A go to to Custer State Park is ticking off one of many finest locations within the USA. It isn’t solely stuffed with lovely views, however it is usually a complete wildlife vacation spot. You’ll spot every little thing from prairie canine and bighorn sheep to cute white-tailed deer, and mule deer. However the star attraction is certainly its herds of bison. Located within the Black Hills of South Dakota, the 71,000 acres state park can be unbelievable for mountaineering trails and scenic drives. In the event you love outside actions and spectacular views will love these finest issues to do in Custer State Park. I do know we did.
Prime Issues to Do in Custer State Park
This information has amazingly memorable issues to do in Custer State Park. Whether or not you decide to move to Stockade Lake or Heart Lake, Cathedral Spires Path, or Wildlife Loop Highway, we’ve received top-tier actions lined up. Are you prepared to begin planning? Let’s go.
Ebook this non-public tour to see the highest South Dakota sights in sooner or later. Let your private information decide you up at your lodge to see three South Dakota landmarks together with Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore and Loopy Horse. Ebook it right here.
1. Sylvan Lake Shore Path
Sylvan Lake Shore Path is among the hottest issues to do in Custer State Park. The mountaineering path laps Sylvan Lake, the prettiest of Custer State Park’s lakes. With huge grey rock formations and woodland that spills proper as much as the shoreline in elements, Sylvan Lake is definitely recognizable.
Sylvan Lake is so lovely that it caught the attention of film producers and was used as a set within the Nicolas Cage film ‘Nationwide Treasure 2: Ebook of Secrets and techniques’. (Watch it on Amazon) You’ll be able to take these views in for your self with a fast hike on the Sylvan Lake Shore Path.
The Sylvan Lake Shore Path takes 40-60 minutes to finish and is a complete breeze to hike. The route is flat and simple to navigate – appropriate for households with babies or vacationers wanting a fast mountaineering path. There are lots of pure stopping factors across the path as nicely. Sylvan Lake has a spot the place you may sunbathe with a seashore towel. And the shallow shoreline is ideal for paddling to chill off from the hike. At Sylvan Lake, guests additionally boat and fish. If you would like a luxurious deal with after your stroll, Sylvan Lake Lodge is obtainable for fantastic eating.
South Dakota is house to among the most lovely landscapes within the USA, ebook this sizzling air balloon flight to see the Black Hills from above. Take pleasure in a champagne toast and expertise South Dakota from the sky. Particulars right here.
2. Heart Lake
Heart Lake is the place to go to to keep away from crowds, not be part of them. Whereas Sylvan Lake is its flashy neighbor, this lake is the woman subsequent door. The lake has its personal campground – Heart Lake Campground – the place you may camp or take pleasure in leisure services. And the lake is about scenically amidst Ponderosa pines. Visiting Heart Lake is among the finest issues to do in Custer State Park: sit down and luxuriate in lake views in peace and quiet.
Since this lake is just a little smaller than most different lakes in Custer State Park, its water warms up a lot sooner. This implies you can head for a mid-morning swim fairly simply. It’s excellent for these wanting a fast dip to begin their day, because the water is heat and the crowds are virtually non-existent.
Not like Sylvan Lake, Heart Lake is best for its ambiance than any of its actions. You’ll be able to nonetheless stroll across the lake and benefit from the water, however its principal draw is its peaceable ambiance. Deliver a picnic and a ebook and curl up by the shoreline.
3. Iron Mountain Highway
Iron Mountain Highway is among the finest scenic drives within the state park. The highway has 314 dramatic switchback turns and passes via 3 tunnels. Iron Mountain Highway is fascinating to drive, and this little highway journey is among the finest issues to do in Custer State Park. You’ll need to hop out each couple of minutes to snap photos. It’s the form of highway you may think about drone footage of – with curved switchbacks that appear like one thing straight out of a journey journal.
