7 Ways to Experience the Black Hills of South Dakota

Head for the hills to experience monumental views of an American icon and a variety of unforgettable outdoor adventures. Located just 10 minutes from the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Under Canvas Mount Rushmore is the perfect place to stay to be face-to-face with four former presidents at one of America’s most famous attractions. Something everyone needs to experience at least once in their lifetime! Make the most of your trip by trying these seven things to do in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Drive Through Bear Country USA Wildlife Park

See wildlife in their natural environment from the comfort of your vehicle. Black bears, elk, mountain lions, buffalo, reindeer, and more await you along the 30-minute loop through the park. After you’ve seen all you can from the car, get an even closer look by taking a wildlife walk where you can see newborns, smaller animals, and the must-see baby bears. The best time to visit Bear Country USA is on cooler, overcast days when the animals are lounging in the grass or under the trees.

Visit The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs

More than 26,000 years ago, mammoths and other prehistoric animals roamed what is now Hot Springs. Here, you can find the largest concentration of Columbian Mammoths in the world. These were some of the largest mammoths of their time standing up to 14-feet tall. The excavation site is preserved as an active dig site with self-guided tours and a public museum where Ice Age fossils can be viewed. Kids can participate in a hands-on dig and guides provide a fun and educational experience for the entire family. This interactive visit to the Hot Springs can take 1-2 hours.

See a Historic Gold Rush Town

Known for gunpowder, gold, and gambling, historic Deadwood, South Dakota, founded in 1876, is the epitome of the Wild West. Legendary outlaws, gamblers, and gunslingers including “Wild Bill” Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Seth Bullock left their mark on Deadwood history when they came looking for gold and a good time. You can visit their gravesites while you’re here. Keep the tradition alive by heading to one of the many Deadwood casinos. There are over 20 to choose from.

Drive Iron Mountain Road

Winding its way through Black Hills National Forest, Custer State Park, and past Mount Rushmore National Monument, the Iron Mountain Road is a scenic drive you won’t want to miss. With 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, 3 corkscrew-shaped pigtail bridges, and 3 granite tunnels, this 17-mile stretch is meant to be enjoyed at a slow pace. At a minimum, this road will take you 45-minutes to navigate. Take your time, roll your windows down, and savor the fresh scent of pine as you take in the majestic Black Hills scenery. Be on the lookout for wildlife, including mountain goats, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, and turkey along the way.

Experience Rush Mountain Adventure Park

For a thrilling, family-friendly adventure look no further than Rush Mountain Adventure Park. Here, you can explore the stalactite-filled caverns of Rushmore Cave, cruise down the mountain on the Rushmore Mountain Coaster at up to 30 mph, zip down the mountainside on the Soaring Eagle Zipride, and more. Get your hands dirty mining for gemstones where you can sift through dirt and sand in search of gems, fossils, arrowheads, and minerals. The perfect, family-friendly activity you must try while in the American West.

Follow the Black Hills Tasting Trail of Wineries, Breweries, and Distilleries

The Black Hills region is South Dakota’s hub for wine, beer, and spirits. After a day of sightseeing and exploring, quench your thirst at one of the many Black Hills breweries where you’ll find craft beer favorites and seasonal brews. If you favor wine, stop at Prairie Berry Winery where you can enjoy a free tasting of handcrafted, award-winning wines with views of the Black Hills and tasty bites to eat. If you’re in search of spirits, you’ve come to the right place. The distillery scene is becoming every bit as celebrated as the region’s thriving craft brewery and winery boom. Make sure to try a distillery tour and tasting for an up-close and personal experience.

Explore Wind Cave National Park

With over 150-miles of passages, Wind Cave is the sixth-longest cave and the first cave in the world to be designated as a National Park. It is thought to be one of the world’s oldest caves and is regarded as sacred by Indigenous Americans. Stop by the Wind Cave National Park Visitor Center to pick up a map and purchase day-of tour tickets, available on a first-come-first-serve basis. Wind Cave National Park tours are park ranger-led and last between 1-2 hours departing from the visitor center. In addition to the cave, you’ll also be able to enjoy 30-miles of the best hiking trails in South Dakota, some pet-friendly, set in the ponderosa pine forest where you’re sure to spot wildlife and scenic vistas.

Under Canvas Mount Rushmore is located on an original gold mining settlement less than 4 miles from Mount Rushmore National Monument. If you’re looking for more tips or things to do in South Dakota, our on-site Guest Experience Coordinators are here to help you plan a memorable trip. Your upscale accommodations beneath the stars in the Old West await you.

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