11 Best Things To Do In The Black Hills Of South Dakota (2024)

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Want to know all the best things to do in the Black Hills? We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know!

Best Things To Do In The Black Hills

There are so many great things to do in the Black Hills that you could spend at least a week here trying to see and do it all.

Everything below can actually be done all in one day if you start your day early enough like we did!

But don’t rush it if you don’t have to.

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1. Wind Cave National Park

We saw lots of little prairie dogs on the side of the road as we drove in and they are the cutest!

They’re so hard to get good photos of though because they are so little.

To go into the cave, you have to go on a guided tour.

I recommend the Garden Of Eden Tour if you have smaller kids or older adults in your group because it’s the less strenuous tour.

It’s a 1 hour tour that goes about a quarter mile into the cave.

For all other visitors, I recommend the Natural Entrance Tour.

This tour is about an hour and 15 minutes, goes about 2/3 of a mile into the cave and takes you to see the natural entrance to the cave pictured above.

Whichever tour you choose, you’ll want to book it in advance because they do sell out.

Wind Cave National Park natural entrance

2. Custer State Park

It’s only about a 15 or 20 minute drive from Wind Cave National Park.

We saw a ton of bison along the way.

They weren’t too active in this area but this was our first real bison sighting so we were excited.

Custer State Park - Black Hills, South Dakota

Since this is a State Park and not a National Park there was a fee of $15 to get a vehicle pass for the day.

Custer State Park has a great scenic loop that takes about 45 minutes or so to drive through.

But you can always take as much time as you want.

There may be some traffic, but it won’t always be because of cars.

The wild animals here are free roaming and frequently try to cross the road.

So drive slow and always beware of your surroundings.

3. Needles Highway

After the scenic drive, we made our way to Needles Highway.

We had heard SO many good things about this drive which still didn’t prepare us for how amazing it was!

It is part of Custer State Park, so even if you don’t do the scenic loop, you’ll still need the park pass for Needles Highway.

We started the Needles Highway drive at around 10:30 am and we drove it toward Crazy Horse Memorial first.

It took almost exactly an hour.

It was a little slow at some points because there were a lot of bikers.

We happened to be there the weekend before Sturgis.

Also the narrow tunnels get backed up since only one car can pass through at a time.

But we never had to stop for too long.

Overall it was an amazing drive and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

4. Crazy Horse Memorial

By 11:30 am we had arrived at Crazy Horse Memorial.

They have a Native American museum with tons of artifacts and a great gift shop when you first enter.

Outside they have a small outdoor theater where they had some performances from local Sioux Indians.

Admission is only $12 per person and is definitely worth checking out when you’re in the area.

Crazy Horse is also a great place to stop and have lunch.

They serve Indian Tacos, among other popular menu items.

For dessert, they serve the “official” dessert of South Dakota and it is so good!

It’s called “kuchen”, and it’s a German pastry with a custard filling.

We had such a pleasantly surprising lunch here and I HIGHLY recommend it.

There is a second museum area that is more focused on the building of the monument.

It also featured some local history.

There is also a cute little post office inside.

They even have rocks from the monument that you can take home for free.

They were nice and shiny, so we each picked out one.

5. Iron Mountain Road

We didn’t leave Crazy Horse until about 1:15 pm, so we were there for almost 2 hours.

Our next stop was driving back into Custer State Park to take Iron Mountain Road to Mt Rushmore.

It’s another scenic drive in the same area.

But what is cool about this one is that when you pass through one of the tunnels, you can see Mt Rushmore perfectly framed through the other side.

This drive also had parts of the road where it split into narrow one way winding roads which was super fun too.

Iron Mountain Road view of Mt Rushmore

6. Mount Rushmore

We arrived at Mt Rushmore around 2:30 pm.

Even if you have the National Park pass, you are required to pay $10 for parking.

BUT the good news is that the parking pass is good for an entire year.

So you can go in an out of the lot without having to pay for parking again.

They have a nice museum, theater, cafeteria, and gift shop, so you could spend quite a bit of time here if you wanted.

We stayed for about an hour and 45 minutes.

In the gallery they show some of the models that were used to build Mt Rushmore.

The theater has a nice short video about how it came to be and how it was built.

It runs continuously so you can check it out any time during your visit.

We noticed that a ton of people were eating ice cream and we have a really hard time saying no to novelty treats.

