Palisades State Park
Guide

Introduction

Palisades State Park is truly a geologic gem with stunning rock formations, a flowing creek, a landscape that boasts plenty of activities, and a campground with 16 electrical hookup sites for RVers. Located 10 miles south of Garretson, South Dakota, and 20 miles northeast of Sioux Falls, the 157-acre Palisades State Park is the second smallest state park in South Dakota. The state park features incredible rock formations out of pinkish Sioux Quartzite, which towers upward into the sky. Split Rock Creek flows north and south, dissecting the park with most of the rock formations on the west side and the campground on the east side of the park.

The area of Palisades State Park is located in was once home to numerous Sioux and Dakota Indian tribes before settlers entered the area during the 1860s. The town of Palisades was created after a flour/feed mill was constructed along Split Rock Creek in the 1870s. A silver discovery nearby in 1886 prompted a small boom for the immediate area. Today, Palisades State Park is a premier place in South Dakota where you can gaze at unique cliffs of pinkish Sioux quartzite that jettison into the sky.

You will find plenty of activities at the park that range from rock climbing to hiking to canoeing the swift waters of Split Rock Creek, and there is a historic 1908 truss bridge you can cross or fish from. Once inside the park, you will also find spectacular views of the rock formations from several lookouts.

The weather at Palisades State Park ranges in the mid-20s during the winter months to a wide range of temperatures in the summer months from the 70s to the mid-80s. You can expect to see snow on the ground in the winter and summer months range from three to five inches of rain. But no matter what time of year you visit, you are sure to have a spectacular RV vacation when you enter Palisades State Park.

While you're in the area, why not stop at the nearby Devil's Gluch Park. This stunning park is rich in history and natural beauty. The famous outlaw, Jesse James, was in the park's boundaries and had to jump down the chasm into the Split Rock Creek to evade his pursuers. The chasm is now called the Devil's Gluch. You'll get a chance to see this famous chasm, explore great hiking trails, and enjoy spectacular views and photography opportunities.

RV Rentals in Palisades State Park

Transportation

Driving

Palisades State Park can be easily accessed from I 90. You can expect a smooth drive to the park along the Northern Great Plains that features undulating terrain and high winds at times. You'll be traveling along the highway, and RVers can rest easy that they will not encounter any height restrictions or obstacles along their route. The closest city to the park is the city of Garretson, and if at any point during your stay at the park you need to top-up supplies, you'll find what you need there.

Once inside the park, driving is limited to one road with three branches that lead to the campground, the Balancing Rock Trail Head, and scenic overlook. The third branch of the road continues west, and you must navigate a narrow 1908 iron truss bridge over Split Rock Creek before you reach a day-use only parking lot. Two branches of the road have plenty of turnouts to help alleviate traffic congestion and conclude at trailheads with plenty of parking. The campground road can pose maneuvering problems with several tight turns before reaching the main campground, so make sure to drive carefully.

Once inside the one-loop road campground, there are two hairpin turns that require cautious driving when you are driving a bigger rig or pulling a trailer. While driving within the state park, you must adhere to all speed limits, and your vehicle may be too large to cross over the historic iron truss bridge. Caution should be used in the campground where you are likely to encounter pedestrians, children, and bicyclists along the loop road.

Parking

If you are camping for a couple of nights, go ahead and check-in to your site, cabin, or the lodge. Day visitors can park at the day-use parking area before venturing out to enjoy the host of activities that the park has to offer. The park is not too big, and you can easily reach the different activities and facilities on foot or by bicycle.

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Palisades State Park

Campsites in Palisades State Park

Reservations camping

Split Rock Creek Campground

The Split Rock Creek campground within Palisades State Park consists of one loop that is home to 37 campsites, including 26 sites that are furnished with electrical hookups. Twelve of these sites are tent-only sites. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire ring, as well as a paved parking pad where you might need some type of leveling device. RVs and trailers are limited to 50 feet in length, and each electrical hookup site cannot accommodate large RVs or trailers.

The campground has fresh drinking water stations throughout the loop, year-round vault toilets, as well as flush toilets and showers that may be closed during the winter months. There is a playground for children and an amphitheater for ranger talks and presentations. There is no dump station within the state park, and the nearest dump station to the park is located in Garretson.

