The Black Hills and Badlands are located in Southwestern South Dakota. Travel to this area if you are in the Midwest of the United States. The Black Hills are old mountains, most of the population in Western South Dakota is found here. This region is like an island on the prairie that surrounds it. The Badlands National Park are prehistoric geographical features, dunes, and seabeds. Badlands is located between the Black Hills and Buffalo Gap National Grassland. This land has been sacred for many generations. Many prehistoric fossils have been found here. There are several Native American tribes who lived and traveled to the Black Hills for thousands of years. A culture conflict between General Custer and the Indians is real. Many government promises and people’s lives were compromised.Americas desire for gold and land became to rich.
The Black Hills National Forest is divided into several districts. The Bear Lodge District in Eastern Wyoming is very unique. Devils Tower, a massive rock in the middle of nowhere, is a good place to travel. Sundance,WY has basic services if you need a place to stop. Make sure to explore Sand Creek on you way through the boarder with South Dakota. With a small campground, this historical area is more backcountry. Water has shaped a large portion of the Black Hills. Spearfish Creek, Custer Creek, and Rapid Creek are the main watersheds. Water from precipitation has carved giant valleys into the hills. There are awesome underground cave networks and caverns in the Black Hills. Rock Cliffs, Mountain Streams and Lakes, and a great culture are found here. Seasonal blizzards and weather events do strike the Black Hills. Three Feet of Snow and Flash Hail Storms that look like snow drifts happen. If you are traveling here, especially on a bike, take mother nature seriously. Tornado’s also strike the Black Hills frequently. If you are traveling here have contingency plans and know how to get to safety. Make sure to pay all fees and have permission before entering private and permitted land. Fishing and Hunting are common outdoor activities in the area. Rainbow Trout are stocked in most of the lakes and streams in the Black Hills. Elk, deer, and turkey are the primary large game hunted. Seasonal Mountain Lion hunting is also popular in the area. Belle Forche, Spearfish, Sturgis, Deadwood/Lead, Hill City, Keystone, Custer, and Hot Springs are some of the main communities here. The encroachment of cabins and population into the wild has created conflict. Mountain Lions, Prairie Rattlesnakes, and especially small critters like frogs are being affected. The isolation of the Black Hills from other mountains has no corridors for plants and animals to travel. Wildfires are a very serious threat to the forests of the Black Hills. Make sure to only have campfires where permitted. Please don’t litter and leave little trace. There are many good reasons to travel to the Black Hills on your next vacation. Let’s keep it that way for the future!
Black Hills Area Major Attractions
Badlands National Park is located South East of Rapid City, SD. The best way to enter the park is driving south from Wall Drug, SD on Highway 240. This area is close to Interstate 90, and will take a minimum half day to explore the major features. This prehistoric time capsule has given science a guide to look into the past. Large Dinosaurs, Mammal, and Plant fossils have been found in the Badlands. Bighorn Sheep, Prairie Dogs, and other wildlife can be seen. Black Footed Ferrets have been successfully introduced, however management is controversial. The Badlands and Buffalo Gap National Grassland are co-managed with Native Americans. Pine Ridge Reservation is directly south of the Badlands. Make sure to have permission before entering parts of the park.
Bear Butte is located near Sturgis, SD on the East side of the Black Hills. Located next to Highway 79 this small mountain is solo. Dozens of miles away from the rest of the foothills Bear Butte historically was a travel marker. Native Americans considered Bear Butte connected to creation of life. The lore and stories from the old times is almost completely lost. Today there is a recreation area with some walking trails. Almost every biker going to Sturgis, SD will see Bear Butte. Prairie Rattlesnakes are known to live around this area. Travel to Bear Butte if you are coming to the area.
Crazy Horse Memorial is located off Highway 16 & 385 in the South Central Black Hills of South Dakota .This is a non-profit undertaking with monumental proportion. The construction was started in 1948 and is still underway. The figure of Crazy Horse Memorial was a Native American warrior of the Lakota people. The land of his people was being occupied. Crazy Horse and all the honorable Native Americans were trying to survive. The defiance of this free man was not taken lightly. After fighting in many battles, and inspiring his community, he was killed in captivity. Crazy Horse Memorial is a unique place to stop. Travel here with the family for education and fun. Cultural heritage is deep in the Black Hills. The land is sacred for all things.