Iron Mountain Highway takes round 60 minutes to drive. Nevertheless, we propose permitting a few hours so you may cease as many instances as you need. Iron Mountain Highway is among the most well-known within the USA, not to mention the Black Hills. Profit from the photogenic sections and hop out to snap images. Be certain that to cease at Mount Rushmore Nationwide Memorial as nicely, which is positioned alongside this highway.
Logistically you’ll probably use Iron Mountain Highway to entry a few of your deliberate sights. However double-check, and make time to drive this thrilling stretch of highway if not. It’s price noting that this highway is extra arduous with lengthy autos like RVs due to all of the tight turns. In the event you determine to enterprise alongside this highway with such a automobile, permit double the time as a precaution so you may take it good and regular.
Decide up this guided audio driving tour as you self drive via the Black Hills and Mt Rushmore. Discover at your personal tempo with an easy-to-use, downloadable app. If you must lease a automobile, try RentalCars.com to check automobile rental costs.
4. Cathedral Spires Path
Cathedral Spires Path is among the finest issues to do in Custer State Park if you’d like a difficult hike. The path is 1.5 miles a method and takes round an hour to finish. Regardless of its brief size, it is among the most strenuous mountaineering trails and will solely be tried by hikers with correct apparel. Cathedral Spires Path is certainly a late spring and summer time hike as nicely since snowfall renders the path too slippery.
The hike begins by approaching the gorgeous Cathedral Spire rock formations, simply into the sky en masse in pointed pinnacles. As you get nearer, the terrain then switches. You make your approach up the rocks by way of brief scrambles. There are sections of unmarked trails the place you climb up the rock faces.
Cathedral Spires Path’s principal draw is the scrambles’ pleasure and delightful views. Custer State Park is thought for its traditional views – just like the rock formations round Sylvan Lake. Cathedral Spires is one other one of many park’s finest views. The rocky pinnacles are a photogenic phenomenon and are excellent for sightseeing.
Ebook this present day journey to the Black Hills that features and whole day of sightseeing. Take within the views of its rock formations, canyons and lakes as you be taught concerning the areas wealthy historical past together with Custer’s expedition to the world in 1874. See extra particulars right here.
5. Wildlife Loop Highway
It’s inconceivable to not love Wildlife Loop Highway. It’s the better of Custer State Park’s scenic drives for wildlife sightings and takes between an hour and two hours to drive. The highway loops via grasslands and passes herds and herds of bison, mule deer, and elk. Pack a pair of binoculars, too, as a result of you may typically catch sightings of lurking prairie canine, coyotes, and overhead eagles and hawks. Wildlife Loop Highway in Custer State Park’s very personal safari expertise. Ebook this jeep safari prematurely.
The highway is barely 18 miles lengthy. Nevertheless, there’s a velocity restrict of 25 miles per hour due to the variety of animals that stray alongside and on the highway. Belief us, it’s in your finest pursuits to abide by this, as a rogue bison can harm your automobile. We propose bringing snacks and refreshments and retaining it regular to get probably the most out of Wildlife Loop Highway.
As a facet notice, you may ebook a guided safari expertise when you don’t fancy the drive. You head out in 4WD jeeps and are assured to rise up and near among the most spectacular animals in Custer State Park. These jeep excursions are just like the African safari experiences and a enjoyable strategy to enterprise out round Custer State Park. With open sides, you will have unobstructed views of the encompassing wildlife, and you’ve got the enjoyment of sitting again and having fun with the drive as a passenger. Extra particulars right here.
6. Little Devils Tower Path
Little Devils Tower is among the finest hikes within the park. For knowledgeable hikers, don’t hesitate so as to add it to your Custer State Park checklist of issues to do. The three.8 miles out and again path is reasonably difficult and takes round 3 hours to finish. The elevation acquire is the trickiest half, as you acquire roughly 700 toes, primarily within the hike’s ultimate quarter. You scramble up rocks, on the lookout for the blue-painted triangles that sign the proper path. And on the prime, you get 360-degree views over the Black Hills and surrounding surroundings.
