Follow the Oyate Trail

South Dakota has a lot to offer travelers, including epic landmarks like Mount Rushmore. But, if you are looking for a unique experience and aren’t afraid to abandon the interstate in favor of smaller highways, you can explore southern South Dakota in a way few visitors do. By following the Oyate Trail, you get to work your way through destinations that go unseen by most tourists.

What Is the Oyate Trail?

Comprised of 388 miles of highway, mainly along highways 50 and 18, the Oyate Trail is a route through southern South Dakota. During your journey, you’ll work your way through small towns. As you do, you’ll get chances to visit historical and cultural sites that reflect the heritage of the Native Americans that call the region home as well as the Europeans who arrived.

Traveling the Oyate Trail

Following the Oyate Trail is fairly simple. You begin your journey in Vermillion and head toward Edgemont. As you head on your adventure, you’ll stop at various points to learn about the area, see interesting landmarks, and more.

Experiencing everything the Oyate Trail has to offer takes at least three days, though it can certainly be spread out into a longer journey. This makes it a great short road trip that’s perfect for a three-day weekend or as part of a larger cross-country journey. If you are ready to travel the Oyate Trail, here’s how to make the most of the trip.

Day One

You’ll launch your Oyate Trail exploration journey in Vermillion, which is about seven miles to the west of the intersection of Interstate 29 and Highway 50. Once there, head to the University of South Dakota and find the National Music Museum. The museum houses over 15,000 antique and rare instruments, making it a great destination for music-lovers.

As you head west, make a stop at Yankton, a little town on the Missouri River that served as the Dakota Territory’s first capital. There, you’ll find the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area, a mecca for camping and water sports.

If you are taking your time exploring the Oyate Trail, you can arrange to camp at the park, which is quite affordable. Otherwise, there should still be time during the day to make it to the next destination.

Heading farther west brings you to the town of Tabor. Every June, the city hosts Czech Days, an annual festival, which offers a lot of family-friendly fun.

Then, you’ll use highways 50 and 18 to make your way to the Fort Randall Dam, an area that is also home to the Yankton Sioux Tribe Reservation and the Fort Randall Casino. Once you reach Winner, you’ll stop for the night.

Day Two

One day two, you’ll start by heading to Mission’s Rosebud Indian Reservation. Ther, you can visit Sinte Gleska University before making your way south to Saint Francis. At the Buechel Memorial Lakota Museum, you can view amazing Native American Art and learn about the tribe’s history.

Making your way west, you’ll find the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the largest reservation in the entire state. Both Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations hold a range of events during the summer, including festivals and powwows. Plus, the Pine Ridge Reservation is home to the Wounded Knee Memorial, a must-see destination for every traveler.

As you head further west, make a stop at the Red Cloud Indian School and Heritage Center. During the summer, there’s an art show that highlights Native American fine art. Then, head to either the Prairie Wind Casino or Hot Springs to stay the night.

Day Three

On day three, you’ll start by spending some time in Hot Springs. The Mammoth Site is an excellent place to spend some time, allowing you to view the largest collection of mammoth fossils in all of the Western Hemisphere. Excavation at the site is on-going, so you might be able to see some archeologists hard at work, too.

Next, you can head to a massive nature warm-water pool that’s great for swimming. Then, make a stop at the wild horse sanctuary to see these amazing animals.

Finally, take some time to check out Wind Cave Natural Park. There, you can explore one of the world’s longest cave systems.

Making the Most of Your Journey

As you work your way along the Oyate Trail, it’s easy to make the most of your journey. You’re traveling through a ton of small towns, each one with its own quirks and personality. As a result, keep your itinerary flexible. When it comes time to neat, find a small diner that the locals love and try something a bit adventurous, like a buffalo burger.

Additionally, keep your eye out for seasonal events. Nearly every town hosts at least one festival, and those can be great for stretching your legs and experiencing the local culture. Plus, some of the cities offer something unexpected. For example, the Burke Stampede Rodeo is said to be one of the largest (if not the largest) amateur rodeos in the Midwest, so you might want to check it out if it’s going when you pass through.

