Midwestern Mountains: A Peek at South Dakota's Black Hills - Page 3
Weather. The climate in the lower parts of the Black Hills can get surprisingly hot and dry for the Midwest—the average temperature is regularly over 80 degrees in the summer and temps tipping 100 degrees are common. Prepare for desert-like conditions—especially in dry years (like this year) when the region's creeks can run dry.
Cougar Town. The Black Hills has its fair share of wildlife, including one of the most concentrated populations of mountain lions in the U.S. According to the Black Hills Mountain Lion Foundation, the region has an estimated population of between 200 and 225 cougars, and, though sightings are rare, be aware of your surroundings and know how to react should you encounter one of these large cats (the short answer is: don’t run). Also, watch your step—a lot of rattlesnakes call the Black Hills home.
Other wildlife to watch for: Bison, deer, badgers, coyotes and foxes. If you’re camping or picnicking, keep an eye peeled for wild burros (as well as the standard set of rodents) who might come looking for food.
Getting There. Rapid City, South Dakota, is the largest city adjacent to the Black Hills region, located directly to its east. Other access towns – where you’ll find plenty of amenities, food, etc.—in South Dakota include Blackhawk, Sturgis and Spearfish. Deadwood, Custer, Lead and Nemo, located within the region, make excellent stopovers with quick access to the trails.
From the Wyoming side, both Sundance and Newcastle lie adjacent to the Black Hills, to their west.
What Else to Do. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, arguably the standard-bearing photo opportunity for the typical American road trip, is located 23 miles west of Rapid City in the Black Hills. To the south are historical Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park, also within the Black Hills. You can also see the unfinished Crazy Horse memorial, less than six miles from the town of Custer, South Dakota.
To the east of the Black Hills, Badlands National Park offers stunning desert rock formations—visit the famous Wall Drug store, directly north of the park, on the way in or out. West of the Black Hills in Wyoming, Devil’s Tower National Monument is 27 miles from Sundance.
Dining and Brews. Grab a steak at the Bum Steer in Spearfish; indulge in all-American cuisine and take in country music at the Loud American Roadhouse in Sturgis—home of the famous motorcycle rally; grab a burrito from Barbacoa in Spearfish. For local brews, head to Crow Peak Brewing in Spearfish or Firehouse Brewing in Rapid City.