The highest of Little Devils Tower pokes out as a grey mound from the highest of the Ponderosa pine bushes. It’s the final vantage level and stands at 2,121 meters in peak. Nevertheless, it is usually a stunning pure landmark near Black Elk Peak and Cathedral Spires. In the event that they really feel bold, many individuals sort out two of the three vital landmarks collectively and even all three directly. While you attain the summit, you’ll get views of the opposite two, so preserve a watch out.
Little Satan is among the finest mountaineering trails to keep away from crowds. It’s a lot much less busy than Cathedral Spires Path, so that you gained’t be mountaineering in a monotonous line of different hikers. Nonetheless, we propose strolling Little Satan within the early morning to beat the noon temperatures. In the event you plan to sort out Little Satan with Cathedral Spires or Black Elk Peak, set off as early as attainable to offer your self satisfactory time.
7. Legion Lake
Legion Lake is a sleepy retreat that coined its title from a former American Legion put up. The resort lake is filled with cabins and infrequently fairly tacky actions. You don’t should be a visitor to take pleasure in Legion Lake, although, and you’ll simply pop in to benefit from the pleasant vibe and water actions. Legion Lake Basic Retailer additionally sells fishing licenses and park passes – one thing to contemplate if you’re close by and have to tick off buying these important paperwork.
Legion Lake has the Custer State Park’s trademark gray rock formations stretching proper into the lake’s waters. Surrounded by pines, it’s a shaded and peaceable spot blessed with quite a lot of pure magnificence. It is a superb place to go to and chill out, fairly than heading to Sylvan Lake and frog-marching round on the Sylvan Lake Shore Path. You’ll be able to lease a kayak or paddleboard to take pleasure in Legion Lake from the water. Alternatively, camp on one in every of its sandy shores with a seashore towel or try Legion Lake Lodge.
8. Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway
Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is the final word highway journey and one of many prime issues to do in Custer State Park. The 70-mile route encompasses a piece of Custer State Park’s different scenic drives, together with Iron Mountain and Needles Freeway. If you wish to mix these drives into one expertise, we suggest noting down Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway.
The byway passes customer facilities, the Needles, Mount Rushmore, and lots of wildlife – together with mountain goats and bighorn sheep. Curling your approach via gray rock formations that spike into the highway and power weird turns and quirky tunnels, driving the byway is a memorable exercise in Custer State Park. It may be pushed in 3-4 hours, however truthfully, permit your self the entire day to take pleasure in it. The very last thing you need is to really feel rushed.
Keep alert whereas driving this scenic byway. A slowing motorist might act all of the sudden due to animals or an sudden flip forward. The wacky collection of curves and tunnels additionally demand a excessive focus degree. Take into account switching between drivers when you assume you’ll be drained.
9. Needles Freeway
Needles Freeway is one other unbelievable one of many scenic drives in Custer State Park. It’s most well-known for the Needles Eye Tunnel – a tiny gap in a granite spire that lets you narrowly squeeze via in a automobile. It’s a seemingly inconceivable feat till you emerge from the opposite facet. You’ll find hilarious movies of individuals making an attempt to suit numerous autos via the tunnel on-line.
Aside from the Needles Eye Tunnel, although, the Needles Freeway is among the most lovely routes in Custer State Park. It takes round 60 minutes to finish and has many sights alongside the best way. Iron Creek Tunnel is one other famously slender tunnel alongside Needles Freeway, measuring 8’9″ vast.
If you wish to admire rock formations and dramatic geographical landscapes, drive Needles Freeway. When visiting Custer State Park, driving the Needles Freeway is a ceremony of passage. It’s family-friendly as nicely; simply watch for the shrieks of pleasure out of your youngsters as you attempt to squeeze via among the tunnels. When visiting with youngsters, examine the customer middle for data on the Pups Program, which helps kids aged 4-6 be taught extra concerning the state park.
