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16 Best Things to do in Hot Springs, South Dakota

16 Best Things to do in Hot Springs, South Dakota

Searching for things to do in Hot Springs? Search no more! From prairies, sparkling springs, and red rock canyons to national landmarks, hiking trails, woolly mammoths, and cultural sites, Hot Springs offers a wide array of things to do for families, couples, and group travelers.

Located in southwestern South Dakota in Fall River County of the Southern Black Hills, the small town of Hot Springs is backed by the stunning red rock and sandstone canyons of the Black Hills National Forest and the Badlands region.

As the name implies, Hot Springs, South Dakota is famous for its hot healing springs. The town was founded as a health spa due to the warm mineral springs (the hot spring waters were considered sacred by Native American Sioux and Cheyenne people) in Fall River Canyon where six thermal springs come together in a canyon.

Pack your virtual bags (and start thinking about the real-time bags) and let’s start our exploration of the Mount Rushmore state with Hot Springs things to do.

Getting to Hot Springs

Hot Springs Municipal Airport (HSR) is the closest airport to Hot Springs. Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP) is about 47.3 miles away from Hot Springs. Use Skyscanner to get the best rates when booking flights and hotels while planning your next vacation.

Medical conditions, emergencies, and unforeseen weather events can happen. For peace of mind while traveling, be sure to check into travel insurance with World Nomads. You may never need it, but it’s worth its weight in gold if you do.

The natural hot springs of Hot Springs are about 45.5 miles from Hill City. Keystone and Mount Rushmore are about an hour from Hot Springs and Fall River County.

They make great day trips. Booking Hot Springs rentals from a site such as RentalCars.com is a good way to ensure you have a safe and dependable vehicle for your next trip.

TLDR;

Need that info on the top spots in Hot Springs right flipping now? Don’t say we don’t do anything for you!

1. Roam with the Dinosaurs at World Fossil Finder Museum

Dinasour fossil

One of the most unique natural history museums in Fall River County, the World Fossil Finder Museum in Hot Springs is all about science, humanity, and fossil education.

Future paleontologists in your crew can check out the fossil forms of early mastodons, mammoth bones, marine predators, and the largest Tylosaurus ever found in South Dakota!

2. Indulge in Thermal Springs at Evans Plunge Mineral Springs

The biggest mineral spring, and oldest tourist attraction (established in 1890), in Hot Springs, Evans Plunge Mineral Springs is a fun and refreshing indoor water park with year-round 87-degree weather. Relax, rejuvenate, and get in a little exercise at this fun spot.

Enjoy water slides, two hot tubs, water volleyball and basketball, two kids’ pools, a steam room, and more at Evans Plunge. The water at this local thermal springs swimming hole is kept toasty warm by a thermal spring at the end of the pool. It allows 5,000 gallons of water per minute to flow into the pool.

The spring at the north end of the park, which is the largest, is known as the “original Indian spring” because it was used for drinking and bathing by Native Americans.

Hotels near Evans Plunge include Red Rock River Resort, which offers a 24-hour spa if you haven’t gotten enough of the therapeutic hot springs South Dakota indulgence at Evans Plunge. There’s a bar and a lounge as well as free Wi-Fi and bicycle rental.

See Related: Best Places to Visit & Things to do in South Dakota

3. Be Adventurous Along the Minnekahta Trailhead

Minnekahta Trailhead Sign things to do in hot springs

The Minnekahta Trailhead, on the George S. Mickelson Trail rail trail, is the place to be for hiking, biking, and geocaching through the mountains and forests of the Black Hills. You’ll find it between Hot Springs and Edgemont off US Highway 18.

If you’re searching for nearby Hot Springs hotels, give Sunrise Ranch a try. It’s about a 12-minute drive from the Minnekahta Trailhead. Located at the foot of the Black Hills, you can enjoy the relaxation, solitude, and entertainment of ranch life. Take trail rides, go hiking, go hunting, or participate in ranch chores. The lodge can accommodate 16 guests, and there are six RV hook-ups outside.

4. Go on a Dig at the Mammoth Site

Dig site of Mammoth death

Craving the Jurassic life while in Hot Springs? It’s time to check out the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs. You’ll get a real-life look into a paleontological dig site with Ice Age fossils and the world’s largest collection of mammoth remains in the world. The Mammoth Site Bonebed is a sinkhole that you can actually tour within the world’s greatest concentration of woolly mammoths.

As the world’s largest mammoth research facility, the Mammoth site has the world’s largest concentration of woolly mammoths on display. There are currently 58 Columbian and three woolly mammoths at this Hot Springs south location.

