How to Spend Half a Day in Custer State Park | Black Hills Travel Blog

How to Spend Half a Day in Custer State Park

Tuesday, August 21, 2018
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As South Dakota's largest and first state park, Custer State Park is one of the state's most prized possessions. Any visitor could find themselves spending days---even weeks---exploring every nook and cranny the park beholds. But if you're on a time crunch and looking to get the most bang for your buck, we've got some suggestions to help you maximize a few hours in 71,000-acre Custer State Park.

Especially this time of year, a drive around the Wildlife Loop Road is an absolute must. The goal of the season is to spot all of the park's newest residents: BABY BUFFALO! Early May is the prime time for calving, so by mid-May there should be a lot of baby buffalo out there. You're also sure to encounter a friendly greeting from the park's begging burros. They are famous for their shameless begging techniques - they will stick their heads inside your car window - so come prepared with some healthy snacks to share. They love to nosh on carrots and crackers of any sort. As you make your journey around the loop, have your camera ready and keep your eyes peeled for the other inhabitants of the park including pronghorns, elk, mountain goats, mule and whitetail deer, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and a diverse population of birds.

CSP Buffalo Safari 2013 IMG_9438

If you're really on the hunt for that extra-special-something-to-write-home-about excursion, sign up for a Buffalo Jeep Sarafi Tour, recently named by MSN as one of the Top 10 Safaris in the United States. Each tour lasts 1.5-2 hours and takes you on an unforgettable adventure through the back country of the park. The guides are experts and can provide you with a plethora of information and history that you won't find in any guide book. Worth. Every. Penny. (We promise.)


If time still allows, a leisurely drive up the Needles Highway is an incredible way to finish off your tour of Custer State Park as you weave and wind your way through granite pillars and tunnels, and eventually meet one of the loveliest lakes in the Hills, Sylvan Lake.


Author's Note: Some sections of Needles Highway are slated for road construction throughout the summer, so make sure the coast is clear by giving a quick call to (605) 255-4515 for the latest park detour and/or closure information.


If you happen to be in the park this weekend, enjoy free entrance during the state's Open House Weekend, May 15, 16 & 17. Click here for a downloadable brochure of all the weekend's events, including free fishing!

 Baby Buffalo - Facebook Fan Photo by Jerry Smalley.

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