things to do in the black hills things to do in the black hills

10 Fun Things to Do in The Black Hills

Attention! It calls for travelers who love to explore great destinations for a vacation or even an adventurous road trip. So, pack your bags because fun and audacious things to do in the black hills of South Dakota are waiting to make memories with you.

As per the name, Black hills is not exactly a hill but a mountain and a home to the iconic Mt. Rushmore national memorial. The place is all set to offer plenty of outdoor fun and cultural activities such as sprawling state parks, amazing national parks, lovely trails, scenic drives, underground cave tours, hiking trails, etc.

History and Origin of The Black Hills

Approximately 60 million years ago, Volcanic activity in South Dakota triggered and formed a place formerly known as the Black Hills. It is a small, isolated mountain range rising from the great plains of North America in western south-called Dakota. Black hills are considered holy. They are called black hills as they appear black from a distance. These mountains are also covered in evergreen trees.

As tourism grows daily, natural resources and attractions contribute to the economic growth in many hospitality industries. The Black Hills is divided into two regions: The Northern Hills and The Southern Hills.

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Image from Shutterstock

Northern Hills include historic Deadwood, Spearfish Canyon, and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, held every August. The first Rally was organized on August 14, 1938, and the 75th Rally in 2015 witnessed more than one million bikers visiting the Black Hills. Devil’s Tower National Monument, located in the Wyoming Black Hills, is a nearby attraction and was the United States’ first national monument.

The Southern Hills is a native to Wind Cave National Park, Mount Rushmore, Black Elk Peak (the highest point east in the United States of the Rockies), The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, and the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Things to Do in The Black Hills

Here, we will help you visit and explore the top 10 places to explore in the Black Hills and things you can’t miss while visiting. We can assure you that you will enjoy these places and never regret your decision to be a visitor to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

1. See Iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore is an incredible and most visited place in America, not due to the big mountains and natural resources but the extraordinary giant carvings on the top of the mountains.

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Photo by Sophia Simoes on Unsplash

These mountains contain 60-foot tall heads of four of the nation’s most revered figures: Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln. All four served as the President of America; you need to Hike the Presidential Trail to get close to the sculptures, with an avenue of flags, and get details about the carving of the monument at the Visitor Center.

The place flashes the colorful lights on the carvings, making them more attractive in the evening. Attending a light ceremony is an amazing experience.

2. Explore Tunnels Along with Massive Passageways in Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota

As per its name, Wind Cave National Park is known for its wind-carved caverns, deep network of tunnels, and massive passageways.

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By: Mahmoud Ghazal/Shutterstock

This park has one of the best densest cave systems in the world that helps to see geological formations such as flowstones, stalactites, stalagmites, and other rare cave features and box work.

However, this park is underrated but still visited by million on an annual basis; the thing you can enjoy here apart from wind caves are wildlife, including deer, prairie dogs, bison, and coyotes, along with the underground limestone caves that are still growing.

3. Hiking at Badlands National Park

Perhaps technically, the Badlands National Park is not exactly in the Black Hills but consider the top priority on the list of visitors. This place is the formation of otherworldly landscapes by erosion and deposition by the White River waters.

Badlands National Park
By: Arlene Waller/Shutterstock

Aspects like long and wide escarpments, bizarre geological forms, utter desolation, and vibrant-hued layered mounds make the place spectacular and dramatic! Things to do in Badlands are hiking and tracking, and you will get closer to the geological formations such as mounds, buttes, and spires. Badlands Tourism Association maintains the place very well!

4. Enjoy Buffalo Jams in Custer State Park

Located near the main street, Custer State Park is the best place to see and explore scenic drives, hiking trails, and parking lots! Custer State Park is known to have the largest herd of free-roaming bison in America.

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Photo by Brian Miller on Unsplash

Here, you will have a good chance to see the 40,000 bison that roam the eastern South Dakota grassland and are home to wildlife, including mountain goats, elk, deer, bison, antelope, prairie dogs, pronghorn antelope, and elk.

