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Five Best State Parks to Enjoy in South Dakota

1. Bear Butte State Park. Located in western South Dakota, about 7 miles northeast of Sturgis, this park offers camping, fishing, and hiking. Start at the visitor's (education) center and learn about Bear Butte, an igneous rock formation formed millions of years ago -- and held sacred by several Native American tribes, known as Mato Paha to the Lakota Sioux and Noahvose to the Cheyenne, and site used for past and present religious ceremonies. A 14-site campground is located in the northwest corner of Bear Butte Lake, featuring a sheltered picnic area, fishing dock, and access to the Lake Trail (2.5 miles). The other trail is the Summit Trail (1.85 miles, but 1,000-foot gain in elevation), from which you will be able to view four states at the 4,426-foot summit.

2. Custer State Park. Located in the western part of the state in the Black Hills, this massive and abundantly scenic, 71,000-acre park (the largest in the state system) offers visitors amazing vista and abundant wildlife, including free-roaming bison, elk, deer, pronghorn, feral burros, mountain goats, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, river otters, coyotes, and cougars. The park, named after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer, has many elements that were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. (CCC) during the 1930s -- including roads, campgrounds, and three dams, and has multiple campgrounds, lakes, and a visitor's center. The park also has some amazing trails; must-hike trails include: Sunday Gulch (2.8 mile loop), Lover's Leap (3-mile loop), Little Devil's Tower (3 mile RT), and Cathedral Spires (3 miles RT), but there are also some outstanding scenic drives within the park. Open year-round.

3. Newton Hills State Park. Located in the southeastern corner of South Dakota, 30 miles south of Sioux Falls, is 1,063-acre park offers something for everyone, including campgrounds, horse campgrounds, picnic shelters, rental cabins, playgrounds, nature trails, bicycle rentals, and a fishing lake. Named for William Newton, an early white settler whose wife was the lone mid-wife in the area for several decades. Visitors to this area of dark forests and open prairie are likely to be rewarded with viewing hundreds of species of birds, as well as deer, turkey, marmots, rabbits, and fox. Trails for hiking, biking, and horseback-0riding are open in the winter months for cross-county skiing and snowshoeing. Lake Lakota is open to swimming, fishing, and boating. Bow-hunting for deer and turkey is allowed at certain times. Open year-round.

4. Palisades State Park. Located in the southeast corner of the state, about 20 miles northeast of Sioux Falls, this 157-acre park sits near where a huge flour mill once stood, powered by a large wheel installed along the rushing Split Rock Creek -- which flows through the park. Visitors will be fascinated by the (1 million+ years old) quartzite formations, which vary from shelves several feet above the water to 50-foot vertical cliffs. Scenic overlooks and rushing water make the park popular with campers, photographers, sightseers, picnickers, rock-climbers, and hikers. Take advantage of one or more of the four hiking trails: Split Rock Creel, South Wall, King & Queen Rock, and Balancing Rock. Includes small campground, including six cabins.

5. Sica Hollow State Park. Located in the northeastern corner of the state, 15 miles northwest of Sisseton on the east face of the Coteau Prairies, off of SD Highway 10, this 900-acre park is a must-see for both the legends behind its name as well as for its natural beauty. Named for the Dakota Sioux word for bad/evil and pronounced she-cha because of gurgling iron-red tinted bogs were seen as blood of their ancestors -- and stories of mysterious happenings; it was also a primary hunting ground. The park is an area of tree-filled ravines and hills carved by glaciers more than 20,000 years ago and is a National Natural Landmark. Take a hike on the miles of marked trails, including the Trail of the Spirits, a National Recreation Trail, and be rewarded with trees, wildflowers, and birds. Interpretative guides are available to help hikers understand the park's streams, rustic bridges, waterfalls, and flora and fauna. The park has a small campground and picnic area. Visit in the fall for beautiful autumn-colored trees.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.

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