Tag Archives: SD State Park

South Dakota – Black Hills – Day 6

SD – Black Hills / Custer State Park | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7

untitled-IMG_1299-1299A quick peek outside around 11:30 p.m. gave us a good idea of what was in store for us on Day 6.  We were so glad we moved from the tent to a cabin.  The scene was all too familiar – the first snow – but it was way too early.  Snow is not necessarily what I want to see on September 11th, but it was quite beautiful and hard to get too upset about.  The fresh blanket of snow was going to make for lovely photos.  We awoke to an accurate forecast – about 6″ of fresh snow fell overnight.  It was a bone chilling 27 degrees as promised.  It was brrrrrrr-eautiful!

I made short work of the snow on car with the broom from the cabin – no brush in the car this time of year.  It just didn’t feel right turning on the heated seat this time of year, butt it felt alright soon enough 🙂  We headed into town for our coffee and bagel at the 1881 Bank Coffee House.  This was our third visit.  As the name implies, the store was originally a bank; the interior is quite nice.  The coffee was wonderful.  The bagel situation on the other hand had issues every day for some reason.  Two of the three days a cream cheese or butter was missing each day and this day one was toasted and one was not.  FYI, the dash defrost barely provides enough warmth to reasonably heat up a bagel.  Check your bagels before departing 🙂

The Scenery

We didn’t really have a plan for today.  We didn’t know what to expect from the snow fall.  We ventured into Custer State Park to see what we could find.  The fresh blanket of snow was quite pretty.  Back-roading was out of the question today; we tried.  The roads were snowy, wet and extremely muddy.  We made it as far North as Pactola Reservoir (last photo) on the main roads and decided to head back to the park to look for wildlife.  We ran into a group of long horns that where pretty lively in the fresh snow – especially the little one.  Cute lil bugger.

The Wildlife

We explored several Custer State Park roads today in addition to well-traveled Wildlife Loop Road.  4 Mile Draw Road (CSP 7), Swint Road (CSP 5), Fisherman Flats Road (CSP 2) and Oak Draw Road (CSP 3) were all nice to drive.  You never know what is around the next corner.  We were pleasantly surprised to stumble upon several Mountain Bluebirds having just read about them at the Wind Cave National Monument.  We found more Elk, but the herd was not any closer than earlier days sightings.  The buffalo and pronghorn looked great against a snowy backdrop. //Custer State Park map//

Here is a video clip from heading into Custer State Park the morning after the snow fell.


South Dakota – Black Hills – Day 4

SD – Black Hills / Custer State Park | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7

It was a beautiful morning.  We did not feel like waking at 4 a.m. to search out a sunrise spot.  The puppy-kid was very much at home in the tent. We slept in some, gathered our gear and prepared for a day of traveling.  Coffee and a bagel from a shop in downtown Custer was just the time-saver needed to get us moving along with ease and wide eyes.


The plan for today was the Needles Highway (87) – an incredibly beautiful stretch of road between Legion Lake and Sylvan Lake (see map below).

Needles Highway Map – click to enlarge

Distance: 14 miles | Expected travel time: 45-60 minutes | Tunnels: Tunnel 5 (Near Needle’s Eye), 8′ 4″ wide by 12′ 0″ high; Tunnel 6, 9′ 0″ wide by 12′ 3″ high.

The Needles Highway is a spectacular drive through pine and spruce forests, meadows surrounded by birch and aspen and rugged granite mountains.

The road’s name comes from the needle-like granite formations which seem to pierce the horizon along the highway.

The roadway was carefully planned by former South Dakota Governor Peter Norbeck, who marked the entire course on foot and by horseback. Construction was completed in 1922.

Visitors traveling the highway pass Sylvan Lake and a unique rock formation called the Needle’s Eye, so named for the opening created by wind, rain, freezing and thawing.


I do not recall how many times we stopped along Needles Highway, but it was frequent.  There is so much gorgeous scenery to take in.  To really take a look around you will want to dedicate more than the suggested 45-60 minutes.  The road is curvaceous and steep in spots.  Take you time and enjoy.  Here are some shots from the Needles Highway.  We went from Sylvan Lake to Hill City to Key Stone; from there we experienced the 17 miles of 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, 3 pigtails, 3 tunnels, 4 presidents and 2 splits along the Iron Mountain Road.

The first four photos are from an area between the town of Custer and Custer State Park and the last few are from Mount Rushmore area and the Iron Mountain Road.

If all that wasn’t enough, we were pretty entertained by the donkey’s in Custer State Park along the Wildlife Loop Road.  Remember to bring a big bag of carrots and you will receive all the attention you want – perhaps more.  They are characters.

It was quite a day and we saw a lot, but it wasn’t over.  We continued on our way along the Wildlife Loop Road; just down the road from where the donkey’s where we ran into a bit of a stampede.  The Buffalo were right out of the car window raging past the car – on the road, in the ditch and further out in the grass.  We were at the park a few weeks before the roundup and parts of the herd were being moved closer to the Buffalo Corrals in the Southern part of the park.  It was quite a spectacle.  What a day!

It didn’t even occur to me to roll video until well after the masses of buffalo had come through, but here is short snippet of video of a few stragglers toward the end..

South Dakota – Black Hills – Day 3

A continuation from the Badlands Series | Day 1 | Day 2 | Scenery | Wildlife

SD – Black Hills / Custer State Park | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7

Day 3 we opted to sleep in a bit, pick up camp and ready ourselves for the next leg of our vacation, The Black Hills & Custer State Park.  From Interior, SD we head West on 44 to Rapid City. We really didn’t need to go to Rapid City, but Caribou was calling our name.  After obtaining two vessels of turbo-charged caffeinated awesomeness we continued on South on 79 towards Hot Springs; heading West again at the Flying J truck stop.  We opted to stay at Custer KOA campground as we were unable to find a tent camping option within Custer State Park that allow pets.  The KOA is just West of Custer; it was plenty close to town.  This became our home base for the next few days.   The campground was sparsely populated with motor-homes.  There were no other tent campers in sight.  Clean bathrooms and showers just like our previous experience at the White River KOA.

After setting up camp we headed South to see what Hot Springs, SD was all about.  We didn’t really find much there in town other than the Dew Drop Inn.  I was in the mood for some ice cream, but no luck here as it was closed and for sale.  A few minutes East of Hot Springs we located a cold spring.  It was a nice little pit stop in the middle of the warm day; a refreshing place to dip your wiener in the cold water to cool her off.

We headed back to Custer State Park in search of wildlife .  It didn’t take long to find some.  We had a great day 3.  Here are a few shots from our first day in the Black Hills.

The Scenery

The Wildlife