10. Black Elk Peak
Visiting Black Elk Peak is among the finest issues to do close to Custer State Park. Black Elk Peak is the best pure level in Dakota – e.g., very tall. When visiting Custer State Park, you may scale Black Elk Peak as a day journey exercise. There are quite a few routes as much as the highest, all of which give gorgeous views and might mix different sights alongside the best way, like Cathedral Spires.
We suggest Black Elk Peak Path from Lake Sylvan, alongside which you’ll select between trails 4 or 9. For the best hike, decide the much less steep Path 4 on the best way up and Path 9 on the best way down and deal with Black Elk Peak as a loop hike.
The 7-mile Black Elk Peak Path begins on the shores of Lake Sylvan. It takes round 5-6 hours in complete for the common hiker. Nonetheless, it’s smart to permit your self an additional couple of hours simply in case it takes longer than anticipated. You might have lovely viewpoints staggered all through the path each mile or so, which ought to preserve you motivated. Deliver snacks and loads of refreshments to take pleasure in on these pure breaks. The ultimate viewpoint at Black Elk Peak summit is gorgeous. You get 360-degree views and expansive views of the Black Hills and even the encompassing states on the horizon.
11. Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore is among the most unmissable issues to do in Custer State Park. The large cliff-face is an iconic vacation spot and landmark – recognized worldwide and featured in numerous films. Mount Rushmore dons the 4 faces of outstanding presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. The faces of those presidents are lower into the rock in 60-foot-tall carvings. Mount Rushmore has develop into a spot of utmost patriotism and a marker of the USA’s political historical past.
Ebook this tour that features Mount Rushmore and Black Hills from Fast Metropolis that features Two Meals and a music selection present. Now that’s enjoyable!
Visiting Mount Rushmore is a should when within the Black Hills area. Over 2 million guests come every year, primarily between June to August, and 9 am and three pm if you wish to give the crowds a miss. It’s a kind of well-known landmarks which are really well worth the hype. So add it to your itinerary exterior of peak hours and circle it as a must-visit attraction.
In the event you go to Mount Rushmore, add a detour to the Loopy Horse Memorial. Solely 16 miles away, it’s a huge memorial devoted to Lakota Sioux warrior Loopy Horse. It’s price noting that by driving to Mount Rushmore, you’ll even be finishing the Iron Mountain scenic drive. Speak about killing two birds with one stone.
Contemplating that Loopy Horse Memorial, Iron Mountain Drive, and Mount Rushmore go so nicely collectively, we propose permitting a complete day to finish all three collectively. This premiere non-public tour consists of sightseeing via the Black Hills together with Mt Rushmore, Loopy Horse and Custer State Park. Full particulars right here.
12. Go Horseback Driving
Horseback using is a wonderful strategy to expertise Custer State Park. Horses can get to all of the locations the place autos can’t go and sooner than an individual might ever hike it – excellent. You’ll be able to channel your internal cowgirl or cowboy on a experience via Custer State Park. The quantity of wildlife the park has is simply an enormous additional bonus. S
potting bison and prairie canine from horseback is a lot extra particular. And never solely will you respect the expertise extra from horseback, however you’ll even be extra more likely to get near wild animals. Horseback using excursions are a superb strategy to go sightseeing wildlife in Custer State Park.
Top-of-the-line stables inside Custer State Park is Blue Bell Stables at Blue Bell Lodge. It runs guided path rides that vary from 1-hour introductory rides to full-day rides for extra skilled riders. The hour-long rides embrace a jaunt at a stroll and trot to the close by French Creek. The hour-long rides often have heron and deer sightings.
Half-day rides are extra tailor-made in the direction of bison sightings and take you briefly to Wildlife Loop. Full-day rides take you on a 6-hour expertise to search out much more animals. You head via French Creek, out to Wildlife Loop, and all the way down to Parker Canyon – the place you’ll have lunch.
Horseback using season in Custer State Park is primarily from Could to September. Bear this season in thoughts when reserving if horseback using is one thing you’re actually dying to do. For these wanting an much more ‘Western’ expertise, contemplate a wrangler place for a season. Blue Bell Lodge takes on wranglers every season, which is ideal for these seeking to go to the state park for a way more prolonged interval.
