Black Hills National Forest
President Grover Cleveland established the Black Hills National Forest in 1897 as the Black Hills Forest Reserve. Now in its second century, the USDA Forest Service manages these 1.2 million acres of public lands for a diversity of wildlife and fish, recreation, water production, livestock grazing, timber harvest, wilderness and other uses. The timbered mountains of the Black Hills National Forest continue 10 to 40 miles beyond the South Dakota border, west into Wyoming and cover an area that is 125 miles long and 65 miles wide. Visitors will find rugged rock formations, canyons, grasslands, streams, lakes and unique caves. Recreational opportunities for visitors include 11 reservoirs, 30 campgrounds, 2 scenic byways, 1,300 miles of streams, 13,605 acres of wilderness, over 450 miles of trails and much more.
The name “Black Hills” comes from the Lakota words Paha Sapa, which mean “hills that are black.” From a distance, these pine-covered hills, rising several thousand feet above the surrounding prairie, appear to be black. The Hills are diverse in cultural heritage. The earliest known use of the area occurred about 10,000 years ago. Later, Native Americans came to the Black Hills to seek visions and to purify themselves. Paha Sapa was considered a sanctuary and was a peaceful meeting ground for tribes at war. Exploration of the Black Hills by fur traders and trappers occurred in the 1840s. In 1874, General Custer led an Army exploration into the area and discovered gold. When word got out of the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, settlers soon followed.
Black Hills National Forest Fees, Hours and Services
Black Hills National Forest is open year-round, 24 hours per day. There is no fee to visit the Black Hills National Forest, but some day-use recreation sites charge.
Black Hills National Forest Activities
The Black Hills National Forest offers a wide range of activities and programs for visitors young and old alike.
What You Should Know When Visiting the Black Hills National Forest
Black Hills National Forest offers unique opportunities for visitors with all interests. The National Forests are public lands in joint ownership by all citizens. Different laws and regulations are designed to protect both forest resources and forest visitors.
Points of Interest
The Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, Black Elk Wilderness and Harney Peak are points of interest in the Black Hills National Forest.