Located in the stunning and culturally significant Black Hills of South Dakota, the Custer State Park is famous for its nearly 1,300 bison that wander around its 71,000 acres. While the best wildlife hotspot in North America is generally regarded as Yellowstone National Park - it is far from the only superb place for seeing the best of North American wildlife.
It is located just 15 miles from the South Dakotan city of Custer and is one of the largest state parks in the country. So if one is planning to visit the Custer State Park, how much time would one need to see and explore it? That answer depends on what one is hoping to get out of visiting the park.
Why The Custer State Park Is Worth Seeing
Custer State Park is particularly famous for its herds of bison - around 1,300 strong, but it has plenty of other wildlife calling the park home, including pronghorn, antelope, elk, mountain goats, and other North American wildlife.
- Bison: 1,300 Bison
- Entry Fee: $20 Per Vehicle
- Open: Year Round, 24 Hours A Day
A trip to the Custer State Park is a journey into the true wilds of the Great Plains region. So plentiful is its wildlife that it is considered one the best places for wildlife.
If all one would like to see is the bison, then it doesn't take long to see the park. But if one would like to get off the scenic drive, then more time is needed.
How Long Is Needed To Visit Custer State Park
The park has plenty of outdoor activities in Custer State Park, so how long one needs to explore the park really depends on how many activities one would like to do.
How Much Time Is Needed For Custer State Park:
- Half Day: Most Of The Main Highlights Can Be Seen In Half A Day
- One Day: All The Park Can Be Seen
- 2-3 Days: Time For Multiple Hikes And Guided Tours
The park can be easily explored with its scenic dives (like the Needles Highway). These scenic drives twist and turn their way around towering rock formations and through narrow tunnels. If one would just like to drive around the park and see the bison, then one day or even less is likely all the time one really needs to see the park.
In the winter, the trails may be impassable (unless one would like to go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing), so plan on spending more time visiting during the summer than in the winter.
In addition to going for safaris in the park, there are trail rides, bike rides, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, fishing, and chuckwagon suppers. If one spends more time in the park, then take the time to hike up the 7,242-foot Harney Peak.
To see and do any amount of these activities, one should really spend 2 to 3 days in the park. With a two-day visit, have a day driving around the park and seeing the bison - take one's time and don't rush it. Spend another day hiking up Harney Peak or going for a horseback ride in the park.
For those interested in history, explore the banks of the French Creek where Custer's expedition first discovered gold back in 1874.
Accommodation In Custer State Park
If one does decide to spend two or three days in the park, there are plenty of accommodation options. Options include camping, lodges, and cabins.
Set up one's camp along a bubbling stream in the pine forests or near an alpine lake. Really spend one's time immersed in nature. Note that none of the campsites here have hookups.
- Fees: Between $13-18 Per Unit
There are a few lodges to choose from, and they are listed on custerresorts.com. These lodges can also serve as a base for exploring the wider Black Hills region. Lodges located in the state park include State Game Lodge, Blue Bell Lodge, Legion Lake Lodge, and Sylvan Lake Lodge.
- Game Lodge: Listed On The National Register of Historic Places
Cabins and other accommodation options (like holiday home rentals and motel units) are available as well. Browse around, and one is sure to find the accommodation option that fits one's preference, group size, and budget. There are plenty of accommodation options as well just out of the park in Custer city.