13. Badlands Nationwide Park
For scenic viewpoint after scenic viewpoint, take a day trip of the state park perimeters and enterprise to Badlands Nationwide Park. This nationwide park is among the finest nationwide parks within the USA. Out of all of the nationwide parks, it stands out most for its prairie wildlife and layered rock formations.
Ebook this non-public Badlands Package deal the place your non-public information reveals the very best of Badlands Nationwide Park drive with a cease at Wall Drug, the ghost city of Scenic, and the Minuteman Missile Website.
Its 242,756 acres are jam-packed with mountaineering trails and highway journey routes. Simply an hour and quarter-hour away, it’s a breeze to mix with a vacation in Custer State Park. Learn all about it at The Finest Issues to Do in Badlands Nationwide Park
Wildlife sightings are endless in Badlands Nationwide Park. The nationwide park has bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie canine. Just like the Wildlife Loop Highway, Badlands is an absolute mecca for the animal kingdom.
You may also go to among the finest fossil beds on the planet – a few of which protect historic mammal stays just like the saber-toothed tiger. This park has a lot nature, be it pure historical past or residing animals to identify. The Fossil Discovery Path is the very best place to identify fossils within the park, and you’ll examine on-line to see when paleontology talks are operating.
In the event you solely have a day in Badlands Nationwide Park, we propose finishing the Badlands Loop Highway and stopping on the a number of overlooks. Roberts Prairie Canine City can be a spotlight on this loop highway, and the entire expertise takes round 3 hours.
14. Rock Climbing
Rock climbers will love Custer State Park. The park is an absolute dream for mountain climbing. There are fairly actually rock formations all over the place. In truth, the rock formations are principally what brings Custer State Park its fame. The park has spectacular views, and if you’re up for an energetic half-day, add climbing to your Custer State Park itinerary.
There are some areas the place skilled rock climbers can climb independently. In the event you get caught on which spots to decide on, you may all the time head to a customer middle and get some recommendation. Nevertheless, we propose reserving a climbing tour. With a tour, you’ll all the time have a information with you. This fashion, it doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or can scale the trickiest sections together with your eyes shut. You may get useful suggestions together with your approach and knowledgeable introductions and explanations of the area.
A few of the most well-known mountain climbing areas in Custer State Park embrace the Needles, Spearfish Canyon, and the close by Mount Rushmore.
15. Large Thunder Gold Mine
Large Thunder Gold Mine is among the most historic issues to do close to Custer State Park. The 1895 gold mine is a 30-minute drive from the park’s principal customer facilities. The mine is ideal for a day journey away from Custer State Park and perception into the area’s industrial days. The eye to element is immense. Large Thunder Gold Mine has an unlimited historic goldmine, reconstructed to be secure for informative visits. It additionally has an 1895-built gold mill. The entire attraction is filled with informative reveals and useful guides.
Guests get their palms nicely and really soiled, too, donning yellow hats to move into reconstructed mine shafts themselves. You’ll be able to even get entangled with actions like gold panning as nicely. Large Thunder Gold Mine is a very immersive strategy to embrace the historical past surrounding Custer State Park.
We propose reserving prematurely to keep away from experiences being booked out. Doing a mine tour and gold panning expertise in a single go to is possible. It’s good too, as this manner guests get to take part firsthand in each strategies. Most excitingly, you get to maintain no matter you discover within the gold panning.
Custer State Park FAQs
Now that we’ve coated probably the most notable 15 issues to do in Custer State Park, let’s have a look at some widespread FAQs. These are the important bits of knowledge that you must go to Custer State Park.
