2018 Southern Black Hills Vacation Guide 2018 SHVG website - Page 9

9 F or 99 years Custer State Park has been the crown jewel of the Southern Black Hills; the world-famous playground is one of the nation’s largest state parks. Its sprawling beauty and endless chances for adventure offer oppor- tunities for fun and excitement for young and old. The park encom- passes 71,000 acres of spectacular terrain and an abundance of wildlife. Within the park, you’ll discover a world of adventure! Favorite outdoor activities in- clude hiking 7,242-foot Black Elk Peak, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, fishing, chuckwagon suppers and jeep rides to see the bison. The park boasts scenic drives such as Needles Highway (Hwy. 87), which twists and turns its way past towering rock formations and through narrow tunnels. At the end of one tunnel stands the Needles Eye, a granite spire with a slit only three to four feet wide but reaching 30 to 40 feet in the air. History and culture also abound. Walk the banks of French Creek, where Custer’s expedition first dis- covered gold in 1874. Or visit the log cabin that was home to Badger Clark, South Dakota’s first poet laureate. Custer State Park can serve as the headquarters for your Black Hills stay. You’ll find resorts at Syl- van Lake, Legion Lake, Blue Bell and the State Game Lodge. Each resort has its own flavor, ranging from the stately Game Lodge, which is listed on the National Reg- ister of Historic Places, to the mini dude ranch at Blue Bell. Custer State Park campgrounds offer a variety of scenic sites. Set up camp along a flowing stream, in the midst of a pine forest or near a mountain lake. Resort cabins, his- toric lodge rooms and motel units are available through Custer State Park Resorts. Don’t be surprised if you en- counter a roadblock of grazing bison in Custer State Park. A herd of 1,300 bison roams freely, often stopping traffic along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road. The herd is one of the largest in the world. Bison can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. The animal played an essential role in the lives of the Lakota, who relied on the “tatanka” for food, clothing and shelter. A word of caution: Bison can be unpredictable and dangerous. Please view them from inside a car. In September, the herd is rounded up during the annual Buf- falo Roundup. A variety of fun ac- tivities also take place in the park that weekend. The park is also home to other wildlife such as pronghorn ante- lope, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, deer, elk, wild turkeys and friendly burros. The park offers many educa- tional programs and family activi- ties. For example, park naturalists lead guided nature walks and gold- panning excursions. A world of adventure awaits at Custer State Park—all that is miss- ing is you!