Top Picks

Custer, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is loaded with adventures. In fact, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all there is to see and do here.  To help you fully experience Custer adventures, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park and the rest of the Black Hills, we’ve put together this list of our top picks of the places and attractions you can’t miss.

 

1881 Courthouse Museum

Custer, SD

Hours/Seasonality: Memorial Day to Labor Day

Phone: (605) 673-2443

Housed in the original Dakota Territory courthouse, the 1881 Courthouse Museum explores the history of the Black Hills and Dakota Territory. Located in the heart of Custer, the Courthouse Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places and takes visitors on a journey through time from 1874 to present day. 

Black Hills Playhouse

Custer, SD

Hours/Seasonality: June-August; Tues-Sat, 8:00 p.m. with matinee performances Sat-Sun, 2:00 p.m.

Email:

The Black Hills Playhouse has been performing summer stock theatre since 1946. Located inside Custer State Park, the playhouse is one of the oldest, continuously operating summer stock in America. Theatre-goers can watch evening performances of Broadway and Off-Broadway quality plays from June until August.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Custer, SD

Hours/Seasonality: Open year-round. Mid-October through early June, admission is free with three cans of food per person for the KOTA Care & Share Food Drive

Crazy Horse Memorial is the largest on-going mountain carving in the world, and when completed, it will it will be 563-feet-high and carved in the round.  Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski started carving the mountain in 1948 and his family—led by his widow Ruth—continues the work today. The memorial’s mission is to honor the tradition, cultures and heritage of all North American tribes. The Crazy Horse Memorial campus includes an expansive viewing area, cultural center, museum, café, gift shop and the sculptor's log studio-home.

Custer State Park

Custer, SD

Hours/Seasonality: Park is open year-round. Entrance fee is required.

Custer State Park is one of the largest state parks in the country. It’s home to mountain lakes, roaming buffalo and some of the best adventures in the Black Hills. Slender granite crags called “needles” jut into the skyline and offer world-class rock climbing. Crystal clear mountain lakes and streams offer ideal swimming, canoeing and fishing opportunities. While the towering peaks and thick pine forest offer tremendous hiking and mountain biking challenges. Custer State Park is best known for its wildlife. Nearly 1,300 buffalo roam freely in the park along with mountain goats, Bighorn sheep, elk, antelope and prairie dogs.

George S. Mickelson Trail

Custer, SD

The George S. Mickelson Trail is a 109-mile rails-to-trails project that takes visitors from the northern Black Hills to the southern tip. Its gentle slopes and easy access allow people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the beauty of the Black Hills along the old Burlington Northern rail line. There are more than 100 converted railroad bridges and four hard rock tunnels along the trail. Trailheads, outfitters and camping facilities are located all along the trek.  

Jewel Cave National Monument

Custer, SD

Hours/Seasonality: The park is open year-round with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s day. Tours and times vary by season.

Jewel Cave National Monument is the second longest cave in the world and airflow indicates there is a lot of cave yet to be discovered. Named for its “jewel-like” calcite crystals, Jewel Cave is an underground geological wonder. Unlike other underground caves, Jewel was not carved by a river but by slowly circulating, acid-rich groundwater. Above the surface, Jewel Cave National Monument is a haven for nature and bird-lovers. Over 120 different bird species have been sited at the park and wildflowers and native plants are in abundance. Ranger guided tours vary by season.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Custer, SD

Hours/Seasonality: Mount Rushmore is open year-round except for on Christmas Day. Gift shop, café and Sculptor Studio hours vary by season.

Phone: 605-574-3131

Email: moru-superintendent@nps.gov

No vacation to South Dakota is complete unless you’ve stood at the foot of Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Our nation’s Shrine of Democracy is both an amazing and moving experience. Carved into a granite mountainside, the faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln represent the founding, expansion, preservation and unification of our country.

Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway, Needles Highway & Iron Mountain Road

Custer, SD

The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is 70 miles of winding, scenic roads, pigtail bridges and breath-taking views. The byway, that encompasses Needles Highway (SD Highway 87) and Iron Mountain Road (US Highway 16A), was painstakingly mapped out by South Dakota Senator Peter Norbeck in the 1930s. He wanted to create a slow-speed scenic drive that showcased the magnificent beauty of the Black Hills. Highlights of this scenic drive include Mount Rushmore, Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak), Sylvan Lake, the Needle's Eye and Cathedral Spires rock formations. The total byway is comprised of U.S. Highway 16A, and State Highways 87, 89 and 244.

Wind Cave National Park

Custer, SD

Hours/Seasonality: The park is open year-round with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s day. Tours and times vary by season.

Wind Cave National Park is one of the nation’s oldest national parks. Protected since 1903, the park is home to one of the longest and most complex underground caves in the world. It also encompasses over 28,000 acres of mixed prairie grasslands, pine forests and roaming wildlife. Ranger-guided cave tours vary in length and difficulty—from a ½ hour leisurely walking tour to a four-hour crawling excursion. Above ground visitors can explore 30-miles of hiking trails, three nature trails and backcountry camping opportunities. Wind Cave is also home to a herd of free-roaming buffalo that can be seen grazing the prairies of this unique park.

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