Tips on how to Get to Custer State Park
One of the best ways to get to Custer State Park is by airplane after which by automobile. Fast Metropolis Regional Airport has connecting flights to locations everywhere in the USA. It’s round an hour’s drive away from Custer State Park. You’ll be able to rent a automobile on the airport after which drive to one of many cities across the park’s outskirts. Assuming you keep in both Custer, Keystone, or Hill Metropolis, it can take 5 and half-hour to succeed in the state park by automobile. Verify Rental Automotive Costs right here.
In the event you can’t rent or convey a automobile, you might fly into Fast Metropolis Regional Airport, switch to Custer, and cycle to Custer State Park. The bike experience from Custer takes round 20 minutes, and you might then go away your bike someplace secure (just like the customer facilities) or use it to discover the park’s bike paths.
For these with quite a lot of time on their palms, it might be enjoyable to highway journey to Custer State Park. South Dakota has fascinating sights, and you might create an unbelievable highway journey itinerary.
Getting Round Custer State Park
One of the best ways to get round Custer State Park is by automobile. Not solely is the park 71,000 acres in measurement (too huge to realistically navigate solely on foot), however the herds of bison and different wildlife are finest noticed from safely inside a automobile. We propose saving the strolling for particular mountaineering trails. Plus, utilizing a automobile to get round Custer State Park, you may take pleasure in scenic drives like Needles Freeway and Iron Mountain Highway.
It’s attainable to discover a lot of the park by bike. Custer has many bicycle rent retailers within the metropolis middle, so you may nip in and rent one for so long as you want. Many retailers even have energy bikes, which give assisted biking – excellent for tackling steep hills, particularly when you aren’t often a bike owner.
Custer State Park additionally has shuttle providers and guided excursions you can buy. This extremely rated tour affords a personal full-day sightseeing expertise from Fast Metropolis. As you may see, it combines Mount Rushmore, Loopy Horse Memorial, and Custer State Park, which is comparatively widespread however can be bold if driving your self. If you’re staying in a recreation lodge, it could additionally supply shuttle providers and excursions.
The Finest Time to Go to Custer State Park
June is the very best time to go to Custer State Park. June is heat, with highs of 76 Fahrenheit and plentiful wildlife sightings. It is usually quieter, with fewer crowds than in July or August. It’s shoulder season and the most effective months for a stress-free go to to Custer State Park. You’ll be able to simply discover lodging at a recreation lodge or discover a spacious plot at a campground. And sights gained’t be as busy as they are going to within the peak of summer time.
In the event you want a wider window, Could to September is the final tourism season in Custer State Park. Throughout this era, you may take pleasure in mountaineering trails with out snow and in heat temperatures. Custer State Park can be the most effective wildlife locations from Could to September. It is filled with mountain goats, prairie canine, and mule deer.
After all, the very best time to go to does depend upon what issues to do in Custer State Park you need to do. In the event you plan to go to Custer State Park in September, you may attend the Custer State Park Buffalo Spherical Up and Arts Competition.
You’ll be able to ebook Spherical-Up tickets prematurely. It occurs solely every year. Safe your spot for the annual Buffalo Roundup that takes place on the final Friday of September. This full-day tour picks you up from Raid Metropolis the place you’ll take pleasure in a continental breakfast, picnic lunch, and sightseeing to Sylvan Lake, Iron Mountain Highway, and Needles Freeway.
If you wish to spot wildflowers (just like the state flower of South Dakota, Pasqueflowers), go to in April, Could, or June. Sunday Gulch Path.
The issues to do in Custer State Park are thrilling and excellent for the outside lover. The 71,000 acres are filled with pure magnificence and are a implausible base to understand the Black Hills of South Dakota. The park is someplace to hike, hunt, sightsee, and discover. You’ll be able to decide a state recreation lodge or discover a romantic little cabin to make use of as a base for a mountaineering or mountain climbing vacation.
Searching for inspiration for locations and issues to do close to Custer State Park? Listed here are our guides on issues to do in Deadwood, the prime 8 South Dakota sights, plus some photographic proof that South Dakota is among the most lovely locations on the planet. After you go to Custer State Park, permit loads of time to sightsee the remainder of the gorgeous state.