Once we found out they were serving Thomas Jefferson’s original vanilla ice cream recipe we just had to get it!

They also had cool wines for each of the presidents represented at Mt Rushmore.

In the evening, there is a spectacular lighting ceremony, so you’ll definitely want to come back here at the end of the night.

I recommend arriving about 45 minutes to an hour early for the lighting ceremony to make sure you get a spot.

It starts at 9 pm for the Summer months, then moves up to 8 pm for the Fall.

As people trickled in they played patriotic music in the background and started adjusting the lights for the evening.

The ceremony lasted for about 45 minutes and then everything was closed.

7. The Mammoth Site

Your visit starts with a video about how the mammoth site formed and then opens up into the dig site.

Basically the site was a sinkhole that the mammoths couldn’t tell was a sinkhole until they got stuck and by then it was too late.

Mammoth Site

Because of this, there is a large concentration of fossils in a small area and the mammoth site building is just built all around it, just like with the Dinosaur National Monument.

It is still an active dig site today and visitors can join in on special tours, which I highly recommend.

Mammoth Site

More Fun Things To Do Near The Black Hills

All of the above can be done in a single day if you really want to, but to round out the things to do in the Black Hills there are more places to add that you’ll need at least one extra day to do.

8. Badlands National Park

Drive into Badlands National Park from Sage Creek Road and continue on through the Badlands Loop Road.

The Notch Trail is the highlight of the park and is a must do.

9. Wall Drug

After spending some time exploring Badlands National Park, just up the street is a historic place called Wall Drug.

It’s only about a 30 minute drive along I-90.

When you’re out here you’ll probably see billboards all over the place and it’s definitely worth visiting.

Wall Drug rose to fame back in the day for offering free ice cold water to travelers before it was commonly available.

Then they also became known for their 5 cent coffee and eventually grew into a full main street shopping and dining center.

Wall Drug is a great place for a late lunch or early dinner depending on how much time you spent in Badlands National Park.

I loved their roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy.

10. Deadwood, South Dakota

Deadwood is a historic Western town that is so worth visiting.

Their claim to fame is that it is where Wild Bill Hickok was killed back in 1876.

They have saloons and restaurants that have been around since the 1870s.

Deadwood Social Club is a great place to eat while you’re there, but there are several options for all palettes.

11. Devils Tower National Monument

When visiting Devil’s Tower, you just take a loop trail around the base.

You can start in either direction, but we chose to go left.

I think by going to the right you don’t have to go uphill as much.

It took us about 45 minutes to do the entire loop.

Where To Stay In The Black Hills

The Black Hills is such a huge tourist destination that there is no shortage of accommodations.

These are our favorites in the area.

✅ Mt. Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gulch

Mt. Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gulch is only about 15 minutes away from Mt. Rushmore.

This was one of the biggest KOA resorts we have ever stayed at.

It has a waterpark and mini golf and restaurants.

✅ Hot Springs/Black Hills KOA

The Hot Springs/Black Hills KOA is closer to the Mammoth Site.

It was a pretty big KOA compared to most that we’ve stayed at, but it was very woodsy and cozy. 

Vintage Gas Signs in South Dakota

Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting The Black Hills

These are the most frequently asked questions we get about visiting the Black Hills.

☑️ How Do You Spend A Day In The Black Hills?

The first part of this post (numbers 1-7) can all be done in a single day when you’re visiting the Black Hills.

Every person has their own travel pace and preferences though, so you can pick and choose any of the above to create your perfect one day itinerary.

☑️ What Should I Not Miss In The Black Hills?

If you could only do a few things in the Black Hills, I recommend Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park, and driving Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road.

☑️ Can You See Mount Rushmore And Crazy Horse In One Day?

Absolutely!

We did both of these in the same day, as well as 5 other attractions.

If you’re visiting Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse in the same day, I highly recommend driving Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway when you go.

☑️ How Much Time Should You Spend In Black Hills?

Everything listed above we did over the course of 3 days when you add in the neighboring things to do like Badlands National Park and Devils Tower.

If we were to go back, I would easily plan 3-5 days in the Black Hills to see and do it all while also having time to relax.

Conclusion: Things To Do In The Black Hills

As you can see, there are so many different things to do in the Black Hills.

There are historic sites, natural wonders, and infamous locations all throughout.