15 Best Dog-Friendly Vacation Destinations in South Dakota

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husky is chilling in a dog friendly vacation in south dakota

Known for its culture, agriculture, and the famous Mount Rushmore, South Dakota has a lot to offer everyone young and old as well as four-legged furry family members. It is not a huge state and only has 900,000 residents, making it one of the least populated states in the US. Located in the northern section of the United States, South Dakota is bordered by Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota.

South Dakota loves dogs and has almost 150,000 living in the state. Even though Pierre is the state capital, Sioux Falls has the most pups and is considered to be the most dog-friendly city in the state. It was bought by the United States from Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Territory package. 

If you are thinking of visiting South Dakota with your fur baby, we want to help you find the most pup popular place to go. Although the state has 900+ dog-friendly hotels, 180 restaurants, and 25 dog parks, some cities and attractions are more geared toward pet parents than others. Here are 15 places that we recommend. 

Sioux Falls

Down in the southeastern section of the state, Sioux Falls houses over a third of the population of South Dakota, with over 200,000 people and 70,000 pups. The name comes from the waterfalls that cascade in the Big Sioux River. They were created over 14,000 years ago during the last ice age. But besides the falls, there are a plethora of activities you and Fido can enjoy in this city. 

There are three main dog parks, including Lien Park with a large grassy field, Spencer Park Dog Park with small and large dog sections, and the largest, Family Park Dog Park, has three fenced acres. Your pooch can join you to see the falls at the 128-acre Falls Park as long as he is leashed. There are several viewing platforms, trails, an observation tower, and even a cafe if you get hungry.

Don’t miss the Covert Artisan Ales & Cellars on 8th Street, where your fur baby can join you inside to drink, play games, and watch TV. 


If you are looking for a winter spot to enjoy some skiing, Lead is where to go in South Dakota. You have quite a few dog-friendly resorts, lodges, and suites to choose from as well. The closest one is Blackstone Lodge, which is only two miles from several ski lifts and offers ski passes. Also, the Hampton Inn is just a few miles from the ski lifts and offers ski school and storage.

Other pooch popular snow activities in Lead include snowshoeing and snowmobiling in Spearfish Canyon Nature Area. It is a great way to see Roughlock Falls. Your pooch is also allowed to join you in some hiking in the nearby Black Hills National Forest, where you can see some awesome lakes, parks, gulches, and canyons. Always bring doggie bags and keep your pup on a leash wherever you go.

To let your cuddle buddy play without the leash, take him to Lead Dog Park. This fully-fenced pup corral is on Washington Street in a nice little neighborhood.


Located in the middle of South Dakota on the eastern side of the Missouri River, Pierre is a great place for a weekend getaway for you and Fido. With a population of just over 14,000 people and approximately 2,300 fur babies, you will likely see some dogs and their humans around town. With over a dozen pet-friendly parks, you can take Fido to play on the river or in the woods as long as you keep him on a leash. 

When your pup needs to get rid of some energy, take him to Pierre Community Dog Park on Sully Avenue, where he can run amok without the restraints of a leash. There is a special small dog section, seating for pup parents, water, and doggie bag dispensers. Steamboat Park is another fun place to spend the day if you like fishing, boating, and picnicking. It even has disc golf and a playground.

After working up an appetite, you can take your pup to Zesto for sandwiches, hot dogs, and fries. 


Take your sweetie and your fur baby to historic Deadwood for a romantic weekend. It is known for its famous cemetery where Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickock are buried, as well as the Adams House. Located in the center of western South Dakota in the Black Hills, Deadwood was home to the Black Hills Gold Rush in the 1870s. Today, it is still popular with 25,000 people who have an estimated 4,100 dogs. 

Drop your pup off at Deadwood Doghouse while you take your honey to the Deadwood Day Spa for a couple’s massage. There are many to choose from like Bliss & Bubbly, Massage & Mimosas, and Heavenly Daze. Then, pick up your canine companion and get a bite to eat on the patio of Oyster Bay Bar.

If you are into adventure, your two loved ones may enjoy a trip to Mystic Hills Hideaway. You can rent a pup-friendly UTV or ATV and explore the hills. You can even stay at one of the cabins or RV sites.


Named after the famous General George Custer, who led an expedition of thousands through the Black Hills to look for gold in 1874, this city is a great place to go if you enjoy hiking with your poochy. Pack up some doggie bags, lots of water, and some snacks, and explore the Custer State Park where they have several easy trails, including the 1.1-mile Sylvan Lake Shore Trail. Or try the Lover’s Leap Trail, which is a moderately challenging 4.2-mile hike. 

