Mention South Dakota, and you’re likely to envision the iconic South Dakota landmark of Mount Rushmore. But wait there is more to love about this Midwestern state. You’ll also need to include a visit to Custer State Park with its awe-inspiring wildlife. For your home base, consider kicking back in the town of Custer, in the heart of the Black Hills and located at the edge of the state park. Read on for tips to visit South Dakota Black Hills region.
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Visit South Dakota Black Hills Region
From the four presidential faces carved high on Mount Rushmore to the iconic American bison who roam Custer State Park to the buttes, pinnacles, and spires of the Badlands in the east, the Black Hills of South Dakota is home to so many truly memorable places.
With over 5 million acres of forest and mountainous lands, your South Dakota adventure will be one your family will not soon forget. Get a taste of the wide-open countryside with a visit to South Dakota. With a state slogan of “Great Faces. Great Places” discover a little taste of the Old West when you kick back and visit South Dakota Black Hills region.
When your South Dakota Black Hills family vacation coincides with the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, here are some tips when visiting during Sturgis Bike Week.
Mount Rushmore is Cool — but There’s More!
South Dakota definitely has some pretty notable places which are deserving of your interest. One of the more obvious ones would be Mount Rushmore located in the Black Hills region of South Dakota.
The gigantic memorial, painstakingly carved into Mount Rushmore commemorates four of the United States’ presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. We’re talking 60 feet high granite presidential faces carved into a mountain, surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery of the Black Hills.
To get to know the “Presidents,” walk the Presidential Trail (0.6 miles long and 422 stairs) to get up close and personal with the sculptures.
Travel Tip: Nearly 3 million people visit Mount Rushmore, and this national monument is busiest in the summer months (June, July, and August). Consider visiting when it’s less crowded and less humid during September and October.
Stay in Custer, South Dakota
Looking for a laid-back, uncrowded mountain town? Stay in Custer! This natural playground may not be as grandiose as the Grand Canyon. But it certainly does have its charm as one of the few spots in the world where you can feel like you have escaped from your daily responsibilities.
Its charming tranquil and small-town atmosphere is sure to make you feel like you are walking around a movie set at all times. Check into the nice and cozy Holiday Inn Express and Suites Custer hotel for pretty cheap. When it’s time to dine, choose from multiple options ranging from bakeries, cafes, burgers, BBQ, and more.
Outdoor Adventure at Custer State Park
When you visit South Dakota Black Hills, your trip won’t be complete without visiting Custer State Park. Located on 71,000 acres, the park is South Dakota’s largest and first state park, named after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer.
An amazing symbol of this country is the American bison and Custer State Park is home to these rather famous heard of free-roaming bison. Around 1,300 in fact. You’ll encounter these beautiful creatures driving the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road winding around the southern edge of the park.
As beautiful as these creatures are, do remember that they are wildlife and close encounters, although frequent, can be dangerous. Never approach or feed the bison — or any wildlife.
Animals and parks not your thing? You should still take the time to visit this majestic wildlife reserve in the Black Hills. Many other animals call this state park home, including coyotes, elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain goats, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, river otters, cougars, pronghorn, and a few other species scattered about. And the beauty of this South Dakota park is worth the visit!
With a lineup like that, and considering the location in the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota, it would really be a shame to not at least pay this picturesque place a visit.
Badlands National Park
Every time drive (or ride) into the Badlands National Park, it reminds me of those old spaghetti westerns with the eerie foreboding instrumental music. Like you know Clint Eastwood is in for gunfight and you know he’ll win, but there’s that music. (There’s even a more modern Western movie titled Badland!)
Looking for accommodations in the Badlands? Check out this review of Cedar Pass Lodge Cabin.
Located about one hour from Rapid City, the Badlands National Park’s dramatic landscapes, layered rock formations, steep canyons, and towering spires are simply eerily beautiful. Bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs roam its grasslands.
Take the winding Badlands Loop Road (Highway 240) past scenic lookouts. Several trails begin near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The Fossil Exhibit Trail is a boardwalk with displays on fossils uncovered in the park.