As Daniel and I planned our route back to I-90, we decided to make our way through Custer State Park. I’d been hearing good things about the park so it seemed like a good time to check it out.
As it turns out, Custer State Park is enormous. Driving through the park took a bit longer than I anticipated. We probably should have set aside a whole day just to see it. But we only have so much time available to us.
Custer State Park
One of the nation’s largest state parks, Custer State Park is famous for its scenic drives and wildlife. The park is home to over 1,500 bison as well as pronghorn antelope, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, wild burros and more.
Many visitors drive through the Needles, which is a region of eroded Black Hills in the park’s northwest corner. The area is supposed to be spectacular.
Sadly, we ran out of time to see the Needles so it is on my list of things to see if we ever come back this way. The highway traverses several small tunnels that will be hard to in a motorhome. So if we do come back we may have to bring a car.
Custer State Park Wildlife Loop
We decided to take the Wildlife Loop instead, an 18-mile scenic loop which winds through the southern half of the park. True to its name, we saw lots of animals along the drive – way more than in any of the National Parks that we’d recently driven through.
Before long, I realized that the wildlife is managed differently here than what I’m used to seeing in National Parks. Custer State Park used to be a game preserve and this legacy is still visible today. The bison are corralled and hunted, the wild burros are routinely fed by visitors, and the bighorn sheep are all tracked with radio collars. The animals aren’t truly wild here.
But it was still a fun experience to see so many native species in one afternoon.
We next headed to Rapid City to run some errands. While we were there, we drove to the top of a ridge overlooking the town. This is where we found Dinosaur Park, a slightly cheesy tourist attraction which features a collection of dinosaur sculptures overlooking the town. Did I mention that it’s free? You can’t beat free!
Welcome to the Badlands
From there we headed east along I-90 towards the Badlands KOA Campground. Daniel and I will spend the next few days in the Badlands so we didn’t plan to stop at the park just yet. But we actually had to drive through a corner of the National Park to get to our campsite and – wow! What a spectacularly beautiful place.
So of course we had to stop and take at least a *few* photos. I mean, we couldn’t help ourselves.
Here’s a taste of what’s coming up:
Where are we now?
Date: August 4
Great American Road Trip Status: Day 30
Starting Location: Big Pine Campground, SD
Ending Location: Badlands KOA, SD
Miles Traveled: 148.8
Total Trip Mileage: 21091
For more details on our Great America (Socially Distanced) Road Trip, see my previous posts:
- Days 28-29: The Beautiful Black Hills
- Day 27: Joyner Ridge and Red Beds Trails
- Day 26: Bear’s Lodge (Devil’s Tower)
- Days 22-25: The Middle of Nowhere
- Day 21: Wildlife Fiesta