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Fall Foliage

Scenic Drives and Dazzling Destinations

Scenic DriveHighway 14A through Spearfish Canyon, a National Scenic Byway, offers some of the state's best fall scenery.

Spearfish Canyon

The 20-mile route is flanked by steep limestone cliffs on either side. Oak, elm, birch, aspen and ponderosa pine cover the canyon's jagged peaks, while the crisp mountain waters of Spearfish Creek run along its bottom. Waterfalls, wildflowers and wildlife make this an autumn outing you won't forget.

The Native American Scenic Byway

The Native American Scenic Byway takes visitors through the heart of South Dakota's Indian Country. Following the Missouri River, from Chamberlain to south of Fort Pierre, the route takes you to the crest of lofty river bluffs and descends to the fertile river bottom. Bison roam on the high plains that sharply contrast the nearby, lush bottomlands and the hills and bluffs along the river. The Big Bend of the Missouri River features prominently in the geography of the area. The 101-mile byway offers extensive views of the "Mighty Mo." Dams along the river created Lake Francis Case and Lake Sharpe, lakes that are excellent recreational areas as well as spots of beauty. Viewable wildlife inhabiting the area include deer, eagles, pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs, and large numbers of waterfowl.

Lewis and Clark Trail

The Lewis and Clark Trail follows the Missouri River, which was the explorers' primary route through South Dakota in the fall of 1804. In many places, the trail remains as rugged as in Lewis and Clark's Day. Tall cottonwood stands line the river's banks, which spill out onto rolling bluffs. It's not uncommon to see pronghorn grazing. And you can visit sites that the expedition wrote about nearly 200 years ago. Places like Spirit Mound, Big Bend and the Arikara villages. Request a free Lewis and Clark Trail Map to learn more about the trail.

De-stress at Dazzling Destinations

Sica Hollow State Park, near Sisseton, presents a spectacle of color that's unmatched in the region. From showy sumac to dramatic sugar maples, a potpourri of color springs from the depths of this steep canyon. Time your visit right, and you also might catch a glimpse of the natural phenomena (glowing tree stumps and moaning waterfalls) that have helped to give the park its name, "sica," which means "bad" in the Dakota dialect. For the best views of the park's legendary foliage, get out of the car and hike, bike or horseback ride.

Water laps gently against the shore. A walleye splashes the surface, and the honk of a goose trails overhead. Discover autumn at West Whitlock Recreation Area near Gettysburg. You'll find it in the shimmering, golden prairies that surround the park and in the bluffs that harbor coyotes, deer and pronghorn. Located on the Missouri River, West Whitlock offers opportunities for anglers, campers, hikers and bird watchers.

Arikara and Mandan tribes frequented this area. History buffs should visit the park's Arikara lodge replica - made of branches, earth and grass.

Tucked in a valley near the Big Sioux River, Newton Hills State Park has all the trappings of a leaf-peeping hot spot (minus the traffic). Its dense forest of maple, oak and sumac blankets the ground. The best way to explore this natural display? On foot or by bike.