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 tower 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 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 with a wide range of temperatures in the summer months from 70s to 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.
RV Rentals in Palisades State Park
Transportation in Palisades State Park
Palisades State Park is accessed from South Dakota Highway 124 and 485th Avenue. You can expect an easy drive to the park along the Northern Great Plains that features undulating terrain and high winds at times. 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 crossing 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. 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.
Campgrounds and parking in Palisades State Park
Campsites in Palisades State Park
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 which are furnished with an electrical hookup. There are also six cabins to rent within the campground. 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. Pets must be restrained by a 10-foot leash.
There are no first-come, first-served options at this state park.
Seasonal activities in Palisades State Park
Everyone should have a fishing pole in their RV to use and 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.
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 hand holds 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.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Canoeing or kayaking is a great thing to do in Palisades State Park. 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 has a continual water flow 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.
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 one and a 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.
Photographers flock to Palisades State Park to admire the Sioux quartzite rock formations, especially around 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 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.
A great off-season activity at Palisades State Park is to go snowshoeing. The terrain is challenging after a good snow with four main trails that range up to a mile and a half 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 which is packed with interpretive signs.