FALL RIVER COUNTY
Hot Springs (includes Hill City)
Sights & Sites
●Museum at Black Hills Institute – 117 East Main Street (Hill City); 605-574-4289; bhigr.com/museum; private corporation specializing in fossil excavation & preparation, as well as sale of both original fossil material & museum-quality replicas.
●Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary – 12165 Highland Road (Hill City); 605-745-5955 or 800-252-6652; blackhillsbadlands.com/wild-horse-sanctuary or wildmustangs.com.
●Mammoth Site Excavation & Museum – 1800 US Highway 18 Bypass (Hot Springs); 605-745-6017; active paleontological dig site, boasting largest mammoth remain concentration in world.
●Evans Plunge Mineral Springs – 1145 North River Street (Hot Springs); 605-745-5165; evansplunge.com; water park with indoor pool featuring naturally warm mineral water from thermal spring; water slides.
●Wind Cave National Park – Hot Springs (10 miles north thereof); 605-745-4600; nps.gov/wica; established in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, 7th US National Park & 1st cave to be designated national park anywhere in world; notable for calcite formations known as boxwork (approximately 95% world’s discovered boxwork formations are found in Wind Cave; also known for frostwork; also considered 3-dimensional maze cave, recognized as densest (most passage volume per cubic mile) cave system in world; 6th-longest in world, with 141 miles explored cave passageways & average of 4 new miles discovered each year; above ground, largest remaining, natural mixed-grass prairie in US.
JACKSON, MELLETTE, OGLALA LAKOTA & PENNINGTON COUNTIES
Badlands (includes Crazy Horse, Custer, East Custer, East Shannon, Interior, Oglala, Phillip & Scenic)
●Blue Bell Lodge – 25453 US Highway 87 (Custer); 605-255-4531 or 888-875-0001; custerresorts.com/lodges-and-cabins/blue-bell-lodge; upscale secluded lodge 5 miles from both Mount Coolidge & Hazelrodt Picnic Area & 8 miles from historic site Gordon Stockade; polished cabins feature rustic decor, equipped with flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers & 2-burner stoves, as well as minifridges, fire pits & picnic tables; some cabins add full kitchens and fireplaces; ranch-style restaurant with terrace, plus a general store with gas pumps; activities include nightly hay wagon rides & cook-outs, as well as horseback riding (fees).
●Cathedral Spires Trailhead (Trail #4) – US Highway 87 (trail starts at parking lot along Needles Highway, follow trail to spires); 605-223-7660; blackhillsbadlands.com/trails/bhnf-trail-4-cathedral-spires; most beautiful hike in South Dakota; 2.5 mile hike through areas unique to South Dakota.
●Circle View Ranch – 20055 East Highway 44 (Scenic); 605-433-5582; circleviewranch.com; 3K acre working ranch; ask to rent cabin.
●Legion Lake Lodge – 12967 US Highway 16A (Custer); 605-255-4521 or 888-875-0001; custerresorts.com/lodges-and-cabins/legion-lake-lodge; set within Custer State Park, rustic lodge Legion Lake shores is 4 miles from both Mount Coolidge & theater productions at Black Hills Playhouse; laid-back cabins come with free Wi-Fi & flat-screen TVs, plus minifridges, microwaves & coffeemakers; upgraded cabins add kitchenettes, decks, &/or living rooms with sofabeds; airy, seasonal restaurant has lakeside terrace; swimming beach, playground & general store, as well as boat rentals.
●State Game Lodge – 13389 US Highway 16A (Custer); 605-255-4541 or 888-875-0001; custerresorts.com/lodges-and-cabins/state-game-lodge; in scenic valley in Custer State Park off Route 16; complex borders trout-fishing creek & includes historic, 1920s lodge, with modern hotel rooms & cabins; lodge offers opulent rooms with antiques, flat-screens & coffeemakers; upscale-rustic cabins add outdoor fire pits & picnic tables; some have full kitchens; hotel units include minifridges & microwaves; stately, fine-dining restaurant, cozy fireside lounge/bar & general store with gas pumps; guided wildlife-spotting jeep tours are available for fee.
