Custer State Park Resort, Custer, SD

Custer State Park Resort is about 30 minutes from Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills, and offers some of the most amazing drives, animals and scenery making it a Bucket List place to visit!  At over 71,000 acres, there is SO much to do that a week just didn’t seem long enough, but I’ve hit on the some of our favorite things to do at the park!

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

We booked a camping spot for the week we were in South Dakota at Custer State Park.  Our campsite was located right on the creek, so we slept to the sound of a bubbling brook all night.  The mild summer temperatures were so welcomed in late July to our heat-weary family!  While we did get a small afternoon storm each day, planning ahead meant we always had a dry bed at night!   We were in the State Game Lodge Campground.  It’s closest to the Wildlife Loop, where we spend most of our time while in the park!


But non-tent campers can relax, too!  The park has hook-ups for RVs and tons of rooms, like those at the State Game Lodge!

Custer State Park was a great home base for us for all the fun things we had planned while in South Dakota, but if you’re staying somewhere else, you’ll still want to plan a visit to Custer State Park to see the amazing wildlife!  The park is full of day-trippers who come to see the bison that roam free throughout the park!

In addition to any camping site or room fees, all visitors pay an entrance to Custer State Park.  A $20 fee is good for a week, just don’t lose your receipt!  This is easier than it sounds because we left our windows down in the car a lot, and lost ours the first day!  So, we apparently littered as well (I think it was accidentally thrown away).

Hayride and Chuck Wagon Cookout

At the TOP of my list was the Hayride and Chuck Wagon Cookout, which was rained out due to a big storm on the day we had reservations.  We didn’t get a 2nd chance, but if you can do it, I hear it’s really great!  Click HERE for more information.

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

Wildlife Loop

Your best chance for seeing bison is on the Wildlife Loop!  Go early if you can, because it does become a traffic jam as more and more people drive through.  Be smart and stay in your car, too!  These animals are huge!  We parked our car and waited as the animals passed by us by sitting on the roof via our sunroof!

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

If the animals are far enough away, you can certainly get out.  The Wildlife Loop even has hiking trails, but again, just use caution if you come up on some animals!

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

I never knew how beautiful South Dakota was when we planned this trip to see Mount Rushmore!  Pictures just do not do it justice!

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

Bison babies are born in early Spring, so the babies were several months old in late July.

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

Just enjoy a few more pictures.

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

Because I enjoyed taking so many!

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

This big guy makes that HUGE truck look small, and the cars looked like hot wheels!  Of course, the bison pay no attention at all to us.  But you can’t feed them.

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

You can expect to spend a minimum of 1-2 hours on the Wildlife Loop, depending long you spend at the different stops.  So pack a few snacks for the kids, water and be sure to visit one of the park restrooms before starting the loop.  There weren’t any restrooms along the way.

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

The park also offers jeep and bus tours, if you don’t want to drive.  Click HERE for more information.

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

Another big bull who definitely knows he has right-of-way!

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

These guys walked right up to say hello and eat with us!  It was a wet year and the green grass was very abundant, making for some happy bison!

Each fall they have a bison roundup which visitors come from everywhere to watch!  The bison are round up and given vaccinations to keep the herd healthy!  Click HERE to read more about it.

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

Of course, there is more to see on the Wildlife Loop than just bison!  They’re a little harder to spot, but here’s a pronghorn grazing on the hill!

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

And a favorite for my son was the wild, or feral donkeys!  They come from pack animals that were released or escaped in the Black Hills, and they’re pretty sweet!  Be sure and pack some apple slices or a couple of carrots, but not too many!  We didn’t take anything with us, but another family graciously shared their bag of carrots with us.

My son, who goes barefoot whenever possible, learned a hard lesson when the donkeys stepped on his foot while feeding them.

Horseback Riding

At the end of the Wildlife Loop, or the beginning depending on which direction you come from, is the Blue Bell Lodge Stables, where you can take a guided trail ride through the park!  Click HERE for more information.

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota


Custer State Park has some amazing trails!  The Black Elk Peak Trail is pretty strenuous, but you’re rewarded with amazing views!  Our favorite was the Lover’s Leap Trail, which also took you up for great views, and was about 3 hours long.  Watch out for bison, as they frequent the trail, too!  I was also surprised at the number of night hikers, the park even host numerous guided night hikes during the summer!

Nature Center

A visit to the Nature Center is a must!  You’ll learn so much about the park, and enhance your experience!

Water Sports

Both Sylvan Lake and Legion Lake offer kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards, as well as swim beaches!  My daughter did the paddleboarding at Sylvan Lake, and loved it!  Click HERE for more information.

If fishing is your thing, Custer State Park Resort is a great destination!  Rainbow and Brown trout are caught year round at Sylvan and Center Lakes, and Northern Pike are found in Stockade Lake, the park’s largest!  Fishing License are required in the park.  Please check with the park for age and other fishing restrictions.

We had our hearts set on catching a Northern Pike, something that would be a first for us, but time restraints kept us from doing it.  It’s definitely something we want to do next time!

Custer State Park Resort South Dakota

This is a picture of our campground.  My daughter was fishing in the pond when a herd of bison came in for an afternoon bath!  What a great experience!

 Custer State Park Resort
13329 US Hwy 16A, Custer, South Dakota
Click HERE to visit their website.

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