Best known as the home of Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills, South Dakota is a popular spot for visitors from across the United States. If you’re bringing your dog on a summer trip, a quick dip can be a great way to cool off after a day of hiking or exploring. Although the state is landlocked, you can find a variety of river and reservoir beaches. While you plan your beach trip itinerary, book South Dakota vacation rentals near these unforgettable dog-friendly beaches.

a small bay on lake oahe
Source: Flickr/Argyleist

1. Rocky Point Recreation Area, Belle Fourche

Splash in the waters of the Belle Fourche Reservoir with your pet at the Rocky Point Recreation Area in western South Dakota. The recreation area occupies a large peninsula in the lake, creating plenty of beach area. Dogs are welcome, as long as they’re kept on a leash that’s 10 feet long or shorter. Be sure to keep your pets away from the marked-off swimming beach. The park is open year-round, and an onsite dog park provides plenty of space for your pet to run. It’s also important to note that like all of South Dakota’s state-run parks, Rocky Point requires dog owners to keep their pets more than 200 feet from other guests when you’re outside of the day-use areas or campgrounds. The closest sizable small town is Belle Fourche, where you can find rental properties, restaurants, and amenities such as grocery stores and gas stations. The reservoir is just under 10 miles away and approximately a 15-minute drive.

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2. Angostura State Recreation Area, Hot Springs

Angostura State Recreation Area sits on the shore of the Angostura Reservoir, which boasts 36 miles of shoreline. This beautiful area offers something for everyone in the family, including your pet. Dogs on leashes can explore the park and swim in the water year round, as long as you stay away from the swimming beach. Be aware that the reservoir is a popular spot for boaters; if your dog is jumpy, you can avoid the noise by heading to one of the many small coves in the park. A lovely hiking trail extends along the eastern side of the lake, providing easy access to the narrow, sandy beach along the water. Hunt for vacation rentals in the hilly town of Hot Springs. There, you can also find plenty of family-friendly activities, including the Evans Plunge Mineral Springs water slides, the Mammoth Site, and the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. If you want to explore the other side of the reservoir, head to the Sheps Canyon Recreation Area with your pet.

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3. Oahe Downstream Recreation Area, Pierre

Join in the fun at the Oahe Downstream Recreation Area, where your kids and pets can take a dip in the Missouri River. This popular spot is open year round, but it buzzes in the summer with visitors who come to swim, boat, and fish on the river. Keep your dog on a leash, and hop in the water anywhere away from the roped-off beach area. Nearby Pierre offers plenty of places to stay; if you’re in town for a few days, head to the Oahe Marina to rent a boat or a bike to explore the river and the trails. The marina also provides fishing gear and bait, so you can test your luck casting from the shore. If you’re hoping to experience the larger Lake Oahe to the north, check out the West Shore Recreation Area, East Shore Recreation Area, or Oahe Mission Recreation Area.

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4. Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park, Custer

Situated within Custer State Park, Sylvan Lake is one of South Dakota’s most beautiful dog-friendly areas. Rock towers and deep green pines rise from crystal clear waters, creating a picture-perfect background for a day on the water. Keep your pet on a leash and avoid the Sylvan Lake swimming beach; all other beach areas are up for grabs year-round. Feel free to bring your stand-up paddle board, or rent a boat onsite to explore the rocky shores. On weekends and summer days, be sure to get to the lake early to beat the afternoon crowds. If you’re staying in the area, you can find a wide selection of vacation rentals in Custer, which lies a short drive away.

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5. Braeburn Addition Dog Off-Leash Area, Rapid City

When you want to let your dog run free in the water, head straight for the Braeburn Addition Dog Off-Leash Area in Rapid City. Here, a small beach sits next to Rapid Creek, so your pet can enjoy a swim with other dogs. The water is shallow, so it’s easily accessible for even small dogs, but keep in mind that the creek has no fences – if your dog is a runner, it might be a good idea to stay on leash in the water. There’s plenty of space for people to wade, but the water isn’t deep enough for swimming. The dog park is open year-round. If you’re staying in Rapid City for the weekend, look for vacation rentals near Canyon Lake for excellent boating and swimming opportunities. Other local recreation opportunities include hiking in the Black Hills, paddling down the deeper sections of Rapid Creek, and exploring the excellent Museum of Geology in town.

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