Epic Guide to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota including things to do, history, the Junior Ranger program, and so much more.
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
- Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
- About Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
- Is Minuteman Missile National Historic Site worth visiting?
- History of Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
- Things to know before your visit to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
- Details about Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
- National Park Map
- Where is Minuteman Missile National Historic Site?
- Getting to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
- Best time to visit Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
- Weather and Seasons
- Best Things to do at Minuteman Missile NHS
- Hiking in Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
- How to beat the crowds at Minuteman Missile NHS?
- Where to stay when visiting Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
- Additional Resources
- Parks Near Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is located in South Dakota near Badlands National Park.
About Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Its mission is to tell the story of the Minuteman Missiles, nuclear deterrence, and the cold war.
The main visitor center is right off exit 131 on Interstate 90 and anyone traveling this area should take the time to check it out.
Is Minuteman Missile National Historic Site worth visiting?
Yes! The park has one of the most impressive visitor centers and exhibits we have seen in over 275 parks.
Plus, where else are you going to see a missile right off of the interstate.
History of Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is located six miles west of Wall, South Dakota, and was established in 1999.
This site protects two facilities that were located in western South Dakota from the 1960s to the 1990s.
On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched into orbit the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik.
It was not so much the satellite that concerned the U.S. but the fact that the satellite was able to be propelled into space by a missile that was capable of launching to a target thousands of miles away.
Sputnik spurred the research and ultimately the development of Minutemen Missiles.
In 1954, President Eisenhower stated: “American freedom is threatened so long as the Communist conspiracy exists in its present scope, power, and hostility...We will not be aggressors, but we have and will maintain a massive capability to strike back.”
By 1958, Congress had increased funds for the Minuteman project from $50 million to $140 million.
During the Cold War, Minuteman Missiles were a major part of the defense and protection of the U.S.
The U.S. Air Force spent $56 million to construct 15 different facilities and150 missile silos in South Dakota.
With this number of missiles, the Air Force was confident that there would be ample opportunities to destroy any Soviet aggressor as soon as possible.
The Rapid City Journal described how a Minuteman silo was built:
“Conventional earthmoving equipment scoops an open cut 12 feet deep. A backhoe perclies on the edge of a large hole in this cut and digs a hole 20 feet deeper.
The remaining 52 feet of depth is ‘mined” by a clamshell…When each hole is at the full depth of 84 feet, a steel ‘can’ 12 feet in diameter is carefully positioned in it. Reinforced concrete is poured between the can and earth.”
Work in South Dakota began in 1961 and by 1963 all 150 launchers were fully operational.
During the Cold War, there were six Minuteman Missile fields located in the states of Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Missouri.
This particular site preserves Launch Control Facility Delta-01 and Delta-09 Missile Silo.
The site spans a 15-mile stretch along South Dakota Interstate 90.
One of the most important roles during the Cold War was to work as part of a missile crew with the ability to make the decisions and officially initiate these nuclear missiles if needed.
It was very important to have abundant maintenance and security personnel at these locations as well.
This site required cooperation from many sections in the area; crews had to be at the site 24/7, 365 days a year. Crew members lived and worked close to the facility.
This meant landowners nearby and local towns were part of the initiative to keep America safe during these times.
It was certainly evident to them that living near these facilities added an extra layer of apprehension, feeling their world could change at any moment.
As we know, the Soviet Union eventually collapsed, but not before many close calls and rising tensions over 30 years.
This site is one of only a few that were preserved to educate the public about this time period and the technology and crew that was necessary to keep operations intact.
The reason it was chosen to be preserved was its proximity to Interstate 90 as well as landmarks such as the Badlands and the Black Hills.
The site has also had limited modifications done since it was built in the 1960s.
The silo, Delta-09, was constructed in 1963 and occupies 1.6 acres. The launch tube is underground and today, there is an unarmed missile there for display.
Modifications have been made to the underground location so visitors are able to see the missile and also to permit foreign satellites to verify that the missile is not operational and poses no threat.
The launch facility was built nearby and occupies nearly six acres. The above-ground buildings were used to house employees and contained sleeping areas, offices, and emergency equipment.