Custer State Park is located in the Southern Black Hills of South Dakota. Visited by many American Presidents, this area has many recreational opportunities. With unique lakes and Custer Creek this park provide travelers a place to explore. Go gold panning, fishing, and camping all in one area. There are nice facilities and lodging within the park. Custer State Park is known for its Pine Forest and Meadows. Historical Fires create bare spots where grass can grow. Big herbivores like bison and elk can thrive here. In turn big predators like Mountain Lions can also be found. Prairie dogs are fun to watch and take pictures of. The furry critters make boroughs and den underground. Make sure not to feed any animals in the park. More amenities can be found in the town of Custer, SD.
Harney Peak is located in the East Central Black Hills of South Dakota. This mountain is the highest point in the Black Hills. A visitor can see how small the Black Hills really are from up here. The range is not that big, but packs many inhabitants. An unwanted inhabitant like the Pine Beadle can also be found here. The insect kills native trees. Dead trees scatter the surrounding area. There is a nice hiking trail and Sylvan Lake on the way up the summit. There are some facilities in the area. Mount Rushmore is close by if you want to spend the night, check out Palmer Gulch and the Mount Rushmore KOA. Hot Springs, Custer, and Keystone, SD are the local communities. Harney Peak is a great place to travel and explore.
Homestake Mine is located in the North Central Black Hills between Lead and Deadwood, SD. This area is rich in history, culture, and minerals like gold. Prospectors have been wading through the creeks and streams of the Black Hill probably since the beginning of time. No operation has been as successful as the Homestake Mine. The mine has massive underground chambers and a giant open pit. Large amounts of ore was processed to extract gold. Although the gold extraction is mostly over here other big mines are close by and operational. Today the underground system is used for scientific research, and the open pit mine has a visitors center. Travel to Homestake Mine and have fun.
Jewel Cave National Park is located in the Southwest Black Hills of South Dakota. Highway 16 west of Custer, SD travels next to the site. The underground complex of Jewel Cave is massive. It is thought to be the 3rd longest cave system in the world. People can be guided through some of the cave on a tour. Other more intense exploring options are available. Make sure to travel to jewel cave, this place is unique. Truly gives you a new perspective on the power of water, and whats really underneath our feet.
Mouth Rushmore National Memorial is located in East Central Black Hills of South Dakota. Take highway 224 from 16 in Keystone, SD. Mount Rushmore is the most famous monument in South Dakota. People travel from all over the world to see these four United States Presidents in granite. The Scale of the project was massive in the early 20th century. With water, chisels, and arm grease, workers created the sculpture. Gutzon Borglum’s vision included the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodor Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Presidents who shaped the world today. The visitor center is nice and there are some hiking trails. Mount Rushmore does have seasonal events and fireworks displays. Rapid City and Keystone, SD are local communities with amenities.
Needles Highway 87 is located in the Southeastern Black Hills of South Dakota. This curvy road is a great day trip. Scurrying along side of mountains like Harney Peak travelers can see breathtaking cliffs and landscapes. There are a couple tunnels and sharp turns. Needles Highway gets especially dangerous during the Sturgis Bike Rally. Tour buses, motorcycles, and mountains do combine for a relaxing experience. Sylvan Lake, Mt. Rushmore, and Custer State park are all nearby. Find a local hiking trail or get out and explore the surrounding National Forest.
Spearfish Canyon is Located in North Central Black Hills of South Dakota. Highway 14 south out of Spearfish, SD is a Scenic byway. This area has high cliffs, waterfalls, and beautiful vegetation. Spearfish Creek follows the along the road. Where Spearfish Creek intersects Little Spearfish Creek Spearfish Falls are born. Travel here for a small hike and great views. Roughlock Falls is located up the canyon but still requires a small hike.There are many parts of the canyon that are managed and private. There are many opportunities to go hiking, rock climbing, and fly fishing in Spearfish Canyon. If you travel to this region make sure to take this road.
