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Five Magnificent Scenic Drives/Areas to Experience in South Dakota

1. Badlands Loop Scenic Byway. A two-lane, 39-mile route along Highway 240 between the towns of Cactus Flats and Wall in southwestern South Dakota, that stuns and awes even the most cynical of travelers, passing through native grasslands and around amazing buttes, cliffs, and multi-colored spires of Badlands National Park. You could easily travel this byway in just about an hour, but plan for much, much longer -- as you drive across numerous passes, pass 16 overlooks, and 8 hiking trails. Commonly seen critters include pronghorn antelope, mule deer, and prairie dogs. If you're lucky, you may see a endangered black-footed ferret. Along Safe Creek Rim Road, a gravel spur off the western end of the Badlands Loop Road, you often can encounter buffalo.

2. Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. Located on the northern edge of the Black Hills in western South Dakota, this 20-mile stretch of US Highway 14A is a gateway into the heart of the ancient mountain range in which dense forests of pine, spruce, aspen, birch, and oak cling to the hillsides, waterfalls abound, and hiking trails are plentiful. Check out Bridal View Falls, a 60-foot cliff alongside the roadway, as well as Spearfish Falls, a 47-foot waterfall, which can be found falling a trail in the parking lot of the Latchstring Restaurant -- and Roughlock Falls, a 50foot limestone ledge in which the water falls in a series of lacy cascades, and located about a mile west of the byway on FDR 222 in non-winter months; in winter months, access is from a trail at Spearfish Canyon Lodge.

3. Wildlife Loop Road Scenic Byway. Located in the southern half of one of the largest state parks in the U.S., in the Black Hills of western South Dakota, the Custer State Park Wildlife Scenic Byway is an 18-mile loop of pine forests, red-walled canyons, and rolling grasslands. Drive it early in the morning or late at night -- not only for the best lighting for photographs, but also to catch some of the 1,300-head herd of bison and other animals (such as bighorn sheep, pronghorn, deer, elk, coyote, prairie dogs, turkeys, and birds) in action. Stop at one of the two trails along the loop: The Prairie Trail is a moderate 3-mile loop that offers great wildflowers in spring and summer; or, check out some or all of the 22 miles of the Centennial Trail that passes through the park.

4. Native American National and State Scenic Byway. A north-south route that is located in central South Dakota, stretching from Kenel in the north to Running Water in the south, utilizing Highways 37, 1804, and 50, with powerful views of the Missouri river, diverse landscapes, and Native American history and culture... and running for 350 miles through the lands of the Yankton, Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Cheyenne River, and Standing rock Sioux Tribes. Wildlife along the journey include elk and bison herds maintained by several Tribes, as well as pronghorn, deer, and prairie dogs. Plan for stops at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre, the Akta-Lakota Museum in Chamberlain, and the H.V. Johnson Lakota Cultural Center in Eagle Butte.

5. Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. Another Black Hills route, located in western South Dakota, that is 70 miles of must-see natural and man-made wonders that you can easily devote an entire day to driving. Named for the visionary former senator and governor of the state who persisted in designing and building the Iron Mountain Road, this byway is consistently in the top 10 of scenic byways in the U.S. During your drive, expect to conquer hair-pin curves, pigtail (circular) bridges, and one-lane granite tunnels while enjoying the amazing views. Taking this circular loop following Highways 16A, 244, 89, and 87, you'll pass through portions of Custer State Park, Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, and the Black Elk National Wilderness Area. A good starting point is Keystone, near Mount Rushmore on Highway 16A (Iron Mountain Road), southeasterly to Highway 87, also known as Needles Highway, following the twists and turns until reaching Sylvan Lake. Once done admiring the lake, you can either take a shorter loop by going north up toward Mount Rushmore, or south to visit more of Custer State Park.

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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