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The Best Things to See and Do in the Black Hills

Updated on May 23, 2017
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I have traveled extensively throughout the US for many years and enjoy helping people to enjoy their own vacations.

One of the most unique and beautiful areas of the United States is the Black Hills of South Dakota.

This lovely area offers a wide variety of activities from viewing nature to enjoying luxury resorts, and has something for everybody, regardless of age.

I have visited the hills many times, and wanted to share some of its best venues with my readers, but until you make the journey yourself, it will be impossible for you to know just how wonderful a place it is to visit.

South Dakota's Black Hills offer a great variety of  fun activities for people of all ages.
South Dakota's Black Hills offer a great variety of fun activities for people of all ages. | Source

The Badlands and Wall Drug

The Black Hills is the real entry gate to the West. However, your real vacation begins just East on Interstate 90 where you will find The Badlands National Park and the famous Wall Drug.

You will be tempted to bypass them, but don't do it. Both are well worth seeing, and you can do so in less than a half day.

The Badlands

For a small entry fee, you can take a 35 mile drive through The Badlands National Park and enjoy its stunning, rugged beauty and hardy wild life.

During your visit, you'll feel as though you’re in an old cowboy movie because the terrain is so wild and stark.

When you exit on the West side of the park, you'll be right across the highway from the famous Wall Drugstore.

The drive through the Badlands National Park will live you awestruck.
The drive through the Badlands National Park will live you awestruck. | Source

Wall Drug

If you stop at Wall Drug be sure to eat there.

  • Coffee is still 5 cents a cup,
  • the hot roast beef sandwich is the best you'll ever eat and
  • the blueberry pie will melt in your mouth.
  • After you finish your meal, stroll around and view the magnificent Western art, the beautiful shops and the kid oriented back yard.

"Free Ice Water: The Story of Wall Drug" is a book that shows how Wall Drug grew from a small mom and pop drugstore into one of the most famous and well loved tourist attractions in the world.

My husband and I met Mr. Hustead who gave us a copy and autographed it for us just because we took the time to chat with him. He was 92 at the time.

This book is something we have treasured for years and has served as a wonderful reminder of the day when we met him.

Rapid City

90 miles down the road, you'll find Rapid City where you can visit the

  • Sioux museum,
  • Chapel In the Hills,
  • RapidRiver,
  • Ellsworth Air Force Base and
  • South DakotaSchool Of Mines.

The city also has a nice variety of restaurants as well as a beautiful mall.

For a real treat, take a tour of the Landstrom or Coleman manufacturing companies where you can watch artisans create unique and exceptionally beautiful items of Black Hills Gold jewelry.

These companies produce many types of jewelry from pins and earrings to necklaces and bracelets, but for my husband and I, it is the wedding rings that have meant the most.

We bought ours 30 years ago just before my husband and I got married in an old fort just outside of Custer State Park.

They have stayed beautiful since that time and are always the envy of every person who sees them.

For us, they represent not only the love we share for one another, but also the many wonders of the Black Hills that we have shared.

The ad below shows you what ours look like, but there are dozens of styles from which to choose. All will have grapes and grape leaves to represent the legend of Black Hills Gold and bring good luck to all who wear them.

Landstroms Black Hills Gold Mens Wedding Ring in 10K Gold
Landstroms Black Hills Gold Mens Wedding Ring in 10K Gold

Beautiful, durable and unique are words that describe this wedding band that comes in both men's and women's sizes. My husband and I own them and love them, and you will, too!


The Climb into the Hills

When you head west out of Rapid City on Route 16, you climb into the hills, which are rugged and lush with lodge pole pines.

Along the way, you'll see signs directing you to

  • Mt.Rushmore,
  • Crazy Horse Memorial,
  • HillCity,
  • Keystone,
  • Custer,
  • Lead,
  • Deadwood,
  • Sturgis and
  • CusterState Park

By reading both you'll have a better overview of the various vacation venues so that you can choose the spots you prefer to visit.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is going to be the 8th wonder of the world once it is finished.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is going to be the 8th wonder of the world once it is finished. | Source

Small Towns with Big Histories

In the summer months, the small towns of Hill City, Keystone, Lead, Deadwood, Sturgis and Custer are crowded with visitors who can

  • browse the many tourist oriented stores,
  • dine in historicrestaurants like the Alpine Inn,
  • ride the 1880's train,
  • enjoy nature, wildlife and beautiful scenery,
  • do a little gambling or
  • learn about the rich history of each area.

For example, it was in Deadwood where Wild Bill Hickock got shot holding aces and eights, now known as the dead man's hand, and it is in Sturgis where the famous annual motorcycle rally began decades ago.

On the way to visit Keystone and Hill City, tourists can visit thgreat monuments of Mt. Rushmore and The Crazy Horse Memorial.

They can also head up the hill from Deadwood, to view the famous Homestake Mine in the town of Lead. (When it was still operating, this mine produced 40 million troy ounces of gold an was the largest and deepest gold mine in North America!)

Every one of these towns drips with western history, much of which is on display in its many museums.


Deadwood is one of our all time favorite places to visit because it takes you back to a time when the West was wild, and some of the most famous people in history were alive

  • Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok rest side by side in Mt.MoriahCemetery,
  • Number 10 Saloon (where Wild Bill got shot) is still open,
  • The Bullock Hotel is open for business and
  • there are small museums and historical artifacts everywhere that show visitors how people lived back in the day.

Also, many of the historic old buildings still stand, and the locals put on a good show during the summer months.

Every night at dusk, there is a reenactment of the killing of Wild Bill Hickok and a mock trial where Jack McCall is found guilty. Jurists are chosen from the audience, but there is a fee for attending the trial. However the gunfight is free to watch, and everybody seems to have a good time doing so.

The Black Hills Are Worth Seeing

Visiting the Black Hills is an adventure like no other.

The time you spend there will take you to places where you will see buffalo running wild, cowboys, fabulous scenery and perhaps even treat yourself to a cowboy dinner show where you eat on tin plates, drink from tin cups and are served your meal cowboy style.

It's a wonderful area that has more to offer than has even been mentioned here.

I’ve shared some of the highlights with you, and sincerely hope that you will make the drive so that you can enjoy them yourselves.

As for me? I can't wait to go back!

It's a long drive to South Dakota, but the trip is worthwhile.
It's a long drive to South Dakota, but the trip is worthwhile. | Source

Do you think you'd like to have a Black Hills adventure?

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  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    TIMETRAVELER2 11 days ago

    Perspycacious: Thanks. There's another one you might also with 8 of the best road trip destinations in was so much fun to write because it took me to all of the places I love the most!

  • Perspycacious profile image

    Demas W Jasper 11 days ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

    Shared with family in Iowa.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    TIMETRAVELER2 12 days ago

    Perspycacious: Thanks! I love the Hills. Have spent many happy hours there. Even got married there! I think everybody should go there and spend some time at least once. It's fantastic!

  • Perspycacious profile image

    Demas W Jasper 12 days ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

    Oh, you have a travelitis stirred up with this one!

    Well done.

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