5. Ride the 1880s Train to Hill City

Black Hills Central Railroad is a vintage road built in the 1800s, and the purpose was to provide supplies to the miners and settlers in Black Hills, South Dakota.

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Editorial credit: Paul R. Jones /

This heritage route takes visitors aboard a vintage steam engine 1880 train from Hill City to Keystone via the heart of the beautiful Black Hills; the ride is for 2 hours.

As soon as the train leaves Hill city, you will see stunning views of farmlands, Sylvan lake, abandoned mines, Battle Creek, and Black Elk Peak. Hiring a guide will be the best way to get closer to the history of the hill city and continuously hear steam whistle echo in the mountains!

6. Learn About the Urban Attractions of Rapid City

Rapid City is considered the second largest city in the state, and you will get a glimpse of historic sites on Native American history and culture here.

Why We Love Rapid City | Visit Rapid City

Downtown Rapid City also has various restaurants and cafes and is one of the best experiences for shopping lovers.

Talking about the things to do in the Black hills captures amazing scenery with your camera. The main focus is Triceratops at Dinosaur Park, and vibrant murals in the Art Alley let the kids climb and explore the beauty. Apart from these attractions, you will also visit Wild Water West, a waterslide park in Rapid City.

7. Relish Stunning Vistas in The Black Hills National Forest

Black Hills National Forest is your destination for all outdoor lovers and treasure hunters. This place is fully dedicated to the designated International Dark Sky park, and this is the favorite place for stargazers.

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Photo by Lauren Lopes on Unsplash

Things to do in the Black Hills National Forest are biking, hiking, and horseback riding trails; streams and fishing lakes, scenic overlooks; wildlife viewing opportunities; and petroglyph sites! Black Hills National Forest is home to 240 species of birds, including abundant wildlife like deer, bighorn sheep, elk, and mountain lions.

8. Exploring Caves at Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave National Monument has located in Black Hills, South Dakota, and is the third-largest cave system in America.

EXPLORING JEWEL CAVE | A South Dakota Hidden Gem

This National Monument has entertained visitors since 1908 and features a spectacular stalactite and stalagmite exhibit protected by National Monument. This place is in the top 10 most visited places in South Dakota.

9. Historic Deadwood to Learn About the Past

If you would love to learn about the Black Hills Gold Rush, then do not forget to visit Historic Deadwood, an abandoned mining town.

Visit Historic Deadwood, South Dakota

You can see the best historic architecture, mock shoot-outs, saloons, and monuments dedicated to Wild West heroes like Calamity Jane and Bill Hickok.

Wild bill Hickok’s grave is in the Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood. Take the Old West-style photo with the family while in Deadwood, visit the Historic Adams House Museum, and pan for gold at the Broken Boot Gold Mine.

10. Navigate the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway

Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway passes the towns of Lead and Deadwood on the way.

A Scenic Drive Through Spearfish Canyon In South Dakota | RV Life

While on the long route, you will embrace waterfalls, including the Bridal Veil falls, trout fishing streams, Spearfish Canyon Lodge, hiking trails, and picnic areas. This place is also one of the most visited and favorite things to do in South Dakota.


The Black Hills have something special for every visitor and traveler to explore the beauty, native American culture, and lots of adventurous and exciting things to do in the Black Hills South Dakota National Parks.

Apart from the places mentioned above and things to do in the Black Hills, you can explore other places, mainly ice age fossils, peter Norbeck scenic byway, a big thunder gold mine, an Indian museum, scenic vistas, Mickelson trail, Sioux Falls area, wall drug store and much more.

Mainly, things to do in the Black Hills are Hiking and tracking with family in Badlands National Park, watching the crazy horse in the crazy horse memorial, trout fishing streams, watching waterfalls in Spearfish Canyon, exploring wildlife, and mountain biking in Black Hills National Forest, gold rush history, bike rentals and taking old western south Dakota style photos with family and friends.

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Last Updated on April 1, 2023 by Susanta Biswas