Outside the hustle and bustle of South Dakota attractions such as Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, and the historic town of Wall, South Dakota itself, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site sits among the quiet plains and educates visitors on one of the most historic events in both American and World history.
Things to know before your visit to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
$0.00 - There is no entrance fee to visit the park.
There is a tour fee for the Delta-01 tour.
Planning a National Park vacation? America the Beautiful/National Park Pass covers entrance fees for an entire year to all US National Park Sites and over 2,000 Federal Recreation Fee Sites.
The park pass covers everyone in the car for per vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites.
Buy on REI.com and REI will donate 10% of pass proceeds to the National Forest Foundation, National Park Foundation and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities.
Learn more about National Park Passes for parks that have an entrance fee.
Free Entrance Days -Mark your calendars with the five free entrance days the National Park Service offers annually.
Mountain Time Zone
It is worth noting that South Dakota has two time zones. The western part of the state is Mountain Time and the eastern part is in the Central Time Zone.
Pets must be on a leash less than 6 feet in length.
Cell service should be good while at the park.
The visitor center is open from 8 am to 4 pm.
Public WiFi is available at the park visitor center.
Insect repellent is always a great idea when outdoors, especially if you are around any body of water.
We use Permethrin Spray on our clothes before our park trips.
Make sure to bring your own water bottle and plenty of water with you. Plastic water bottles are not sold in the park.
There is a large parking lot in front of the visitor center.
There are no restaurants within the park.
There are no gas stations within the park.
Drones are not permitted within National Park Sites.
National Park Passport Stamps
National Park Passport stamps can be found in the visitor center.
Minuteman Missile NHS is part of the 2018 Passport Stamp Set
Electric Vehicle Charging
There are no EV Charging stations in Phillips, South Dakota.
There are 45 public EV Charging stations in South Dakota.
Details about Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Size - 43.8 acres
Check out how the park compares to other National Parks by Size.
November 29, 1999
In 2021, Minuteman Missile NHS had 140,280 park visitors.
In 2020, Minuteman Missile NHS had 98,908 park visitors.
In 2019, Minuteman Missile NHS had 125,776 park visitors.
National Park Address
24545 Cottonwood Road
Philip, SD 57567
National Park Map
Where is Minuteman Missile National Historic Site?
Minuteman Missile NHS is located in western South Dakota right off of I-90.
Estimated distance from major cities nearby
Pierre, SD - 108 miles
Rapid City, SD - 76 miles
Sturgis, SD - 101 miles
Spearfish, SD - 120 miles
Scottsbluff, NE - 219 miles
Lincoln, NE - 437 miles
Denver, CO - 447 miles
Minneapolis, MN - 499 miles
Wichita, KS - 617 miles
Kansas City, MO - 631 miles
Estimated Distance from nearby National Park
Badlands National Park - 3.8 miles
Wind Cave National Park - 114 miles
Theodore Roosevelt National Park - 295 miles
Yellowstone National Park - 543 miles
Grand Teton National Park - 581 miles
Voyageurs National Park - 686 miles
Where is the National Park Visitor Center?
The visitor center is located directly off of I-90 at exit 131.
Getting to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP)
Billings Logan International Airport
Sioux Falls Regional Airport (FSD)
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site HS is located at three sites along a fifteen-mile stretch of Interstate 90 in western South Dakota.
The Visitor Center is located immediately north of I-90, exit 131.
The two historic sites which make up the park are four miles (Launch Control Facility Delta-01) and 15 miles (Launch Facility Delta-09) from the Visitor Center.
Best time to visit Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
The best time to visit Minute Man Missile NHS is from late spring to fall when the weather is the best.
Weather and Seasons
Phillip, South Dakota experiences hot summers and snowy cold winters.
The hottest temperatures are from June 10th to September 15th with an average daily temperature above 79 degrees.
The coldest temperatures are from November 21 to March 3rd with an average temperature below 45 degrees.
The hottest weather is in July with an average temperature above 90 degrees. The coldest weather is in January with an average low of 14 degrees.
The snowiest weather is from October 30th to May 1st. March gets the most snow with an average of 3 inches.
