Top 10 Things for Active Travelers to Do in the Black Hills Area
In South Dakota's Black Hills, mica and quartz sparkle along trails and thick stands of pines decorate granite peaks and distinctive spires seen from scenic overlooks. It's an area that calls for outdoor exploration along trails or on lakes. There are so many things to do in the Black Hills and Badlands. Here are some of our favorite ideas for active adventures.
1. Loop Through Black Hills National Forest
Adventurous mountain bikers find several loops throughout the Black Hills National Forest, including challenging trails around Deerfield Lake or Pactola Reservoir. It's also easy to jump on the 111-mile mulituse Centennial Trail running from Bear Butte State Park to Wind Cave National Park.
2. Enjoy Epic Vistas at Black Elk Peak
A majestic four-state view unfurls from the highest point in South Dakota at 7,244 feet above sea level (formerly known as Harney Peak). Pack a lunch for this 6- or 7-mile (depending on route) round trip from Sylvan Lake.
3. Paddle at Sylvan Lake
Grab a canoe or kayak for a scenic outing on Custer State Park's Sylvan Lake or Legion Lake.
4. Learn to Rock Climb
Whether you're a novice rock climber or an adrenaline-loving ace, guides from outfitter Sylvan Rocks can help. Beginner lessons are on the gently sloped rocks near Sylvan Lake.
5. Bike the Mickelson Trail
Ditch the crowds and bike over the pine-covered hills, through four rock tunnels and across 100 railroad bridges on this 109-mile-long crushed-limestone trail for bicyclists, walkers and horseback riders. The 8 miles between Rochford and Mystic are among the easiest. You'll need a daily pass, which can be purchased at self-pay stations at 15 trailheads.
6. Explore National Caves
7. Hike the Badlands
You'll want an early start to enjoy morning light and cooler temperatures hiking in this otherworldly landscape east of Custer State Park. Options include an easy 1/4-mile Fossil Exhibit or Window Trail and the 1.5-mile Notch Trail that follows a ledge to a dramatic view of the White River Valley.
8. Fish in Mountain Creeks and Lakes
You can hook rainbow, brook and brown trout while fly-fishing at Grace Coolidge Creek and French Creek in Custer State Park. Or fish one of the park's four mountain lakes (Legion, Stockade, Center and Sylvan) for panfish, trout and bass.
9. Spot Wildlife Via Horseback
Enjoy a memorable horseback trail ride through the pines at Custer State Park near Bluebell Lodge. Keep an eye out for wildlife, such as Rocky Mountain sheep, or the park's herd of 1,300 bison.
10. Take a Dip at Pactola Reservoir
Jump into the cool water of the Hills' largest lake or rent a pontoon from the Pactola Pines Marina and give fishing a try.