Planning your itinerary for the 81st Sturgis Motorcycle Rally? Whether you’re a first-time participant or attend the rally annually, be sure to include these top 5 Sturgis rides in your itinerary for an unforgettable experience.
Top 5 Motorcycle Rides in Sturgis
With the 81st Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally just around the corner, it’s time to start revving your engines for this monumental event. With hundreds of thousands of riders expected to attend this year’s rally, you’ll want to be well-prepared in order to see the sights and have access to the best rides.
Regardless of your experience level with the South Dakotan hallmark festival, be sure to include the following five rides at the 2021 Sturgis motorcycle rally.
Know before you go
Many of the attractions listed on this page are part of the National Park System. Individual entrance fees apply for each National Park site, and depending on how many National Parks you plan to tour, you can save money by purchasing the ‘America the Beautiful’ Annual Access Pass. In addition to the several National Parks en-route-to and around Sturgis, the Access Pass permits you year-long entry into any National Park in the U.S.
*Please note that current US Military and their dependents can obtain free annual National Park passes with up-to-date photo identification.
1. MOUNT RUSHMORE
Perks: One of the most famous National Parks in the United States, Mount Rushmore provides an up-close-and-personal look at the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Nestled in the heart of the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore was carved by the esteemed sculptor Gutzon Borglum in 1925.
Debrief: While credit of this impeccable monument can (and should) be given to the dozens of workers who meticulously chipped away at the sculptures, this astonishing mountainside wouldn’t exist if not for the imagination of Doane Robinson, the “Father of Mount Rushmore.” It was Robinson who invited renowned sculptor Borglum to invest in the project in August of 1924. Despite Robinson’s “fathering” of the mountain, however, this four-faced marvel is actually named after the renowned New York lawyer, Charles Edward Rushmore, who represented the first group of esteemed men to find tin in the Etta Mine of the Black Hills. Awestruck by the majesty of the large granite mountain, Rushmore decidedly deemed the landmark “Rushmore Peak” in 1885.
Fun Fact: Once appointed to the project, sculptor Borglum worked diligently with the intent to make Mount Rushmore the “Shrine of Democracy.” While Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson were shoe-ins for the memorial, there was much debate over whether the fourth bust should be that of Thomas Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson. Ultimately, Roosevelt’s conservation efforts and involvement in the construction of the Panama Canal outweighed Wilson’s leadership efforts during World War I.
Directions: Mt. Rushmore is about an hour ride south of Sturgis – there are multiple ways to get to great riding paths via the I-90 East.
Fees: Motorcycles are charged $10 per vehicle, and $5 for seniors. Active Duty Military can enter the Park for free.
2. CRAZY HORSE
Perks: Despite the awe and mystique of Mount Rushmore, you’re sure to find yourself similarly amazed by the magnificence of Crazy Horse. After nearly seven decades of construction, Crazy Horse is relentless in its mission of becoming the world’s largest sculpture of a Lakota tribe leader.
Debrief: A member of the Teton Sioux Tribe, Crazy Horse was thought to be born in 1843 on Rapid Creek, nearly 40 miles southeast of Sturgis. Originally called “Curly” for his wavy hair, it wasn’t until he proved himself in battle that Crazy Horse earned the namesake of his father, Tasunka Witco, the original “Crazy Horse.” Once old enough to focus on the rites of passage for a Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse became the epitome of bravery and power amongst the Lakota people. In 1876, Crazy Horse led a battle against Sargent Custer’s Seventh U.S. Cavalry battalion. Though 32 of Crazy Horse’s fighters were killed in the fight, Custer and nine of his officers and 280 enlisted military men ultimately perished in the event. It wasn’t until 1877 that Crazy Horse approached the U.S. Military at Fort Robinson with a flag of truce. However, due to a misunderstanding in translation, Crazy Horse was fatally wounded by an Indian infantry guard.
Today, the memorial features Crazy Horse pointing forward, which represents his response to the Cavalryman who asked him, “Where are your lands now?” His left hand pointing forward is indicative of his response: “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”
Fun fact: Crazy Horse Memorial was under construction for more than 67 years and today, stands at a staggering 6,532-feet-tall. As the 27th highest mountain in South Dakota, Crazy Horse was sculpted with the intent of preserving and protecting the tradition and heritage of the North American Indians. You can learn more about the South Dakota Indian Tribes here.
Directions: Crazy Horse Memorial is roughly 80 minutes away from Sturgis via the I-90E to the US-16W.