●Sylvan Lake Lodge – 24572 US Highway 87 (Custer); 605-574-2561 or 888-875-0001; custerresorts.com/lodges-and-cabins/sylvan-lake-lodge; situated within Custer State Park & surrounded by hiking trails; upscale stone-&-wood lodge & cabin property adjacent to Sylvan Lake & 12.4 miles from Crazy Horse Memorial; warm, modern lodge rooms sleep up to 4 people & offer flat-screen TVs & coffeemakers; cabins sleep up to 10; equipped with microwaves, minifridges & fireplaces, as well as outdoor fire pits & picnic tables; some have stove tops; polished restaurant (open seasonally) with elegant terrace serving locally sourced fare, plus general store & boat rentals (fee).
●Bette’s Kitchen – 111 Black Elk Road (Manderson, White Horse Creek); 605-867-1739; restaurant.com/bettes-kitchen-manderson-pid=242326; owned & operated for nearly 20 years by Charles & Bette Janis O’Rourke (Black Elk’s great-granddaughter); offers much more than reasonably priced home cooked cuisine in relaxed country setting; regulars get good conversation served up with full menu plus 2 daily specials & soup-of-day; tourists may fill up on Bette’s intriguing family background; located 1 mile south of Manderson on Black Elk Road, off scenic byway BIA 33, customers need only follow the signs to lush, pine dappled hilltop to find Bette & maybe some fresh homemade bread; Beete started out in RN training then moved on to Nutrition Coordinator for Oglala Sioux Tribe for 25 years; loved teaching youth about cooking during parenting classes & held workshops for people with health concerns such as diabetes, kidney & heart disease; menu includes veggie burger & vegetable soup; visitors love to climb around tall, needlelike, wind-burnished buttes & hike to family’s old Black Elk cabin nearby; where she has her house is where Black Elks Speaks finished; pictures on wall include Great Grandfather, Nicolas Black Elk & Grandfather, Ben Black Elk; open Monday through Saturday for lunch but she will put on Sunday buffet for 10 or more.
Sights & Sites
●Badlands National Park – 20695 SD Highway 240 (Interior); 605-433-5362; nps.gov/badl; in southwest South Dakota; 244K acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires in largest protected mixed-grass prairie in US; site of black-footed ferret’s re-introduction, most endangered land mammal in North America; “Stronghold Unit” co-managed with Oglala Lakota tribe; Red Shirt Table is park’s highest point at 3.4K'; park also administers nearby Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.
●Black Elk Peak – to access trailhead at Sylvan Lake from Rapid City & IH 90, drive west on US Highway 16 to US Highway 285 for 30 miles to Hill City, then drive south on US Highway 16/385 from Hill City for 3.2 miles, then left (east) on South Dakota Highway 87, follow 87 for 6.1 miles to Sylvan Lake, park at large lot on southwest side of lake or at trailhead parking on east side of lake; 605-673-4853; harneypeakinfo.com; formerly Harney Peak; also known as Hinhan Kaga (in Lakota); highest natural point in South Dakota; sacred mountain to Native Americans, easily climbed by several trails; most common route, gaining 1.1K', travels 3.5 miles up Trail #9 from Sylvan Lake; round-trip ascent commonly takes 4-6 hours, depending on your fitness & speed; trail begins in Custer State Park, then enters Black Elk Wilderness Area in Black Hills National Forest; no permits are required but hikers must register at registration boxes at wilderness boundary; best time to climb Harney Peak is from May through October; summer months (June to August) ideal; severe weather, including lightning & thunderstorms, regularly brew on summer afternoons & quickly move onto peak; watch weather to west & descend from summit to avoid lightning; best to get early start & plan to be on summit by noon; carry rain gear & extra clothes to avoid hypothermia as well as carry “Ten Essentials”; from trailhead on east side of Sylvan Lake, follow Trail #9; trail gently climbs northeast through pine forest to viewpoint that overlooks lush valley & southern flank of Black Elk Peak; granite cliffs, domes, buttresses & spires rise from dark forest; if you look carefully on highest rocks, you can spy summit tower; trail continues east & slowly descends 300' or so into valley with sun-dappled meadows & trickling stream; trail crosses stream & starts climbing through forest of lodgepole pine & Douglas fir; above trail loom granite cliffs; moist rocky canyons between granite formations are filled with birdsong & ferns; after 2.5 miles, trail begins climbing steeply, passing several great overlooks where can stop & catch your breath; after several switchbacks, trail reaches southeast ridge of Black Elk Peak & continues climbing to final craggy cliffs guarding summit; finally scramble over rocky slabs to stone steps which lead to old fire lookout tower perched on cliff-edge; stone structure, built in 1930s by CCC, makes good refuge if weather turns bad; from summit, hiker sees 4 states – Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota & Wyoming – on clear day; from summit (called Hinhan Kaga Paha by Lakota Sioux, share location described by Sioux shaman Black Elk, who called mountain “center of universe”; Black Elk had his “Great Vision” atop mountain when age 9; told John Neihardt, who wrote Black Elk Speaks, about his experience on mountain top: “I was standing on highest mountain of them all & round about beneath me was whole hoop of world. & while I stood there I saw more than I can tell & I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in sacred manner shapes of all things in spirit & shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.”
