Custer State Park surprised me. I’m not sure exactly what I expected. But, that wasn’t it. This state park in the Black Hills of South Dakota rivals some of the national parks in terms of awesomeness!
Custer State Park is one of the largest state parks in the US. It is located approximately 30 miles south of Rapid City, South Dakota.
We chose to stay in Custer State Park at Blue Bell Lodge for our 5 nights in the Black Hills for logistical reasons. It is centrally located in relation to many points of interest and there are several lodging options in the park.
When we entered the park, however, I was blown away. It is breathtakingly beautiful! Only a few minutes into the park, we spotted the first buffalo of the trip which certainly enhanced my first impression!
Custer State Park Awesomeness
There is so much to do in this corner of South Dakota that it can be difficult to narrow down your list. But, while you’re there, check out these 7 awesome things to see and do in Custer State Park:
1. Watch the Wildlife
Custer State Park is known for its buffalo. But, there are many other animals to enjoy. We spotted prairie dogs, antelope, turkeys, deer, and even donkeys!
2. Marvel at the Rock Formations
Custer State Park boasts many unique rock formations. These needle-like granite pillars can be viewed from the road. But, you’ll want to get out to walk among them. So check the many trails in the park.
3. Enjoy the Scenic Drives
The scenic drives in Custer State Park are fantastic. The roads wind through the hills and forest through unique tunnels and over beautiful bridges. One of my favorite spots was the Needles Eye Tunnel.
4. Join a Buffalo Safari
The buffalo herd is absolutely a highlight of Custer State Park. So, the park offers a jeep safari for viewing these magnificent animals. Yes, we saw them from our car. But, the safari took us to areas of the park which were inaccessible to us in our personal vehicle.
5. Experience a Hayride and Chuck Wagon Cookout
The Hayride and Chuck Wagon Cookout offered at the Custer State Park Resort is just plain fun. The food is good, and the whole family will enjoy the entertainment including the audience participation.
6. Explore Scenic Sylvan Lake
Whether you feel like a relaxing stroll or want to get out on the water, Sylvan Lake is one place you don’t want to miss! We took a leisurely hike on the trail surrounding the lake or hike the more challenging Custer State Park Sunday Gulch Trail.
7. Hike Cathedral Spires Trail
The Cathedral Spires Trail is a must-see. This trail winds through the granite needles. Once you reach the end of the hike, it is clear where the trail got its name.
Of course, you should check out many other sites in the Black Hills! But, don’t discount Custer State Park. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy this great state park. You won’t be sorry!
I’m a big fan of paper maps! Here is an Amazon affiliate link to the National Geographic Black Hills map bundle we used on this trip.
Bonus: Trek the Sunday Gulch Trail
If you’re up for more of a challenge and have some time, don’t miss Sunday Gulch Trail!
Check out my South Dakota page for more info.