During our weekend getaway to South Dakota, I have to admit that Custer State Park was my FAVORITE part of the trip! It was absolutely breathtaking and so much fun! We definitely had no idea what we were getting ourselves into because we got a LOT more than what we bargained for! Here are some highlights of our time at Custer State Park! 🙂
The Wildlife Loop is is a drivable path where wild animals are roaming freely. I really enjoyed the wildlife loop and how interactive the experience was! The loop took a good 1-2 hours to get through and the sights were unbelievable!
Some other tourists took risks and got out of their cars and tried to feed the animals or take really close selfies with them, but it really isn’t advised to do so lol… I mean, they are wild animals, so we kept our distance with the occasional window rolled down. We saw some buffalo, mules, and some ground hogs. We didn’t get to see mountain lions (rare), bears, moose, elk, or rams (was hoping!) but it was still worth the trip and I would totally go again! These animals are truly wild as in no cages, unlike the Bear Country USA which I’ll be talking about below.
Visiting Mt. Coolidge Fire Tower was a total unexpected stop on our trip. And by far the scariest thing we did…! First of all, the sign pointing to the entrance was small and had “authorized vehicles only” but we went anyway. I saw that sign a lot, so I think it just means as long as you paid to get into the park (which we did). We decided to go up this rocky / gravel path and it was pretty windy. To add to it, the path was winding UP, so the elevation was terrifying!!! I didn’t dare look out the windows while driving… Not only was the path so high up, but the path was so narrow that there was no way to turn around safely. There were no barriers on the sides of the path–just cliffs…CLIFFS! Seriously, one sudden movement and we could’ve fallen down to our death… so. Scary. Well, we did make it up to the top, shaky and on the brink of tears. The view was amazing but I can’t say I would drive up to Mt. Coolidge Fire Tower again lol…
Another beauty of South Dakota was the unexpected things we came across. On our way to Sylvan Lake, there were a ton of scenic stops indicated by small signs nowhere to be found on a map. One particular sign said something like “rock with a hole” or “hole in a rock”, etc. but either way, we stopped at this neat rock formation and took a few quick photos (plus a short break from all of the driving through the Wildlife Loop and M.C. Tower). Look at how model-status my sister is. 😉
I’ve heard so many good things about Sylvan Lake from friends, photos, and a little online research, so we couldn’t pass up on Sylvan Lake! We arrived at Sylvan Lake at around lunchtime and had a nice little family picnic (cleaned out the food we brought actually… 😛 ). Sylvan Lake is on the Northwest part of Custer Park and the most anticipated place I wanted to go to! Let me tell you–it was GORGEOUS! 😀
We had a nice hike along the lake and just took in nature’s beauty! The weather was absolutely perfect as well, so we couldn’t have asked for a better day! We didn’t go into the water (which you can!) due to time and plus we had other things to do on our trip before reaching our hotel for the night. There’s nothing better than spending a nice day with family! 🙂
Because we had such a great time driving through the Wildlife Loop, we had high hopes for Bear Country USA. Of course, we had to pay a fee to get into Bear Country, but we still made the most of it. The drive is quite a bit shorter than the Wildlife Loop (about 45 mins) probably because there was that pressure of cars waiting behind you so they could take photos of the CAGED animals. 😦 Okay, so they weren’t necessarily put into a tiny cage, but they were somewhat fenced off where they wouldn’t be able to leave the area, which I guess is safety for people (wolves, rams, etc.) but I do have somewhat of a heart for animals. It was still a neat experience and we did get to see baby animals!
Unfortunately, we were not able to hike throughout the Badlands like we had planned because of the unexpected stops and bad time management (imagine that 😛 ) 😦 but we did get the luxury of driving through! And I must say–the Bandlands is HUGE! We spent more than an hour driving through and seeing these amazing rock formations. Our drive was much more entertaining than when we started with the green fields and windmills–so much more entertaining! Writing about this makes me want to go back so badly! 😦
There was so much we saw and experienced at Custer Park, but there was so much we didn’t see. I would definitely go to Custer State Park during another South Dakota Trip! There were more parts of the park that I wanted to explore and definitely more hikes that I wanted to hike. Custer State Park is absolutely gorgeous–I really can’t explain it in any other way.
Have you been to Custer State Park? Where would you recommend to visit a second time around? 🙂