Ultimately, the Oyate Trail is all about exploration. Don’t be afraid to take a path less traveled, as you never know what may be in store if you do.

Things to Do Near Oyate, South Dakota

When deciding where to travel in the United States, many people overlook South Dakota. However, this lesser-visited state has a lot to offer. The landscape is truly magnificent, featuring stunning peaks, rolling hills, and forests that reach as far as the eye can see. Plus, Oyate, South Dakota is conveniently located in the middle of many fun and educational attractions, making it an ideal region for singles, couples, and families alike.

If you are heading to Oyate, South Dakota, here are ten nearby destinations you should add to your list.

1. Denny Sanford Premier Center

Located in Sioux Falls, the Denny Sanford Premier Centre is a massive multipurpose facility that hosts a range of events. Along with large meetings and conventions, sporting events, concerts, banquets, and more are held at the venue. The building can seat up to 12,000, so a show here may feel more intimate even when filled to capacity.

2. Shakespeare Garden & Anne Hathaway Cottage

If you are looking for a unique destination, the Shakespeare Garden and Anne Hathaway Cottage should certainly be on your list. You can stroll through the beautiful landscaping and take a tour of the only thatched roof structure in the entire state. The Anne Hathaway Cottage was created to resemble the original, which is located in Stratford-on-Avon, England. You can also schedule a tour of the cottage or reserve a “high tea” inside if you plan in advance.

3. Sculpture Walk

An engaging outdoor exhibit, the Sculpture Walk in downtown Sioux Falls is available year-round. Artists can display their creations for one year, and each one is available for purchase if you are so inclined and beat other buyers. Since the displays change regularly, each trip can be a completely unique exploration of art.

4. Spirit Mound Historic Prairie

If you want to embrace a sense of adventure, you can follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark by taking a trip to Spirit Mound Historic Praire, a South Dakota state park. The Plains Indians believed the region was home to the “little people,” folkloric figures described as looking like dwarfs who were said to play pranks of people or sing and then hide when visitors tried to find the source of the music.

5. Moody County Museum

Located in Flandreau, Moody County Museum focuses on the history and heritage of the surrounding region. Many of the displays showcase the culture and influence of the area’s Native American populations, making it an educational destination for those interested in learning about history. You can also view the Moody County Historical Society’s research facilities, which are on site, giving you insights into upcoming exhibits and new information.

6. Good Earth State Park at Blood Run

A park that is as beautiful as it is historically significant, Good Earth State Park is largely undeveloped, making it a natural wonder. However, it is also considered one of the oldest sites where human’s have inhabited an area over the long-term, serving as a trading center for native peoples from approximately the years 1300 to 1700. It is also the largest Oneota cultural site ever discovered in the upper Midwest, as it was also used for seasonal ceremonies for centuries.

7. Four Winds Cultural Center

At the Four Winds Cultural Center – located on the campus of the Flandreau Indian School – you can view historical items, artifacts, and memorabilia, as well as more contemporary displays, focused on Native American history and culture.

8. Split Rock Park

Filled with quartzite rock formations nestled along the Split Rock River, this park is ideal for spending some time in nature and exploring unique structures featuring locally-quarried quartzite. Primitive campsites are available, making it great for an overnight stay focused on simple living. Visitors can also spend time canoeing, hiking, or fishing, or can bring a picnic lunch so that they can enjoy a quick bite by the bank of the river.

9. Children’s Museum of South Dakota

If you are traveling with kids and want to take them to a place brimming with fun and exploration, the Children’s Museum of South Dakota is a great destination. The indoor/outdoor facility is all about play and learning, giving kids a chance to take part in some hands-on activities that lead to entertaining discoveries.

10. Teddy Bear Town

Part museum, part store, Teddy Bear Town is the Guinness World Record holder for the “Largest Teddy Bear Collection,” featuring about 10,500 different teddy bears. Bears from all 50 US states call Teddy Bear Town home, along with teddies from 29 other countries. Best of all, it is completely free to come in and take a look (though they do accept donations to help with operational costs), and you can even take a teddy bear home if you find one you can’t do without in the gift shop and decide to make a purchase.