Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Wrapping Up a Fun Two Weeks in Custer SD

My last three posts highlighted our favorite hikes during our stay in Custer, but we had a few other fun little adventures that I'll summarize here.

The town of Custer is pretty touristy, but they have a decent grocery store and laundromat and a variety of restaurants and bars. There are about 30 RV parks and campgrounds within minutes of town as well as dozens of lodging options...this place gets hopping in the summer!

Colorful bison statues are all over town.

Our first night in town Hans was able to meet up with Dave, an old friend whom he hadn't seen in over 30 years!
They had fun catching up over beer at the Buglin' Bull along with Dave's wife Lisa and friends Julie and Dennis.

View of downtown Custer from atop Big Rock Park.
There is a fun 18 hole disc golf course at this park overlooking town, as well as a couple of miles of steep trails.

Our Custer State Park pass was good for seven days so we did a hike in the park each day and took several beautiful loop drives through the park.

Lover's Leap trail was so neat we hiked it twice, once in each direction. Excellent variety of terrain on this trail, from piney forest to lush creek side beauty, this trail had it all in a short, but steep three mile loop.

Goofing off at Lover's Leap!

We met Scotland natives Karen and Ian on Lovers Leap trail and had a great time sharing travel stories as we hiked.
Thanks for the bear spray...it will come in handy when we are in bear country later this summer!

Pretty Amanita mushrooms were popping out in all the piney forests we hiked.

We drove the Wildlife Loop through Custer State Park, stopping at Coolidge Fire Tower (still in use) and got our only look at Crazy Horse and Mt Rushmore.
Crazy Horse. 

A bit of Mt Rushmore, probably a good 20 - 25 miles distant.

We didn't know there were burros in the State Park!
These are descendants of burros brought in to haul visitors to the top of Harney Peak back in the day.
They caused quite the traffic jam further up the road, with many folks stopping to feed them!

Every long drive through the State Park had a bison jam!

Baby bison cuteness!

The State Game Lodge is a beautiful old building and the site of many weddings
(that's a bride at the top of the stairs).

The Needles Highway in Custer State Park took us through dramatic granite spires, where we searched for mountain goats or bighorn sheep.

Needles Eye

This scruffy looking guy was the only mountain goat we saw...right in plain sight in the busy tunnel area.

A marmot at a pullout among the spires. You can barely see one of the tunnels just above the marmot.

The chipmunks are friendly around here!

Cathedral Spires trail took us right into the forest of spires.

The bison were eating and licking the dirt along the road...salty perhaps?

Custer's Gulch RV Park was a fine place to stay. It's situated 3 miles East of Custer and far enough off the highway to be nice and quiet. The sites are good sized with excellent separation from the neighbors. Roads and sites are gravel, each site has a picnic table and fire pit. We had decent 4G Verizon signal with our booster, the parks wifi was slow.

We had only one issue during our stay, the park seems to be having trouble with its well, as the water was various shades of tan or brown during our stay. It never smelled or even tasted funny, but we drank bottled water exclusively the whole time. We did notice that most bodies of water or streams in the area are full of tannins, perhaps the problem is related to how very full the wells are around here right now.

The National Forest land adjacent to the RV park is open to everyone, including dogs. ATV's are available for rent at the park and you can ride on forest roads right from the park. We took an eight mile walk right from the park one day, making a big loop on local dirt roads and forest roads, through lovely pastoral and forested land. Another day we biked the loop as well. It's really gorgeous around here!

Our site, #25, backs up to National Forest land.

Clouds building up one evening over the Black Hills.
We had brief but strong thunderstorms about every other night during our stay.

We saw this gorgeous greenie on our long walk from the RV park, it's about 15 inches long.

Picturesque French Creek running through a meadow just a mile from the RV park.

Today we moved just a short distance north so we've got more Black Hills adventures coming soon!


  1. Nice pics, especially of the butterfly. I love the Needles Hwy - one place I always go every summer I visit.

  2. You two had a ton of fun ! Great pictures again !

  3. Oooooh. You are having a wonderful hiking time and also seeing so many animals! It is a beautiful area for sure! It would be fun to spend more time around there.

  4. What a great two weeks! I love that you got to see Crazy Horse in the distance. He is looking wonderful. We've been there a couple times over the last 20 years. It is neat to see the progress and we really enjoyed the story. The spires you were hiking around are definitely cool. I like the Eye of the Needle! Any animal sighting is fun. That is one scruffy mountain goat! I've never seeen one that grey, usually they are pure white. I never tire of seeing the bison, especially those adoroable babies. Love the photo of the marmot. Thanks for so much great information on this area. We are now prepared to visit...maybe on our way west late August/early Sept!

  5. I remembered when I lived in Rapid City how we disliked summer when all the tourists came in... then loved the area again towards the end of summer when they left... I am thinking we need to revisit that area as I do miss seeing the Black Hills covered in their Ponderosa Pine

  6. Wonderful recap with some great info we'll use for our stop in the Fall. My daughter and I spent four days there about 4 years ago and I've been wanting to go back ever since.

  7. Glad you didn't make the leap - or fall off the rock :-) That's a great pic of you two. Love the little mountain goat, wonder what his story is down there on the road? Your site looks sweet even with the mysterious water - that's quite the backyard. There is so much to see up there, glad you aren't going to far.

  8. Beautiful country! We're hoping to get up that way. North and South Dakota remain on the bucket list for states we've never been to.

  9. Great post. I always enjoy your excellent pictures. We'll have to add Custer to our list for a future visit.

  10. Great post about Custer Lisa. Love the picture of you two at Lover's Leap. I thought that was one big marmot and such a darling Bison Calf. We knew about the burros and since we'd adopted two wild burros from Death Valley years before we were not at all surprised when they came up to the car and stuck their heads inside to see if we had anything for them. Too funny! I am so happy that you posted the picture of Crazy Horse. I've never seen it from a distance and we just missed the annual hike they do. I'd really love to plan that into my travels.

  11. Love that bison calf and the green snake! Oh, and the red mushroom. The hike through Cathedral Spires looked fantastic. Such a scenic area.

  12. Absolutely heaven! You hit the jack-pot with this one...
    The baby bison is adorable, the red mushroom is most interesting and pretty, French Creek is beautiful, and that's just the beginning. Lots of memories made during this stay!

  13. Nice photos. They bring back memories of my trip to the Black hills in 2013. I was able to watch my friend climb the Needles Eye!

  14. What a wonderful state park -- great hiking, and terrific sightings (and photos) of the local flora and fauna. That baby bison is pretty darned cute. So are the two hikers on Lover's Leap. :-) Looks like you found a great place to stay near the park.