The Wild West Lives on in The Black Hills, SD

Destination The Black Hills in south Dakota, offers history
Wild Bill Hickock—The Black Hills Area Historical Figure.

The Black Hills and the Badlands of South Dakota

By Deborah S Nelson, VRTG Travel Writer/Publisher

Where are The Black Hills of South Dakota? For anyone outside of the state, South Dakota is located smack dab in the center of the northern United States. In fact, millions of people who travel from the East to the West Coast have likely flown over this expansive prairie. However, few know that South Dakota was once the hub of American Western culture; and thus, many have forgotten the vintage charm of this historic state. South Dakota was the host to many significant events throughout American history as well. Lewis and Clark once crossed its spectacular plains, while the monumental Crazy Horse fought for the native Lakota people. These lands also were the backdrop to the 1876 Black Hills Gold Rush—which prompted the settling of Deadwood. The settlement grew, while attended by countless other events which yet still contribute to the vibrancy of South Dakota.

Over the years, South Dakota flourished through its rich wildlife, natural resources, and other unique qualities. Here, you can experience the unbelievable works of Mother Nature and the handiwork of humankind as well. Wildlife alert–buffalo jam! This may be one of the few places where tardiness is owing to a wild buffalo herd crossing the road—giving folks no choice but to wait. Are you ready to learn what else makes South Dakota a unique and intriguing place to visit? Then, you must read on.



The Wall and Rapid City—Cities Near the Black Hills

Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills area of South Dakota
Classic View of Mount Rushmore in The Black Hills.

South Dakota, although named the fifth least populated state in the USA, is one of the “Best USA Destinations” with hiking as its focus.

Few know that South Dakota was once the hub of American Western culture; and therefore, many have forgotten the vintage charm of this historic state. South Dakota played host to many significant events in American history as well. Lewis and Clark once crossed its spectacular plains, while the monumental Crazy Horse fought for the native Lakota people.

Easily see the most famous attractions in just a few days. The best seasons for visiting are late spring, summer, and fall—although winter is beautiful, too.

Of course, driving is much safer without snow. Whatever season, be sure to venture over to the town of Wall. Wall is an hour from the Rapid City Regional Airport and home to the famous Wall Drug Store founded in 1931. This blast from the past town includes souvenir shops, vintage diners, and remembrances of the Old Wild West. Don’t miss the homemade pie shop with dozens of flavors of freshly baked pies from which to choose.

Then, about an hour drive from Wall is Rapid City—the gateway to the City of Presidents. Rapid City is a lively town complete with festivals, concerts, and life-size statues of former presidents. The city features ample activities–some are even free. For example, the Storybook Island Theme Park and the Dinosaur Park are two inexpensive, yet fun ideas for families. Nevertheless, once a need for the great outdoors kicks in, the Badlands National Park is only a few miles away. Explore the park’s unique land formations, rivers, and lakes on foot, on horseback, or on a bike.

Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South dakota
Buffalo Herd at Custer State Park in South Dakota.

Top Attractions in the Black Hills—Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial

One of the most iconic monuments in South Dakota is the famed Mount Rushmore National Monument—a giant sculpture of the Presidents—Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt carved into the rock of a 5,725-foot mountain. Nearby trails offer various views of the artistry and are dotted with quaint cafes, information plaques, and photo ops. Consider your regret if you visit South Dakota without a camera. On the way to Mount Rushmore, the closer you are to Custer State Park, wildlife becomes more prolific as well as more majestic.

Custer State Park is 71,000 acres of prairie and woodlands sprinkled with bison, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. Aside from the countless trails, the park hosts Buffalo Safari Jeep Tours, Chuck Wagon Cookouts, and just plain cowboys. Finally, as you leave the Custer State Park and head west towards Custer, you will find the Crazy Horse Memorial. Although the monument is not yet complete, you can explore the visitor’s center and splurge on the local tribal crafts.

Black Hills Legendary Characters and History Honored in Deadwood

The Od Historic Clock in the Town of Deadwood, South Dakota.

The town of Deadwood is a must-visit on a trip through South Dakota. While Deadwood is a popular hiking spot, this territory is still sacred ground to Native Americans. Notably, you will feel like you have traveled back in time upon entering this old town. This Deadwood nostalgia takes you back to the Wild, Wild West where you may witness staged gunfights on Main Street; or view the mock shooting of Wild Bill Hickok in Saloon #10. However, if you wander over to the Mt. Moriah Cemetery you will find the real gravestones of Wild Bill Hickok and also Calamity Jane—two legendary characters in Deadwood’s history.


The Western Experience in Deadwood of the Black Hills

Speaking of history, the well-known Adams Museum helps to preserve the history of the Black Hills Region. And, indeed, Deadwood itself is the perfect replica of an authentic old western town. Here, you can view the Days of ’76 PRCA Rodeo and see the Days of ’76 Museum for a peek into the lives of Deadwood’s first settlers. To enjoy a true western experience, Deadwood is an ideal town to make yourself at home in a vacation renta—right in the center of all the Black Hills action. However, do not forget to bring your camera and also–be aware of the wild buffalos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *