Some people call it The hidden gem of the west, The Black Hills region is famous for its rustic scenery and outdoor recreation. It is an abundant region filled with wildlife and a strong history in the early days of gold mining. The Native American Lakota were central to the region’s unique historic ties to the railroad and mining industry as well as the ownership of land. The biodiversity of the land and unique extremes of tourism make the Black Hills region filled with opportunities for the laid-back or fast-paced visitor.
Roughing and camping out at Black Hills National Park and Forest
Nothing brings visitors closer to nature than a star-studded night sky contrasting with the mountain region of the Black Hills. Over 30 campgrounds and over 500 campsites offer an almost unlimited variety of opportunities to explore the raw and wild aspect of South Dakota. Visitors can often be seen camping in close proximity to natural canyon tunnels and Bison traveling the highway in front of the park. The park’s historic ties also include hiking trails that offer the rare opportunity to experience what it was like to explore the mountains as a settler or cowboy.
Driving the Wildlife Loop Road
Driving can take on a whole new level at Custer State Park in South Dakota. The Wildlife Loop Road is an open road connecting to the park that was established as a game preserve in 1913. Visitors may find themselves among wild animals and rare species that have a peculiar friendly nature. Tourists may find a new breed of animals each day, particularly as the season changes. The 18-mile road requires an estimated time of 45 minutes to an hour to enjoy the full scene. Some tourists take advantage of a guided caravan to learn about the unique species at a slower pace.
Exploring rustic Badlands National Park
Spanning over 200,000 acres, Badlands National Park is an icon of the Black Hills region of South Dakota. Visitors to his mountainous region wanting to see the natural habits of rare animals might be able to spot bison or coyote in the wild. The Sage Creek wilderness and Cedar Pass trail areas contain almost mystical overlooks filled with Native American history and protected prairies. These hiking trails extend through several canyons, but what is so unique about these unique prairies? Perhaps it’s the diversity of prairie grass that allows over 50 species to graze here and allow for a truly unique photographic moment.
Into the wild, wild west: Discover a trail of history
While the national park system of South Dakota can offer managed excursions and trails, the area is famous for its off-road adventures. The highways and byways of this region extend for miles of open prairie, leading to unique junctions such as old style saloons in ghost towns and clusters of dizzying turns on Needles Highway.
If photography is in your game plan, Mount Rushmore offers a chance to see a few of the nation’s presidents forever framed in the mountainside. Although this is a common photographic moment in every Black Hills adventure, considering hiking up the Presidential Trail to get a great view of the entire region. Mount Rushmore is also en route to the famous Crazy Horse Memorial. A carving of the Lakota legend Crazy Horse stands at the entrance to remind visitors of the fight to freedom.
Spelunking and Mining: A Tradition of the Black Hills
The Black Hills is part of a long tradition of reminding visitors of the history behind mining. It brings new meaning to the phrase, “There’s Gold in ‘dem thar hills!”. Black Hills Caverns and Rushmore Cave feature some of the most diverse displays of rock formation and crystals of any cave in the region. Another “jewel” of the region is Jewel Cave National Monument. This cave is one of the longest cave trails in the world and scenic or guided tours are offered in several degrees of complexity. The historic lantern tour is an hour long and offers visitors to see the cave from pioneer days.
Visitors can end the trip on their mining adventure by participating in a traditional chuckwagon feast. The chuckwagon was first wagon in line to feed hundreds of cowboys and settlers in the region during the mining season. Visitors can experience this again in the form of shows or in an open air relaxed setting. Be sure to try the sarsaparilla or traditional hot cowboy coffee served at many locations.