How Many Days Do You Need to See the Black Hills?

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Black Hills - How Many Days Do You Need to See this place?

The Black Hills are a mountain range in South Dakota. The National Park boasts an amazing 1.2 million acres of mountains, hills, and forests. So, the real question is, how long should you plan to stay in the Black Hills to ensure you get to see it all?

Three days could be considered sufficient, maybe even a bare minimum amount of time to explore the park. Three days gives you enough time to drive around the three driving circuits throughout the park.

This will also give you enough time to explore downtown Rapid City. However, you can still make it work if you only have one or two days.


For How Long Do People Stay There on Average?

Now we know the minimum amount of time you may want to stay is three days. So, how long are people, on average, staying? Well, they are definitely folks who choose to stay longer. Ordinary people take 5-7 days.

Staying this long will give you time to meander through the park. You can stop at the Pactola Visitor Center during peak season, as they close between Labor Day and Memorial Day during the off-season.

At the visitor center, you can find brochures to familiarize yourself with the park, staff that can answer any questions you may have about the park, and you’ll find displays and exhibits to learn about the natural and cultural resources of the park and surrounding area.


Top Five Things You Need to See

It always helps to have a little bit of an idea of what you want to visit when you head to any destination. So here are five things you must see when visiting the Black Hills:


1880 Train

Found in Hill City and Keystone, South Dakota, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Fitted with upholstered leather seats, wood trim, and stained glass windows, you’ll feel all the nostalgia of a time long ago.

The train ride is a round trip, leaving Key Stone, South Dakota, and takes about 2 hours.


Badlands National Park

This national park extends east of the Black Hills and features a ghostly terrain of eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires. For a rapid overview, take the 39-mile Badlands Loop Road.

For a close-up look at the formations, take trails like the Notch Trail. The Ben Reifel Visitor Center has activities and displays available as well.


Custer State Park

If you visit this state park between 29 September and 1 October (check the park calendar before visiting to ensure the dates haven’t changed), you’ll be just in time for the Annual Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival.

One of the largest state parks in the country, Custer State Park has open ranges, granite spires, and sky-blue lakes that will leave you breathless.

Drive the Needles Highway or the Scenic Wildlife Loop, and you’ll find hiking paths that go around lakes or over mountains, or you can go horseback riding on a guided trail ride.


The Mammoth Site

This prehistoric sinkhole holds the fossils of 61 young male mammoths and more animals from the ice age. You will find walkways that give you an up-close look at the fossils. The Mammoth Site was founded in 1974.


Wall Drug

We’ve saved the best for last, and Wall Drug is a one-of-a-kind destination. Located in Wall, SD, this piece of history will have something for everyone in your travel entourage.

You will find shopping and restaurants and don’t forget the backyard where your kids and even you can run free. Make sure you get some free ice water before you leave.


When is the Best Time to Visit the Black Hills?

You can’t beat the weather in September and October in the Black Hills. As the weather cools and the leaves change color, you will be surrounded by beauty.

However, during the warmer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the weather is the warmest, and most attractions are open. The larger attractions, however, stay open all year, allowing you more opportunities to see all the well-known sites.

Truly there is something for everyone throughout the year. Winter sports are popular here. In the fall, cyclists and hunters converge on the Black Hills, and of course, the driving and hiking trails will be available according to road and trail conditions.


When is the Place Most Crowded?

We have discussed some of the different recreation and attraction opportunities available throughout the year. But when does everyone else decide to visit the Black Hills?

Folks on vacation obviously prefer the warmer weather, with over 90% of visitors making their way to the Black Hills between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Weather is, of course, a big draw for travelers.

Also, this happens when all the schools are out, and families will be flocking to all the popular destinations.

Now, the popular locations tend to fill up mid-day if we are talking about specific times. Some locations open around 5 am, and the rest open around 8-9. So, check your destination’s hours and plan accordingly to arrive before the crowd.


What is the Maximum Number of Days for Camping in The Black Hills?

Black Hills National Park limits camping to 14 days in any 60-day period. But the Black Hills National Park is not the only place to camp in the Black Hills.

Of course, private campgrounds will have their own limits of camping, and each may have a different requirement. State Parks Custer and Bear Butte also limit your stay to 14 days.

Now, you can only stay 14 consecutive days in any one state park area, which means if you are moving around to different state park areas, you could stay a bit longer.


Final Thoughts on How Many Days You Need to See the Black Hills

The Black Hills are a truly magnificent and wild landscape. Their historical and spiritual significance rivals their beauty.

Take the time to research the area where you plan to find yourself. You may learn something new outside of the mainstream or “popular” information about the area. Always respect the lands which you plan to visit. And never, ever interact with the wildlife.