is welcome to get up close and personal with past presidents here. Life-sized statues of Lincoln, Jackson, Truman and more can be found around downtown. Once you locate them all, swing by Thirsty’s for a bite to eat and to hear about Frankie, the bulldog who inspired their logo. Before leaving Rapid City, stop off at the weird and wonderful Reptile Gardens. This popular attraction is not just the world’s largest reptile zoo, it’s also the most pet-friendly. Most zoos don’t welcome dogs at all, but at Reptile Gardens your pup can join you throughout and even come face to face with seriously slimy snakes, ancient turtles and more.

Located near downtown and parks for walking Fido, this Rapid City home is great for people who want to stay near the action.

Custer State Park

“Is this the large dog section?” Photo by BringFido

The next stage of the journey will take Fido from the cold-blooded creatures of Reptile Gardens to the amazing wild mammals of Custer State Park. The park's 18-mile Wildlife Loop leads through open grasslands and rolling hills to the park’s diverse animal population, which includes herds of bison, whitetail and mule deer, antelope, mountain goats, elk and bighorn sheep. The loop is recognized as one of the best places to view wildlife in their natural habitat on the planet. If your pooch wants to get out of the car and stretch his legs, there are a variety of pet-friendly hiking trails that lead through wildlife habitats around the park, too.

Sample tiny home living in this Black Hills Rambler in Custer. Dogs are welcome, although they must be kept leashed as the property isn’t fenced.

Memorable Monuments

“It’s time to try the path less traveled!” Photo by Facebook.com/blackhillsnf

The best way to reach your next destination is via Needles Highway. This windy road offers spectacular views of granite pinnacles, pillars and towers from scenic overlooks on the way to Hill City. Nestled in Black Hills National Forest, this pretty little town is worthy of a pitstop. You can sample a local brew on the patio at Miner Brewing Company before making the 15-minute drive to Mount Rushmore, the most famous attraction in the forest. Unfortunately, the park isn’t particularly pet-friendly, but Fido can still see the sculptures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln from the road. For a rock carving that welcomes dogs, drive half an hour to Crazy Horse Memorial. The impressive monument commemorates the heroic efforts of Crazy Horse, who led the Oglala Lakota to victory in the Battle of Little Bighorn. Large pups are welcome at the outdoor viewing veranda and outdoor exhibits, while small dogs can be carried anywhere.

Hang Fido’s Stetson just a stone’s throw away from Crazy Horse Memorial at this recently renovated home.

Deadwood

“Did you get your license, Roxy?” Photo by BringFido

Established in 1876 during the Black Hills gold rush, the nefarious antics of Deadwood’s first residents have been dramatized in the popular HBO show of the same name. The reality these days is a pleasant town that pays homage to its past, but is a lot more welcoming to outsiders. Take their annual K9 Keg Pull on Deadwood Street as an example. During the event, the main street is closed off so athletic pooches can show their strength and agility in an exciting race. The town also marks one end of George S. Mickelson Trail. This expansive pathway spans over 100 miles of the Black Hills region and welcomes all levels of hiker. If you don’t feel like walking, rent an ATV from Mystic Hills Hideaway ATV rentals and explore the backcountry on four wheels. Their entire fleet of vehicles allow dogs to act as co-drivers. After tasting the scenic beauty that surrounds Deadwood, belly up to the bar at Saloon Number 10, where you can sample 150 varieties of whiskey (not all at once). Fido is welcome to join you inside.

Built in the 1900s, Wild Bill Cottage gives guests a glimpse of what Deadwood was like when gunslingers and outlaws ruled the roost.

Spearfish

“Is it really over already?” Photo by @Wickiupcabins

All good things come to an end, and Fido’s wild road trip through The Land of Plenty is no different. The little town of Spearfish is a great place to take stock and reminisce about all the new experiences you shared. So, grab a pie made with dough from a 100+-year-old sourdough starter and discuss where you’re heading next on the pet-friendly patio at Dough Trader Pizza Company.

Gather around the fire pit like the good cowboys and girls of yesteryear at Wickiup Village. Located along Spearfish Creek, it’s the ideal place to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, kayaking and more during your stay.

Have you been to South Dakota with your pooch? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

BringFido is committed to providing authentic dog-friendly content that our readers will love. We may at times receive compensation from our partners or use affiliate links to promote products and services featured on our blog. Banner photo by Bringfido.com.