Nestled next to the Big Sioux River, Big Sioux Recreation Area runs along the west side of Brandon, South Dakota, near Sioux Falls. The 8.3 miles of trails offer a close-up look at some of the state’s largest oak and cottonwood trees, as well as a magnificent view of the surrounding tri-state area. These trails are truly spectacular in the fall when the colors are at their peak.
The best trailhead to use if you plan to do all the trails sits at the picnic shelter accessed by taking the second left on the paved road inside the park.
Paved Bike Trail (2.5 miles)
The best place to start on the paved bike trail is either the front or back entrance. The paved bike trail is great for running, bicycling and walking, and runs through the shade for most of the park. Starting at the front entrance of the park, the paved bike trail heads downhill through switchbacks, then runs along the river, cutting through a very pretty 18-hole disc golf course. You also catch a glimpse of an historic homesteader’s cabin to the east of the bike trail near the picnic shelter. At that point, you start up a steep hill on switchbacks, then by a gazebo. Continuing past the back entrance of the park, the trail runs down a long hill featuring a great view of the river, then ends in a parking lot. The paved bike trail is 5 miles total if you walk or run out and back from the front gate to this parking lot and back.
Prairie Vista Trail (2.8 miles)
The Prairie Vista Trail can be accessed by parking at the picnic shelter and walking back through the disc golf course, over a suspension bridge spanning the Big Sioux, then turning right/north just over the river. This trail is considered difficult by some due to the steep hill that offers a spectacular view of the Big Sioux River Valley and three different states: South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. The trail curls through some trees to skirt the riverside for most of a mile. You then head back over the suspension bridge, through the disc golf course, to your car. This trail is also popular with mountain bikers.
Archery Range Trail (1 mile)
The Archery Range Trail is a spur off the Prairie Vista Trail and runs through a beautiful, wooded archery range. If you hike here, be sure to watch out for archers – and arrows.
Valley of the Giants Trail: 2 miles
This trail features some of South Dakota’s biggest oak and cottonwood trees. Starting at the gazebo, it winds down a big hill, under the trees along the river, and through a grassland area containing the remains of an old homestead. It then connects with the paved bike trail to head back up the hill to the gazebo. This trail is great for cross country skiing or snowshoeing in the winter. It can sometimes be flooded in the spring.
If you have a little extra time, bring along your discs and play disc golf on the very pretty 18-hole course, or check out horseshoes at the front gate and play in the old-fashioned horseshoe pits near the picnic shelter.