Generators can be used between the hours of 8:00 a.m., and 10:00 p.m. Visitors are welcome to bring along their pets, but they must be restrained by a 10-foot leash. This campsite is open year-round, and RVers can stay at the campground at any time during the year. If you stay at the park during the winter months, the comfort stations with hot showers may be closed, so come prepared.

Alternate camping

Cabins

Visitors seeking the comfort of four walls during their stay at Palisades State Park can reserve one of the park's six cabins. The cabins sit adjacent to the Split Rock Creek, some closer than others, and have a lovely view looking out over the creek from their wooden decks. The decks feature a picnic table and a couple of wooden chairs -- perfect for sitting outside and enjoying the scenic views.

The cabins can each sleep four people and are equipped with a double bed and two single beds. Visitors in need of an ADA-accessible cabin should reserve cabins two and four. Make sure to reserve your cabin prior to your arrival.

Lodge

Bigger groups of campers can stay at the park's lodge that sleeps up to 12 people. The lodge is ADA-accessible, and visitors who struggle with mobility will find the lodge a breeze. You can also enjoy the WiFi available in case you need to check your phone or computer during your stay.

There is plenty of space for a large group of people to gather around in the lodge, and it also features a stunning deck and patio. This accommodation option is perfect for family reunions or going away with friends. It's a good idea to reserve the lodge in advance.

Seasonal activities in Palisades State Park

Off-Season

Snowshoeing

A great off-season activity at Palisades State Park is to go snowshoeing. The terrain is challenging after heavy snow with four main trails that range up to 1.5 miles in length. The Split Rock Creek Trail winds along the river and offers amazing views of the various rock formations that tower into the sky some 50 feet. Another perfect snowshoe trail is the Balancing Rock, where you can stop at an overlook that is packed with interpretive signs.

Photography

Photographers flock to Palisades State Park to admire the Sioux quartzite rock formations, especially during sunrise and sunset. The beautiful landscape of pink rocks ranges from small shelves just a few feet above Split Rock Creek to incredible towers of rock that rise into the sky over 50 feet. The combination of the flowing water and rock formations is highlighted by pine forests, which offer great contrast for the photographers. The historic 1908 iron truss bridge is a work of art and makes for a great snapshot too.

Hiking

Slap on a pair of good hiking boots and set-off on one of the several trails within Palisades State Park. The park has four hiking trails, which include Balancing Rock, Split Rock Creek, South Wall as well as King and Queen Rock. Trails range in length from a quarter-mile to 1.5 half miles and travel mainly through the Sioux quartzite formations. Each trail takes you close to numerous climbing areas such as the South Wall, and the scenic overlooks along trails will thrill your eyes.

In-Season

Canoeing and Kayaking

Canoeing or kayaking is a great thing to do in Palisades State Park, so make sure to pack yours along. There are plenty of places to put your vessel in the water along the east side of the park along Split Rock Creek. The river flows year-round with swifter currents during the spring run-off period. Paddlers should take caution near the cliffs and shelves for falling rocks as well as for swirling eddies. Don’t forget your camera in your camper because you will want a photograph of the historic bridge from the water.

Rock Climbing

You should bring your climbing shoes and chalk because Palisades State Park is a haven for rock climbers of all skill levels. The Sioux quartzite rock formations are perfect with plenty of cracks as well as fissures for handholds and sheer cliffs to practice scaling and rappelling. Bolting is not allowed and you should check for other restrictions before climbing. Some of the best climbs in the park include Balancing Rock, King and Queen Rock, as well as South Wall.

Fishing

Everyone should have a fishing pole in their RV to use, especially since the fishing on Split Rock Creek is ideal. You can decide what type of fishing you want to try. There are options for fly fishing, shore fishing, and fishing from a kayak or canoe. The best fishing tends to be towards the end of spring run-off and early summer when the water begins to clear of sediment. You can expect to catch a variety of fish such as northern pike, white crappie channel catfish, largemouth bass and walleye. Don’t worry if you left your pole at home, you can rent one at the entrance station.

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