Black Hills of South Dakota
Regarded by many as one of our nation’s most beautiful mountain ranges, the aptly named Black Hills rise from the Great Plains of South Dakota. They get their moniker from the thick pine forests that cover their inclines, making the range appear black from a distance. The Black Hills encompass six national parks, an abundance of wildlife, a rich network of adventure-rich trails, scenic water reservoirs, and preserved Old West towns. This is a town rich in heritage and history, once home to such legendary personalities as Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, General George A. Custer, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull, among others.
Evidence of modern activity in the Black Hills was first documented in 1743, when the area was claimed by France. In the late 1700s, the Black Hills was overtaken by the Sioux Indians. After a surge of fur trading in the mid-19th century, the Black Hills remained a relatively undiscovered region. It was the discover y of gold by George A. Custer in 1874 that provoked an influx of settlers to the area. In the ensuing decades, the Hills were quickly populated with railroads, farming settlements, and industries. Today, the Black Hills is one of the top tourist destinations in the state of South Dakota.
The Black Hills offers no shortage of awe-inspiring attractions. The breathtaking natural formations that make up the Badlands National Park offer 244,000 acres of dramatic gorges, towering peaks, and rolling prairies. The larger-than-life Crazy Horse Memorial is being steadily carved into a granite mountainside. Since its completion in 1941, Mount Rushmore has attracted millions of international visitors each year as an enduring symbol of our country’s freedoms. The Devil’s Tower National Monument is a striking granite formation that looms high above the Belle Fourche River Valley, a beacon for thrill-seeking rock climbers and camera-wielding tourists. Custer State Park is another popular destination, with its rampant buffalo, other diverse wildlife, and scenic lakes.
With an abundance of beautiful national and state parks, grasslands, and forests, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities in the Black Hills. Campers can sleep next to scenic lakes, among thick pines, or atop rolling prairies. A network of trails, such as the 109-mile George S. Mickelson Trail, makes the Black Hills a hiker’s paradise. With the vast diversity of elevations, there’s a route for every skill set. Biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and fishing are some of the other common outdoor recreational pursuits engaged in by tourists and locals alike.
After a long day of exploring the wonders of the Black Hills, satisfy your appetite at one of the area’s fine dining establishments, from small cafes to deluxe supper clubs. Popular local favorites include buffalo meat, pheasant, Dakota Beef, and local seafood. If you prefer a more casual locale, try Alpine Inn, Al’s Oasis (home of the five-cent cup of coffee), or Elk Canyon Pub. For a more elegant atmosphere, you may like the Gas Light Restaurant, Ruby House Restaurant, or Powder House Lodge.
Bring home a lasting memento from one of the eclectic shops of the Black Hills. Local merchants peddle handmade Black Hills Gold jewelry, Indian artifacts, leather crafts, hand-woven quilts, regional artwork, and Native American pottery. Popular shopping destinations include Black Hills Souvenirs & Gifts, the 15-store Keystone Mall, Roughriders Leather & Gifts, and the year-round Christmas shop Mistletoe Ranch.