CUSTER STATE PARK, sd
Have you ever been in a traffic jam? Of wild roaming BUFFALO?! Visit Custer State Park and it’s almost a guarantee. We’ve had the joy of being stopped on the scenic loop several times. Each time under different weather patterns. Our most entertaining traffic jam was in a downpour rainstorm where there was mist in the air, mud kicking up behind the buffaloes stampeding and the musty smell of rain in the air. If only we could recreate that moment just for you!
If there’s only one place in Custer State Park that we have time to visit, it will always be Sylvan Lake. Nestled in a cove of majestic rock formations, along Needles Highway, is Sylvan Lake, also known as the “Crown Jewel”. Fun fact: National Treasure II was filmed at Sylvan Lake! And for good reason. As you walk and/or hike around the lake, you’ll find all kinds of crevices and nooks to climb in and explore. As you walk along the stream and through the trees, you’ll feel as if you’re a child again, exploring in the woods and chasing after chipmunks. Good solid walking sticks are easy to come by and will give you a little help as you climb the rock stairways that overlook the lake. Rent a canoe and paddle around the lake for an afternoon, relax on the beach and wade through the water, or drop a fishing line in at any of the docks around the lake. Whether you visit Sylvan Lake on a gorgeous sunny day or a mysteriously foggy day, you’ll love it just the same.
Next, do the drives! There’s a few in Custer State Park. If you start at Sylvan Lake, then it’s easiest to link up with Needles Highway first. Be sure to get out and explore the rocks near the top and see if you can spot the “eye of the needle” at the Needles Eye Tunnel. Next, get on the Wildlife Loop State Scenic Byway where you’re most likely to get stuck in one of the buffalo traffic jams! Lastly, take Iron Mountain Road over the pigtail bridges and through the tunnels leading to Mt. Rushmore. Watch for it and you’ll be able to spot those four famous faces peeking through one of the many tunnels!
Lastly, if you’re into rock climbing, hiking, wildlife viewing or want more lake time, there’s something for everyone in Custer State Park. Every fall, there’s a Buffalo Roundup where you’ll literally feel the ground rumble beneath your feet! Although Custer State Park is full of secret treasures, it never ever gets old. Every season is full of wonderful sights to see.
After a big day (or two!) of exploring Custer State Park, you’ll need some good food to fill your belly. Drive into town and you’ll find Bobkat’s Purple Pie Place. It’s only open in the summer and fall, but they hand-make the BEST pies you’ll ever taste. Their raspberry rhubarb jalapeno pie is something else!