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Whether you like open prairie or covered woods, when you stay in Sioux Falls, you’ll find areas to get in ample time with Mother Nature. Sioux Falls is surprisingly close to several great state and city parks. You can choose to walk or run both rugged and paved trails, too. We’ve listed some of our favorite spots and the approximate time it takes to reach them from downtown Sioux Falls.

Palisades State Park

Drive time: 25 minutes

State Park permit required? Yes

Rock climbers, hikers, kayakers, and picnickers often convene at the historic Palisades State Park, just a short drive outside of Sioux Falls. The quartzite rock formations on each side of Split Rock Creek are some of the most unique natural sites this side of the state. Novice climbers like to attempt their way up King and Queen Rock, while experts can find their sweet spot in other areas of the park. In addition, there are 6 miles of hiking trails where you can go through woods, by the river, and along the ledge of the quartzite.

Newton Hills State Park

Drive time: 45 minutes

State Park permit required? Yes

While Newton Hills State Park may be a bit of a car ride, it’s well worth the jaunt. Be sure to stop at the entrance and get a South Dakota State Park parking pass for the day, then drive to the bottom of the hill to start on some of the more challenging trails. This area is heavily wooded, hilly, and crawling with wildlife such as birds, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, and red and gray fox. Pack a backpack with water and snacks to enjoy at the open picnic areas. At the top of the park only a short distance from the entrance, there is an overlook where you can get the best view possible of the mature, lush green that surrounds you. With 6 miles of trails and recreation areas, it’s a great place to spend an entire afternoon!

Good Earth State Park at Blood Run

Drive time: 20 minutes

State Park permit required? No

South Dakota’s newest nature reserve, Good Earth State Park at Blood Run, is full of tribal history and beauty. Depending on the trails you choose, you’ll walk through woods, prairie, and even get a glimpse of the Big Sioux River from a perspective many people haven’t experienced. Because it’s new, the park is still adding trails and bridges as well as a visitor’s center to educate newcomers on the significance of the area. While it’s not 100% complete, you’ll still have miles of beautiful existing trail to explore.

Great Bear Recreation Area

Drive time: 10 minutes

State Park permit required? No

In the winter, Great Bear Recreation Area is a prime downhill skiing and snowboarding area. Then, in the summer, it transforms into a hiking hotspot. If you hiked every possible area of the Ralph and Doris Wallin Nature Trail at Great Bear, you’d get in a total of 8 miles. That’s some serious hiking time right here in the city of Sioux Falls! You’ll find a variety of landscapes, inclines, and hiking-difficulty levels, too. You’re also rewarded for your effort to make it to the top of the Overlook Trail with a clear view of the area as far as the eye can see, which is 32 miles on a clear, blue-sky day. Pack a picnic in case you get hungry along the way as there are some great spots to enjoy a bite among nature.

Falls Park and the Big Sioux River Recreation Trail and Greenway

Drive time: 0 minutes (It’s right here!)

State Park permit required? No

If you need a little break from the inclines and dirt trails, take a day to explore the Big Sioux River Recreational Trail and Greenway—our 22-mile paved bike and walking trail that circles the city. It goes through many city parks, including Falls Park where you can get up close to the Falls of the Big Sioux River. If you’re bringing your furry friend, the no-leash areas at Spencer Park are a great place to start or end your trek.

Trail at the Outdoor Campus

Drive time: 10 minutes

State Park permit required? No

The Outdoor Campus is known for its surprising beauty and wildlife sightings. It’s always neat to see nature come to life in the middle of a city! In fact, you don’t even know you’re within the city limits on parts of this 2-mile trail. If you’re a photographer or like to take photos when you explore new nature areas, this is an easy place to not only carry your camera, but also find inspiration. After you circle the entire loop, you can enjoy free admission to the South Dakota Outdoor Museum.

Leaders Park

Drive time: 5 minutes

State Park permit required? No

This short 2-mile single-track trail has more to it than a first-timer may think. While many mountain bikers take advantage of its easy, intermediate, and expert loops, hikers can also find beauty, challenge, and adventure at Leaders Park. We recommend that you don’t wear headphones on this trail as hikers have to listen for cyclists. If you’re planning to visit, make sure there isn’t rain in the forecast, as this trail closes in wet conditions. Otherwise give it a try!

Beaver Creek Nature Area

Drive time: 25 minutes

State Park permit required? No

Only a short distance from Sioux Falls, you’ll find a dirt road canopied by tall trees that leads to this hidden gem. Beaver Creek Nature Area has 1.5 miles of trails with many spots to pause and take in your surroundings. You’ll hike along the winding spring-fed creek at many points and eventually make your way uphill. When you reach the highest point, you’ll find a spectacular view of the dense forest you just emerged from. Then, get ready to cross one of the most iconic landmarks in the area—the rustic (yet safe) swinging bridge! This is a great spot to stop and take a selfie, but keep your camera ready throughout the hike as wildlife is everywhere in these parts. 

Ready to hit the trails?

All of our parks and trails are open for exploration year round. So the next time nature beckons, pack your hiking gear and head to Sioux Falls. 

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