Hill City Heart of the Hills Itinerary
Welcome to the incredible Black Hills of South Dakota. The Black Hills National Forest covers an area 125 miles long and 69 wide in western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming. They include rugged rock formations, canyons and gulches, open grassland parks, tumbling streams, deep lakes, and caves. Go ahead and get settled in your pre-arranged Black Hills accommodations…"hang your hat” as we like to say. As you absorb the beautiful scenery around you, explore your new community!
Well, here it comes! This afternoon you will have the chance to visit the iconic, bucket-list worthy Mount Rushmore National Monument.
Get your start in Custer State Park. Travel through the town of Hill City and take Highway 87 into Custer State Park. Go through the town of Hill City and turn left on Highway 87. Custer State Park is famous for its scenic highways, towering granite spires, pigtail bridges and rock tunnels framing Mount Rushmore. Bountiful wildlife, lakes, streams and historic stone lodges offer sites for all ages. A herd of 1,300 buffalo roams freely throughout the park. Within the park, you’ll discover outdoor activities that include hiking (check out 7,242-foot Harney Peak), mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, fishing, chuckwagon suppers and buffalo safari jeep rides. History and culture are also abound. Custer’s expedition first discovered gold in 1874 in Custer State Park. Take in a theater performance at the Black Hills Playhouse or visit the log cabin that was home to Badger Clark, South Dakota’s first poet laureate.
Your first stop will be Sylvan Lake. Here you can enjoy swimming, fishing, hiking, or a paddleboat ride. Rich in history and natural beauty, Sylvan Lake holds the designation as Custer State Park’s crown jewel. In 1921 this unique lake became a part of the newly created Custer State Park.
Proceed to the Needles Highway which curves and winds through 14 miles of magnificent rock formations called “needles”. One of the most prominent features is the Needles Eye, which reaches 30-40 feet in the air with a three-foot wide slit. The Needles Eye is an excellent spot for climbing the rocky area and for taking pictures. Observe Harney Peak looming overhead and the waters of Sylvan Lake sparkling below, what a site!
Continue on Highway 16A which will turn into the Iron Mountain Road. Experience the hairpin curves, wildlife, hiking trailheads, and three stone carved tunnels that perfectly frame an impressive view of Mount Rushmore in the distance. Experience the road that engineers once said couldn't be built; you'll be happy you did.
Take in the beautiful and majestic sight of Mount Rushmore where four presidents are carved out of solid granite. Your American pride will swell as you explore the extensive grounds, interactive learning centers, guided and self-guided tours, restaurants and gift shops. The majestic 60-foot faces of four U.S. Presidents gaze out over South Dakota’s Black Hills as a symbol of American democracy. This national treasure tells the story of the United States’ rich history, rugged determination and lasting achievement. From the Grand View Terrace, visitors get spectacular views of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt. For a closer view, visitors can walk the half-mile Presidential Trail, which loops along the base of the mountain. The Lincoln Borglum Museum contains interactive interpretive exhibits.
As you have noticed, you are surrounded by some of the most impressive scenery in the world. What better way to relax and soak it all in than a ride on the 1880 Train? Departing out of Hill City, this vintage steam train is famous for its stunning scenic route, old world charm, and the unforgettable encounter of a bellowing engine and whining whistle. Approximately two-hours long, this tour takes you to Keystone.
Enjoy a tour of the South Dakota Railroad Museum located next to the 1880 Train station. This museum shows the history of the railroad and has many items used in the cars during the rich history of the railroad in South Dakota.
As you browse the quaint Main Street of Hill City, enjoy the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research Museum. BHI has been the leader in paleontological excavations and preparation since 1974, helping supply museums and collectors the finest in professionally prepared fossils and cast replicas—an educational and impressive step back in time, to be sure.
This afternoon experience a taste of the Old West on a trail ride through the Black Hills National Forest with the good folks at the Circle B. Travel four miles on the Deerfield Road to the High Country Guest Ranch. After the trail ride, enjoy a relaxed western setting, browse in the Wild Horse Gift Shop, sip a cold sarsaparilla in the Circle B Stage Stop, or watch the world-class woodcarver, Doug Ladd, shape one of his creations. The kids will enjoy a pony ride and other kid-friendly activities while you anxiously await the famous Circle B Chuckwagon Dinner and Show! Your home cooked, western-style meal is sure to have your mouth watering with all the fixins’ included. Your very own Circle B cowboys will serenade you during and after the meal.
Don’t be surprised if you really did fall in love with the Black Hills of South Dakota. You aren’t the first, and remember that your Heart of the Hills family vacation will always be waiting for you…