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How Much Time To See Custer State Park

How Much Time To See Custer State Park

The 1,300-strong herds of bison in Custer State Park are the area’s most notable residents, but pronghorn, antelope, elk, mountain goats, and other North American animals also call the park home. So, how much time is needed to see Custer State Park?

Custer State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities, so how much time is needed to tour the park truly depends on how many of them you choose to do. One day in Custer Park should be plenty to see the park’s noteworthy features.

Keep reading below for more information.

Custer State Park Overview

In South Dakota, Custer State Park stands out as the largest and the first of its kind. Its 71,000 acres of mountains, meadows, and woodlands provide a haven for various animal species.

Over 1,400 bison, elk, coyotes, bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, mule deer, mountain goats, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and mountain lions reside at Custer State Park. One of the coolest things to do in Custer State Park is to drive along Wildlife Loop Drive, where you may see several of these species.

A 30-minute journey southwest of Rapid City takes you to Custer State Park, which is situated in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Wind Cave National Park, the Mammoth Site, and Jewel Cave National Monument are just a few of the other well-known locations nearby. You can reach the magnificent Badlands National Park in about an hour.

The park’s center is formed by Wildlife Loop Road and Highway 16A. Most of the park’s animals, tourist centers, and hotels are here. Two beautiful routes exit the park to the north. It is necessary to take Iron Mountain Road, which links Mount Rushmore with Custer State Park. 

Some of the greatest hiking routes are located in this part of Custer State Park, which is connected to Sylvan Lake via the Needles Highway.

For more information about Custer State Park, watch this informative video below:

Custer State Park South Dakota

How Much Time is Needed to See Custer State Park

Here’s how much time you need to see Custer State Park:

  • Half Day: Most major highlights can be observed in half a day.
  • A Day: One can view the whole park.

The park’s picturesque drives make exploring simple (like the Needles Highway). These winding, beautiful routes pass through confined tunnels and around enormous rock formations. One day or even less is probably all that is necessary to explore the park if all one wants to do is drive about and watch the bison.

Plan on spending more time there in the summer than in the winter because the paths can be inaccessible in the winter (unless one wants to undertake cross-country skiing or snowshoeing).

Trail rides, bike rides, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, fishing, and chuckwagon suppers are just a few of the activities that may be enjoyed in the park in addition to safaris. Spend some time hiking up the 7,242-foot Harney Peak if you have extra time in the park.

The Best 1-Day Itinerary for Custer State Park

Here is a specially curated 1-day itinerary for Custer Park for you to check out:

9:00 A.M.: Coffee in the Morning on the Wildlife Loop

The 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road meanders through excellent grazing plains similar to those that formerly covered the Great Plains. The park’s hoofed denizens, including antelope, elk, deer, burros, and the clear favorite of the audience, bison, prefer to hang out on those plains. 

Animals are most active at dusk and in the morning, making a visit at sunset or sunrise an ideal opportunity. Due to heavy traffic might take you anything from an hour and a half to two hours to travel there.

Noon: Lunch at Sylvan Lake

One of the Black Hills’ finest treasures, Sylvan Lake, is a stunning 30-minute drive from Wildlife Loop Road’s terminus at State Game Lodge. Hikers, anglers, and anybody with eyes are fans of this 17-acre treasure. Purchase food from the village shop or Sylvan Lake Lodge, or bring a picnic.

Hardcore Hike: Black Elk Peak Trail

You may reach the highest peak east of the Rockies using this loop. The duration makes it a huffer and puffer even if you don’t need to use any technical hiking techniques to reach the peak.

Easy-going: Sylvan Lake Trail

The Sylvan Lake Trail is a short-mile loop that allows you to see the lake’s splendor from all sides without exerting yourself.

Evening Activities: Cathedral Spires Trail & Needles Highway

The ideal method for taking in the 14 winding miles of Needles Highway (just outside of Sylvan Lake) is slowly driving by at around 20 mph. You may take a break on Cathedral Spires Trail soon after passing through Needles Eye Tunnel to stretch. 

Because they resemble organ pipes, the imposing Cathedral Spires stand out on the 1.6-mile out-and-back trail. Mountain goats have a penchant for granite cliffs, so watch for them.

As you reach the end of Needles Highway, you have two options: turn right to eat in Custer or turn left to travel down Iron Mountain Road to Mount Rushmore. Either way, it’s a great way to cap off a crazy day.

Accommodation In Custer State Park

There are several accommodation facilities if one does want to stay in the park for two or three days. Camping, inns, and cottages are available options.

Camping: Set up a tent next to an Alpine lake or a bubbling stream inside a pine forest. Spend as much time as possible outdoors. Please be aware that there are no electrical or water facilities at any of the campsites in this area.


Many lodges are available, and they are featured on Custer State Park’s website. These lodges can also provide a starting point for travelers around the larger Black Hills region. State Game Lodge, Blue Bell Lodge, Legion Lake Lodge, and Sylvan Lake Lodge are some of the lodges in the state park.


Other accommodations (such as hotel rooms and vacation home rentals) are also available. By looking around, choose the accommodations that suit your preferences, group number, and budget. There are several places to stay in Custer City, which is close to the park.


Although you can spend as much time as you want at this beautiful place called Custer Park, you only need one day to see the park’s highlights. It’s good to remember that, especially when you’re in a hurry.