Recreation hotspots at student’s fingertips

Kalie Swails

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or just looking for something to do this upcoming weekend, southeastern South Dakota has plenty to offer by way of outdoor recreation. Be sure to check out the following trails and parks, all as close as a short stroll or a brief road trip away.

Dakota Nature Park

Hiking/Biking/Bridle/Fishing/Cross-Country Skiing

Located: 22nd Avenue South and 32nd Street in Brookings

Once the location of a landfill, Dakota Nature Park has been transformed into a 135 acre outdoor recreation area. The area is open to public use for such activities as picnics, fishing, bird-watching, hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and ice-skating. The Parks and Recreation Department anticipates a variety of new programming in the future in this park, including geocaching, nature and outdoor skills workshops, kayaking instruction and fishing events.

Brookings Bike Path


Located: Accessible throughout Brookings

This recreational trail enjoyed by both bikers and walkers winds six miles from the west side of town near Indian Hills Park all the way under Interstate 29 on the east side of town, serving as an off-road transportation route to locations such as the business park, Swiftel Center and Larson Ice Center.

Oakwood Lakes State Park

Hiking/Camping/Canoeing/Fishing/Cross-Country Skiing

Located: 7 miles north and 3 miles west of Volga, SD, off US Highway 14. Or off Exit 140 on I-29.

Nestled among eight connecting glacial lakes, Oakwood offers a variety of activity opportunities throughout the year, from hiking and swimming in the summer to ice fishing and cross-country skiing in the winter. Shaded campgrounds and picnic areas accompany the swimming and boating facilities within the park, which boasts 136 campsites, six cabins (each sleeps four) and six horse camp sites.

Hole in the Mountain Park

Hiking/Mountain-Biking/Camping/Bridle/Cross-Country Skiing

Located: Western city limits of Lake Benton, MN just off US Highway 14.

Named by Native Americans who noted that this opening on the edge of the Prairie Coteau served as a pass for all westward movement, Hole in the Mountain Park is comprised of approximately 800 acres of woodland and prairie, which provides a habitat for grassland songbirds and nesting waterfowl. The park is perfect to visit in the summer when visitors can explore several miles of hiking and horse trails to view the park’s array of wildflowers, which provide an excellent habitat for rare, prairie-dependent insects, including 25 species of butterflies.

Palisades State Park


Located: Near Garretson; Seven miles north and one west of I-90, Exit 410.

Palisades is a great place to enjoy scenic trails that twist and turn through quartzite formations along Split Rock Creek. The four main trails, which range in difficulty from moderate to strenuous, are dotted with historic sites, including a historic bridge, which is designated as a National Historic Structure. For the particularly adventurous outdoorsman, scaling the towering Sioux quartzite spires and sheer cliff walls is a fun challenge.

Newton Hills State Park

Hiking/Mountain-Biking/Bridle/Camping/Cross-Country Skiing

Located: Six miles south of Canton off County Road 135.

Newton Hills is a great park for hikers, mountain-bikers, horseback riders and bird watchers. The park’s beautiful Woodland Trail is listed in the registry of National Recreational Trails and crosses dense basswood and oak forests, as well as open grasslands. Don’t miss the Park’s Observation Tower—a climb to the top promises an amazing view of the area, especially to appreciate the shades of autumn.