Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Custer State Park

Custer State Park

Over the course of several days, we explored almost every inch of Custer State Park.

Along the Needles Highway we travelled through the higher elevations of the park,

View from the top of Coolidge Mountain

through giant boulders,

Cathedrals View



Climbing the rocks

and through tunnels.

Tunnel on the Needles Highway

The landscape was breath-taking!

Overlooking theBlack Hills

Rock column




Also on the Needles Highway is the Sylvan Lake Recreation Area.  There’s a campground, lodge, store & cafĂ©, and even a wedding facility!

The lake is really beautiful!

Sylvan Lake

We stopped in the store for a few minutes, and Bryce found a hat he liked,  Water Buffalo Bryce!






then we decided to walk the 1 mile loop around the lake to stretch our legs.  The path started out as an easy gravel path along the edge of the lake,


Bridge to nowhere

and we thought this little bridge was going to take us to the other side.  It ended at the big boulder though, so there was nowhere for us to go unless we were prepared to climb the rock (which we weren’t!)!

We made our way around behind the rocks, 

Hope that rock doesn't fall!

and continued our hike up and over the boulders.

Up and over the rocks!

Nicolas found a narrow crevice with a waterfall in it, and squeezed in to touch the water.

Nicolas climbs intot he crevice









As we continued our hike, the sky began to darken and we heard thunder, so we picked up the pace a little bit!


As reached the day use area on the far side of the lake, it was starting to clear out, and Nicolas found a window in the rock!

Window in a rock

We arrived safely back at the parking lot, and it never did rain . . .

As we exited the park on the west boundary, we could see the needles area in the distance.












From the Needles Highway, we continued to the Wildlife Loop.  We weren’t seeing much wildlife,

Nobody in the valley

except for a few prairie dogs,

Prairies Dogs

and a small herd of pronghorn.

A group of Pronghorn

As we made our way up the east side of the Wildlife Loop, we saw the resident donkeys (not native to the area, but left over from when they were used for trail rides),

Really friendly donkey



but we still hadn’t seen any sign of the buffalo herd.

As we reached the end of the Wildlife Loop, we finally found them, and it looked like the entire herd was together!


They were just strolling down the road, without a care in the world, but careful to keep the calves nearby.

Walking their kids down the road

This little guy was all on his own, though!

Buffalo Calf

Then we saw this guy . . . he must be the great grand daddy of them all!


Out at the Ranger Station, there was a huge gathering of buffalo . . . and nobody taking pictures at the entrance sign . . . I wonder why!

No families taking pictures at this sign!

Our last drive took us gown the Iron Mountain Road, home of the famous pigtail curves,

The pigtails on Iron Mountain Road

and 4 tunnels,

Double Tunnel

each of which is centered on Mt. Rushmore.

Mt. Rushmore in the distance

The drive was exhilarating, especially at dusk with all the deer around!


The view from the top was amazing,


and Bryce found some more rocks to climb on!

Climbing rocks again!

Custer State Park is HUGE . . . with lots of great recreational areas, and about 20 different campgrounds – we saw several that we probably could have even fit our RV into!  We could definitely see why it is the “Jewel of South Dakota”!


  1. Thanks for the great tour. We only did the Wildlife loop and next trip we will be spending more time!!!

  2. Custer is one of our favorite places when we travel west.


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