Towering rock spires, pine-studded hillsides and dramatic canyon vistas are the things for which South Dakota’s Black Hills are famous. Traveling the Black Hills Parkway by RV combines luxurious comfort with history, outdoor recreation and, above all, scenery. We’d like to share our guide to a Black Hills Parkway RV vacation with our readers.
Black Hills Parkway Stop #1: Custer, South Dakota
Our RV tour of discovery will follow US-385 from Custer, SD to Deadwood. Six hours north of Denver in the heart of the Black Hills, the historic town of Custer, South Dakota is surrounded by magnificent scenery and historic sites. From the prehistoric treasures at The Mammoth Site, to the granite peaks of Custer State Park, there’s plenty to enjoy near Custer.
We suggest camping in one of the state park’s scenic campgrounds and then spending at least a day hiking area trails, enjoying the frontier charm of downtown Custer and fishing at the state park’s pristine creeks and lakes. If underground wonders appeal to you, be sure to visit one of the area’s many caves, including Wind Cave National Park, Rushmore Cave and Jewel Cave National Monument.
Top marks from our clients go to the Crazy Horse Memorial, a long-time work in progress honoring the region’s Native American heritage. We’ll talk about Badlands National Park on another post, but if you’re itching to explore the stark beauty of the badlands on this trip, it’s just two hours east of Custer.
Black Hills Parkway Stop #2: Mount Rushmore
As you travel north on the Black Hills Parkway through the Black Hills National Forest, your RV will meander past towering granite peaks and dense pine forests. Slow down to enjoy scenic overlooks and by all means make the side trip on Hwy 244 to that most iconic of all South Dakota landmarks, Mount Rushmore.
The awe-inspiring beauty of this epic granite monument is worth spending the day discovering. Both the ranger-led and audio tours are excellent ways to view Mount Rushmore. Your RV camping crew should also visit the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Heritage Village along the Presidential Trail.
Black Hills Parkway Stop #3: Hill City
Just fifteen minutes north of Mount Rushmore is a small town filled with both the history and natural beauty of the Black Hills. Hill City, South Dakota is home to the Black Hills Central Railroad, an 1880s train that takes visitors on a two-hour tour of some pretty amazing scenery.
If you like to hike your way into the hills, why not pick up the George S. Mickelson Trail at Hill City? This 100-mile trek through rock tunnels and the heart of the Black Hills National Forest actually stretches from Edgemont to Deadwood, but the trailhead near Hill City is a good place to start a shorter hike. Surrounded by national forest, Custer State Park and the Black Elk Wilderness, there’s no shortage of outdoor spaces to hike, bike or photograph near Hill City. A first-rate place to stay overnight while exploring the Hill City area is Horse Thief Campground and RV Resort.
Black Hills Parkway Stop #4: Lead and Deadwood, SD
We should slow down and state at this point that simply driving the Black Hills Parkway is an unforgettable experience. Watch all along your route for big horn sheep, elk and bison and keep your camera ready for amazingly beautiful sights like Harney Peak. The colorful striations, rock spires and pine forests add layers of beauty you’ll want to explore.
We’re on the final stretch of our journey, to two towns three miles apart filled with Wild West charm and significance. Lead (as in “lead the way”) is an historic gem worth getting to know. Founded during the 1870s Black Hills Gold Rush, the tiny town of Lead is big on history and outdoor recreation. Surrounded by ski runs, trails, rivers and forests, the active RV traveler will find a dozen marvelous ways to spend time while in Lead, SD. Campers interested in history will enjoy the Homestead Gold Mine Surface Tour and the Black Hills Mining Museum.
Deadwood, SD, once home to Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, offers South Dakota RV travelers the chance to experience the Old West with modern amenities! Play at the town’s three casinos, pan for gold at the Broken Boot Mine or take the Deadwood Trolley to visit historic sites like Mount Mariah Cemetery. No less than a dozen Deadwood area campgrounds offer a full range of options for RV campers.
It’s a wild and glorious ride along the Black Hills Parkway by RV, and one all RV travelers should experience. Let us help you with a Denver RV rental and then head for the Black Hills for a memorable RV vacation.