Expert Advice For Your Top Questions About The Black Hills | Black Hills Travel Blog

Expert Advice For Your Top Questions About The Black Hills

  • Expert Advice For Your Top Questions About The Black Hills
    Expert Advice For Your Top Questions About The Black Hills
Monday, March 8, 2021
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Your bags are packed, the car is fueled up and you’re ready for a wild adventure in western South Dakota, but there are still a few details you need to lockdown. The friendly Information Hosts at the Black Hills Visitor Information Center are here to help.

The Black Hills Visitor Information Center staff is chock-full of knowledge and eager to help answer your questions and maximize your time in the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota.

Over the past 20 years, the Black Hills Visitor Center has served more than 950,000 visitors from across the United States and around the world. Here are the top five questions they get asked. Keep reading to get the answers straight from the source.

1. How do we get to Mount Rushmore?

A trip to the Black Hills isn’t complete without visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the Shrine of Democracy. If you’re traveling on I-90, exit at Rapid City. From there, follow Highway 16 southwest to Keystone and then Highway 244 to Mount Rushmore. Coming from the south? Follow Highway 385 north to Highway 244, which leads you to the memorial. You’ll be face-to-face with the four iconic presidents in about 40 minutes. Be sure to slow down and take in the breathtaking scenery or stop at the fun attractions and shops that catch your eye along the way. The drive is just as monumental as the memorial.

When you get to Mount Rushmore, be ready to pay a small parking fee. It’s $10 per vehicle, $5 for seniors 62 and older, and parking is free for active-duty military personnel. There’s no fee to enter the memorial, though. 

Make sure you grab the Black Hills Map and have it with you. It’s a wonderful resource that lists suggested road trip routes throughout the region, including their length in miles. Taking the long way home has never been easier – or more breathtaking!

If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s important to note that Mount Rushmore is about an hour and a half away from Badlands National Park. Our Information Hosts frequently encounter ambitious visitors hoping to see both sites on the same day. Although it’s possible to do, we recommend planning two days to take in everything these national treasures have to offer.

2. Where can we see a bison?

Lions, and tigers and bears — oh my! Well, not quite, but the Black Hills are home to all sorts of wildlife. When traveling to western South Dakota, bison are without a doubt the most sought after by visitors. We can’t blame you, though. No matter how many times we come in contact with these larger-than-life creatures, we’re overcome by their majestic presence.

Your best chance of meeting a bison, and other critters, at Custer State Park. There are 1,300 bison that roam free in the 71,000 acres of the state park, making it one of the biggest public free-roaming herds in the U.S. The ideal time for viewing animals is early in the morning or late in the evening, just before sunset. Take Wildlife Loop Road, which winds through prime sighting spots in the southeastern part of the park. The 19-mile loop takes about one and a half hours to complete — unless you run into a “buffalo jam.” Highway 16A is five miles north of the intersections of Wildlife Loop Road and Highway 87. A heard of 1,000 bison can also be spotted in Badlands National Park, in the Sage Creek area along the north rim.

If you want a real rush, plan your visit around the annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup

The most important thing to remember — sometimes the best relationship is a long-distance relationship. Keeping a safe distance from wildlife is as much about that animal’s welfare as it is about yours. Getting too close, feeding and touching are all things that can put you and your pals in grave danger. Although they may appear harmless and even curious about you, always stay at least 75 feet or about two bus lengths away from all wildlife.

3. We’ve made it to the Hills. What should we do while we’re here?

It won’t take you long to realize the opportunities are endless in the Black Hills. Find inspiration for your travels on the Plan Your Trip page, featuring special events, vacation guides, maps, suggested itineraries, coupons and vacation packages. Share your trip with us! Tag your photos using #DiscoverBlackHills.

You can also give us a call and talk to one of our Information Hosts on the phone for expert advice on things to do while you're here. 

4. Where should we stay while we’re here?

Spend a night — or a few! The Black Hills and Badlands have accommodations that fit every traveler’s needs and budget. From luxury hotels and glamping experiences to suites for kids and families and cozy cabins and campsites. You’re sure to find the perfect pillow, and likely a spectacular view, at the welcoming lodging options throughout the area.

Search our top picks based on where you’ll be or what you’re looking for on the Places to Stay page. You can also contact the Chamber or CVB in the town you’re staying at, who will happily point you in the right direction. Or, ask a friendly local you encounter on your travels. They may even have some insider information on where to find the juiciest buffalo burger, too.

5. Where are the restrooms?

You’ve been sitting in the car all day and have finally approached your destination. You’re excited to get more information and cannot wait to talk to someone other than your travel mates, but first things first. You need to use the facilities! When you visit the Black Hills Visitor Information Center, you can quickly access our clean and spacious restrooms before chatting with our Information Hosts and grabbing guides and brochures to inspire your stay.

While you’re here, browse the Gift Shop. The wonderful selection of regional books, jewelry, pottery, and uniquely South Dakota gifts make finding the perfect memento effortless. The Gift Shop also sells South Dakota State Park passes, fishing licenses, and Off-Highway Vehicle permits.

For more inspiration for your trip, browse through our blogs and itineraries.