Fees: Unlike the $30.00 per four-axle car, motorcyclists visiting Crazy Horse Memorial are only charged $7.00 per rider. See the Crazy Horse Memorial web page for more entrance information.
Check the weather before you go!
3. CUSTER STATE PARK
Perks: Located just 67 miles south of Sturgis, Custer State Park is an expansive 71,000-acre haven in the heart of the Black Hills. Known for its abundant wildlife and endless adventure, Custer State Park gives visitors the freedom to camp, hike, bike, swim, fish, and relax in some of South Dakota’s most pristine terrain.
Debrief: Deriving its namesake from George Armstrong Custer, who discovered gold in the region in 1874, the park encompasses 114 square miles of southwestern South Dakota. Spanning across multiple prairies and staggering mountain ranges, Custer State Park is one of the largest in the continental U.S.
Fun fact: During your ride, keep an eye out for one of the nation’s largest free-range bison herds – with over 1,500 bison in the group, it will be hard to miss. Be sure to also look for pronghorn, deer, elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, wild burros, eagles, and turkeys. If you’re lucky, you might even catch sight of the elusive mountain lion, coyote pack, or Great Horned Owl.
*Note: Though rich with wildlife, Custer State Park has very strict hunting seasons. There is NO hunting of any sort during the dates of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Directions: To get to Custer State Park you only need to use I-90 E for 60 miles – take your time and enjoy the scenery!
Fees: $10 per motorcycle
4. NEEDLES HIGHWAY
Perks: One of the most famous National Scenic Byways, Needles Highway showcases just over 14 miles of South Dakota’s spectacular roadways. Staggering granite towers, looming tunnels, and tight, winding turns make Needles Highway ideal for riders looking to explore the wild territory around Sturgis.
Debrief: Also known as South Dakota’s Highway 87, Needles Highway winds through the heart of the Black Hills. As one of the most recommended routes through Custer State Park, this picturesque roadway has stunned doubtful critics since it was completed in 1922.
Fun fact: Several uncertain evaluators deemed the construction of Needles Highway “impossible.” Yet, nearly a century after the project’s completion, Needles continues to be one of South Dakota’s greatest attractions for riders.
Directions: Needles Highway is a little over 65 miles from Sturgis via the I-90 E to the US-16 W.
Fees: As mentioned above, there is a $10 fee per bike entering Custer State Park.
5. THE CANYON RIDE
Perks: Known as one of the coolest rides around Sturgis, the Canyon Ride cuts into some pristine scenery in South Dakota. Winding around Spearfish Canyon, Boulder Canyon, and Vanocker Canyon, this motorcycle ride is the ultimate reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the Sturgis rally. Soak in Spearfish Canyon’s 19-miles of cool mist and bask in Boulder Canyon’s sights all the way from Sturgis to Deadwood. For riders looking to go the extra mile, Vanocker Canyon winds through the heart of Nemo and back to Deadwood.
Debrief: Commonly known as the “Northern Hills Ride,” the Canyon Ride offers a unique type of topographical diversity: in just 2.5 hours, this 100-mile-long loop begins on West Main Street in Sturgis. Following Main Street (Highway 14), you’ll soon come through Boulder Canyon to the town of Deadwood. Once in Deadwood, go north on Highway 85 to I90 until you reach Exit 14 toward Spearfish. Follow Highway 14A to Cheyenne Crossing to experience the beauty of Spearfish Canyon and head east on Highway 385 through Vanocker Canyon to downtown Sturgis.
Fun Fact: Though the Canyon Ride showcases just three picturesque canyons, riders should prepare for over 600 curves that wind through this jaw-dropping terrain.
This 110 mile ride in the Black Hills is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. The Devil’s Tower is one of the most famous natural rock formations in the United States, and can be seen during the majority of this ride’s sweeping curves.
The Badlands Route
For some true South Dakotan adventure, head through the Badlands National Park on a ride that will have you admiring the landscape and monuments throughout it. This Ride is over 160 miles, and takes about 4.5 hours if you ride steadily, but we recommend stopping to take in the grassland beauty and other scenic elements of South Dakota.
Sundance Road Ride
A quick jaunt laden with history, this ride is a 120 mile loop that takes you through the mining towns of Lead and Central City. There are a number of other historic towns leading up to its namesake stopping point of Sundance, where you can enjoy relics of the development of Wyoming.
Sturgis to Deadwood
Check out this video where Adam Sandoval and Ari hit the road to check out the awesome ride from Sturgis to Deadwood, with a quick stop at the Jacobs Brewhouse for a quick bite.
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