Custer State Park Needles; credit South Dakota Tourism
There are few truly wild places left in this country, and Custer State Park is one of them. Nearly 1,300 magnificent bison wander the park’s 71,000 acres, which they share with the swift pronghorn, shy elk, sure-footed mountain goats and a band of curious burros. Visitors often enjoy close encounters with these permanent residents along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road that winds around the southern edge of the park. Or you can trek through Custer State Park in an open-air Jeep in search of pronghorns, elk and the noble bison on a Buffalo Jeep Safari Tour. Slender granite formations nicknamed “the needles” dominate the skyline and grassy meadows fill the valleys of the Needles Highway. Blue Bell Lodge is a Western-themed main lodge surrounded by 29 modernized, secluded cabins with kitchenettes, and many with stone fireplaces. There is a general store, plus hay rides and chuckwagon cookouts in the valley. Horse trail rides and hiking trails originate from this lodge. Experience hearty ranch house dining in the dining room and lounge with cattle-drive classics featuring bison, beef, chicken and fish, and even some rattlesnake sausage. Rich in natural beauty, Sylvan Lake Lodge is the crown jewel of Custer State Park. In a spot suggested by Frank Lloyd Wright, the hotel and cabins sit in a hillside forest of pine and spruce, in harmony with the rugged landscape. Enjoy hiking around the lake, or rent a canoe or kayak and explore the water.
Overnight: Custer State Park or the town of Custer