●Black Hills National Forest – 1019 North 5th Street (Custer); 605-673-9200; fs.usda.gov/blackhills; America’s oldest mountains rise above surrounding flatlands; 1.2M acres.
●Crazy Horse Memorial – 12151 Avenue of Chiefs (Crazy Horse); 605-673-4681; crazyhorsememorial.org; mountain monument under construction on privately held land in Black Hills; will depict Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota warrior, riding horse & pointing into distance; commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski; memorial consists of mountain carving (monument), Indian Museum of North America & Native American Cultural Center; monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain on land considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota, between Custer & Hill City, roughly 17 miles from Mount Rushmore; final dimensions are planned to be 641' wide & 563' high; head will be 87' high; by comparison, heads of 4 US Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60' high; monument has been in progress since 1948 & is far from completion; if completed, may become largest sculpture in world.
●Custer State Park – 13329 US Highway 16A (East Custer); 605-255-4515; gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/custer; 71K acres; famous for bison herds, other wildlife, scenic drives, historic sites, visitor centers, fishing lakes, resorts, campgrounds & interpretive programs; State Game Lodge served as “Summer White House” for President Calvin Coolidge in 1927 (also visited by Dwight D. Eisenhower for several days in 1953); stone & wood lodge built in 1920 & now listed on National Register of Historic Places; hand-built cabin in park known as Badger Hole, once home to Charles Badger Clark, South Dakota’s 1st poet laureate.
●Makasan Presbyterian Cemetery – US Highway 18 (Oglala); 605-867-5545 (Church); findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=1974918&CScntry=4&CSst=44&CScnty=2414&CSsr=81&; where Chief Young Man Afraid of His Horses is buried.
●Pine Ridge Reservation – East Shannon; 605-867-5821 (Pine Ridge Agency Superintendent; friendsofpineridgereservation.org; Wounded Knee Massacre & burial site; trail that Spotted Elk & band took on reservation is marked with signs, including spot where they surrendered to US troops & were escorted to site by Wounded Knee Creek;
Stronghold Table (remote mesa in what is now Stronghold (South) Unit of Badlands National Park); Red Cloud Cemetery.
●Prairie Homestead – 21141 SD Highway 240 (Philip); 605-515-0138; prairiehomestead.com; restored sod dugout and prairie dogs.
●Red Cloud Cemetery – 100 Mission Drive (on hill above); 605-867-1105 (Red Cloud Indian School); findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=1970722&CScntry=4&CSst=44&CScnty=2414&CSsr=41&; where Red Cloud is buried.
●Saint Ann’s Cemetery – Denby; findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=97509&CScntry=4&CSst=44&CScnty=2414&CSsr=141&; where Long Wolf is buried.
●Sylvan Lake – off of South Dakota Highway 87 North (Needles Highway); 605-223-7660; blackhillsbadlands.com/places/sylvan-lake or gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/custer/campgrounds/sylvan-lake; known as Custer State Park’s “crown jewel”; created in 1881 when Theodore Reder built dam across Sunday Gulch; picnic areas, rock climbing, small rental boats, swimming & hiking trails; popular as starting point for excursions to Black Elk Peak & Needles.
●Wounded Knee Massacre Monument – Pine Ridge; findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=641384&CScntry=4&CSst=44&CScnty=2414&CSsr=201&; also where Chief Bigfoot and Lost Bird are buried.
Sights & Sites
●Mount Rushmore National Memorial – 13000 South Dakota 244; 605-574-2523; nps.gov/moru.
●Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway – Black Hills National Forest (US Route 16A, South Dakota Highway 244, South Dakota Highway 87 & South Dakota Highway 89; fhwa.dot.gov/byways/byways/2459; loop made up of 4 numbered highways; includes several tunnels and pigtail bridges; enters Black Hills National Forest, Custer State Park & Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, as well as passes within 5 miles (8 km) of Crazy Horse Memorial.
●Corn Exchange – 727 Main Street; 605-343-5070; try buffalo Bolognese or quail, when in season.
Sights & Sites
●Chapel in Hills – 3788 Chapel Lane; 605-342-8281; chapel-in-the-hills.org; exact replica of Borgund stave church in Norway built in 1969 (Borgund stavkirke built around 1150); Norwegian Department of Antiquities provided blueprints; site includes authentic log cabin museum built in 1876 by Edward Nielsen, Norwegian immigrant gold prospector from Hole, Ringerike, Norway; there is also stabbur, grass-roofed house, that serves as visitor center & gift shop.
●Museum of Geology – 501 East St. Joseph Street (at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology); 605-394-2467; museum.sdsmt.edu; free campus geology museum featuring mounted skeletons, rare fossils & exhibits, plus gift shop.
●Heritage House Bed & Breakfast – 126 Calumet Avenue Southwest; 605-854-9370 or 888-235-3637; heritagehousesd.com; beautifully restored.
Sights & Sites
●Ingalls Homestead – 20812 Homestead Road; 605-854-3984 or 800-776-3594; ingallshomestead.com.
●Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society – 105 Olivet Avenue; 605-854-3383 or 800-880-3383; discoverlaura.org; arrange guided tour, which includes 2 artifact-filled Ingalls’ homes and Laura’s school in De Smet.
Sights & Sites
●Deadwood Historic District – 108 Sherman Street (Deadwood Historic Preservation); 605-578-2082 (same) or 800-344-8826; deadwood.com; Deadwood gained notoriety in late 19th Century as lawless gold mining town; in 1874, Gen. George Armstrong Custer led expedition to Black Hills territory owned by Lakota; during his search, he found gold on what is known as French Creek, which is near Custer; this started well-known rush & Deadwood formed in 1876; within 6 months, Deadwood’s population quickly reached around 4.8K people; in mid-1876, Steve & Charlie Utter (friends of Wild Bill Hickok) started to import prostitutes & other business opportunities to help jump-start economy around Deadwood.
Spearfish (includes Lead)
●Spearfish Canyon Lodge – 10619 Roughlock Falls Road (Lead); 605-584-3435 or 877-975-6343; spfcanyon.com; midway between Spearfish & Deadwood; lodge-style hotel commands some of best views in Black Hills; limestone cliffs rise nearly 1K' in all directions; rush of Spearfish Falls is short hike away, while Roughlock Falls is mile-long hike through aspen, oak & pine from front door.
●Cheyenne Crossing Store – 21415 Canam Highway (Lead); 605-584-3510; cheyennecrossing.org/cafe.html; stage coach stop dating back to 1878, general store & cafe featuring home-cooked meals.
●Latchstring Inn – 10619 Roughlock Falls Road (Lead, at Spearfish Canyon Lodge); 605-584-3333spfcanyon.com.
Sights & Sites
●Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway – Highway 14A, as it twists through 19-mile gorge (22-mile journey begins at Exit 10 or Exit 14 off IH-90 in Spearfish & connects to canyon mouth); blackhillsbadlands.com/drives/spearfish-canyon-scenic-byway; Spearfish Creek lines canyon floor, while canyon waterfalls make for popular roadside attractions; Bridal Veil & Roughlock Falls are must-sees; Maurice Hydro Power Plant lies about midway through Canyon, reminder of Homestake Gold Mine operation in Lead, just few miles up road; explore side canyons like Iron Creek or Eleventh Hour Gulch, aptly named because it only gets 1 hour of sunlight daily; location for several scenes in Dances With Wolves (site is on Forest Road 222, about 3 miles upstream from Spearfish Canyon Resort.
Sights & Sites
●Sitting Bull Burial Monument – US Highway 12 (7 miles southwest of Mobridge); mobridge.org/mobridge.php?subid=8.