Share |

South Dakota's Sledding Hills

Dec 3, 2020

Local youth take to their sleds at Yankton’s Morgen Park. Photo by Bernie Hunhoff.

South Dakota’s reputation for geographic diversity holds true when it comes to snow sledding. Some of our eastern cities are too flat, and the slopes in some of our mountain towns are too rugged, steep and rocky.

In Aberdeen, where the terrain has been described as “flat as a barn door,” city leaders manufactured a 25’ hill so kids could enjoy winter. However, we discovered that most communities have a natural hill that becomes a hot spot when it snows.

Pack your sleds as you travel this winter because there are plenty of hills to explore. Most of the snow hills are unsupervised, so adults should be ready to act if they see something dangerous — a heavy toboggan sled, for example, that could carom out of control and hurt someone, or a motorized vehicle on the slopes. Sledding has long been a favorite winter tradition, even for our flatland friends. Let’s keep it alive.

Here’s our list of city slopes. Tell us what we’re missing. We’d also like to know where to find the closest and richest hot chocolate after a day on the slopes.


ABERDEEN — God created most of South Dakota’s hills and mountains, but man assisted with the modest slope in Baird Park (1715 24th Avenue NE), the most popular sledding spot in the Hub City. City officials created the gentle 25-foot just for kids.

BELLE FOURCHE — Slopes behind the Tri-State Museum (415 5th Avenue) are a favorite, though they may be too fast for younger kids and there is a walking path at the foot of the hill so watch for pedestrians.

CUSTER — Pageant Hill has been touted as one of the finest family sledding spots in the Black Hills. It may be too steep and long for younger kids, but you don’t have to descend from the very top. The hill is the summit of beautiful Big Rock Park, which also includes hiking trails and a disc golf course. It rises above the city’s south side.

HOT SPRINGS — Southern Hills Golf Course (1130 Clubhouse Drive) is fun and scenic.

HURON — Toboggan Hill (6th Street & Lawnridge Avenue), aka Slide Hill, is a bluff above the Jim River valley on Huron’s east side.

LEMMON — The ever-resourceful people of Lemmon discovered years ago that it was less expensive to build a small hill for their new water storage rather than just build a taller tower. Then someone got the great idea or also making it into a sledding slope with a warming shack. Tank Hill is quite easy to spot on the city’s west side. Many years ago, when the water tower developed a leak during a cold spell, kids were able to slide on the ice flow all the way downtown.

PIERRE — The slopes above the soccer fields in Hilger’s Gulch are popular. The gulch is a scenic valley just north of the State Capitol building.

RAPID CITY — Meadowbrook School Hill (3125 W. Flormann Street) is a good spot, as well as the Civic Center hill that rises above the Holiday Inn Rushmore Plaza parking lot downtown.

SIOUX FALLS — Tuthill Park in southeast Sioux Falls is the site of weddings and parties in the summer months, but when the snow falls it becomes the domain of well-bundled children with sleds. Spellerberg Park (2299 W. 22nd Street), closer to the city center, also has a fair slope. Great Bear Ski Valley welcomes snow tubers, who get to ride the ski lifts.

SPEARFISH — Hills behind the Donald E. Young Center on the Black Hills State University campus are fast and fun.

STURGIS — Lions Club Park (off Lazelle Street) is a good place for younger kids, and Strong Field Hill on Ballpark Road is fun for older youth.

WATERTOWN — St. Ann’s Hill, a sledder’s delight, is so named because St. Ann’s was the original name of the nearby Prairie Lakes Hospital. Take Highway 20 to 10th Avenue and turn uphill.

WESSINGTON SPRINGS — It’s worth a drive to experience Ski Hill on the west edge of Wessington Springs. The natural setting in the Wessington Hills is idyllic, but the real attraction is an old, homemade invention with an electric motor that powers a 1,200-foot rope lift. Jokingly called the “Rube Goldberg ski lift,” the simple equipment has been lovingly cared for by handy volunteers, including Lloyd Marken, 85, who helped to build it in 1956.

YANKTON — Morgen Park (1200 Green Street) is the go-to sledding hill in town, however kids also like to slide down the earthen slope of Gavins Point Dam, where it rises above Pierson Ranch Recreation Area west of Yankton.


09:14 am - Tue, December 8 2020
Gary Writer said:
Thanks for the nice article on this important subject of South Dakota sledding hills! However, you did indeed miss one of the most memorable for many -- the hill at the old Oral School on the Angostura project southeast of Hot Springs.

Anybody who was a kid at Oral in the fifties and early sixties will confirm that hill to be unmatched. Countless recesses and lunch hours were spent on every conceivable sledding device from old 1940's truck hoods to the occasional lighting-fast Comet sled from the Montgomery Wards catalog. Bangs and bruises and sometimes a trip into Hot Springs for stitches came with the territory.

When the snow was right, if you had the right sled, and you started clear at the top pasture fence corner, and if you didn't hit anybody on the way down ,,, you could FLY all the way down and through the breezeway between the main building and the new addition, past the swings to the east barbed wire fence!

Of course the hill is still there -- and though the buildings are now used for other things -- hopefully adventurous local kids are carrying on the tradition. ... The last time I stopped by a few years ago, traveling from my home in Washington state, even the same old swings and slippery slide were still there -- though moved to a different spot.

I suspect there are many others who have the same fond memories of the Oral School, the great sledding and the wonderful caring and long-suffering teachers from that period. If others have any memory of me personally, I hope they forgive me for being such a brat.

Gary Writer

03:12 pm - Wed, December 9 2020
Todd Bechtold said:
My grandparents lived right across the street from Tobaggan hill in Huron, SD. What great memories we had there. Many dares and double dog dares were hashed out with the cousins.
08:16 am - Tue, December 19 2023
Brian Schmuck said:
Leaders Park in Sioux Falls was my old sledding haunt. We used to call the East Slope - Suicide Hill, because of the verticality of the slope.
08:07 am - Tue, January 23 2024
Jeff Hoyer said:
Went to Wessington Springs Academy in Wessington Springs in 1967. The high school closed in 1968. However I ran cross country in a steep hill near the city.park. It was a killer of a hill. I wonder if this hill is the one they are referring to.

Share your thoughts, post a comment to this story:

Your Name:
Your Email Address:  
Your Website:
2000 characters remaining
Web Design by Buildable