South Dakota Fall Foliage: A MapQuest Guide
South Dakota fall foliage features brilliant hues and spectacular scenery. The changing colors of leaves in autumn is one of nature’s most beloved rites of passage -- and makes for one of the most popular and inexpensive getaways for families. As part of LeafQuest -- a MapQuest series helping leaf peepers across North America find easy and rewarding destinations -- here are three recommended spots for viewing South Dakota fall foliage. — Saira Bajwa
Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway
The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway runs along the bottom of Spearfish Canyon in a 22-mile semi-circle south of Interstate 90. It is especially impressive in autumn, when the forest of aspen, oak and birch trees brighten the landscape with shades of gold, playing off the brown, pink and gray of the canyon walls. Start your loop at either Exit 10 or 14 off Interstate 90. For spectacular views, South Dakota fall foliage seekers should also make sure to make photo stops in the canyon at Bridal Veil Falls and Roughlock Falls, where some scenes from Dances With Wolves were filmed.
Bridal Veil Falls, Spearfish, SD | Get Directions
For those who prefer a scenic alternative route to I-90, try the Oyate Trail, which spans the entire southern border of South Dakota. Along the 388-mile route -- which runs east-west along parts of Route 18, 46 and 50, from roughly Edgemont in the west to Yankton in the east -- leaf lookers will be treated to miles of forest-covered mountainsides and such small towns as Winner, Marty and Bonesteel. Stop at Native American reservations, watch high school rodeo competitions and, near the Fort Randall Dam, observe eagles soaring over autumnal leaves of red, gold, orange and green.
Fort Randall Dam, Fairfax, SD | Get Directions
Sica Hollow State Park
The first Native American visitors to Sica Hollow State Park named it for their word for "evil" or "bad." Maybe they knew something we don't, because it seems like an absolutely glorious destination for South Dakota fall foliage. Formed by glaciers 20,000 years ago, the park is home to golden maples, lindens, ash and oak trees that light up the mountainside in vibrant colors against the dark-green backdrop of the ponderosa pine forest. The park offers a "Blaze of Color" free guided fall-foliage tour -- a park entrance license is required.
Sica Hollow State Park, Bia-10, Veblen, SD 57270 | Get Directions
Mix of photos and video of colorful fall foliage in Spearfish Canyon.
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Want other great fall-foliage destinations? Check out more LeafQuest.