A go to to Custer State Park is ticking off one of many finest locations within the USA. It’s not solely stuffed with lovely views, however it is usually a complete wildlife vacation spot. You’ll spot the whole lot from prairie canine and bighorn sheep to cute white-tailed deer, and mule deer. However the star attraction is unquestionably its herds of bison. Located within the Black Hills of South Dakota, the 71,000 acres state park can also be unbelievable for mountaineering trails and scenic drives. Should 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 go to Stockade Lake or Middle Lake, Cathedral Spires Path, or Wildlife Loop Highway, we’ve bought top-tier actions lined up. Are you prepared to begin planning? Let’s go.
E-book this non-public tour to see the highest South Dakota sights in sooner or later. Let your private information choose you up at your lodge to see three South Dakota landmarks together with Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore and Loopy Horse. E-book it right here.
1. Sylvan Lake Shore Path
Sylvan Lake Shore Path is without doubt one of 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 components, Sylvan Lake is well 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: E-book of Secrets and techniques’. (Watch it on Amazon) You possibly can 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 straightforward to navigate – appropriate for households with babies or vacationers wanting a fast mountaineering path. There are numerous pure stopping factors across the path as properly. Sylvan Lake has a spot the place you possibly can 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. In order for you a luxurious deal with after your stroll, Sylvan Lake Lodge is accessible for superb eating.
South Dakota is dwelling to a number of the most lovely landscapes within the USA, e-book this scorching 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. Middle Lake
Middle Lake is the place to go to to keep away from crowds, not be a part of them. Whereas Sylvan Lake is its flashy neighbor, this lake is the lady subsequent door. The lake has its personal campground – Middle Lake Campground – the place you possibly can camp or get pleasure from leisure amenities. And the lake is ready scenically amidst Ponderosa pines. Visiting Middle Lake is without doubt one of 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 that you could head for a mid-morning swim fairly simply. It’s ultimate for these wanting a fast dip to begin their day, because the water is heat and the crowds are virtually non-existent.
In contrast to Sylvan Lake, Middle Lake is healthier for its ambiance than any of its actions. You possibly can nonetheless stroll across the lake and benefit from the water, however its important draw is its peaceable ambiance. Carry a picnic and a e-book and curl up by the shoreline.
3. Iron Mountain Highway
Iron Mountain Highway is without doubt one of the finest scenic drives within the state park. The street has 314 dramatic switchback turns and passes by means of 3 tunnels. Iron Mountain Highway is fascinating to drive, and this little street journey is without doubt one of the finest issues to do in Custer State Park. You’ll wish to hop out each couple of minutes to snap footage. It’s the form of street you possibly can 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. Nonetheless, we propose permitting a few hours so you possibly can cease as many occasions as you need. Iron Mountain Highway is without doubt one of the most well-known within the USA, not to mention the Black Hills. Take advantage of the photogenic sections and hop out to snap photographs. Ensure to cease at Mount Rushmore Nationwide Memorial as properly, which is situated alongside this street.
Logistically you’ll seemingly use Iron Mountain Highway to entry a few of your deliberate sights. However double-check, and make time to drive this thrilling stretch of street if not. It’s value noting that this street is extra arduous with lengthy autos like RVs due to all of the tight turns. Should you determine to enterprise alongside this street with such a car, enable double the time as a precaution so you possibly can take it good and regular.
Decide up this guided audio driving tour as you self drive by means of the Black Hills and Mt Rushmore. Discover at your personal tempo with an easy-to-use, downloadable app. If you want to hire a automotive, try RentalCars.com to match automotive rental costs.
4. Cathedral Spires Path
Cathedral Spires Path is without doubt one of 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 without doubt one of the most strenuous mountaineering trails and will solely be tried by hikers with correct apparel. Cathedral Spires Path is unquestionably a late spring and summer season hike as properly 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 means 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 important 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.
E-book today 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 unimaginable 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 street loops by means of grasslands and passes herds and herds of bison, mule deer, and elk. Pack a pair of binoculars, too, as a result of you possibly can 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. E-book this jeep safari upfront.
The street is barely 18 miles lengthy. Nonetheless, there’s a pace restrict of 25 miles per hour due to the variety of animals that stray alongside and on the street. Belief us, it’s in your finest pursuits to abide by this, as a rogue bison can injury your car. We advise bringing snacks and refreshments and holding it regular to get essentially the most out of Wildlife Loop Highway.
As a facet observe, you possibly can e-book a guided safari expertise in the event you don’t fancy the drive. You head out in 4WD jeeps and are assured to stand up and near a number of the most spectacular animals in Custer State Park. These jeep excursions are just like the African safari experiences and a enjoyable technique to enterprise out round Custer State Park. With open sides, you’ve 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 without doubt one of the finest hikes within the park. For skilled hikers, don’t hesitate so as to add it to your Custer State Park record 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 remaining quarter. You scramble up rocks, in search of the blue-painted triangles that sign the proper path. And on the high, 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 top. Nonetheless, it is usually a beautiful pure landmark near Black Elk Peak and Cathedral Spires. In the event that they really feel formidable, many individuals deal with two of the three important landmarks collectively and even all three directly. Whenever you attain the summit, you’ll get views of the opposite two, so maintain an eye fixed out.