More into botany and geology? Visit the boreal forest, shrubland, grassland, and woodland trails at this active paleontological site.

Looking for hotels in Hot Springs near the Mammoth Site?

Baymont inn suites entrance

Baymont by Wyndham Hot Springs is about a mile from the Mammoth Site area and five minutes from Evans Plunge. With an indoor pool and free Wi-Fi, it’s a terrific choice for families visiting the Mammoth site.

There’s also a hot tub, a fitness center, a business area, and a daily breakfast. Guest rooms have a mini-fridge, a microwave, and a coffee maker.

See Related: Wall Drug of South Dakota

5. Explore the Great Outdoors at Buffalo Gap National Grassland

Buffalo Gap National Grassland Sign

Go camping, hiking, horseback riding, and hunting at Buffalo Gap National Grassland in Hot Springs south. This 322,689-acre park encompasses two areas. One is south and northeast of the town center of Hot Springs and one is south and west of Wall. 

It’s the second-largest grassland in the country and a natural habitat for prairie dogs, jackrabbits, coyotes, bison, bighorn sheep, and much more.

Need lodging near Buffalo Gap National Grassland and the Black Hills?

Gallery and Gift Shop in River Falls Lodging
image by Booking.com

River Falls Lodging – Black Hills, South Dakota offers river and mountain views in a lodge setting. With knotty pine walls, these rustic guest rooms have the modern conveniences of either full kitchens or kitchenettes with microwaves, a fridge, and an oven. There’s a garden and facilities for barbecuing and picnicking on the property’s three acres.

6. Check out the Lake Scene at Cold Brook Lake Recreational Area

Cold Brook Lake Recreational Area

Created by a dam, Cold Brook Lake offers 36 acres for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, swimming, camping, and cross-country skiing. There’s a boat ramp, a picnic area, and a beach if you’re looking for water-based activities in Fall River and Hot Springs.

Hidden Lake Campground and Resort offers cabins, tent sites, and RV campsites running along this beautiful lake setting. Spacious cabins have a living area and full bathrooms.

Most have full kitchens or kitchenettes as well. RV campsites are either pull-through or back-in types. The campground has a shower house, laundry facilities, a playground, and a lodge store for necessities.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Medora, North Dakota

7. Tee off at Southern Hills Golf Course

Golf Pole with ball

The 18-hole municipal golf courses at Southern Hills Golf Course offer stunning views of ponderosa pine and red rock canyons as you work on your swing.

This challenging course has five different teeing areas and more than 380 feet of elevation change in the Hot Springs area.

See Related: Best Geyser and Hot Springs in the World

8. Cool off at Cascade Falls Mineral Springs

Cascade Falls Mineral Springs

Located within the Black Hills National Forest, Cascade Falls Mineral Springs is fed by six springs that feed into a natural “pool.” While not a hot spring like the naturally warm mineral water of other warm water springs (the water is approximately 67 degrees), Cascade Springs makes a refreshing visit on a hot summer day.

Cascade Falls isn’t your typical waterfall, as the water is more of a cascade spring that ripples down over the rocks into a swimming hole.

J.H. Keith Park and Whitney Preserve, located at Cascade Springs, offer picnic areas near the warm waters of the springs at Cascade Falls.

See Related: Best Things to Do in North Dakota & Places to Visit

9. Go Underground at Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park Sign

The 33,849-acre Wind Cave National Park is America’s seventh National Park. Along with a wide array of plants and trees, you can catch sight of elk, bison, prairie dogs, and antelope roaming across the prairie at Wind Cave National Park.

Explore the 6th longest cave in the world at this national park in the Southern Black Hills. The caveat Wind Cave National Park is 140 miles long and home to interesting things such as rare boxwork formations.

Looking for Hot Springs hotels in the Southern Black Hills near the national park?

Chalet Motel Accomodations
image by Booking.com

Chalet Motel is approximately a 17-minute walk from Black Hills National Forest. Guest rooms have private bathrooms and free Wi-Fi. Some guest rooms have seating areas if you’re in need of more space to spread out. Enjoy a continental or a la carte breakfast at this hotel near Wind Cave National Park.

10. Explore Prairie History at the Pioneer Museum

Check out early pioneer history at the Pioneer Museum, which features 25 exhibits that tell the story of the pioneers who lived in the area. Located in a 19th-century former elementary school, there’s original art, sculpted alabaster and marble pieces, historic photos, tapestries, and heirloom quilts.

