Best South Dakota Motorcycle Rides

Jul 4, 2024

Tags:travel guidescenic routessd

badlands national park, road to Sturgis Best South Dakota Motorcycle Rides

South Dakota, known for its rich history and breathtaking landscapes, offers some of the most memorable motorcycle rides in the United States. From the mystic Black Hills to the vast expanses of the Badlands, each route provides a unique riding experience that combines natural beauty with the thrill of the open road. Here’s your guide to the best motorcycle rides in South Dakota, perfect for those looking to rent a bike and dive into adventure.

Maps, directions, and key stops included! Traveling for Sturgis? Read more on what you can expect. 

Spearfish Canyon Byway (US 14-A W)

Distance: 19 miles

Start: Cheyenne Crossing

End: Spearfish, SD


Or… for a longer route from Sturgis and back with a few extra stops, view map HERE.

Set off on the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, a 19.6-mile journey that showcases stunning natural landscapes from Cheyenne Crossing to Spearfish, SD. Travel through towering limestone cliffs and lush forests alongside the flowing Spearfish Creek.

Key Stops:

  • Bridal Veil and Roughlock Falls: Accessible waterfalls perfect for quick stops and photos.

bridal falls in spearfish canyon Best South Dakota Motorcycle Rides

  • Spearfish Canyon Lodge: Ideal for dining and access to hiking trails.
  • As you near Spearfish, the canyon opens into a town filled with cafes, shops, and galleries, offering a perfect end to a scenic ride.

This byway is a gateway to the profound beauty of the Black Hills, offering a memorable experience whether you're on a casual ride or a detailed exploration.

The Needles Highway to Mount Rushmore Loop

Distance: 57 miles

Start/End: Legion Lake Lodge


Embark on a stunning 56.8-mile loop along the Needles Highway, starting and ending at Legion Lake Lodge. This route showcases the best of the Black Hills' landscapes and historical landmarks.

Key Stops:

  • Needles Eye Tunnel: Ride through this narrow tunnel carved into the rock, featuring a striking needle-like rock formation.
  • Sylvan Lake: Pause for a scenic break at this clear lake, surrounded by trails and granite formations.

aerial view of sylvan lake south dakota Best South Dakota Motorcycle Rides

  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Visit the iconic sculptures of four U.S. presidents, a symbol of American heritage.
  • Norbeck Overlook: Take in expansive views of the Black Hills, perfect for a reflective moment.

NOTE: Includes narrow tunnels and winding roads; suitable for experienced riders.

Complete your loop at Legion Lake Lodge, a peaceful spot to relax after your day's adventure. This condensed route offers a mix of thrilling rides and significant historical sites, ideal for a memorable motorcycle journey.

Vanocker Canyon Road from Sturgis, SD

Distance: 19 miles

Start: Sturgis, SD

End: Nemo, SD


For a quieter ride, Vanocker Canyon offers a lush, forested route with smooth curves that are a joy to navigate. It’s less crowded than other routes but no less beautiful. Make sure to stop at Wonderland Cave (included in the above map link), which is a beautiful cave full of crystal formations over 60 million years old. 

Local Flavor: Stop at Nemo, a small town with friendly locals and great spots to grab a bite.

wonderland cave south dakota Best South Dakota Motorcycle Rides

Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway

Distance: 62 miles

Start/End: Interior, SD


This ride through the Badlands National Park is not to be missed. The Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway features dramatic landscapes and striking geological formations. The ride is smooth, with plenty of pullouts for admiring the views. The National Park Service outlines 15 total stops you can make for incredible views. 

Must-See: Check out the Fossil Exhibit Trail to see ancient fossils right on the trail.

lighting storm at badlands national park Best South Dakota Motorcycle Rides

Native American Scenic Byway


Start: Chamberlain, SD

End: Pierre, SD


The Native American Scenic Byway offers a unique and enriching experience that extends beyond the traditional scenic drive. Spanning approximately 100 miles from Chamberlain to Fort Pierre in central South Dakota, this route takes travelers through the heart of the Teton Lakota Nation, providing a profound insight into the history, traditions, and future of the Lakota people.

Route Highlights:

  • Starting Point: Begin at the Information Center/Rest Area at exit 263 on I-90 at Chamberlain.
  • Missouri River Crossing: The journey includes a scenic crossing at Fort Thompson, leading into the Lower Brule Reservation.
  • Cultural Insights: Travel northwest along BIA Highway 10, immersing in the rich cultural landscape of the Lakota Nation up to the junction of Highway 1806 and US Highway 83.

This byway is not only a gateway to the revealing cultural experiences of the Lakota but also serves as a crucial economic and educational resource. It fosters tourism through the preservation and presentation of cultural and historic sites, traditional practices such as the reintroduction of the buffalo, and scenic beauty. The ultimate aim of the Native American Scenic Byway is to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the Lakota's historical significance and cultural contributions, helping visitors connect deeply with the spirit of the high plains and the people who have inhabited them for centuries.

big bend dam south dakota Best South Dakota Motorcycle Rides

Custer State Park Wildlife Loop 

Distance: 19 miles

Start: Custer State Park Visitor Center

End: Blue Bell Entrance Station (Custer State Park)


Also located within Custer State Park, this scenic byway is specifically designed for wildlife viewing, offering encounters with the park’s native animal species in their natural habitat.

Photo Op: Early morning or late evening rides are the best times to see wildlife and catch breathtaking sunrises or sunsets.

lakeside in custer state park Best South Dakota Motorcycle Rides

Hill City to Iron Mountain Road (Highway 16A)

Distance: 36 miles

Start: Hill City, SD

End: Welcome to Custer State Park Sign, Highway 16A


Start your 36-mile journey from Hill City to the entrance of Custer State Park via the famed Iron Mountain Road. This route is renowned for its "Pigtail" bridges, sharp turns, and stunning views of the Black Hills.

Journey Highlights:

  • Hill City: Explore local art galleries or the historical railroad museum before departing.
  • Iron Mountain Road (Highway 16A): Experience the engineering marvel of looping bridges and narrow tunnels that frame views of Mount Rushmore.

View of Mount Rushmore through Doane Robinson tunnel on the Iron Mount Road near Keystone South Dakota Best South Dakota Motorcycle Rides

  • Scenic Stops: As you ride along Iron Mountain Road, make sure to stop at scenic overlooks offering expansive views of the Black Hills. Notable tunnels such as the Doane Robinson Tunnel provide unique photo opportunities with Mount Rushmore visible in the backdrop on clear days.

This route from Hill City through Iron Mountain Road is perfect for riders seeking a mix of adventure, natural beauty, and historical intrigue in the heart of the Black Hills.

Plan Your South Dakota Motorcycle Adventure

When planning your motorcycle trip in South Dakota, here are a few tips:

  • Motorcycle Rental: Riders Share offers motorcycle rentals across South Dakota. Choose a bike that suits the terrain, especially if you’re tackling the more challenging Black Hills.
  • Accommodations: You’ll find plenty of biker-friendly accommodations, especially around Sturgis and Rapid City.
  • Travel Tips: Weather can change quickly in South Dakota, so check forecasts and pack accordingly. Also, ensure your bike is well-maintained for the trip.

South Dakota’s routes are a blend of natural beauty and historical richness, making them a top choice for motorcycle enthusiasts. Whether you’re cruising through the Black Hills or exploring the vast landscapes of the Badlands, each ride promises unforgettable experiences and spectacular views. Pack your gear, set your sights on South Dakota, and get ready for the ride of a lifetime.