Little Satan is without doubt one of the finest mountaineering trails to keep away from crowds. It’s a lot much less busy than Cathedral Spires Path, so that you received’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. Should you plan to deal with Little Satan with Cathedral Spires or Black Elk Peak, set off as early as potential to offer your self satisfactory time.
7. Legion Lake
Legion Lake is a sleepy retreat that coined its title from a former American Legion publish. The resort lake is filled with cabins and infrequently fairly tacky actions. You don’t need to be a visitor to get pleasure from 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 plenty of pure magnificence. It is a wonderful place to go to and calm down, reasonably than heading to Sylvan Lake and frog-marching round on the Sylvan Lake Shore Path. You possibly can hire a kayak or paddleboard to get pleasure from Legion Lake from the water. Alternatively, camp on one among its sandy shores with a seashore towel or try Legion Lake Lodge.
8. Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway
Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is the last word street journey and one of many high 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 means by means of gray rock formations that spike into the street and drive 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, enable your self the entire day to get pleasure from it. The very last thing you need is to really feel rushed.
Keep alert whereas driving this scenic byway. A slowing motorist may act abruptly due to animals or an surprising flip forward. The wacky sequence of curves and tunnels additionally demand a excessive focus stage. Contemplate switching between drivers in the event 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 permits you to narrowly squeeze by means of in a car. It’s a seemingly unimaginable feat till you emerge from the opposite facet. Yow will discover hilarious movies of individuals making an attempt to suit numerous autos by means of the tunnel on-line.
Other than the Needles Eye Tunnel, although, the Needles Freeway is without doubt one of 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″ huge.
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 properly; simply look ahead to the shrieks of enjoyment out of your youngsters as you attempt to squeeze by means of a number of the tunnels. When visiting with youngsters, examine the customer middle for data on the Pups Program, which helps youngsters aged 4-6 be taught extra concerning the state park.
10. Black Elk Peak
Visiting Black Elk Peak is without doubt one of the finest issues to do close to Custer State Park. Black Elk Peak is the very best pure level in Dakota – e.g., very tall. When visiting Custer State Park, you possibly can 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 may 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 simplest hike, choose 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 will have lovely viewpoints staggered all through the path each mile or so, which ought to maintain you motivated. Carry snacks and loads of refreshments to get pleasure from 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 without doubt one of the most unmissable issues to do in Custer State Park. The massive cliff-face is an iconic vacation spot and landmark – identified worldwide and featured in numerous motion pictures. Mount Rushmore dons the 4 faces of distinguished 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 change into a spot of utmost patriotism and a marker of the USA’s political historical past.
E-book this tour that features Mount Rushmore and Black Hills from Speedy 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 type of well-known landmarks which can be truly well worth the hype. So add it to your itinerary outdoors of peak hours and circle it as a must-visit attraction.
Should 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 value noting that by driving to Mount Rushmore, you’ll even be finishing the Iron Mountain scenic drive. Discuss killing two birds with one stone.
Contemplating that Loopy Horse Memorial, Iron Mountain Drive, and Mount Rushmore go so properly collectively, we propose permitting an entire day to finish all three collectively. This premiere non-public tour contains sightseeing by means of the Black Hills together with Mt Rushmore, Loopy Horse and Custer State Park. Full particulars right here.
12. Go Horseback Using
Horseback using is a superb technique to expertise Custer State Park. Horses can get to all of the locations the place autos can’t go and sooner than an individual may ever hike it – excellent. You possibly can channel your interior cowgirl or cowboy on a trip by means of 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 an excellent technique to go sightseeing wildlife in Custer State Park.
Among the finest 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 embody 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 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 by means of 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 Might 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, think about 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 time out of the state park perimeters and enterprise to Badlands Nationwide Park. This nationwide park is without doubt one of 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.
E-book this non-public Badlands Package deal the place your non-public information exhibits the perfect 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 street 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 Greatest Issues to Do in Badlands Nationwide Park
Wildlife sightings are unending 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 a number of 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 perfect place to identify fossils within the park, and you’ll examine on-line to see when paleontology talks are operating.
Should 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 also be a spotlight on this loop street, 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 in all places. Actually, the rock formations are largely what brings Custer State Park its fame. The park has spectacular views, and if you’re up for an lively half-day, add climbing to your Custer State Park itinerary.