You can also view old washing machines, wood cookstoves, kerosene lamps, handcrafted tools, a doctor’s office, a school classroom, and a country store at this Hot Springs, South Dakota museum.

The Pioneer Museum is about 12 minutes from Wind Cave National Park. The Mammoth Site is only 1.5 miles from the Hot Springs Pioneer Museum. Either attraction makes a great choice to include in your visit to the Pioneer Museum.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Minot, North Dakota

11. Take a Day Trip to Mount Rushmore National Monument

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Located in Keystone, Mount Rushmore National Park is about an hours-drive from Hot Springs. If you’re this close, you can’t miss the chance to cross it off your bucket list. The 60-foot-high granite sculpture features the faces of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Theodore Roosevelt. Take a guided tour or explore at your own pace.

While you’re there, and after taking several selfies with the former presidents, check out the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center and the Sculptor’s Studio. You can see exhibits, watch a video on the carving process, and listen to the ranger talk about the monument. Stop by visitor centers for maps of trails and sites.

The Presidential Trail takes you closer to the monument as you check out the surrounding nature and wildlife. Enjoy ice cream or lunch at the Carver’s Café afterward.

If you’re interested in more hiking, head to the Blackberry Trail, a one-mile gravel trail that connects up with Centennial Trail in the Black Elk Wilderness. Along the trail, you’ll find wooden bridges, picnic tables, small water crossings, and stunning views.

12. Learn About Native American History at Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial Monument

Another can’t-miss attraction near Hot Springs is the Crazy Horse Memorial. Located in Custer County, it’s modeled after the Oglala Lakota warrior Tasunke Witko. Under construction on sacred land since 1948, the monument is still unfinished, but there is a completed 87-foot-tall head of the legendary warrior at the site, along with many other exhibits and cultural attractions that include history museums, a cultural center, a sculptor studio, and cultural program opportunities.

The mission of the South Dakota memorial is to preserve the culture and heritage of Native Americans and their daily lives. Special events include laser light shows, summer educational programs, tours, musical performances, Navajo flutists, artwork sessions, and more.

The memorial is about 31.5 miles away from Hot Springs. If you’re looking for a hotel that’s convenient to the area, consider Holiday Inn & Suites Custer-Mount Rushmore.

Holiday Inn & Suites Custer-Mount Rushmore Building
image by Booking.com

Surrounded by the Black Hills National Forest, it has a fitness center, an indoor pool, a hot tub, and free Wi-Fi. Guest rooms have a microwave, a mini-fridge, and a coffee machine.

13. Get Cultural at the Indian Museum of North America

Museum entrance

Located at the Crazy Horse Memorial site, the Indian Museum of North America features art, artifacts, and the rich Native American history of more than 300 Native American nations.

Another cultural site, the Native American Educational, and Cultural Center, also tells the Native American story through art, sculpture, famous prints, artists in residence, and historic exhibits.

14. Stay in the Middle of Things at Custer State Park

Lake on Middle of the thins at Custer State Park

Named for Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer, Custer State Park encompasses 71,000 acres of trees, plants, and ingenious wildlife in a balanced ecosystem in the Black Hills. Boating, biking, birdwatching, and fishing are popular activities at this Hot Springs park.

Within the park, there are four private lodges with restaurants and guided activities as well as modern cabins and hotel rooms at Custer State Park Resort. The resort is located about 21 miles south of Rapid City along the Peter Norbeck Scenic Parkway. Don’t miss the herd of 1,300 free-roaming buffalo.

See Related: Best Things To Do in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

15. Go Trail Riding at Sage Meadow Ranch

Young woman riding a horse

Sage Meadow Ranch specializes in private guided trail rides. Located in the southern foothills near Hot Springs, the ranch sits on acres of prairie land and rolling hills. Enjoy horseback riding after a day of hot springs, history museums, and a national park or two.

Sage Meadow Ranch is near the Minnekahta Trailhead, so you could pencil in a trail ride after a rugged hike.

16. Angostura Recreation Area

Water lovers in your crew need to pay a visit to Angostura Recreation Area! With 36 miles of shoreline and crystal clear water, outdoor enthusiasts can go boating, fishing, and swimming as well as biking and birdwatching.

There are several boat ramps around the South Dakota reservoir. Anglers can reel in northern pike, walleye, bass, and perch.

The recreation area is approximately 10 miles southeast of Hot Springs. Shep’s Canyon Lodge is a terrific choice for accommodations near the water. It features two rooms and a living room and kitchen area. Outdoors, there is a horse corral for those who bring their equine friends along on their travels. There are miles and miles of riding trails in the area.

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