Custer State Park is home to roaming buffalo, towering peaks and cool mountain lakes. It’s a place filled with history, adventures and countless family activities. Spanning 71,000 acres, the park is one of the largest state parks in the country and is the best nature has to offer.
Established as South Dakota’s first park, Custer State Park is the crown jewel of the park system. Its incredible scenery, outdoor adventures and history make it a favorite destination of both visitors and locals. The park is best known for its free-roaming herd of buffalo. The 1,300 head herd grazes on the prairie grasses and can be easily seen alongside the Wildlife Loop Road. Often times the moving herd will cross the roads, stopping traffic as they make their way to greener pastures. Every fall, the herd is rounded up in spectacular display of the Old West. The Annual Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival is a three-day event that ends when 1,300 bison crest the hill and are corralled into pens.
During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps made many park improvements, including the construction of campgrounds, picnic areas, sturdy bridges and a stone fire tower. The CCC also constructed three dams that created three of the park’s four mountain lakes. Center, Stockade, Legion and Sylvan Lake are great places to canoe, swim and fish.
Custer State Park is also known for its world-class rock climbing and hiking trails. The jutting granite spires of the Needles offer one-of-a-kind ascents and breath-taking beauty. Hiking trails are well maintained and offer easy to strenuous hikes. The trailhead to Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak), the highest point in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains, is located at Sylvan Lake.
Visitors to Custer State Park can also enjoy horseback riding, paddle boating, Buffalo Jeep Safaris, summer stock theatre, interpretative programs, history walks and chuckwagon suppers
Location: Park entrance located two minutes from downtown Custer
Hours/Seasonality: Park is open year-round
Fees/Reservations: A park entrance license is required. A temporary license (valid 1-7 days) costs $20.00 per vehicle or $10.00 per motorcycle; annual fee is $30.00
Other Attractions Inside the Park: Peter Norbeck Visitor Center, Black Hills Playhouse, Wildlife Station Visitor Center, Badger Clark Memorial, Mount Coolidge Fire Tower, Gordon Stockade