Terry Peak Ski Area and Ski Mystic are winter sporting destinations in the Black Hills. These slopes are great with local cabins, resorts, and Deadwood nightlife available. Go snow Skiing, Snowboarding, or take Snowmobiles on designated trails. Cross Country Skiing or Snow Shoes are also popular with the locals.These hills host a wide range of difficulties and fun. Many generations of travelers have made their way to Ski in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Wind Cave National Park is located in the Southern Black Hills of South Dakota. The Cave is found near the gates of Custer State Park, Highway 385, and the Community of Hot Springs, SD. Wind Cave is one of the oldest National Parks in American History. The tunnels and connected passages are thought to be one of the most extensive in the world. The cave get’s it’s name from the wind that travels through the caverns. Fluctuating air pressure and water currents all create gas movement. The limestone has been eroded to create some of the most beautiful network of caves on the planet. The travel center provides guided tours for several cave exploration options. Hot Springs and Custer, SD have most of the amenities in the area like lodging. Explore Wind cave on your next vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Black Hills Communities
Belle Forche, SD is located at the edge of the Northern Foothills in Western South Dakota. At the junction of highway 212 and highway 85 this town is cowboy. A unique western ranching culture has evolved in Belle Forche, SD. The community hosts an annual rodeo in the summer. There are several second hand thrift stores in town including Rob’s. You can always find a good deal if you travel to Bell Fourche. Orman Dam is located to the west of town. Belle Fourche is located near the transition of flat small grass prairie and the Black Hills.
Custer, SD is located in the South Central Black Hills of South Dakota. The highways 385 and 16 stem from the town. Custer State Park is a few miles down the road. The downtown hosts a few unique shops and dinners. Unique tourist stops and attractions can be found. There is lodging and motels in the area. This historic town is named after General Custer of the United States Military. Gold was first prospected by Europeans here near Custer Creek. Crazy Horse is north of town about 5 miles. If your traveling to Custer, SD stop by Stockade Lake to the east. Jewel Cave is to the west of town. There are several scenic roads and sights to enjoy on your next trip to Custer, SD.
Deadwood and Lead, SD are separated by homestake mine. Highways 85, 14, and 385 are the main roads into and out of town.The communities once miles apart have grown together. Historically mining and logging drove the economy of these towns. Gambling is currently legal for approved locations in Deadwood city limits. Large resorts to small parlors can be found throughout the town. The community has a gambling heritage. Travelers from all over would come to the Black Hills to hope to find gold. Saloons, brothels, and gambling were historically found in Deadwood. Make sure to stop by the Homestake Mine Visitors Center. Other mining tours are available seasonally. Attractions like “Tatanka Story of the Bison” can be found in the area. Stop by Mount Roosevelt on the north side of town. With a small hike you can look over the northern foothills and off into the prairie of Western South Dakota.
Hill City, SD is located in the Central Black Hills of South Dakota. This unique community is a definite travel destination on Highway 16. Hill City offers both major tourist attractions and access to the backcountry. This historic town is driven by tourism and the logging industry. There are many mines in the area. Unique shops and restaurants can be found here. Lodging and camping can be found in town and resorts nearby. Stop by Hill City when traveling to Mt. Rushmore or Deerfield Lake. Make sure and ride the train to Keystone, SD. A round trip ride is a good half day. This community really gives you a mountain town feeling.
Hot Springs, SD is located at the southern border of the Black Hills of South Dakota. There are many attractions in this area. Wind Cave and Custer State Park are found just north of town on Highway 385. Evans Plunge takes advantage of the Hot Springs that naturally flow through town in a stream. With water slides and other indoor activities available, all people enjoy Evans Plunge. Hot Springs has an artsy culture. The hills and foothills surrounding Hot Springs are unique. Fairburn Agates can be found in this area. The Mammoth Site is located on the edge of town. This prehistoric dig provides all families with a fun educational experience. The Mammoths and other plants and animals are preserved in the ancient mud. South of town Angostura Reservoir provides great fishing opportunities. Explore Hot Springs if you travel to the Southern Hills.
Keystone, SD is located along highways 40 and 16A in the Eastern Black Hills of South Dakota. This town is a vacation favorite for many people. With very unique tourist attractions, Keystone is the closest town to Mount Rushmore. The culture is rich here with mining and exploration. Take a mine tour or the train to Hill City, SD. Hiking, Snowmobiling, and Scenic Drives are all found around Keystone. There are many unique shops, some sell Black Hills gold. Spend the night at the local resorts, motels, or the Mount Rushmore KOA. Travel to Keystone on your next trip.
