Adventure awaits in this rolling 71,000-acre state park, with more than enough room to breath, bike, hike, climb, and swim. Lose yourself to nature and join the native wildlife in this last piece of Eden.
Deep in the Black Hills lies the mammoth Custer State Park. With rolling granite razorback mountains, lush green plains and deep azure waters, this state park grounds itself with its native landscape, steep history, and vibrant flora & fauna.
This state park is open year-round, 365 days of the year in snow, hail, and shine. In the deep heart of winter, some of the services may be suspended (like the visitor center and toilets etc) so be sure to check them out before you enter the park. Entry costs $20 per car or $10 for a motorbike. If you are planning to stay overnight, there are nine different campgrounds with a variety of scenic views. For those less inclined to sleep under the stars, I recommend one of the four different historic lodges such as the Blue Bell lodge with its attached restaurant.
The park itself offers a range of hikes, swimming holes, river bike trails, and scenic drives. Coming across terrain such as shadowy granite passes, open grassy glens and stuffy pine forests, there will be plenty of different biomes for those looking for diversity.
One such trail that I can recommend in the summer is the hike up to Mount Coolidge. The 1.2-mile gravel track will take you up to the highest point of the Custer State Park to a still active fire watchtower. Yes, you can climb up it and on the outside deck, there is a little museum dedicated to the Galena Fire of 1988. At 6,023 feet above sea level, you will get a great view over the entire park and even onwards to Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and on a clear day, the famous South Dakota Badlands National Park.
After the hike, I suggest taking a scenic drive around the very narrow wildlife loop road and see if you can spot one of the many herds roaming the park. You are likely to come across the local residences such as bison, elk, and other animals in big herds that are no strangers to humans. There may be more dangerous animals such as bears, so be sure to know what to do if you encounter one.
Speaking of wildlife, you can actually hunt in this state park during hunting season or fish year-round from one of the many pre-approved fishing lakes. But a word of warning, if you are bringing your trusty hunting hound or rather a couch side pooch, be sure to keep them on a lead as pets are not allowed to roam free.
Overall this is a big park with many trails quite far from each other meaning a car or bike is a must. It can be a bit difficult to access in the winter months and many of the services may be closed, but if you are feeling brave the snowed under granite rocks give a truly unique take on familiar the Black Hills landscape.
Shots from Custer State Park
Here are some of our favorites shots we got while exploring Custer State Park
Where Is It?
The best way to get here is to take I-90 and leap off once you reach Rapid City, South Dakoda. Follow Highway 16 until you reach the park. This park is best paired with the nearby Mount Rushmore Monument and both can be done in a day.
Custer State Park
13400 US, US-16A, Custer, SD 57730, United States
(Plus code: QJ6H+HX Custer, South Dakota, United States)