Big Rock Park is a lot of fun, too, and has quite a few challenging trails if you need a challenge.

Then, you can take your fuzz buddy to the only dog park in the area, Custer Bark Park. It has two sections for different-sized dogs, lots of seating, waste stations, and a covered picnic table. 

Grab some burgers and a beer at The Custer Wolf when you get hungry. They are well-known for their walleye Po’boy and the Wolf Burger. 

Mount Rushmore 

Located in southwestern South Dakota, Mount Rushmore is one of the most popular sculptures in the world. The 60-foot tall sculpture at the top of the mountain includes US Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. It is 5,725 feet in the air in the memorial park which covers 1,278. And leashed dogs are welcome to join their pet parents in the park!

As a matter of fact, the park has a dog exercise area where your fur puppy can run around and play. Just follow the yellow dog pawprints from the parking lot. The two-mile Blackberry Trail is also for pooches as are all sidewalks and grassy areas between the parking garages. You and your pupster can get an excellent view of the sculpture from the viewing area in the dog park. 

Outside the park, Big Thunder Gold Mine is another dog-friendly attraction that has a pet-popular tour of the mine and museum. Your buddy is welcome everywhere except for the gift shop.


Another great place for couples with dogs, Brookings has a dog-friendly vineyard where you can all enjoy a stroll through the property. Then, your fur baby can enjoy a treat and fresh water while you and your sweetheart sample some of the wines made there. They also serve beer and other beverages, as well as cheese and meats. Don’t miss trying their powerful antioxidant juice, Aronia.

The city has just over 23,300 residents with almost 4,000 dogs, and you are likely to see some of them with their pup parents at the Bark Park on 7th and 12th Streets. The off-leash area is fully fenced and has three separate spaces: one for little dogs, one for big dogs, and one agility course with tunnels, a ramp, an A-frame, pedestals, and weave poles.

Afterward, grab something to eat on the patio at the Pheasant Restaurant & Lounge. They serve everything from burgers to steaks and even some artisanal ice cream. 


Ready for a getaway with the family and your best furry friend? Aberdeen is a city of 28,495 located in northeastern South Dakota and has one of the most family-friendly parks in the state. Wylie Park is the perfect place to stay with your kids and dog where they have 125 campsites right inside the park. The prices are just $35 a night and every seventh night is free.

Storybook Land is the main attraction and has amusement rides and games featuring nursery rhymes like Humpty Dumpty and Old MacDonald’s Farm. The Land of Oz is also very cool with a simulated tornado and a trip down the Yellow Brick Road, where you can ride a carousel or enjoy a balloon ride. Sorry, Fido has to stay at the camp while you are there. But you can bring him on the trails, to the lake, and to the picnic areas.

Don’t miss the amazing carnival food like funnel cakes, hot dogs, and caramel corn!

Wind Cave National Park 

You can find Wind Cave National Park in the southeastern section of South Dakota where you and your cuddle buddy can spend a summer weekend. There are more than 33,800 acres to explore here, including the caves. This is one of the only places in the world where you can see boxwork, which are natural calcite formations that look like honeycombs. The caves hold 95% of the world’s boxwork as well as some frostwork. 

Your dog has to be on a leash of six feet or less the whole time you are there, and always bring plenty of plastic baggies to pick up anything he drops. The Elk Mountain Campground is pup popular and has 61 campsites with water, restrooms, and showers. The trails from the campsite as well as the Prairie Vista Trail, are both dog-friendly as well. 

Always keep your pup close to you and on a leash. The park is home to many wild creatures like bison, elk, cougars, coyotes, and bobcats. 

Hot Springs 

Near the Wind Cave National Park, Hot Springs, South Dakota, is a small town of about 3,400 people and just 550 dogs. The small town loves dogs and has quite a few dog-friendly hotels and rental properties. Motel 6 (also known as Econo Lodge) has an indoor swimming pool, free breakfast, and Wi-Fi. Super 8 welcomes pups for just $20 per night and has free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and family rooms.

Besides Wind Cave National Park, The Mammoth Site is another fun attraction that welcomes fur babies. Your leashed pooch can join you indoors and out as you marvel at the giant mammoth skeletons and see the dig site. Some areas require you to carry your pet so if you have a large dog, you may want to drop your pooch at the doggie daycare first. 

Before you head out for another adventure, stop at the Wandering Bison Coffee Shop to get some caffeine and sandwiches. Your pup can join you at the outdoor tables. 


Take your pooch and your family to Mitchell this summer for a historic and fun vacation. Nicknamed the Palace City, Mitchell is located in southeastern South Dakota along the James River. The name comes from the only corn palace in the world made from various colors of corn kernels and other grains. Your pup will not be able to join you inside though, so book him an appointment to play at Creekside Pet Daycare. 

