They call them the Black Hills of South Dakota, but it’s something of a secret that the Black Hills extend into Wyoming, too. Although 90 percent of the Black Hills are in South Dakota, the timbered mountains of the Black Hills National Forest do continue 10 to 40 miles beyond the South Dakota border, west into Wyoming.
And even though they are across the state line, the towns of Hulett, Moorcroft, Newcastle and Sundance are very much a part of the Black Hills “community.”
Devils Tower National Monument
In the North, there is a distinct branch of the Black Hills known as The Bear Lodge district. This is the home of the nation’s first national monument, Devils Tower. The two-square-mile park surrounding the tower was proclaimed the nation’s first national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, just over 100 years ago. The Tower is a solitary, stump-shaped granite formation that looms 865 feet above the tree-lined Belle Fourche River Valley, like a skyscraper in the country. It’s the core of an almost volcano.
Hulett is the town closest to the Tower. It’s set picturesquely in the red rock valley of the Belle Fourche River. Hulett has a big rodeo on the second weekend of June. In November, the whole town becomes a “deer camp” for whitetail deer hunters.
The village of Moorcroft sprawls along the south side of Interstate 90 at the very western edge of the Black Hills. Your first impression is likely to be the abundance of working oil wells and pronghorn antelope. Although it's a High Plains town, Moorcroft is within a half-hour of 6,600-foot mountains of the Bear Lodge District of the Black Hills National Forest.
Sundance is the biggest town in the Bear Lodge and is nestled in the shadow of a mountain originally named Wi Wacipi Paha (Temple of the Sioux). Sundance’s attractions include the free Crook County Museum and the jail where the Sundance Kid was jailed.
Promoters of the Vore Buffalo Jump near Beulah, Wyo. (I-90 Exit 205) are welcoming visitors at a natural sinkhole that was used as a bison trap by Plains Indians between 1500 and 1800 A.D. The Vore site, located 3.5 miles west of Beulah on Old Highway 14, was used for over 300 years to capture and kill large numbers of bison.
Like a mirage, the old storefront of the Aladdin Store makes up most of the town of Aladdin, Wyo., population 125. “It’s like walking back into 1890,” one visitor said. Aisles are full of things that have not been seen for a century. Rest assured, the store carries many modern refreshments.
Farther south, Newcastle is a ranching, timber and oil town on the flanks of the southern Black Hills. Newcastle is also a tourist town with good access to major vacation attractions, and frequently serves as a base for hunting and snowmobiling. Newcastle is an excellent place to go off the beaten path, searching out ghost towns and secluded canyons in the Black Hills.