So You’ve Booked Your Black Hills and Badlands Vacation During the Rally | Black Hills Travel Blog

So You’ve Booked Your Black Hills and Badlands Vacation During the Rally

  • So You’ve Booked Your Black Hills and Badlands Vacation During the Rally
    So You’ve Booked Your Black Hills and Badlands Vacation During the Rally
Thursday, August 3, 2023
By : 
Black Hills and Badlands

So you’ve booked your Black Hills and Badlands vacation during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Your first step? Don’t panic! In many ways, exploring the region as a sight-seer during the Rally can be one of the best times to see it all.

About the Rally

Starting from humble beginnings in 1938, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has evolved in the last 82 years from just a handful of enthusiasts to thousands of bikers attending annually. Now the largest event in South Dakota, the name "Sturgis" is recognized worldwide, synonymous with motorcycles, big-name rock 'n roll, and wild parties.

Grab a t-shirt or two, enjoy the rumble of hundreds of bikes, soak in the excitement of the crowd around, and join the club of people who can say they’ve been to the motorcycle mecca of the West!

Use Your Road Smarts

Be aware during your time in the region that there will be large groups of bikers throughout the region, and at times routes may even be congested. One of the most important things is remembering to keep your distance—a bike will need more room to stop in an emergency—and be prepared to drive slower. Study driving routes beforehand so you are prepared for turns, exits, and stops.

Always double-check your blind spots before merging (motorcycles can be hard to see, especially from larger vehicles), and diligently use your blinkers to signal your intentions on the road. Likewise, keep an eye on bikers using hand signals to merge and change lanes.

And the number one best thing you can do as you prepare for Rally traffic? Be patient. Be prepared and be courteous on the road. While drivers around you may still make poor decisions behind the wheel, these actions can help keep you safe and prevent accidents.

Should I Be Afraid of Bikers?

No! Tourists are friends, not food, and bikers are everyday people that want to ride, party, and have a good time in the beautiful Black Hills and Badlands. The people you will see on their way to Sturgis didn’t make the trek to make any trouble for themselves or others. It’s their vacation, just like yours!

They’ve shown up to enjoy the winding roads, pigtail bridges, sweeping mountain views, monuments, fellowship between other motorcycle lovers and the pure love of a world-class ride. They’ve traveled thousands of miles—some earning their "iron butt" status for the first time—to say they’ve been to the Black Hills and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Don’t be afraid to make friendly conversation when you’re exploring the popular parts of the Hills, and take some time to chat up a few people. 

Shorter Lines

There are few better times to experience some of the Black Hills & Badlands’ attractions at the height of the summer. Most bikers’ priorities are riding and relaxing during the week, so attraction lines may be shorter and many indoor museums and galleries will be relatively quiet. If you’re looking to escape some of the Rally roar, going to attractions is a good way to do it!

Parks & Monuments

While attraction lines might be shorter, traffic for the parks and monuments may be a little longer, and parking harder to find. However, there are still ways to see your bucket list stops and enjoy them! Just like driving anywhere else in the region, be patient and take it slow.

It’s a good idea to wake up and hit the road early to beat the traffic and see some of the region’s more elusive wildlife. You’ll also get the added bonus of catching the golden rays of the sun rising across the Hills, so it’s also a good time to take your scenic drives on routes like Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway before there are many motorcycles out.

While you are exploring the parks, keep in mind that it is also rut season for the many bison that roam through Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, Badlands National Park, and throughout the region. Herds will be on the move quite a lot and the guttural bellows of bison bulls can be heard across the prairie. Give the herd plenty of space as the animals are wild and can be especially unpredictable during this time.

Take it Outside

Another option to get away from the roar of the engines is to spend some time outdoors, hiking, kayaking, swimming, taking trail rides, and more.

Whether you’re looking for a short scenic loop, a challenging trail run, or a multi-day hike, your trek is sure to transport you to awe-inspiring landscapes. Black Hills National Forest, as well as the state and national parks, contain over 450 miles of trails. See some of our most bucket-list-worthy hikes.

For a full list of outdoor rec activities and inspiration, check out our Outdoor Recreation page.

Seeing the Heart of the Rally

Main Street Sturgis is an awesome sight to see indeed—music at every corner mixing with the roar of thousands of motorcycles, people walking up and down the sidewalks, vendors with t-shirts and bike parts, and impressive custom bikes lining the streets.

It’s a lot to see and take in, but you can't beat walking the streets of downtown Sturgis to see the heart and home of the Rally. Walk around, peruse the t-shirt selection from vendors, and sit down with a cold drink to catch free concerts in spots like Harley-Davidson Rally Point, the Knuckle Saloon, and the Loud American Roadhouse. Or, sit in the shade and take your time people-watching! Custom bikes, crazy outfits, and kooky characters will be all around you.

Rest assured that Sturgis, particularly Main Street Sturgis, has become family-friendly over the years. You’re not likely to see any scenes like that existed in the 80s at Rally time. The city of Sturgis is friendly, clean, and ready for non-bikers and families just as much as bikers.

Take the family up on the photo towers, watch the bikes roll by, snap your photo on the Rally Point dais and stop by the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau for info and insider knowledge about where to go and what to do.

Taking the Local Road

The hardest part is getting into the city. With so many bikes, parking can be difficult and traffic lines can be exceptionally long. However, there are several steps you can take to avoid some of the traffic. As with most things in the Black Hills and Badlands, getting there early morning is recommended to beat the traffic, but you can also take a shuttle service from Black Hills Adventure Tours into town.

There are also two popular back roads—take I-90 and then use Exit 37 up to the Sturgis Buffalo Chip. From there, continue your way into town on Highway 34. If you’d rather avoid I-90 altogether and you don’t mind taking the scenic route, drive Elk Vale Road out of Rapid City and then take Alkali Road to the Buffalo Chip.

In short, there’s no need to cancel your trip or postpone your plans for next year! There’s still so much to do and see. Save the stress and enjoy all that the Black Hills and Badlands have to offer against the backdrop of one of the world’s most unique events.

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