He can enjoy playing in the fenced yard at the daycare with the other fur babies while you and the family go see the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village by Lake Mitchell. Get a guided tour of the excavation site and see some of the 1,000-year-old artifacts. Kids under 12 get to dig for free arrowheads!

Speaking of Lake Mitchell, your pooch is welcome to join you in and out of the water at Kibbee Park or one of the other waterfront spaces along the banks. Lion’s Point Park has a fishing area, picnic areas, trails, and a playground for the kiddos.

Rapid City 

The second most popular city in the state, Rapid City, is also one of the most affordable, with hotels starting at $55 per night. In fact, Days Inn has an indoor pool, and rooms start at $65! The city has almost 75,000 people and more than 12,000 pups. It is located in the southwestern corner of South Dakota and is home to attractions like Main Street Square, the City of Presidents Tour, Dinosaur Park, and Art Alley. 

Take Fido to see some giant dinos for free at Dinosaur Park where dinosaur footprints have been found. Another pup popular attraction is Cosmos Mystery Area where you can visit a house where you can walk on the walls and balls roll uphill. Then, let your canine companion run around off the leash while you enjoy some adult beverages with other pup parents at Bar K-9 Dog Park and Bar.

Don’t miss Bear Country USA! It is a drive-thru park with three miles of bears, cougars, buffalo, and elk.

Badlands National Park 

Just minutes from Rapid City, Badlands National Park has 244,000 acres of dog-friendly fun where you can enjoy all sorts of summer activities from boating and swimming to hiking and biking. And with so much to do, you are going to need more than one day to do it all. Luckily, the park boasts 120 campsites between two different campgrounds. After you drop off your things at your campsite, you and Fido are free to enjoy some of the park’s activities. 

One of the most pup popular ways to enjoy the huge park is by driving. There are miles of wildlife roads and scenic tours as well. Or let the ranger guide you as you learn more about the place. The backroads are also a perfect way to let your dog get rid of the zoomies while you enjoy the stunning views. Just remember to keep him on a leash and bring plenty of water and doggie bags. 

Be sure to get a look at the Sheep Mountain Table trail, where you can see for miles from the top. Park at the overlook, and you and your pooch can hike to the end of the road for more exciting sights. 


Over in the northeast corner of South Dakota, Watertown is also a popular place for pup parents with more than 3,500 fur babies living there with 22,600 people. The city is located along the Sioux River and has two large lakes that provide lots of summer fun for everyone. The Pelican Lake State Recreation Area is a dog-friendly park in southwestern Watertown where you can enjoy boating, waterskiing, swimming, and fishing as well as camping and hiking. 

Codington Memorial Park & Campground in northwestern Watertown has even more lake property with 101 campsites that have full hookups, tables, and fire pits. The lake is huge and has some of the best fishing in the area. Just remember to get a South Dakota fishing license before you go or you will get a ticket with a big fine attached. 

Let your pooch run amok with the other fur babies in town at the Watertown Dog Park. It has some great amenities like jumpovers, A-frames, weave poles, tunnels, and ramps as well as lots of room to play fetch.


Also known as River City, Yankton runs along the banks of the Missouri River and the James River. It is not a huge town with just 15,000 people and an estimated 2,300 fur babies. It is located in the southeastern corner of the state and has some of the most affordable hotels and attractions around. The Days Inn allows dogs up to 30 pounds for just $10 per dog per stay, and the rooms start at just $80. It even has a pool!

Riverside Park is exactly what it says. It has 32 acres along the Missouri River, and your dog is welcome to join in your activities as long as he is on a leash. There is no fee to enter the park, although you may encounter small fees for boats, food, and other amenities. Also free, the Marne Creek Dog Park is in the northwestern corner of the city and has a fenced area for dogs to run off-leash. 

Afterward, you can enjoy an adult beverage while your pooch plays with other pups at Ben’s Brewing Company. You will also find food trucks and live music here on the weekends. 

The Final Woof

On this helpful list, you will find the 15 best dog-friendly places to visit in South Dakota. If you are an outdoorsy person, you can camp and hike at Aberdeen, Wild Cave National Park, and Badlands National Park. If you like skiing and other winter fun, head to Lead where there are several pup-friendly hotels and lodges. For a fun family vacation, Mitchell and Aberdeen both have some great kid-friendly attractions. And for a romantic visit with your sweetheart and your fur baby, check out Deadwood or Brookings. They both have some fun activities for couples with dogs. And if you are on a tight budget, get the most from your money in Rapid City or Yankton.

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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