After we left Crazy Horse Memorial we drove to the town of Custer, had lunch, and afterwards decided to drive the “Wildlife Loop” while waiting to check into our cabin.
Custer State Park is known for its free-ranging bison herd. With some 1,500 animals, it is one of the largest bison herds in the world. Pronghorn, deer, elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, burros, prairie dogs, coyotes, eagles, and wild turkeys are other residents of the park’s variety of habitats. Driving the loop road takes you about 50 minutes and you are guaranteed to see some of these amazing animals.
After panning for gold, feeding the Burros and spotting our first Bison for the week we were told we could check into our cabin that would be home the next 4 nights. I had found this place through Mt. Rushmore Vacation Rentals and the place blew us away when we arrived. The pictures we used to book it didn’t do it justice! A huge log cabin tucked right outside Custer State Park’s entrance, it sat on acres of land and was just so picturesque and peaceful. We loved our stay there.
That night we took it easy and got ready for the adventure we were to undertake the next day. Custer State Park offers an open-air Jeep safari tour that takes you off road and deeper into the park, allowing you to search for pronghorns, elk, and of course Bison! We loved the tour and everything we saw! The tour guide shared tons of historical and educational facts about the park and wildlife. He told us he had been giving this tour for over 6 years, and it showed with the wealth of knowledge he had. Overall it is worth every penny and made lifetime memories for us.
The rest of the week we explored the rest of Custer State Park driving up Needles Highway to Sylvan Lake and enjoying an afternoon there. Truly beautiful area and wish we had more time to do more of the hiking trails. The park is South Dakota’s largest and first state park, covering an area of over 71,000 acres!
Two days before we left to drive home, we decided to drive over to Devils Tower National Monument, in Northeast Wyoming. Devils Tower was the first United States national monument, established on September 24, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Driving into Wyoming for me was like truly entering the wild west. Huge cattle ranches and just open land for miles. Definitely you need to make sure your car has a full tank of gas before starting this trip! lol. The landscape is so beautiful though. It made the two hour drive seem like nothing. We should have arrived earlier in the day then we did. I didn’t realize the park was undergoing construction and there was a 30 minute wait to enter the park. But it was worth it. We did the trail around the tower and Bryce had a blast climbing some of the boulders around it. Truly a sight to see. Afterwards we ate lunch at the restaurant just outside the park entrance and it was delicious!
Overall we had an amazing vacation. If you ever get a chance to visit the black hills, please do! This part of the country is beautiful and we enjoyed exploring the area. It definitely has given me the National Park travel bug and I want to see Yellowstone next!