When my son announced that he wanted to go to Mount Rushmore for our Summer Vacation, I was so excited because for years I’ve seen people posting their pictures of Bear Country U.S.A., and I was finally going to satisfy my Bear Envy!
Bear Country U.S.A. is a drive through wildlife park where the animals are loose and you are contained in your car, and while they have much more than just bears, they are definitely the stars of the show!
And while you can see elk, mountain goats, bison and big horn sheep in South Dakota, you won’t see any bears, they just don’t live here in the wild.
Bear Country U.S.A. is located between Rapid City and Mount Rushmore, literally just minutes from either, and there are lots of other things to do in the area, making it a terrific addition to your Black Hills trip! In fact, I just couldn’t believe how much there is to do in the Black Hills, and while we were there for 5 days, we easily could have filled up another 2 or 3 days with things to do!
But back to Bear Country, when you arrive, and you’ll want to arrive early during the summer when the animals are more active, you’ll pay and enter but then you’re going to want to pull over to take care of a couple of things before you start your visit.
First, go to the restroom. The only restroom is on the other side of the park, and you don’t want to miss anything because you’re in a hurry!
Second, and just as important, clean your car windows. They have squeegees to clean them, and be sure to clean inside, too. Your windows have to stay rolled up, for your protection.
Here’s a tip: Everyone is different when they go to these parks. Some people literally think it’s a race and want to rush through, while others, like me, want to stop and just watch the animals. If you are a stop and smell the bears kind of person, pull over to the side and let those who want to pass go around you. It’s okay.
And the bears are AMAZING!!! There are SO many of them! In fact, Bear Country U.S.A. has the largest privately-held population of bears in the world! They are just walking around and doing bear things!
Like posing for pictures!
They are just SO cool! They also have Timber Wolves in the same enclosure, but they just walk by and nod and keep going, where the bears are a little more curious.
In a separate enclosure, there are also Elk.
This is a female bighorn sheep. The males have huge horns that can weigh up to 30 lbs.!
The Bighorn Sheep were once native to and abundant in South Dakota’s Black Hills and Badlands, but were killed off or died by diseases introduced by livestock. There are continuing efforts to reintroduce the sheep to the area.
These caribou or reindeer are not native to South Dakota, but really neat to see in the park!
After the Drive Thru section of Bear Country, you can park your car and get out to see some of the smaller animals. There are so many cute little animals, like raccoons, porcupines, bobcats and much, much more!
Bear Country has one grizzly bear! He is so big!
But my favorite was the baby bears!
We stayed and watched these two little bears play for at least 30 minutes. They are so cute.
Bear Country U.S.A. opens for the season in mid-April, and their opening weekend is called CubFest! It is during CubFest when the cubs are just a few months old, and visitors can hold and bottle feed them! Check their website for more information.
Here’s a tip that we learned the hard way. They sell cups of food for $2, but they go quickly, and they ONLY take cash. And it’s really pathetic to sit and watch OTHER PEOPLE feed and ooooh and awwww over the bears as you just watch!
What was really cool was watching the Red Fox feeding! I am absolutely in love with the sweet little yips these guys make when they’re excited! I literally googled red fox videos for days after we came home!
These are adorable little arctic wolves! They are just little bundles of fur!
The Timber Wolf cubs just wanted to play!
There are also interactive, hands-on exhibits to teach you more about the animals! I love that!
If seeing all the cute animals makes you work up an appetite, they have a Cub Crib Snack Shack. You can watch the baby bears while you eat, too!
My hands were apparently too full of souvenirs for me to get a picture of the Gift Shop, but they have a huge shop!
Know Before You Go
Convertibles and motorcycles aren’t permitted in the park, but they have complimentary loaner cars and an open-air bus during Sturgis Week.
Dogs are allowed in your car, but not in the animal walkways.
Things To Do in Rapid City, SD
I really wish I had planned an entire day just in Rapid City, because there was so much to do! If you go during the summer, check their calendar for movies in the Main Street Square. We happened upon it one night, and had the best time just hanging out in the square and eating ice cream!
Just down the street from Bear Country USA is America’s Founding Fathers Exhibit, with a replica of the Liberty Bell that you can ring, and real muskets that you can shoot! Click HERE for more information.
There was SO much we didn’t get to do in Rapid City, like the FREE Dinosaur Park, Reptile Gardens and Fort Hayes, part of the movie set where Dances With Wolves was filmed. We had never seen the movie, and I wish we had watched it before visiting South Dakota, since so much of it was filmed there. Click HERE for more information!
Downtown Rapid City was fun, and they have a really nice Main Street Square surrounded by restaurants and shops, and offer movies in the square during the summer! Click HERE for more information.
Just off Main Street Square is the Silver Lining Creamery, with amazing ice cream, made daily! The lavender honey was amazing! Click HERE for more information.
The Watiki Waterpark Resort is home to five hotels, which all offer discount admission to the waterpark. Click HERE for more information.
We stayed in Custer State Park Resort, about a 20 mile drive south of Rapid City. Click HERE for more information.
Bear Country USA
13820 S Hwy 16, Rapid City, SD
Click HERE to visit their website.
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