Part 2 of 3: Hiking, Mount Rushmore and Scenic Drives
If you want to follow the first part of our trip you can follow it at https://thegenxtravels.com/2019/07/04/our-black-hills-hiking-and-road-trip-badlands
Custer State Park, Black Hills
We arrived at Custer State Park after enjoying the Badlands. Custer Sate Park is located in south west South Dakota in the heart of the Black Hills. The park has many activities including, hiking, camping, fishing, scenic highways, kayaking and even wildlife viewing. For more information on you can follow this link. https://www.travelsouthdakota.com/explore-with-us/great-8/custer-state-park
State Game Lodge
State Game Lodge was the perfect place for us to stay as it was central to the things we wanted to do and see. Located in Custer State Park, it is one of four lodges throughout the park. In addition, State Game Lodge is a historic lodge. Since I like historic lodges, this was perfect for me! Built in 1920 and used as a summer Whitehouse for President Coolidge, this stone and wood lodge is a perfect fit for the surroundings and for us. The big porch was a tranquil spot to sit and relax at the end of each day. Unfortunately we were not able to snag a room in the historic inn, but we stayed in the motel rooms adjacent to the Lodge. Regardless, we still had a great time and would stay here again.
Diary of a Gen-X recommendations for hotels and restaurants are based on our own experiences. We do not receive compensation for recommending at any of these nor are we affiliates of any hotels or restaurants. The only hotels we recommend are places we stayed which were clean, comfortable, and provided exceptional hospitality.
Since it was late afternoon, we didn’t have time to do much of anything but unpack and eat. Dinner was at the State Game Lodge and we dined on buffalo steak which was delicious! Furthermore, I thought the house Cabernet was exceptional and bought a couple of bottles to take home!
Iron Mountain Road
Next morning we were up early because we had a busy day in front of us. First things first, we started with a delicious buffet at the State Game Lodge, then headed out for our adventures. Mount Rushmore was our first destination. We drove the scenic Iron Mountain Road. This winding road travels up through the hills, and frames Mount Rushmore as you drive through four different tunnels on the way down. Very beautiful. I insisted on having the top of the Jeep off so we could really enjoy the drive. However, it didn’t occur to me it would be chilly towards the top of the hills with the top down! As a result, Steve enjoyed reminding me it wasn’t his idea! Lesson learned!
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Although Mount Rushmore is not in the Black Hills, it is nearby. Mount Rushmore is located near Keystone, South Dakota, about 20.5 miles north of where we were staying. It is an amazing sculptor. Mount Rushmore showcases the profiles of four past presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln cut out of stone on the side of a mountain. Created by sculptor Gutzon Borglum between 1927 and 1941. He also oversaw the building of the memorial. For more information follow this link to the memorial’s website https://www.nps.gov/moru/index.htm
We enjoyed walking the Presidential Trail which is a 0.6 mile loop trail. This trail follows along the bottom of the sculptor allowing different angles and views of the memorial. I thought it was pretty cool.
Black Elk Peak Hike
Finally, we were ready for the hiking part of our Black Hills trip! Our next stop was the Black Elk Peak Trail. Located about 15.5 miles South West of Mount Rushmore. Incidentally, Black Elk Peak was formerly called Harney Peak and is the highest peak in South Dakota.
The trail is a 7.9 mile loop trail and is considered moderate in difficulty ratings. The trail starts at Sylvan Lake and then climbs up and through granite rock formations and thick forest. All in all, this is a fun trail. There are a lot of interesting rock formations and the incline isn’t bad. When you reach the top, there is a an old fire lookout tower on the peak. I considered it as a reward for getting to the top!! Of course we climbed the many steps to see how far we could see. The view from this is amazing. Unfortunately when we hiked the trail, it became cloudy, so the view wasn’t as spectacular as it could be. It was a great hike and we enjoyed climbing around the different rock formations and checking out the fire tower. For more trail information, follow this link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/south-dakota/black-elk-peak-south-dakota-highpoint-trail
It was mid afternoon by the time we finished the trail, so we headed back to the State Game Lodge which was not quite 20 miles from where we were. We were going to dinner at the Blue Bell Lodge which is about 20 miles southwest of where we were staying. We decided to take the longer route which is also known as the Wildlife Loop. This area is notorious for spotting wildlife and we were hoping they would be out and about and it was our lucky day! As seen below, we definitely saw buffalo! These guys are huge and walk right down the road, just when I thought they would walk into us, the would nonchalantly walk around the Jeep. We still had the top off the Jeep so given that, they freaked me out a bit.
“Oh give me a home…where the buffalo roam…and the deer and the antelope play“. Sorry, couldn’t resist!
After our exciting wildlife encounter we had dinner at the Blue Bell Lodge. Coincidently, we both settled on buffalo burgers and fries. Blue Bell Lodge is a rustic lodge and the ambiance fit right in with the setting. Since it was dark when we were finished, we took the shorter route back to State Game Lodge. Although exhausted, we were ready to see what tomorrows adventures would bring on our Black Hills Hiking and Road Trip.
Follow the links below to see the rest of my posts on Our Black Hills Hiking and Road Trip.
Part 3-Black Hills