Not that far from Rapid City, South Dakota, is Custer State Park. It's a 71,000 park with lots to do, including several historic lodges, lakes, trails, and a herd of 1700 bison that roam freely in the park. We're bringing you just 5 of the amazing sights to see Custer, it's a great park with so many more!
1. State Game Lodge
There are several campgrounds in Custer State Park, but if you're looking for a real treat stay at the historic State Game Lodge. Once a summer house for President Coolidge, the lodge has both modern & historic rooms, all at a pretty reasonable price. The lodge is also headquarters for the Buffalo safaris - think Jurassic Park but with bison. Although we didn't have a hard time making a reservation for the inn on a weekday in the summer, weekends fill up fast at the lodge and the jeep tours so book early for a better selection.
2. Wildlife Loop Road
Once you settle in make sure to take the scenic wildlife loop road and try and track down the bison herds. There's no fence between you and the animals so use caution - one of the bulls could easily rough up you and your ride. The road is 18 miles and takes around 45 minutes to complete. Sunrise and sunset offer the best chance for wildlife viewing.
3. Mount Coolidge Fire Tower
Check out the Mount Coolidge fire tower in the park. Standing at 6,023 feet you'll get a great view of almost everything in the area including the Black Hills, Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore, the Needles, and even the Badlands…and maybe that giant badger (pic below).
4. Harney Peak
If you're looking for a decent hike - check out Trail #9 to Harney Peak. When you make it to the top you'll have again have amazing views of almost the entire park. Make sure to take lots of water - you'll rise in elevation on this 7 mile roundtrip trail. Also, be prepared to see the devastation global warming & a little pine beetle are responsible for - dead pine trees are everywhere:(
Map of Hiking Trails in Custer State Park
5. Needles Highway
Another great drive is the Needles Highway scenic route that takes you near the amazing rock pinnacles called the Needles. There's trails through this area too but sometimes just driving near the place is adventure enough due to the crazy one lane rock tunnels that exist along the route. Sylvan lake is close to here as well - maybe take a break and kayak a little!
Needles Highway Map
What a place. What's even better? Custer State Park is close to both Mount Rushmore & Crazy Horse - we'll have posts from there tomorrow and Wednesday! (P.S. one more week of Road Trip Month!)
~Paul, Micah, Dad, Sis, Susan ETC
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