Planning your itinerary for the 78th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally? Whether you’re a first-time participant or attend the rally annually, be sure to include these top 5 Sturgis rides to make your trip truly unforgettable.
Top 5 Motorcycle Rides in Sturgis
With the 78th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally just around the corner, it’s time to start planning your itinerary for this monumental event. With more than 376,000 riders expected to attend this year’s rally, you’ll likely want to plan strategically in order to see the sights and experience the best rides.
Regardless if you make these South Dakotan festivities an annual event, or if this is your first time experiencing the celebration, be sure to include the following five rides at the 2018 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 your year-long entry into any National Park in the U.S.
*Please note that the current US Military and their dependents can obtain free annual National Park passes with up to date photo identification.
1. Mount Rushmore
Perks: As one of the most famous National Parks in the United States, Mount Rushmore affords 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 majesticness 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.
Fees: Motorcycles are charged $10 per vehicle. Active Duty Military can enter the Park for free.
2. Crazy Horse
Perks: Despite the awe and perplexity of Mount Rushmore, you’re sure to find yourself again 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 presumably 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 a 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 lead a battle against Sargent Custer’s Seventh U.S. Cavalry battalion. Though 32 of Crazy Horse’s fighters were killed in the fight, Custer, along with 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.
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 lies Custer State Park, an expansive 71,000-acre haven in the heart of the Black Hills. Known for abundant wildlife and endless adventure, visitors of Custer State Park have 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, Custer State Park encompasses 114 square miles of southwestern South Dakota. Spanning across expansive 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 shouldn’t 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.
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 stunned doubtful critics when 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.
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 of the greatest 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 the 600 curves that wind through this jaw-dropping terrain.