If there is anything you know about the US state of South Dakota, it is that the state is largely flat in general. But, look to the southwestern section of the state and you will find some breathtaking natural beauty that is vertical. This area is called the Black Hills. It is an isolated mountain range surrounded by the plains.
The area get its name because of its dark appearance from a distance given its tree coverage. So, for what to do in South Dakota, the Black Hills should be on your radar.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is the attraction that many of you will recognize. It is located on South Dakota 244 just west of Keystone, South Dakota. The most recognizable feature of Mount Rushmore is the granite sculpture of four heads. These heads are that of four US presidents from throughout the nation’s history.
The four presidents are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. George Washington was the first ever president of the US from 1789 to 1797. Thomas Jefferson became the third president from 1801 to 1809. Abraham Lincoln became president from 1861 to 1865. Teddy Roosevelt took office as president from 1901 to 1909.
These four presidents were chosen for the granite sculpture because they collectively represented the country’s birth, growth, development, and preservation. They symbolize the first 130 years of American history. The granite sculpture is about 60 feet high. There is a half-mile hiking trail that will lead you to the granite sculpture. It is called the Presidential Trail.
On your way to the granite sculpture, you can also learn about the heritage of the three local tribes at the Borglum View Terrance. These three local tribes are called Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota. There is no entrance fee for entering Mount Rushmore National Memorial, although there is a $10 fee for parking your car there. There is an onsite restaurant at the national memorial called Carver’s Cafe. A gift shop is also available onsite.
Custer State Park
Custer State Park is located on US Highway 16A about 15 miles east of Custer, South Dakota. This is one of the largest state parks in the United States, measuring at 71,000 acres. This gorgeous state park is known for its large population of North American bison that can be up to six feet tall and weigh more than two thousand pounds.
In fact, there are nearly 1,300 of them roaming the scenic landscapes of Custer State Park that include rolling plains, granite peaks, ponderosa pine forests, and bodies of water. In addition to the large population of North American bison, there are also other animals that roam the state park. These include deer, antelope, begging burros, elk, big horn sheep, and prairie dogs.
One of the best ways to go about observing the wildlife is to go for a scenic drive on a road that loops the state park. The loop road is about 18 miles and is called the Wildlife Loop State Scenic Byway. If you are up for a lengthy hike, you may want to consider going for a hike to Black Elk Peak. The peak stands at 7,242 feet high.
That not only makes this the tallest peak in South Dakota, but also the tallest peak in the country east of the Rockies. Black Elk Peak isn’t technically located in Custer State Park, but there are a couple hiking trails that lead from the state park all the way to the peak. The easiest and most travelled hiking trail to take on is Trail 9. This hiking trail runs for seven miles round trip.
The trail is marked by blue diamonds for about the first half and then blazes on the trees for the second half. The entrance fee for Custer State Park is $20 per vehicle and is good for up to seven days after being purchased.
Crazy Horse Memorial
If you are interested into American Indians, you will want to be sure to visit the Crazy Horse Memorial. It is located on Avenue of the Chiefs about five miles north of Custer, South Dakota. The Crazy Horse Memorial is known for being home to a granite sculpture that is similar to the one from Mount Rushmore, but is dedicated to Crazy Horse.
Crazy Horse was a famous war leader from the Lakota tribe who led a group of a few tribes in their battle against the federal government’s attempted takeover of their lands in the 19th century. Unlike the granite sculpture at Mount Rushmore which is already completed, the granite sculpture at Crazy Horse Memorial is still in progress of being constructed. This is the world’s largest mountain carving still in progress.
When the granite sculpture is completed some time in the future, it will measure at 641 feet long and 563 feet high. It will depict Crazy Horse riding on his hors. There is an outdoor model located onsite that will show what the completed granite sculpture will look like. There is also a museum located onsite at the memorial. It is called the Indian Museum of North America.
The museum is home to a large collection of art and artifacts depicting the history and culture of the various American Indian tribes. If you are hungry, you can head to the onsite restaurant called Laughing Water Restaurant. The admission for Crazy Horse Memorial is $30 for vehicles with three or more people, $24 for two person vehicles, and $12 for one person vehicles. You can book your visit here.
These are a few places you can go to in the Black Hills area for what to do in South Dakota. The Black Hills is an oasis of vertical natural beauty for the state.
If you are looking for a hotel to stay overnight in the Black Hills area, I am happy to help you out. Here are the two hotels I would suggest you to book with.
Comfort Suites Hotel & Convention Center Rapid City
This hotel is located on North Elk Vale Road in Rapid City, South Dakota. There is complimentary breakfast and coffee available at the hotel. If you get hungry, a few nearby restaurants include Sickies Garage Burger & Brews, Dakotah Steakhouse, and Marco’s Pizza. There is an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub at the hotel. A fitness center is also available for you to use.
All of the suites at the hotel come with WiFi, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $57 to $230. You can go here to explore your booking options and/or view some photos.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites – Rapid City – Rushmore South
This hotel is located on Caregiver Circle in Rapid City. Complimentary breakfast is available for you to take advantage of at the hotel. Should you get hungry, a few of the nearby options include Stonewalls Kitchen, Colonial House Restaurant & Bar, and Ruby Tuesday. There is an indoor swimming pool and hot tub at the hotel for you to use. If you are looking to exercise, you can do so at the hotel’s fitness center.
All of the hotel’s rooms and suites come with WiFi and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $64 to $238. You can head here to browse your booking options and/or check out some photos.
What are your thoughts? Are you looking forward to visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota? Feel free to leave a comment here.