One of the most common reactions I see for people coming to the Black Hills for the first time is “I can’t believe how much there is to see and do here!”  Most vacationers run mad putting on 100’s of road miles trying to cover the expansive to-do list and still don’t quite get a true sense of the beauty of the Black Hills.  In order to help in the pursuit of the Perfect Vacation, I’ve made a few suggestions:

Day 1 – See Mt. Rushmore, walk through Keystone (plan for only 30 minutes) and do the Alpine Slide, High Ropes course or see a wax museum, get groceries in Rapid City or Hill City… Essentially, knock out the big attraction and take care of your logistics.

Day 2 – Be a little more adventurous. I’d suggest hiking one of the following:

  • Harney Peak
  • Little Devil’s Tower
  • Lover’s Leap
  • Cathedral Spires
  • Mount Baldy

If hiking isn’t your forte, check out Wind or Jewel Cave.  Or go for a jeep tour or horseback ride (Google it).  By getting into the wilder places, you’ll get a sense of why the Black Hills is such a magical place.

Day 3 – Downtime – This is a good chance to go to places like Bear County or Reptile Gardens and then, if you’re staying in a beautiful setting, go back and relax by the pool.  If your accommodations are a little less than aesthetic, check out one of the following lakes:

  • Center Lake (perfect for younger kids)
  • Sylvan Lake
  • Sheridan or Pactola (boat rentals)

So often, I see people drive all day, every day, and they end their vacation just as wore out as when they started.  Take a moment to breath deeply and reflect on how good we all have it.

Day 4 – Scenic Drives – The Black Hills is full of well-maintained drives that take you through some of the more breath-taking country I’ve seen anywhere.

  • Iron Mountain Rd to the Wildlife Loop to Needles Highway (lunch at BH Burger and Bun)
  • Hwy 385 to Spearfish Canyon to Deadwood (lunch at Latchstring Inn)

Either one of these 1/2 day treks will show you a large swath of why people come to the Hills.

Day 5 – Refer to “Be a little more adventurous” – The true value of this area lies in its natural beauty and the only way to fully experience it is by getting in the middle of it.

Of course, these are only suggestions, but, in all humility, they are really good ones that will take your vacation from run-of-the-mill to truly memorable. 

Make time to get away; it’ll be worth it.