Rapid City, SD is located on the Eastern Edge of the South Dakota Black Hills. This by far is the largest community in the region. Rapid City historically was called “haytown”. Rapid City is really the gateway to the Black Hills. Historically wildfires and floods were very serious. Rapid City had a Major flood in 1972 that killed many people. Rapid Creek comes into town from the hills to the west. East of town lies the vast South Dakota prairie. The Badlands are found south east of town. Larger supply stores are available in Rapid City. The Rushmore Mall has a good selection of shops. The Mall is located right next to Interstate 90 as you pass through town. Other unique shops can be found downtown. Black Hills gold is big business in Rapid City. Travel here if you prefer more amenities when vacationing. More upscale Hotels, Restaurants, and Attractions are available. Kids enjoy WaTiki Indoor Water Park and the Rushmore Water Slides. WaTiki is great in the winter, and Rushmore Water Slides outdoors in the Summer. Bear Country USA is located west of town on Highway 16 (You also take this road to Keystone and Mount Rushmore). Bear Country USA gives visitors a chance to see native wildlife found in the United States. Bears, Badgers, and wolves are just a few of the animals in captivity. This can be very educational to the public. The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is located in Rapid City. This prestigious college has produced world renown scholars and engineers. The Museum of Geology located on campus is fun for anyone. The museum has a few dinosaur fossils, native artifacts, and a lot of rocks. Enjoy Rapid City on you next trip to South Dakota.
Spearfish,SD sits at the northern base of the Black Hills of South Dakota. This community is located about 10 miles East of the border of Wyoming on Interstate 90. Culture is rich in Spearfish. Art, parks, and a lot of outdoor activities are available. There are a couple shopping centers and unique restaurants. Spearfish does have a Water Park that is open seasonally. Make sure to stop by the Crow Peak Brewery. With a unique selection of fresh beer your sure to have a good time. Spearfish is home to Black Hills State University. The college and tourism are the major economic drivers. The population of the Northern Black Hills multiplies during the Sturgis,SD bike rally. For this reason there are many seasonal campgrounds and lodges. Year round resorts and motels are available. Spearfish Creek flows through town. The historic DC Booth Fish Hatchery is located here. The hatchery and the connected park provide good family fun. There are several walking paths and a campground located near by. Spearfish Creek which carved Spearfish Canyon are the main attractions here. The large cliffs awe all travelers. The majority of big water falls in South Dakota are found in Spearfish Canyon. Other notable hills are Lookout Mountain and Crow Peak. Seasonal storms and floods are common in this area. Iron Creek Lake and Twin Lakes are the closest fishable lakes. Fly Fishing is popular in Spearfish Creek and surrounding areas. Deadwood South Dakota is located 15 miles South West of town on Highway 85. With legalized gambling and fun nightlife, all should visit.
Sturgis, SD is found on the North Central Edge of the Black Hills of South Dakota. Located at the junction of Highway 34 and Interstate 90 Sturgis is a unique community. This city most noted for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in early August of every year. For about 2 weeks the town multiplies in population and party animals. Several big resorts and campgrounds are in the area. Big concerts and events happen during the rally. If you travel through Sturgis any other time most of the shops and people are gone and closed. This community has a few motels and shopping centers. Bear Butte is to the East. This historical monument is a great day hike. Deadwood, and more adult activities, are found west of town. Hunting is popular around Sturgis. Wild Turkeys and other game roam the foothills around the area. Mounain lions and Prarie rattlesnakes do pose a threat to any hikers. Make sure if you travel to Sturgis that you have contingencies. For some reason every year, there is at least one storm event that catches people off guard. People die or get injured from the unpredictable weather in the region. Sturgis South Dakota is a sure stop on your way through the Black Hills of South Dakota. If you are traveling through the Black Hills regions during the first two weeks in August, due to the Sturgis Bike Rally you should have reservations made well in advance and plan on paying top dollar. The Sturgis Bike Rally is a large adult playground and would best be avoided if you are planning to enjoy an affordable family friendly vacation !
The Lakes in the Black Hills of South Dakota are impresive. They are mostly filled by rainwater from mountain streams and tributaries. Clean and clear water with breathtaking views. Pactola Reservoir is found in the central Black Hills on Highway 385. This deep lake has some big Lake Trout. Rainbow trout are also found in the streams and lakes of the Black Hills. Catch these fish with a worm and bobber, or go fly fishing. Seasonal cycles of insects and plants drive the appetite of most fish. Deerfield Lake is located in the west central Black Hills. With a more backcountry and secluded feel, this lake is near Castle Peak. Stockade Lake near Custer, SD has nice camping facilities. This lake is also has Northern Pike and Bass. Gold is known to be found in the Black Hills National Forest. If your traveling to the lakes here bring a pair of goggles and a gold pan. If you don’t find treasure you can still have fun. There are many notable lakes to travel to on your next trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota.