Fall is a magnificent time to explore the Black Hills. Our area’s seasonal colors typically start to appear towards the end of September into the beginning of October, and during this time many are heading to places like Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway which is considered by many to be the star of the season. While the Black Hills capture a lot of the attention at the turn of the season, for good reason, autumn gems worth your time can also be found throughout our charming town. In fact, during the fall and winter season is when you can truly experience Rapid City like a local. 

Before We Begin:

Start each day off deeply inhaling that fresh, crisp fall air. Sure, you can argue that fall smells great everywhere, and maybe it’s just my nostalgia speaking – but there’s something about the fall breeze that rolls over the Black Hills and settles in Rapid City. *Chefs kiss*

Chasing the Colors

People sitting on bench looking out at Canyon Lake Park in Rapid City, SD
Canyon Lake Park

Everyone’s favorite thing about fall is photosynthesis. So, seeking out places to relax that offer glorious shades of red, orange and yellow is high on everyone’s list. Here are my favorites in Rapid City. Canyon Lake Park is one of the oldest parks in the city. This small body of water offers picnic spots, a walking path, fishing docks, a whole lot of beautiful scenery. Add in fall colors and it’s a great stop any time of the day. Another park offering up beautiful views during the fall is Memorial Park. Home to Memorial Pond and piece of the Berlin Wall, you can enjoy the sounds of Rapid Creek as you explore this park and the many memorials, sculptures, and exhibits found within it. If you want a birds-eye view of the beauty, head for the best scenic drive in the city, Skyline Drive

In-City Outdoor Adventures

Fall colors surround Rapid Creek near Canyon Lake Park in Rapid City, Sd
Rapid Creek

Another thing that’s easy to find right in Rapid is outdoor fun. In town you have your choice to hiking trails, mountain biking trails, fishing spots, bouldering spots, and golf courses. If you chose to explore Skyline Drive, you’re steps away from the trails of Skyline Wilderness Area. Here you’ll find six different trailheads for hiking and mountain biking that offers a combination of wilderness and stunning city views. Across from Skyline Wilderness Area, past an urban development known as “the gap”, is another magnificent piece of urban wilderness. Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park is the locations formal name, but locally it is known as M Hill due to the large ”M” at the summit representing the South Dakota School of Mines. With over twenty miles of trails, M Hill is a great spot for mountain biking, hiking and even offers a few spots for bouldering. At the base of M Hill, and weaving throughout the heart of Rapid City, is Rapid Creek. Its one of the largest creeks in the region and offers multiple convenient spots for anglers to cast a line. Depending on the weather, golfing in Rapid can continue through the month October. The Rapid City area offers a variety of excellent golf courses to enjoy a nice fall day on.  

Rapidly Growing Fall Events

Hot Air balloons rising from the Stratobowl with spectators watching in the Black Hills National Forest
Stratobowl Historic Hot Air Balloon Launch

Fall is a heavy hitter for events and celebrations in the Black Hills region. Beyond the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup and the Crazy Horse Fall Volksmarch, Rapid City offers a handful of outstanding events including The Great Downtown Pumpkin Festival (September), Stratobowl Historic Hot Air Balloon Launch (September), and the Black Hills Powwow (October). In fact, the Black Hills Powwow has grown to become one of the largest powwows in the nation. While those are the big events taking place, they aren’t the only things happening. Throughout the week live music can be found at locations all around our city like the Tinder Box Cigar Lounge, The Blind Lion and on stage at Hay Camp Brewing. Harvest festivals and markets also happen all season long, like the Black Hills Farmers Market continues each year into October so you can find great locally made or grown products to enjoy. Honestly, the best thing you can do when you’re in the area visiting is take a gander at our events calendar to see what our community is up to, because there is always something exciting happening. 

Places To Learn And Explore

Couple interacting with a President statue in Downtown Rapid City, SD
City of Presidents

I would consider it a mistake to visit and not explore one of the many museums or galleries found here. Even if you are traveling on a budget, you’ll discover there are numerous free options to add to your day. To gain more knowledge about the area visit The Journey Museum & Learning Center. Here you’ll also discover more interesting information about the Stratobowl and why the annual event takes place each year. If minerals and geology fascinate you, you’ll find the Museum of Geology found on the South Dakota School of Mines campus impressive. Combine art and history with the free City of Presidents tour throughout downtown. Each statue is life-sized and represents something about the president or his time in office making it fun and engaging. Deepen your love for art by getting to know some of the work of local artists. They’re a talented group of passionate individuals. Here are a few of my favorites and where you can explore their work. 

Grab Something Delicious

People dinning at Tally's Silver Spoon a locally owned restaurant in Rapid City, SD
Tally's Silver Spoon

Hunting for a great cup of coffee and a nice toasty meal is easy in Rapid. Local coffee shops roll out magical autumn flavors that capture the spice of the season in every cup. Enjoy one of the cute and cozy atmospheres found at the downtown coffee shops or find one a little off the beaten path like Koyote Koffee. If you’re looking for a cup on the go, try Dixon. The foodie scene in our city is rapidly growing. Start your day off with staples of a great Rapid City breakfast which can be found at Black Hills Bagels, Colonial House, or Tally’s Silver Spoon. Great picnic spots exist all around the area, so for lunch I highly recommend grabbing some food to-go and soaking up the scenery at one of the city parks. Great options for grab and go food can be found at Bashful Bison, Philly Teds Cheezesteaks (I’m a sucker for the chili cheese fries), or snag something delicious from one of the many Rapid City food trucks. When it comes to dinner you can’t go wrong with tasting a South Dakota specialty like bison or chislic at one of these local restaurants

Don’t snooze on an excellent time to explore this city. Even as a local I am constantly finding new ways to experience the fall season here. While we are closely located to all best activities and exciting autumn changes found in the Black Hills, you’ll find everything you need to enjoy the season right here in Rapid.