There are some areas the place skilled rock climbers can climb independently. Should you get caught on which spots to decide on, you possibly can all the time head to a customer middle and get some recommendation. Nonetheless, we propose reserving a climbing tour. With a tour, you’ll all the time have a information with you. This manner, it doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or can scale the trickiest sections along with your eyes shut. You may get useful ideas along with your approach and knowledgeable introductions and explanations of the area.
Among the most well-known mountain climbing areas in Custer State Park embody the Needles, Spearfish Canyon, and the close by Mount Rushmore.
15. Large Thunder Gold Mine
Large Thunder Gold Mine is without doubt one of the most historic issues to do close to Custer State Park. The 1895 gold mine is a 30-minute drive from the park’s important 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 enormous historic goldmine, reconstructed to be secure for informative visits. It additionally has an 1895-built gold mill. The entire attraction is filled with informative displays and useful guides.
Guests get their arms properly and actually soiled, too, donning yellow hats to go into reconstructed mine shafts themselves. You possibly can even get entangled with actions like gold panning as properly. Large Thunder Gold Mine is a extremely immersive technique to embrace the historical past surrounding Custer State Park.
We advise reserving upfront 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 lined essentially the most notable 15 issues to do in Custer State Park, let’s have a look at some frequent FAQs. These are the important bits of knowledge that you want to go to Custer State Park.
How you can Get to Custer State Park
The easiest way to get to Custer State Park is by aircraft after which by automotive. Speedy Metropolis Regional Airport has connecting flights to locations all around the USA. It’s round an hour’s drive away from Custer State Park. You possibly can rent a automotive 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 achieve the state park by automotive. Test Rental Automobile Costs right here.
Should you can’t rent or deliver a automotive, you may fly into Speedy Metropolis Regional Airport, switch to Custer, and cycle to Custer State Park. The bike trip from Custer takes round 20 minutes, and you may 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 plenty of time on their arms, it could possibly be enjoyable to street journey to Custer State Park. South Dakota has fascinating sights, and you may create an unbelievable street journey itinerary.
Getting Round Custer State Park
The easiest way to get round Custer State Park is by automotive. Not solely is the park 71,000 acres in measurement (too massive to realistically navigate solely on foot), however the herds of bison and different wildlife are finest noticed from safely inside a car. We advise saving the strolling for particular mountaineering trails. Plus, utilizing a automotive to get round Custer State Park, you possibly can get pleasure from scenic drives like Needles Freeway and Iron Mountain Highway.
It’s potential to discover a lot of the park by bike. Custer has many bicycle rent retailers within the metropolis middle, so you possibly can nip in and rent one for so long as you want. Many retailers even have energy bikes, which give assisted biking – ultimate for tackling steep hills, particularly in the event you aren’t often a bicycle owner.
Custer State Park additionally has shuttle companies and guided excursions that you could buy. This extremely rated tour gives a non-public full-day sightseeing expertise from Speedy Metropolis. As you possibly can see, it combines Mount Rushmore, Loopy Horse Memorial, and Custer State Park, which is comparatively frequent however can be formidable if driving your self. If you’re staying in a recreation lodge, it might additionally provide shuttle companies and excursions.
The Greatest Time to Go to Custer State Park
June is the perfect time to go to Custer State Park. June is heat, with highs of 76 Fahrenheit and plentiful wildlife sightings. Additionally it is quieter, with fewer crowds than in July or August. It’s shoulder season and among the finest months for a stress-free go to to Custer State Park. You possibly can simply discover lodging at a recreation lodge or discover a spacious plot at a campground. And sights received’t be as busy as they may within the top of summer season.
Should you want a wider window, Might to September is the overall tourism season in Custer State Park. Throughout this era, you possibly can get pleasure from mountaineering trails with out snow and in heat temperatures. Custer State Park can also be among the finest wildlife locations from Might to September. It is filled with mountain goats, prairie canine, and mule deer.
After all, the perfect time to go to does depend upon what issues to do in Custer State Park you wish to do. Should you plan to go to Custer State Park in September, you possibly can attend the Custer State Park Buffalo Spherical Up and Arts Competition.
You possibly can e-book Spherical-Up tickets upfront. It occurs solely annually. 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 get pleasure from 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, Might, or June. Sunday Gulch Path.
The issues to do in Custer State Park are thrilling and ideal for the outside lover. The 71,000 acres are stuffed with pure magnificence and are a incredible base to understand the Black Hills of South Dakota. The park is someplace to hike, hunt, sightsee, and discover. You possibly can choose a state recreation lodge or discover a romantic little cabin to make use of as a base for a mountaineering or mountain climbing vacation.
In search of inspiration for locations and issues to do close to Custer State Park? Listed here are our guides on issues to do in Deadwood, the high 8 South Dakota sights, plus some photographic proof that South Dakota is without doubt one of the most lovely locations on the planet. After you go to Custer State Park, enable loads of time to sightsee the remainder of the gorgeous state.