Best Things to do at Minuteman Missile NHS
We suggest planning a couple of hours to visit the park. That being said you could do it quickly if you only have a little bit of time.
The visitor center is absolutely amazing! As you approach the building you will see three pillars that represent the air, sea, and land elements of the nuclear triad.
The visitor center is filled with exhibits that truly show what it was like to work at the missile sites and why they were placed in South Dakota.
Make sure to get a picture of the famous Domino's pizza delivery door.
The park film "Beneath the Plains: The Minuteman Missile On Alert" is 30-minutes long and tells the story of the Minuteman Missile.
The Junior Ranger program is the perfect opportunity for visitors of all ages to learn more about the park.
Delta-01 Launch Control Facility
The Delta-01 Launch Control Facility can be seen from I-90. What is visible is the topside support building.
31 feet below ground is the underground Launch Control Center.
Visitors not on a tour can walk up to the entrance gate and look through the fence into the compound. There is a cell phone tour that provides information on the site and how it operated.
In order to enter the facility visitors must be on a ranger-guided tour.
Each tour is limited to 6 people and they tend to fill quickly! Reservations can be made 90 days prior to the tour day.
Same-day tours are NOT available during the summer!!!
The Delta-01 Tours last 45 minutes starting at the entry gate to the compound.
There is a 1/4 mile round trip walk on the tour. All visitors must be able to walk and stand without assistance.
Reservations can be made online or by phone at 605-717-7629.
$17 - Adults 17 and over
$8 - Kids ages 6 to 16
Visitors who wish to participate in the underground part of the tour must self-certify that they meet the following requirements:
- Be physically capable of climbing two 15-foot ladders unassisted in the event of an elevator failure. These ladders are permanently attached to the wall and are very sturdy.
- Children must be at least 40” tall, six years of age, and be able to climb the ladder unassisted.
- Be comfortable in a small elevator in close proximity to six other adults. The tour is limited to a maximum of six participants.
- Be comfortable with heights of approximately 35 feet or about 3 stories. The elevator door is an open grate, not a solid door.
Delta-09 Missile Silo
The Delta-09 Missile Silo contained a fully operational Minuteman Missile from 1963 until the early 1990s.
This missile had a 1.2 megaton nuclear warhead. This was one of 150 missile silos spread across western South Dakota.
Today visitors can see a silo 12 feet in diameter and 80 feet deep that is made with reinforced concrete with a steel-plate liner.
There is a glass roof that allows visitors to look at the unarmed missile that is inside.
The Cell Phone Tour on-site provides information on the Delta-09 site.
Cell Phone Tour
The Cell Phone tour is a great way to learn more about Delta-09 and Delta-01 along with the history of the Minuteman Missiles.
The cell phone tour is narrated by Air Force veterans who served at these sites.
Hiking in Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Always carry the 10 essentials for outdoor survival when exploring.
There are no hiking trails within the park. We do suggest having water and being prepared for the weather while visiting the missile sites.
How to beat the crowds at Minuteman Missile NHS?
The only crowds we have seen have been in the visitor center but they were easy to work around.
The exhibits make it easy to walk to another area.
Where to stay when visiting Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
There are no National Park Lodges within the park.
Nearby lodging can be found in Badlands National Park, Interior, Wall, and Kadoka, South Dakota.
Badlands Inn - Badlands National Park
Cedar Pass Lodge and Cabins - Badlands National Park
There are no National Park Campgrounds within the park. The closest National Park Campgrounds include:
Nearby campgrounds include:
Hidden Lake Campground and Resort - Hot Springs, SD
This campground has RV and Tent Sites with waterfront views.
Larsson's Crooked Creek Resort - Hill City, SD
This campground offers tent and RV sites along with lodging
Sturgis Hideaway Campground - Sturgis, SD
This campground offers RV and Tent Sites along with lodging.
Check out additional campgrounds here.
Parks Near Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Check out all of the National Parks in South Dakota along with neighboring National Parks in Iowa, National Parks in Minnesota, National Parks in Montana, Nebraska National Parks, North Dakota National Parks, and Wyoming National Parks