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State & National Parks in the Black Hills

Custer State Park in the Black Hills encompasses over 73,000 acres of spectacular terrain and an abundance of wildlife.

Favorite outdoor activities include hiking 7,242-foot Black Elk Peak, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, chuck wagon suppers and jeep rides. The park boasts scenic drives such as the Needles Highway (SD 87), which twists and turns its way past towering rock formations and through narrow tunnels, including the Needles Eye, a granite spire with a slit only 3 to 4 feet wide but reaching 30 to 40 feet high.

Walk the banks of French Creek, where Custer's expedition discovered gold in 1874, take in a theater performance at the Black Hills Playhouse, or visit the log cabin home of Badger Clark, South Dakota's first poet laureate. You will find resorts at Sylvan Lake, Legion Lake, Blue Bell and the State Game Lodge, each unique—ranging from the stately Game Lodge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to the mini dude ranch at Blue Bell. Seven campgrounds offer a variety of sites.

Don't be surprised if you encounter a roadblock of grazing bison. A herd of approximately 1,500, one of the world's largest, roams freely, often stopping traffic along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road. (A word of caution: Bison can be unpredictable and dangerous. It's safest to view them from inside a car.) The park is also home of pronghorn antelope, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, wild turkeys, and a band of friendly burros.

Park rangers lead guided nature walks and gold-panning excursions. Evening campfire programs feature slide shows, outdoor-cooking demonstrations and films. For the kids, the Junior Naturalist Program teaches about the outdoors through hands-on activities. For detailed information about programs and activities, stop by the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center, along US Highway 16A, or the Wildlife Station Visitor Center, along the Wildlife Loop Road.

The warm-water springs found near Angostura have drawn visitors for more than 10,000 years. Legends describe a fierce battle between the Lakota and Cheyenne people to control the area's health restoring springs, and white immigrants who came to the area quickly realized the benefits of the mineral-laden springs and settled in the area.

Angostura Recreation Area is nestled along the shoreline of the reservoir. In 1949, the Bureau of Reclamation completed an earth-filled and concrete dam across the Cheyenne River. The word Angostura is Spanish for "narrows." The Angostura Dam created more than 5,000 surface acres of water, a water-lover's haven. The Angostura Reservoir is well known for its walleye, small mouth bass and crappie fishing. The lake also supports northern pike, largemouth bass, perch and bluegill. Average depth is 29 feet and the deepest portion is 75 feet when full. The lake's average summer temperature is 66 degrees Fahrenheit.

36 miles of shoreline provide some of the finest sandy beaches in the state with four modern campgrounds and several picnic areas. The park also features a 78-slip marina, beach club, and floating convenience store. Cabin rentals are available. Angostura Recreation Area is located 10 miles southeast of Hot Springs, off US Highway 385-18, and is open year-round.

Mato Paha or "Bear Mountain" is the Lakota name given to the unique formation at Bear Butte State Park, a lone mountain, not a flat-topped "butte" as its name implies. It is one of several intrusions of igneous rock that formed millions of years ago along the northern edge of the Black Hills.

This mountain is sacred to many American Indians, and thousands visit the ceremonial area each summer During your visit, you may see colorful pieces of cloth and small bundles hanging from the tree which represent the prayers offered by individuals during their worship. Please respect these offerings and leave them undisturbed.

A lakeside use area provides 15 basic campsites near Bear Butte Lake. A small bison herd roams the base of the mountain. An interpretive center provides insight into the historical and cultural significance of the mountain. During summer months, the center is staffed from 9 AM to 5 PM daily. Special group arrangements are encouraged. Guided hikes are also available with prior notice. A hiking trail winds its way around the slopes of Bear Butte. At the summit, you'll discover a breathtaking view of four states. The park also serves as the northern trailhead for the 111-mile Centennial Trail. In respect to religious activities that take place on the mountain; the park is managed for day-use only. Trails are open to visitors from 8 AM to 7 PM. Because of its natural and historical heritage, Bear Butte State Park has been designated as a National Natural Landmark and a National Recreation Trail.

On the northwestern slopes of the Black Hills, Wyoming's Keyhole State Park recreation area is located between Sundance and Moorcroft, and is easily accessed off I-90 at exit 165, or take exits 153 or 564 in Moorcroft then Hwy 14 north six miles then Hwy 113.

Keyhole offers approximately 14,720 acres of water recreation opportunity. The elevation is about 4,100 feet and the four seasons are comparatively mild, providing some of the finest snowmobiling in the state.

The magnetism of names like "Sundance" and "Devils Tower" draw the traveler. The area was reserved by treaty for the Sioux tribes until the great Black Hills gold rush in 1874. Keyhole State Park was named for the "Keyhole" livestock brand that was used by the McKean brothers that owned a local ranch.

Keyhole State Park, situated along the southeast shore of Keyhole Reservoir within sight of Devils Tower, offers excellent fishing for walleye, catfish, small mouth bass and northern pike. Approximately 225 species of birds can be observed at or within a mile of park boundaries. During the summer the most abundant species include the White Pelican, Osprey, Common Yellowthroat and Savannah Sparrow. Winter birds include Bald Eagles, Red and White-Breasted Nuthatches and Red Crossbills. Ask at park headquarters for a complete bird list. Other type of wildlife including mule deer, white tailed deer, and wild turkeys.

A marina and motel are located on Headquarters Road, adjacent to the lakeshore. Keyhole has nine campgrounds overlooking the lake with more than one hundred and seventy sites with tables and grills. Most of the sites will handle large RVs and trailers. Tent or RV camping is possible at all sites. Some of the campgrounds are in the trees, and some are in the open.

View our Park Directory.

South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks
Island in the Plains – A Black Hills Natural History by Edward Raventon
Wyoming Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources